Johnson & Graham’s Lessee v. McIntosh

PETITIONER:Johnson and Graham’s Lessee
RESPONDENT:William M’Intosh

DECIDED BY: Marshall Court (1812-1823)

ARGUED: Feb 15, 1823 / Feb 17, 1823 / Feb 18, 1823 / Feb 19, 1823
DECIDED: Feb 28, 1823

Facts of the case

In 1775, Thomas Johnson and other British citizens purchased land in the Northwest Territory, then in the colony of Virginia, from members of the Piankeshaw Indian tribes. This purchase was arranged under a 1763 proclamation by the King of England. Thomas Johnson left this land to his heirs. In 1818, William M’Intosh purchased from Congress, 11,000 acres of the land originally purchased by Johnson. Upon realizing the competing claims on the land, Johnson’s heirs sued M’Intosh in the United States District Court for the District of Illinois to recover the land. The District Court ruled for M’Intosh, reasoning that M’Intosh’s title was valid since it was granted by Congress. Johnson’s heirs appealed to the Supreme Court.


Was M’Intosh’s claim to the disputed land superior to Johnson’s claim because M’Intosh’s claim was the result of Congressional action?