Southwestern Historical Quarterly
MEXICAN LAND GRANTS IN THE ARKANSAS VALLEY
JOSEPH O. VAN HOOK
The question of the validity of existing land titles has been
involved in every important acquisition of territory by the United
States through purchase or conquest. While it has been the
general policy of the United States to stipulate recognition of
such titles in the treaties of purchase or of cession; yet full
validity has depended in some instances upon Congressional con-
firmation, and in some cases the titles have been of such a compli-
cated or questionable character as to require final adjudication
at the hands of the Supreme Court. As an approach to the study
of the Mexican land grants in the Arkansas Valley, it is well to
recall the provisions of several treaties pertaining to existing land
titles and to note, in a general way, the consequences.
Article III of the Louisiana Purchase treaty pledged to the
inhabitants of the territory in question the "free enjoyment" of
their property pending their incorporation "in the Union of the
United States." Obviously the validity of existing land titles is
implied in this article; but there remained the question of Con-
gressional confirmation and the adjudication of contested titles.
In the case of John Maguire versus May S. Tyler (8 Wallace,
652) the Supreme Court held that existing titles were protected
fully by the third article of the Louisiana Purchase treaty without
legislative confirmation. Most of the controversial titles with
which the Federal Government had to deal as a result of the
Louisiana Purchase involved lands within the present limits of
Arkansas and Missouri.
The eighth article of the Florida Cession treaty declares that all
grants of land made under Spanish authority, prior to January
24, 1818, should be ratified, and that all such grants made subse-
quent to that date should be null and void; and again the question
of titles became a matter of concern both for Congress and for the
Federal courts. The annexation of Texas in 1845 did not involve
the United States Government in the question of the validity of
existing land titles, since the title to the public lands was to remain
vested in the State of Texas.
The Mexican Cession, however, produced a prolonged series of
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 40, July 1936 - April, 1937. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101099/. Accessed May 27, 2015.