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STATE OF LOUISIANA v. STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, 202 U.S. 1 (1906)
202 U.S. 1
STATE OF LOUISIANA, Complainant,
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI.
No. 11
, Original.
Argued October 10, 11, 12, 1905.
Decided March 5, 1906.
[202 U.S. 1, 2] The state of Louisiana, by leave of court, filed her bill against the
state of Mississippi, October 27, 1902, to obtain a decree determining a
boundary line between the two states, and requiring the state of
Mississippi to recognize and observe the line so determined.
The bill alleged:
'1st. That the state of Louisiana was admitted into the Union of the
United States of America by the act of Congress found in chapter 50 of the
United States Statutes at Large, vol. 2, page 701, approved April 8th,
1812, and therein the boundaries of the said state of Louisiana, in the
preamble of said act, were described as follows:--
'Whereas, the representatives of the people of all that part of the
territory or country ceded under the name of 'Louisiana,' by the treaty
made at Paris on the 30th day of April, 1803 [8 Stat. at L. 200], between
the United States and France, contained within the following limits, that
is to say: Beginning at the mouth of the [202 U.S. 1, 3] river Sabine, thence by a line drawn along the middle of said river,
including all islands to the 32d degree of latitude; thence due north to
the northernmost part of the 33d degree of north latitude; thence along
the said parallel of latitude to the River Mississippi; thence down the
said river to the River Iberville, and from thence along the middle of
said river and Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico;
thence bounded by the said gulf to the place of beginning, including all
islands within three leagues of the coast,' etc.
'2nd. That according to the foregoing description, the eastern boundary of
the state of Louisiana was formed by the Mississippi river, beginning at
the northeast corner of said state and extending south to the junction of
the said river with the River Iberville (now known as Bayou Manchac), and
thence extending eastwardly through the lower end of the Amite river,
through the middle of Lake Maurepas, Pass Manchac, and Lake Pontchartrain,
and in order to reach the Gulf of Mexico its only course was through the
Rigolets, into Lake Borgne, and thence by the deep-water channel through
the upper corner of Lake Borgne, following said channel, north of Half
Moon island, through Mississippi sound to the north of Isle a Pitre,
through the Cat Island channel, southwest of Cat island, into the Gulf of
Mexico, which said eastern boundary of the state of Louisiana is more
fully shown on diagram No. 1, made part of this bill. [See ante.]
'3rd. That by the act of Congress found in the United States Statutes at
Large, vol. 2, p. 708, chap. 57, approved April 14th, 1812, additional
territory was added to the then-existing state of Louisiana which
additional territory was described in the following language:--
'Beginning at the junction of the Iberville with the River Mississippi;
thence along the middle of the Iberville, the River Amite, and of the
Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain to the eastern mouth of the Pearl river;
thence up the eastern branch of Pearl river to the 31st degree of north
latitude; thence along the said degree of latitude to the River
Mississippi; thence [202 U.S. 1, 4] down the said river to the place of beginning, shall become and form a
part of the said state of Louisiana.'
'4th. That the effect of this legislation, as to the eastern boundary of
the state of Louisiana, was to retain the Mississippi river as the
original eastern boundary, as far south as the 31st degree of north
latitude. The change then moved the eastern boundary eastward along the
31st degree of north latitude to the Pearl river, whence it then ran south
down the said river, through its eastern branch, till it entered the
northern corner of Lake Borgne, where the state's eastern boundary then
joined and followed the boundary line originally fixed in the act of April
8th, 1812, and followed, as heretofore stated, [202 U.S. 1, 5] the deep-water channel through the upper corner of Lake Borgne, north of
Half Moon island, eastward through the deep-water channel along the
Mississippi sound till it reached the Cat Island channel north of Isle a
Pitre, and southwest of Cat island, whence passing through Chandeleur
sound, northeast of Chandeleur islands, it entered the Gulf of Mexico, and
ran south around the delta of the Mississippi river and then north and
westward to the point where the Sabine river enters the Gulf of Mexico, as
will be more fully seen from the diagram No. 2, made part of this bill. [
See ante.]
'5th. That the territory lying adjacent to, and to the eastward of, the
state of Louisiana, is the state of Mississippi, which [202 U.S. 1, 6] latter state was admitted into the Union of the United States of America
by the act of Congress found in the United States Statutes at Large, vol.
