King v. Hamilton
 

 

United States Supreme Court

29 US 311 John King v. James Hamilton

29 U.S. 311

4 Pet. 311

7 L.Ed. 869

JOHN W. KING AND OTHERS, APPELLANTS
v.
JAMES HAMILTON, JAMES STRICKER AND FRANCES HIS WIFE,
HEZEKIAH FULKSE, ABRAHAM HANCY AND JOHN
HOPKINS, APPELLEES.

January Term, 1830

 

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT IN THE DISTRICT OF OHIO

 

Sources:

http://openjurist.org/29/us/311/john-king-v-james-hamilton-

http://supreme.justia.com/us/29/311/

(Abridged summary)

The complainants, in the Circuit Court of Ohio, filed a bill to enforce the performance of a contract. The bill states that there is a surplus of several hundred acres, and by actual measurement it is found to be 876 acres, the patent having been granted for 1,533 1/3 beyond the quantity mentioned in the contract. …………..

 

If this large surplus of 876 in a patent for 1,533 1/3 acres should be taken as included in the original purchase, it might well be considered a case of gross inadequacy of price.

When there was so great a surplus of land in the patent beyond that which it called for nominally as that it could hardly be presumed to have been within the view of either of the parties to the contract of sale, the Court decreed a conveyance of the surplus, the vendee to pay for the same at the average rate per acre, with interest, which the consideration money mentioned in the contract bore to the quantity of land named in the same.

In the Circuit Court for the District of Ohio, James Hamilton, James Stricker and Frances, his wife, late Frances Hamilton, heirs at law of Alexander Hamilton and others, grantees of Alexander Hamilton, filed a bill for a specific performance of a contract entered into between Elisha King, the father of John W. King, one of the appellants, and Alexander Hamilton, on 8 February, 1815, for the sale of certain lands in the State of Ohio within the Virginia Military District between the little Miami and the Scioto River. ………..

At July term, 1826, the court decreed that the sale by Elisha King to Alexander Hamilton was a sale of the whole of the land in No. 1548, and that the defendant, John W. King, should within two months convey to the complainants, in fee simple, with covenants of special warranty, the lands not already conveyed by E. King to Alexander Hamilton; that the complainants, within two months, should pay the balance agreed, with interest; and that each party should pay their own costs at or before the next term. As to the other defendants, the bill was dismissed generally.

From this decree John W. King appealed to this (Supreme) Court.

MR. JUSTICE THOMPSON delivered the opinion of the (Supreme) Court.

…………….We have however come to the conclusion that the complainants in the court below shall have a decree for the surplus land at the average rate or price which the consideration mentioned in the contract bears to 1,866 2/3 acres, the number of acres specified in the purchase, together with the interest thereon from 25 December, 1807, being the time at which all the payments were to have been completed according to the contract. The decree of the circuit court must be so modified. It should have required payment of the consideration money before the conveyance was to be given. Such are the terms of the original contract and also of the agreement of 6 January, 1826.

The decree of the circuit court as to John W. King must accordingly be reversed and affirmed as to the other defendants in the court below, and the cause sent back with instructions to cause a survey to be made, to ascertain the number of acres contained in the patent, and that on payment of the balance and interest due according to the settlement made on 6 January, 1826, and also a further sum for the surplus land above 1,533 1/3 acres, according as the quantity shall be found on actual survey at the same average rate or price as in the original contract, with the interest therefor from 25 December, 1807, then the said John W. King to be required to make and execute a good and sufficient deed of conveyance in fee simple to the complainants in the court below for all the lands contained in the patent to Elisha King mentioned in the pleadings, and which have not been already conveyed by the deed of Elisha King bearing date 22 June, 1809. The money to be paid and the deed executed at such time as the circuit court shall direct. The injunction to be continued for such time, and under such modification, as shall be judged necessary by the circuit court for the purpose of carrying this decree into effect.

This cause came on to be heard on the transcript of the record from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Ohio and was argued by counsel, on consideration whereof it is decreed and adjudged by this Court that the judgment of the said circuit court in this cause be and the same is hereby reversed as to John W. King and that the said judgment in this cause be and the same is hereby affirmed as to the other defendants in the court below. And it is further ordered and adjudged by this Court that this cause be and the same is hereby remanded to the said circuit court with instructions to cause a survey to be made to ascertain the number of acres contained in the patent, and that on payment of the balance and interest due according to the settlement made on 6 January, 1826, and also a further sum for the surplus land above 1,533 1/3 acres, according as the quantity shall be found on actual survey, at the same average rate or price as in the original contract, with the interest therefore from 25 December, 1807, then the said John W. King to be required to make and execute a good and sufficient deed of conveyance, in fee simple, to the complainants in the court below for all the lands contained in the patent to Elisha King mentioned in the pleadings, and which have not been already conveyed by the deed of Elisha King, bearing date 22 June. 1809. The money to be paid and the deed executed at such time as the said circuit court shall direct. The injunction to be continued for such time and under such modification as shall be judged necessary by the circuit court for the purpose of carrying this decree into effect.

 

In Plain English: 

Elisha King sold to Alexander Hamilton a large tract of land.  Because of poor surveying there was about 50% more land conveyed than had been negotiated.  King felt inadequately compensated and litigated.  The Court ordered a new survey to accurately determine the amount of land in question and specified the terms of sale to Hamilton for the entire amount of land.  King won his appeal and got paid for all the acreage at the original rate.  That took, overall, about 28 years.

 

[We can be reasonably assured that the Alexander Hamilton above is the Alexander Hamilton.  He did have a son, James A. Hamilton, who was in fact a prominent attorney.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at this time was John Marshall.  We also are assured that Elisha King’s son’s name was John W. King.  Did the W. stand for Wade?]