Last Updated 12 Aug 2020

History of the Louisiana: Louisiana Purchase

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The state of Louisiana has a unique system for boundary law, which merges public domain, metes and bounds, and non-rectangular entities. Public Land system is used in the United States for the purpose of making a system for the Federal lands in the public domain States. The United States created laws for The Public Land System to maintain the three classes of lands: the public domain lands; acquired lands; non-federal or “alienated lands”.

Manual of Surveying Instructions (2009). Louisiana’s boundary law is, therefore, a unique integration of the old world and the new world.
The Public Land States are states that the land was originally designed using the principles of the manual. The acquired lands are “subject to prior rights and confirmation by the Federal Government.” Manual of Surveying Instructions (2009). This is the opposite to alienated land, which are:

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  • non-Federal lands that have been conveyed out of Federal ownership through valid operation of law. Much of the original public domain has been alienated;
  • however, where a Federal interest in the land remains, the lands has been returned to Federal ownership, or the lands has a reversionary interest or is anticipated to be acquired, official survey are used to identify the boundaries.

Manual of Surveying Instructions (2009). The third classification, acquired lands, are non-rectangular entities which include Foreign Land Grants, Homestead entry Surveys, Mineral Claims, Indian Reservations, Military Reservations, and lots.

The United States is mostly comprised of Public Domain States, and therefore most states share the sectionalized land, formed by thirty-six sections. The purpose of making lots in the public land system is to identify remaining federal land which is out the of the rectangular limits after a resurvey, to provide a buffer where junior rights meets senior rights, to provide a legal description of parcel that is not aliquot and to provide for the effect of convergence. Since, the world is round, effect of convergence has to be taken into account because of the square mile sections. The Non-public land states that were not formed by the original public land system include the “original colonies, eighteen eastern states and the District of Columbia”. Manual of Surveying Instructions (2009).

An old system Louisiana has retained, however, is the system of metes and bounds. This Old-World device is “a way of describing land by listing the compass directions and distances of the boundaries.” The system has no guidelines in place on how surveyors should describe, monument or survey the land, giving rise to conflicts between parties asserting ownership where there are gaps and overlaps. An example of a metes and bounds legal description that is describing a parcel of land in Carencro, Louisiana.

That certain parcel of land owned by Carencro Nursing Home, Inc. containing 0.155 acres, situated in Section 35, Township 8 South, Range 4 East, Southwestern Land District, Lafayette Parish, City of Carencro, Louisiana, said parcel being further described as follows: Commencing at the intersection of the northern right of way of Arceneaux Road and the southeastern corner of land owned by PSTEL, LLC, said point hereinafter being known as the Point of Beginning and referred to as P.O.B.;

Thence a bearing of North 00 degrees 07 minutes 20 seconds East a distance of 15.00 feet to a point; Thence a bearing of South 89 degrees 49 minutes 39 seconds East a distance of 449.99 feet to a point; Thence a bearing of South 00 degrees 06 minutes 54 seconds West a distance of 15.00 feet to a point intersecting with the northern right of way of Arceneaux Road; Thence along said right of way a bearing of North 89 degrees 49 minutes 39 seconds West a distance of 450.00 feet to a point, being the Point of Beginning, P.O.B.

The system of Public Domain, conversely attempts to limit litigation by providing guidelines that would eliminate gaps and overlaps. These states follow “a standard rectangular system of describing land existing in the majority of American states.” A description using this system would be “The East ½ if the West ½ of the Southwest ¼ of the Southeast ¼, Section 22, T1S-R2E.” Unlike reading a description under metes and bounds system, the best way to read the legal description under Public Domain is back to front. Writing Legal Descriptions in Conjunction with Survey Boundary Control (1979).

The metes and bounds system and Public Domain system also differentiate in how they are predicated. According to Evidence and Procedures for Boundary Location:
The major legal distinction between the metes-and-bounds system and the GLO system of surveys is the GLO system is predicated on the statute law, while the metes-and-bounds system is predicated on common (case) law.

Public Domain, “which is a statutory system of surveys that was created under federal laws and is usually retraced under state laws.” Evidence and Procedures for Boundary Location (2011). Metes and bounds, however, is based on case law through conflicts from gaps and overlaps in legal descriptions.

The laws that are the basis for the Public Land Surveying System, The Land Ordinance of May 20, 1785 established “on-the-ground monuments”, which shifted the surveying practice of all lands being described by variations of metes and bounds. Manual of Surveying Instructions (2009). This practice of using metes and bounds depended on the legal descriptions of the neighboring parcels. The Public Land System was designed to eliminate overlaps, gaps and description errors by not relying on neighboring parcels.

The Act of May 10, 1800 (2 Stat. 73; 43 U.S.C. 751) makes townships into sections of six hundred and forty acres. While most and generally acreage deficiencies of measurement are located in the north or west exterior of the township, lots and deficiencies can be located anywhere because of convergence and non-rectangular entities.

Before the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, land along the rivers were comprised up French and Spanish land grants. The land grants classified as acquired lands. These grants were measured by private persons using the measurements acknowledged and accepted by the Crown, and conferred by court decree. The French Crown, for example, expressed grants in arpent, an area, which the standard the length was differed in other parts of Louisiana.

