This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
A patent is a document issued by the government to one to whom it has. transferred or agreed to transfer land, in order to vest in the transferee the complete legal title, or to furnish evidence of the transfer. Patents are regularly issued by the United States government, and also by the state governments, to persons who have, by the proper proceedings, established their right to the ownership of land previously belonging to the United States or the state. The patent is, in form, a conveyance of the land, and must, when issued by the United States, be signed in the name of the president, and sealed with the seal of the general land office, and countersigned by the recorder.26 A state patent must usually be signed by the governor, and sealed with the state seal.27
A patent is necessary to pass a perfect title to public land in all cases except when the legislative branch of the government has made a grant taking effect in praesenti.28 Consequently, when no such previous grant has been made, the patent constitutes, and is necessary for, the transfer of the legal title.29 When, on the other hand, there has been a previous grant taking effect in praesenti, the purpose of the issue of the patent is not to transfer the title, but to furnish evidence of the transfer, or to show compliance with the conditions thereof, obviating, in any legal controversy, the necessity of other proof of title.30
Mitchell, 13 Tex. 51; Jones v. Muisbach, 26 Tex. 237.
26. Mcgarrahan v. New Idria Win. Co., 96 U. S. 316, 24 L. Ed. 630. See Rev. St. U. S. Sec. 450.
27. See State v. Morgan, 52 Ark. 150, 12 S, W. 243; Exum v. Brister, 35 Miss. 391; Hulick v. Scovil, 9 111. 159; Jarrett v. Stevens, 36 W. Va. 445, 15 S. E. 445.
28. Wilcox v. Jackson, 13 Pet. (U. S.) 498, 10 L. Ed. 264; Carter'v. Ruddy, 166 U. S. 495, 41 L. Ed. 1091.
29. Mcgarrahan v. New Idria Min. Co., 96 U. S. 316, 24 L. Ed. 630; Langdon v. Sherwood, 124 U. S. 74, 31 L. Ed. 344; City of Brownsville v. Basse, 36 Tex. 500; Roads v. Syrames, 1 Ohio, 281, 13 Am. Dec. 621; Carter v. Ruddy, Hiti U. S. 495, 41 L. Ed. 1091; Wood v. Pittman, 113 Ala. 212, 20 So. 972.
Even when there has been no legislative grant of the land, the government, upon the payment of the purchase price of land by an individual, and other compliance with the statutory requirements, thereafter holds the legal title, as any other vendor of land who has received the purchase money, in trust for the vendee.31 But this mere equitable title will not support an action of ejectment at common law, and for that purpose the legal title must be acquired by the issue of a patent.32 In many of the states, however, it is provided by statute that certificates issued by the United States land office, showing the making of final proof and payment, and so entitling the holder to a patent, shall be prima facie, evidence of title sufficient to support an action of ejectment.33 But a distinction is made in this respect between receipts issued by the land office after final proof, and receipts issued merely to show that an application or "filing" has been made, and the latter will not, even under these statutes, support ejectment.34 When there has been a grant taking effect in praesenti,
The grantee may, even without the aid of any statute, bring ejectment, as having the legal title, though a patent has not been issued to him.35
30. Morrow v. Whitney, 95 U. S. 551, 24 L. Ed. 456; Wright v. Roseberry, 121 U. S. 488, 30 L. Ed. 1039; Deseret Salt Co. v. Tar-pey, 142 U. S. 241, 35 L. Ed. 999; Kernan v. Griffith, 27 Cal. 89; Lee v. Summers, 2 Ore. 267.
31. Carroll v. Safford, 3 How. (U. S.) 441, 11 L. Ed. 671; Witherspoon v. Duncan, 4 Wall. (U. S.) 210. 18 L. Ed. 339; Hussman v. Durham, 165 U. S. 144, 41 L. Ed. 664; Brill v. Stiles, 35 111. 305, 85 Am. Dec. 364; Arnold v. Grimes, 2 Iowa, 1.
32. Hooper v. Scheimer, 23 How. (U. S.) 235, 16 L. Ed. 452; Gibson v. Chouteau, 13 Wall. (U. S.) 92, 20 L. Ed. 534; Langdon v. Sherwood, 124 U. S. 74, 41 L. Ed. 1091; Seward's Lessee v. Hicks, 1 Har. & Mch. (Md.) 22.
33. See Balsz v. Liebenow (Ariz.) 36 Pac. 209; Surginer v. Paddock, 31 Ark. 528; Case v. Edgeworth, 87 Ala. 203; Whit-taker v. Pendola, 78 Cal. 296, 20 Pac. 680; Davis v. Freeland's Lessee, 32 Miss. 645; Pierce v. Frace, 2 Wash. St. 81, 26 Pac. 192, 807; Mclane v. Bovee, 35 Wis. 27.