3, chap. 23, page 348, approved March 1st, 1817, whereby the inhabitants
of the western part of the then Mississippi territory were authorized to
form for themselves a state constitution and to be admitted into the
Union, the boundaries of the then-to-be-created state being described as
follows:--
'Beginning on the River Mississippi at the point where the southern
boundary line of the state of Tennessee strikes the same; thence east
along the said boundary line to the Tennessee river; thence up the same to
the mouth of Bear creek; thence by a direct line to the northwest corner
of the county of Washington [Alabama]; thence due south to the Gulf of
Mexico; thence westwardly, including all the islands within six leagues of
the shore to the most eastern junction of Pearl river with Lake Borgne;
thence up said river to the 31st degree of north latitude; thence west
along the said degree of latitude to the Mississippi river; thence up the
same to the beginning.'
'6th. That by the said act, Congress intended that the southern boundary
line of the state of Mississippi, beginning at the point dividing it from
the state of Alabama, should run westwardly till it joined the Louisiana
eastern boundary line, and that, in doing so, the said southern boundary
would in effect start westward from a point 18 miles south of the coast
line, and include in its westwardly direction the western end of Petit
Bois island, all of Horn island, Ship island, and Cat island, and the
smaller islands north of these, those islands being the ones contemplated
in the act of Congress, as being within 18 miles of the southern coast
line of Mississippi, and that the said southern boundary of Mississippi,
extending in its westwardly direction through the Gulf of Mexico, would
gradually approach the coast line, and meet the eastern boundary line of
Louisiana, just as the said eastern boundary line of Louisiana emerges
from the Cat Island channel into the Gulf of Mexico, and thence follow and
become the same as the [202 U.S. 1, 7] Louisiana boundary line extending westwardly to the south of Cat island,
through Mississippi sound to the north of Half Moon or Grand island to the
most southern junction of the [202 U.S. 1, 8] east branch of the Pearl river with Lake Borgne, being identical with the
Louisiana eastern boundary, and thence estending up the channel of Pearl
river.
'7th. That the islands included between the shore line and the southern
boundary of the state of Mississippi are the islands heretofore described,
viz.: the western end of Petit Bois island, with all of Horn island, Ship
island, and Cat island, and the small islands north of them, those islands
being large, and well known to Congress at the time of the passage of the
act, all of which islands and the southern boundary of the state of
Mississippi will more fully appear from the diagram No. 3, made a part of
this bill. [See ante.]
'8th. That the islands contemplated in the act of Congress of [April 8]
1812, creating the state of Louisiana, and intended to be embraced within
the state of Louisiana, as provided by the clause, 'Thence bounded by the
said gulf to the place of beginning, including all islands within three
leagues of the coast,' were all of the other islands, except those
heretofore named as going to the state of Mississippi, as all other
islands, and all other mainland, are south and west of the boundary line
thus passing from Pearl river through the deep-water channels in Lake
Borgne and Mississippi sound, through the deep-water channel southwest of
Cat island to the eastward of the Chandeleur islands, and thence south,
taking in the delta of the Mississippi river, and extending westward along
the Gulf coast, including all islands along the coast, to the Sabine
river, where the state of Louisiana is thence bounded on the westward by
the state of Texas, all of which will more fully appear from diagram No.
2, heretofore referred to.
'9th. Now your orator avers that there has developed in recent years in
the waters south of the state of Mississippi and east of the southern
portion of the state of Louisiana a considerable growth of oysters, and an
industry of large proportions, in the handling of said bivalves, either in
their fresh or in a canned condition, has resulted therefrom.
'10th. That the state of Mississippi has by legislative [202 U.S. 1, 9] enactments, regulated the oyster industry in the waters of said state, and
permits the dredging of oysters on the natural oyster reefs in waters of
the said state, as will more fully appear from the statutes of said state
to which reference is made.
'11th. That the state of Louisiana has, by legislative enactments,
regulated the oyster industry in the said state of Louisiana, and
prohibits the dredging of oysters on the natural reefs in the waters of
said state, as will more fully appear from the statutes of said state to
which reference is made.
'12th. That the provisions of the laws of the said two states differ
considerably in many other respects.
