THE State of Missouri filed a bill against the State of Iowa, in the Supreme Court of the United States, with the consent of the State of Iowa, in order to settle a controversy which had arisen respecting the true location of the boundary-line which divided the two States. The origin of the controversy is so fully stated by Mr Justice Catron, in delivering the opinion of the court, that it is only necessary for the Reporter to explain the pretensions of the respective parties according to the map, without which they cannot be understood. This map or diagram is only intended to be illustrative of these claims, without pretending to be geographically accurate. In July, 1820, the people living in the then Territory of Missouri, in pursuance of an act of Congress, adopted a constitution, in which are described the following boundaries:–– 'Beginning in the middle of the Mississippi River, on the parallel of thirty-six degrees of north latitude; thence west along the said parallel of latitude to the St. Francois River; thence up and following the course of that river, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the parallel of latitude of thirty-six degrees and thirty minutes; thence west along the same to a point where the said parallel is intersected by a meridian line passing through the middle of the mouth of the Kansas River, where the same empties into the Missouri River; thence, from the point aforesaid, north along the said meridian line, to the intersection of the parallel of latitude which passes through the rapids of the River Des Moines, making said line correspond with the Indian boundary-line; thence east from the point of intersection last aforesaid, along the said parallel of latitude, to the middle of the channel of the main fork of the said River Des Moines; thence down along the middle of the main channel of the said River Des Moines to the mouth of the same, where it empties into the Mississippi River; thence due east to the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi River; thence down and following the course of the Mississippi River, in the middle of the main channel thereof, to the place of beginning.' In 1821, Missouri was admitted into the Union with these boundaries. By an act of Congress, approved August 4, 1820, the southern boundary of Iowa was made identical with the northern boundary of Missouri. In 1816, prior to the passage of these laws, commissioners were appointed on the part of the United States to settle with the Osage chiefs the boundary of the cession which the Osage tribe had just made to the United States, and John C. Sullivan was appointed surveyor to run the line which should be thus agreed upon. Beginning on the bank of the Missouri, opposite the mouth of the Kansas, at A in the diagram, he ran north just 100 miles to the point C; and thence pursued what he thought was a due east course, (but which was in fact to the north of east,) until he struck the River Des Moines at the point F. This line is marked No. 1, and runs from C to F; the true parallel of latitude being afterwards ascertained to be from C to G. The State of Missouri alleged, that, at the point E in the River Des Moines, there existed rapids which answered the call in the constitution, and that the parallel of latitude spoken of in that instrument must consequently be a line running from E to D, and that the north line, which commenced at A, must therefore be protracted to D, where it intersected the parallel of latitude called for; that the phraseology used required the 'rapids of the River Des Moines' to be in that river, and not in the Mississippi. On the other hand, it was alleged by the State of Iowa, that in the Mississippi River, at the place marked H, there were rapids which were commonly called and known by the name of 'the rapids of the River Des Moines,' long anterior to the formation of the constitution of Missouri; that the parallel of latitude must run through the head or centre of these rapids, and that the line H B would therefore be the true boundary, the point B being the spot where this parallel of latitude would intersect the line running north from A. These were the claims of the respective parties. To sustain them, a great mass of evidence was taken on both sides. The cause was argued by Mr. Gamble and Mr. Green, for the State of Missouri, and Mr. Ewing and Mr. Mason, for the State of Iowa. The Reporter regrets that he cannot give an extended notice of the arguments of the respective counsel. But he is admonished, by the size which this volume has already attained, that he must reduce the cases which are yet to be reported to as small a compass as possible. The positions assumed by the counsel respectively are thus stated in the briefs of Mr. Green, for Missouri, and Mr. Ewing, for Iowa.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mr. Justice Catron delivered the opinion of the court.
On the part of the State of Missouri it is insisted,––
1st. That the words 'rapids of the River Des Moines' constitute the controlling call to determine the northern boundary, and that the natural and obvious import of these words is 'rapids of and in the River Des Moines itself.'
2d. That the evidence establishes the fact, that there are rapids in the River Des Moines.
3d. That there is no ambiguity in reference to the river of which the rapids are spoken, and none as to the rapids, unless more rapids than one are found in the River Des Moines.
4th. That having established the fact that there are rapids in the River Des Moines, thus satisfying the call of the constitution, no evidence can be introduced to contradict or vary the meaning of the constitution, or to prove that rapids of some other river were intended, different from that which the language indicates and describes.
5th. That the evidence offered does not prove the rapids in the Mississippi River to have been commonly known and called by the name 'rapids of the River Des Moines,' as alleged by Iowa.