Vara also differed in other locations. Since, the measurements differed in other locations using the same type of measurement, gaps and overlaps were easily made. According to Brown's Boundary Control and Legal Principles, “A large portion of the public domain was made up of the lands acquired from Spain, Mexico, and France by cession or purchase.” The boundary of Louisiana was extended to include supplementary lands, the treaty with Spain in 1819 helped quiet title. According to Evidence and Procedures for

Boundary Location:

Many French grants called for a certain number of arpents (1 arpents equals 191.8 feet, approximately) fronting on a river or bayou and extending back 40 to 80 arpents. Although the frontage on the water was usually definite, the direction and depth was often swampy and unimportant.

United States selected a command in charge of reviewing title rights from France or Spain, soon after the purchase of Louisiana in 1803. According to Evidence and Procedures for Boundary Location:
The original surveys have no error, no person can correct an original survey, except for the agency that created it, area recited in the patents is the least important; boundaries are paramount, the least size of a regular aliquot parcel is forty acres, a quarter-quarter of a section, corners not set, but called for in the law are legal, even though not monumented.

Legal documents, surveys, or witness proof of the right of title that the land has been in their use for longer than ten years. According to Brown\'s Boundary Control and Legal Principles:
After these claims were certified to, U.S. deputy surveyors segregated the land from the public domain by survey. In each case, the deputies were instructed to favor the claimant as much as possible and to make every effort to establish lines between claimants to the satisfaction of each.

The clash between Old-World and New-World continued with the Act of February 11, 1805. This law mandates all section lines are to be surveyed and quarter corners created. Specifically, Surveyor General’s corners are fixed, the dimensions of the section lines are fixed, area of a section is unalterable. However, case law has now established that the Government could alter the survey, if private rights will not be altered by the new survey. The position of non-federal Public Landy System parcels cannot be changed. The laws created for The Public Land System helped the government maintain the public domain lands, acquired lands, non-federal or “alienated lands”. Manual of Surveying Instructions (2009).

The boundary of Louisiana was extended to include supplementary lands, the treaty with Spain in 1819 helped quiet title. April 30, 1812, the state of Louisiana became part of the Union (2 Stat. 641 and 701); All records for the public domain are housed in the Division of Administration, which is located at the State Land Office in Baton Rouge. Manual of Surveying Instructions (2009).
According to Brown's Boundary Control and Legal Principles, “Although Spain owned Louisiana for the greater parts of the preceding time interval, most of the land was acquired by France in accordance with French measurements and customs.

When Louisiana was admitted as state in 112, Napoleonic codes were adopted. Today, Louisiana is somewhat difference from English common-law states. Valid grants and valid possessions made prior to 1803 were surveyed and excluded from the public domain after the Act of 1806. Surveys of the public domain of Louisiana began in earnest after the Act of 1811 under the jurisdiction of two separate principal deputy surveyors; thus, there developed survey differences from the Northwest Territory.”

Since Louisiana, is comprised of two different systems of parceling out land. Many claims, and land litigation have occurred. Mr. McMaster, from the Committee on Military Affairs, submitted a Senate Report from the seventy-first Congress, third session. Department of Military Affairs rightful the owner of the property is the United States including the reservation at the time of its sale to the State of Louisiana.

“Regardless of the nature of the right reserved to the king in the St. Maxent patent of 1763, and whether or not it continued in the United States subsequent to the cession of Louisiana in 1803, confirmation of the title of Bartholomew Lafon in 1812, without reservation, was conclusive as to the United States, and divested it of all interest in the land, and that the entry of the United States in 1822 and its subsequent possession was not in the exercise of a servitude, but was adverse and operated to vest in the Unites States title to the extent of its possession.”

The Senate Committee on Military Affairs wanted to execute a bill in favor of the Motor League of Louisiana, which would quiet the title by using a quitclaim deed. Which would give the all rights, deed and interest of the property once known as Fort Macomb to Motor League of Louisiana. “The Motor League claims the title is founded from a French Government patent, which contained the following phrase, “Reserving moreover to the king all necessary timber for the construction of quartz, magazine and other works repairs to ships whenever necessary, as well as all the necessary land for royal roads and fortifications.” (Senate Report).

Maxent’s title claim, was obtained from the French Government. The Maxent’s claim was confirmed by Congress (sec. 2, act of June 2, 1858, Ch. LXXVI, 11 Stat 294). (Senate Report). As illustrated in the Motor League claim, old land grants are often hard to follow, because loss of records, area discrepancies, and accuracy of title claims.

The Act of Congress must inspect the claims and deliver a verdict on the claims in conjunction with the laws of Spain, the laws of nations and the treaty. (Exposition of the Treaty with Spain) “It is conceived that, according to the mitigated rights of war, as now well understood and settled by international law, the lands of individuals are safe even after conquest: much less can a cession, of itself, destroy private rights. Absolute or perfect grants, it is believed, would be protected by the law of nations, independent of the treaty.” While treaties often were the main way for protection of land grants, other regulations such as the laws of nations also were a factor in land grants reserving the title and interest of the land claim.

The state of Louisiana’s unique system for boundary law, merges public domain, metes and bounds, and non-rectangular entities which recreates historical and land complications. Public Land system is used in most states in the United States for the purpose of describing land. The Public Land System is used to maintain three classes of lands: the public domain lands; acquired lands; non-federal or “alienated lands”. Manual of Surveying Instructions (2009). Louisiana’s boundary law is unique, the old world and the new world becoming an intertwined web to yield the present-day boundary of Louisiana.

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