'13th. That the existence and location of the natural oyster reefs in the
waters of the parish of St. Bernard, in the state of Louisiana, which
adjoins the state of Mississippi, is shown by the map made from a
reconnaissance by the United States Fish Commission steamer 'Fish Hawk,'
in February, 1898, as will more fully appear from diagram No. 4, now made
part of this bill. [See ante.]
'14th. Now your orator avers that the boundary line dividing the two
states in the waters thereof has been clearly defined by the acts of
Congress creating the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, as will be seen
from the diagram No. 5, made up from the boundary descriptions taken from
the acts of Congress creating the said states of Louisiana and
Mississippi, which diagram is also made part of this bill. [See ante.]
'15th. That the said boundary line in the waters between said states has
never been designated by buoys or marks of any kind by either state, nor
designated in any manner, except by the United States government in so far
as it has buoyed the deep-water channel, extending from the mouth of the
Pearl river through the upper corner of Lake Borgne, north of Half Moon
island, eastward to the Cat Island pass, north of Isle a Pitre, and
southwest of Cat island, which buoys were placed by the Coast Survey of
the United States government.
'16th. That owing to the differences in the laws of the states of
Louisiana and Mississippi, regulating the oyster industry of [202 U.S. 1, 10] the respective states, the said statutes providing penalties for the
violation thereof, much confusion has resulted, and a great public demand
has arisen in Louisiana to definitely mark the boundary line dividing the
two states in the waters thereof; that citizens of the state of
Mississippi, in violation of the laws of the state of Louisiana, have been
fishing oysters with dredges [202 U.S. 1, 11] on the natural reefs in the waters of the state of Louisiana, said
fishermen claiming that they were in the waters of the state of
Mississippi, and consequently not violating the laws of the state of
Louisiana.'
The bill then set forth that 'to avoid an armed conflict between the
sheriff and officers of the parish of St. Bernard, in the state of
Louisiana, and the sheriff and officers of the county of Harrison in the
state of Mississippi,' a meeting of citizens of Louisiana was called by
the governor of that state, which met in New Orleans, and resulted in the
appointment by the governor of commissioners on the part of Louisiana 'to
consider the determination of the water boundary line between the two
states, and arrange for its easy location and identification by a proper
system of buoys,' and the request that the governor of Mississippi appoint
like commissioners on the part of that state, which appointment was made.
The joint commission met and considered the subject, and subsequently the
Mississippi commission reported its inability to agree with the Louisiana
commission, stating, among other things, 'It is apparent that the only
hope of settlement is a friendly suit in the Supreme Court of the United
States, and we respectfully suggest that course.'
The bill continued:
'24th. That the eastern water boundary line, as claimed by your orator,
viz., a line beginning at the most southern junction of the channel of the
east branch of the Pearl river with Lake Borgne, and thence eastward,
following the deep-water channel to the north of Half Moon island, through
the Mississippi Sound channel, to Cat Island pass, northeast of Isle a
Pitre into the Gulf of Mexico, thereby dividing the waters between the two
states, agrees, and is in accord, with the acts of Congress creating
respectively the state of Louisiana and the state of Mississippi, as
already shown by diagram No. 5; that any other boundary than the
deep-water channel as aforesaid would cause the limits of the two states
to conflict and overlap, and that it is not to be presumed that the
Congress of the United States [202 U.S. 1, 12] intended to, or would, establish in its description, a boundary for the
state of Mississippi, conflicting with the already-existing Louisiana
eastern boundary, when there is a construction of the wording of the two
acts, in fact, the only construction that suggests itself, that shows a
boundary readily ascertained, harmonizing with the words of the acts as
they now read, and clearly defining the limits of the two states in the
waters between them.
'25th. Your orator further avers that the use of the word 'westwardly' in
the description of the southern boundary of the state of Mississippi, as
that southern boundary line extends westwardly from the Alabama state line
to the Louisiana eastern boundary line, shows that it was not the
intention of Congress to have it run direct or due west throughout the
whole course, and that it was evidently the intention of Congress, in
giving to the state of Mississippi the islands north of that
westwardly-drawn line, that the 18-mile limit shall gradually decrease as
it approached the Louisiana line on the east, till it met and followed it
to its source. If the Mississippi line ran parallel to the southern coast
of Mississippi, at a distance of 18 miles from such coast line, following
the meander of the coast, and thence joined at right angles a line
emerging from the mouth of Pearl river, such line would not only include
Grassy, Half Moon, Round, Le Petit Pass islands and Isle a Pitre, already
belonging to Louisiana as being within 9 miles or 3 leagues of the
Louisiana shore line, but such line would also include part of the
mainland of the state of Louisiana. as will be seen from the following
diagram (No. 6), made a part of this bill, and it certainly could not have
been the intention of Congress to take away from the state of Louisiana
any islands or mainland already belonging to it, and to give them to the
state of Mississippi, as such a proceeding, without the consent of the
legislature of the state of Louisiana, would be a violation of 3 of art. 4
of the Constitution of the United States.