6th. That if it were true that the rapids of the Mississippi were commonly known and called 'rapids of the River Des Moines,' still these rapids could not be taken as the rapids called for, as they do not answer to the description, while those in the Des Moines fulfil exactly the description, and none others will.
7th. But if the constitution be considered ambiguous, as between the rapids of the River Des Moines and rapids of the Mississippi, it serves only to let in proof of intention beyond what the language indicates. And on this point the evidence is clear in favor of Missouri.
From a full examination of all the facts and circumstances, as established by the evidence in connection with the language of the constitution, and by giving to each the weight to which it is entitled, we contend, in behalf of Missouri,––
1st. That the old Indian boundary-line (marked as line No. 1 on the diagram) cannot be the true northern boundary of Missouri, and the terms of the descriptive call do not allow the adoption of that line.
2d. That the parallel of latitude passing through the old northwest corner of the Indian boundary (marked on the diagram as line No. 2) is neither legally nor equitably the northern boundary of Missouri.
3d. That the parallel of latitude passing through the rapids of the Mississippi River (marked on diagram as line No. 3) will not fulfil the descriptive call of the constitution, and cannot be the northern line of the State.
4th. That the parallel of latitude passing through the rapids of the River Des Moines, at the Big Bend, in latitude 40 degrees 44 minutes 6 seconds north, (marked on the diagram as line No. 4,) will precisely and accurately satisfy the descriptive call of the constitution, and is the true northern boundary of the State of Missouri, as established by her constitution.
We will endeavour to show by the evidence, that, at the time of the adoption of the constitution, there was one object, and one only, namely, the rapids of the Mississippi, a few miles above the mouth of the Des Moines River, which was called in English 'the rapids of the River Des Moines,' and in French 'les rapides de la Riviere Des Moines,' which object had notoriety by that name; and that its position is every way adopted to satisfy the locative call.
We shall also expect to show by the evidence, that there were no rapids in the River Des Moines, then called, or entitled to be called, on account of position or magnitude, 'the rapids of the River Des Moines.'
These facts being established, we will insist that the notorious object bearing the name used in the locative call, and every way satisfying the call, must be taken in law to be the object called for; and that the centre of 'the rapids of the River Des Moines' in the Mississippi is the point over which the line of latitude marking the boundary of the State of Missouri must run.
1st. We will show by public acts, and by numerous witnesses, the position of 'the rapids of the River Des Moines'; that they are the same with the lower or Des Moines rapids of the Mississippi, and that those rapids were in 1820, and prior thereto, well known by the name of 'the rapids of the River Des Moines' in English, and 'les rapides de la Riviere Des Moines' in French.
2d. We will infer from the language of the constitution itself, and the then existing knowledge of the country, that 'the rapids of the River Des Moines' were called for in the constitution merely to fix the parallel of latitude on which the boundary-line was to run, and were not supposed to be touched by that line.
3d. We will show by actual survey, as well as by general evidence, that there are no rapids in the Des Moines entitled to the general descriptive appellation of 'the rapids of the River Des Moines.'
4th. And we will insist that in 1820 there were no rapids in the Des Moines River known as 'the rapids of the River Des Moines.'
5th. We will contend, that the State of Missouri has failed to prove a general understanding or opinion in Congress and in the convention counter to what we have shown to be the obvious construction of the act of Congress and of the constitution of Missouri, when taken in connection with the wellestablished facts.
6th. We will contend, that the evidence on the part of Missouri shows that all, or nearly all, of the members of the convention, and other witnesses who supposed, or now think they supposed, the rapids named in the constitution were in the Des Moines River, knew nothing of any particular rapids to which the constitution referred; but that their impression was vague and general, fixing on no actual known or existing object.
7th. We will show that the evidence which tends to give to rapids in the Des Moines River a distinct locality and name is insufficient and unsatisfactory, and that in the aggregate it applies as well to the Sweet Home or the Farmington rapids, as to the rapids of the Big Bend.
8th. We will insist that the rapids at St. Francisville and the rapids at Farmington are each and either of them better entitled to the appellation of 'the rapids of the River Des Moines,' than the rapids at the Great Bend,–the first because of its position, the second because it is the greater rapid. And that the rapids at Sweet Home conform better than those at the Great Bend to the locative calls in the constitution, and to contemporaneous opinion and usage. Fall at Great Bend, in 87 rods, 1.80 feet. Fall at Farmington, in 87 rods, 2.05 feet.
9th. If we succeed in maintaining these propositions, we establish as matters of fact, that the lower rapids of the Mississippi were the object, and the only object, which, in 1820, bore in English the name used in the constitution, 'the rapids of the River Des Moines,' and in French the name used in the translation, 'les rapides de la Riviere Des Moines.' And that, at that time, they ...