34. Balsz v. Liebenow (Ariz.) 36 Pac. 209; Hemphill v. Davis, 38 Cal. 577; Dale v. Hunneman, 12 Neb. 221, 10 N. W. 711; Adams v. Couch, 1 Okl. 17.
A patent is, as evidence of title, conclusive in a court of law as against collateral attack, unless it is invalid on its face for insufficiency of language or execution, or unless it is void for want of power to issue it, as when the land had been previously granted, or was reserved from sale.30 In equity, however, a patent, valid on its face, can, as against others than bona fide purchasers of the land for value, be attacked, for fraud in its procurement or mistake in its issuance, either by the government or by a person otherwise entitled to the land;37 and if the patent has been issued to one other than the person entitled thereto, he may procure a decree establishing a constructive trust in his favor, and requiring the patentee to make a conveyance to
35. Deseret Salt Co. v. Tarpey, 142 It. S. 241, 35 L. Ed. 999; Nothern Pac. R. Co. v. Cannon fc. C.) 46 Fed. 224; Southern Pac. Co. v. Burr, 86 Cal. 279, 24 Pac. 1032; Northern Pac. R. Co. v. Majors, 5 Mont. 111. 2 Pac. 322.
36. Field v. Seabury, 19 How. (U. S.) 323. 15 L. Ed. 650; Sherman v. Buick, 93 U. S. 209. 23 L. Ed. 849: Steel v. St. Louis Smelting & Refining Co.. 106 U. S. 447, 27 L. Ed. 226; Wright v. Rose-berry, 121 U. S. 488, 30 L. Ed. 1039; Davis' Adm'r v. Weibbold. 139 U. S. 507, 35 L. Ed. 238; State v. Morgan, 52 Ark. 150, 12 S. W. 243; Moore v. Wilkinson, 13 Cal. 488; Laneenour v. Shanklin, 57 Cal. 70: Bledsoe's Devisees v. Wells, 4 Bibb. (Ky.) 329; State v. Sioux City & P. R. Co., 7 Neb. 357; Jackson v. Hart, 12 Johns.
(N. Y.) 77, 7 Am. Dec. 280; Webster v. Clear, 49 Ohio St. 392, 31 N. E. 744; Norvell v. Camm, 6 Munf. (Va.) 233. 8 Am. Dec. 742; Jarrett v. Stevens, 36 W. Va. 445, 15 S. E. 177.
37. St. Louis Smelting & Refining Co. v. Kemp, 104 U. S. 636. 26 L. Ed. 875; Sparks v. Pierce, 115 U. S. 408, 29 L. Ed. 428; Sanford v. Sanford, 139 U. S. 642, 35 L. Ed. 290; United States v. San Jacinto Tin Co.. 125 U. S. 273, 31 L. Ed. 747; United States v. Missouri, K. & T. Ry. Co., 141 U. S. 358. 35 L. Ed. 766; United States v. Marshall Silver Min. Co., 129 U. S. 579, 32 L. Ed. 734; Colorado Coal & Iron Co. v. United States, 123 U. S. 307, 31 L. Ed. 182; Jackson v. Lawton, 10 Johns. (N. Y.) 23, 6 Am. Dec. 311; Remain v. Lewis, 39 Mich. 233,; Norvell v. Camm, 6 Munf. (Va.) him.38 The issuance of a patent, however, raises the presumption that it was validly issued, and one seeking to set it aside must sustain his averments in that regard by clear proof.39
A patent, when issued, dates back, as against intervening claimants, to the time when the equitable title vested in the patentee by payments of the purchase price, or otherwise.40
23S. 8 Am. Dec. 742; State v. Bachelder, 5 Minn. 223 Gil. 178), 80 Am. Dec. 410.
38. Stark v. Starrs, 6 Wall. (U. S.) 412, 18 L. Ed. 928; Widdi-combe v. Childers, 124 U. S. 400, 31 L. Ed. 427; Cornelius v. Kes-sel, 128 U. S. 456, 32 L. Ed. 482: Bernier v. Bernier, 147 U. S. 242, 37 L. Ed. 152.
39. Maxwell Land-grant Case, 121 U. S. 325, 30 L. Ed. 949;
Schnee v. Schnee, 23 Wis. 377, 99 Am. Dec. 183; City of Mobile v. Eslava, 9 Port. (Ala.) 577; 33 Am. Dec. 325.
40. Gibson v. Chouteau, 13 Wall. (U. S.) 92, 20 L. Ed. 534; Hussman v. Durham, 165 U. S. 144, 41 L. Ed. 664; Waters v. Bush, 42 Iowa, 255; Reynolds v. Plymouth County, 55 Iowa, 90; Waterman v. Smith, 13 Cal. 419. See post, Sec. 377, note 76.