'26th. You orator avers that the marsh lands claimed by [202 U.S. 1, 13] the state of Mississippi to be islands are in truth, with the exception of
the Isle a Pitre, Grassy, Half Moon, Round, and Le Petit Pass islands,
low-lying marsh lands, forming part of the mainland of the state of
Louisiana; that said swamp or marsh lands and islands have been known as
and called, since time immemorial, 'the Louisiana marshes;' that they were
approved to the state of Louisiana by the Commissioner of the General Land
Office on May 6, 1852, as will appear from a certified copy of said record
of approval from the United States Land Office, made a part of this bill,
marked Exhibit (G) and, where not since sold by the state of Louisiana to
private purchasers, have always stood on the books of the register of the
Louisiana state land office as state lands, to be offered for sale, until
recently transferred by the state of Louisiana to the board of
commissioners for the Lake Borgne basin levee district by the provisions
of act No. 14 of the legislature of the state of Louisiana for the year
1892, for the purpose of enabling the said levee board, by the proceeds of
sale of said lands, to secure the funds to aid in the building of levees
in that levee district, to protect the lands from overflow.
'27th. That parts of said disputed territory claimed by the state of
Mississippi to be islands within 18 miles of its shore line are in fact
part of the mainland of the state of Louisiana, and therefore belong to
and form part of said state of Louisiana; but if your Honors should feel
that any part of this disputed area was islands by reason of the presence
of shallow water, then, as islands, they are within the 9-mile limit of
distance from the shore line of the state of Louisiana, and therefore
belong to and form part of the state of Louisiana by that second provision
of the act of Congress giving Louisiana all islands within 3 leagues of
its shore line.
'28th. Your orator further avers that where contiguous states or countries
are separated by water it is, and always has been, the custom to regard
the channel as establishing the boundary line of such states, and that the
state of Mississippi has itself recognized this principle in the
description of [202 U.S. 1, 14] its territorial limits, as found in the 2d article of its own
Constitution, adopted November, 1890, in the following words:
... * *
'29th. Your orator avers that, as heretofore stated, the Congress of the
United States, as well as the various departments of the United States
government having authority in the premises, have themselves recognized
the boundary line contended for by the state of Louisiana by reason of the
fact that the United States government has confirmed to the state of
Louisiana the lands composing Half Moon island, which is just south of the
deep-water channel' [by sections and townships as set forth] and also 'the
lands forming what is commonly known as Isle a Pitre' [by sections and
townships, as stated], all of them 'recognized as belonging to and forming
part of the state of Louisiana by the said United States government, and
have always heretofore been so recognized by the people of the said two
states; that the lands forming the Isle a Pitre were sold by the state of
Louisiana,' etc., etc., 'and said lands have been assessed on the
assessment rolls of the parish of St. Bernard, state of Louisiana, and
taxes thereon have been paid to the state of Louisiana for the past
thirty- five years, and said lands have never been assessed on the rolls
of, nor have any taxes ever been paid to, the state of Mississippi, and
that this is the case with all other lands and islands now claimed by the
state of Mississippi, but which in truth and fact belong to the state of
Louisiana.'
'30th. Your orator therefore further avers that all constituted
authorities competent to create, adopt, or consider the said boundary line
have declared the water boundary line claimed by the state of Louisiana,
viz., the deep-water channel running from the most southern junction of
the eastern mouth of Pearl river, through Lake Borgne, north of Half Moon
island, through Mississippi sound, north of Isle a Pitre, and Southwest of
Cat island, through Cat Island pass, through Chandeleur sound northeast of
Chandeleur islands to the Gulf [202 U.S. 1, 15] of Mexico, to be the true water boundary between the said states.'
