Bagnell v. Broderick (1839)

Bagnell v. Broderick (1839) 38 U.S. 436, was an action of ejectment in which a patent from the United States to John Robertson, Jr., was relied on by the plaintiff as being the origin of his title. The defendants relied upon certain proceedings in the United States land office in Missouri by which the property was deemed to have been appropriated under the act of Congress concerning New Madrid lands which had been lost by the earthquake, and had been certified to Robertson, and a deed from Robertson to the parties under whom defendants claimed. But the Supreme court held that the patent of the United States, issued long afterwards to Robertson, was the strictly legal title on which plaintiff was bound to recover, and in making the decision the following language is used: "But suppose the plat and certificate of location had been made and returned to the recorder in the name of Morgan Byrne; and that it had been set up as the better title in opposition to the patent adduced on behalf of the plaintiff in ejectment; still, we are of opinion the patent would have been the better legal title. We are bound to presume, for the purposes of this action, that all previous steps had been taken by John Robertson, Jr., to entitle himself to the patent, and that he had the superior right to obtain it, notwithstanding the claim set up by Byrne; and having obtained the patent, Robertson had the best title (to wit, the fee) known to a court of law. Congress has the sole power to declare the dignity and effect of titles emanating from the United States; and the whole legislation of the Federal government, in reference to the public lands, declares the patent the superior and conclusive evidence of legal title; until its issuance, the fee is in the government, which, by the patent, passes to the grantee, and he is entitled to recover the possession in ejectment." In Bagnell v. Broderick, it was held that a state legislature was not competent to declare a certificate of purchase of equal dignity with a patent.