Lagrange v. Chouteau

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

29 U.S. 287

LCgrange  v.  Chouteau

ERROR from the supreme court of the state of Missouri.

An action of trespass vi et armis was brought in the state circuit court of the county of St. Louis, state of Missouri, by the plaintiff in error, a man of colour, against Pierre Chouteau, the defendant, for the purpose of trying his right to freedom. The judgment of the circuit court was against the plaintiff; and on an appeal to the supreme court of Missouri, that judgment was affirmed.

The case was brought before this court by writ of error to the supreme court of Missouri, under the twenty-fifth section of the act to establish judicial courts of the United States, passed on the 29th of September 1789.

The case is fully stated in the opinion of the court.

Mr Kane, for the defendant in error, objected to the court taking jurisdiction of the case; as it did not come within the provisions of the twenty-fifth section of the act of congress.

It could not be found, on the most careful examination of the record, that the construction of any act of congress had been brought into question in the courts of Missouri, where the suit was originally entertained. All the questions in the case before those courts might have been and were decided without reference to the act of congress. The claim to freedom, asserted by the plaintiff, was left to the jury by the court before which it was tried; and if in any of the instructions given by the court, reference to the ordinance of congress of the 13th of July 1787, can be supposed to have been made, the construction given by the court to that ordinance was in favour of the plaintiff in error

Mr Lawless, for the plaintiff in error, argued; that as the provisions of the twenty-fifth section do not declare in what stage of the proceedings the construction of an act of congress shall have been questioned to give this court jurisdiction; the refusal of the supreme court of Missouri to allow to the plaintiff a rehearing, he having petitioned for the same, alleging his right to freedom under the ordinance, made this a case for the cognizance of this court. Cited, Hickie et al. vs. Starke et al. 1 Peters, 94.

Mr Chief Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).