The bill prayed that it be adjudged and decreed 'that the boundary line
dividing the states of Louisiana and Mississippi, in the waters between
the said states to the south of the state of Mississippi, and to the
southeast of the state of Louisiana, is the deep-water channel, commencing
at the most southern junction of the eastern mouth of Pearl river with
Lake Borgne, thence by the deep-water channel through Lake Borgne, north
of Half Moon island, through Mississippi sound, north of Isle a Pitre,
through Cat Island Pass channel, southwest of Cat Island, through
Chandeleur Island sound, northeast of the Chandeleur islands, to the Gulf
of Mexico, as is delineated on the original map submitted by the Louisiana
boundary commission to the Mississippi boundary commission, and now made
part of this bill, marked Exhibit 'E;' that the said deep-water channel be
located throughout its course and permanently buoyed at the joint expense
of the two states; that the state of Mississippi and its citizens be
perpetually enjoined from disputing the sovereignty and ownership of the
state of Louisiana in the said land and water territory south and west of
said boundary line,' and for costs and general relief.
[Exhibit 'E' is not reproduced in the printed record, but it to be found
in the Louisiana Atlas of Maps, p. 60. It consists of coast survey charts
Nos. 189, 190, and 191, showing the coast from Mobile to Lakes Borgne and
Pontchartrain, with boundary lines added in red ink. The maps given in
this statement are sufficient to supply the lack of this particular
exhibit.]
The state of Mississippi, by leave, filed a demurrer to the bill, which
was, by stipulation, submitted to the consideration of the court on
printed arguments, and was subsequently overruled.
Thereupon the state of Mississippi, on leave, filed her answer and cross
bill. [202 U.S. 1, 16] The state denied articulately nearly every material allegation of the
bill, and therefore the accuracy of the diagrams or maps attached thereto,
and asserted the true boundary to be as set forth in her cross bill. and
while she admitted 'that the deep-water channel out of the mouth of Pearl
river, through the upper course of Lake Borgne, and on into the Gulf, as
stated in the bill, has been marked by buoys by and under the direction of
the United States government, for navigation and commercial purposes,' she
denied 'that said marking of the deep-water channel was ever intended to
fix in any manner whatsoever any part of the boundary line between said
states,' and further denied 'the correctness of complainant's statement
that where contiguous states or countries are separated by water, the
channel of the waters dividing said states constitutes a boundary line,
and defendant specifically denies that such rule is applicable to this
case.'
The cross bill averred that the southern boundary line of the state of
Mississippi was fixed by the act of Congress, approved March 1, 1817, 3
Stat. at L. 348, chap. 23, 2.
That by that act Mississippi was given 'all lands under the waters south
of her well-defined shore line to the distance of six leagues from said
shore at every point between the Alabama line and the most eastern
junction of Pearl river with Lake Borgne, including all islands within
said limit,' and 'all territory within said limits, not being a part of
the mainland of the state of Louisiana, became, was, and is a part of the
territory of the state of Mississippi.'
That the acts of 1812, creating the state of Louisiana, failed 'to
describe the water line from the most eastern mouth of Pearl river to the
Gulf of Mexico,' and hence Louisiana proposed, 'without authority in law,
to follow the deep-water channel from the mouth of Pearl river to the Gulf
of Mexico,-that is, as far south as that point in the sea where the waters
of Chandeleur sound merge into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.'
That the act creating the state of Mississippi was the organi- [202 U.S. 1, 17] zation of a state government in the western part of Mississippi territory;
that the southern part of the territory of Mississippi was added thereto
by an act of Congress approved May 14, 1812, which provided: 'That all
that portion of territory lying east of Pearl river, west of the Perdido,
and south of the thirty-first degree of latitude, be, and the same is
hereby, annexed to the Mississippi territory; to be governed by the laws
now in force therein, or which may hereafter be enacted, and the laws and
ordinances of the United States, relative thereto, in like manner as if
the same had originally formed a part of said territory; and until
otherwise provided by law, the inhabitants of the said district, hereby
annexed to the Mississippi territory, shall be entitled to one
representative in the general assembly thereof.' 2 Stat. at L. 734, chap.
84.
That this act and the act admitting the state of Mississippi 'recognized
the fact that the boundary line of the state of Louisiana embraced no
island in the waters to the east of said state and to the south of the
Mississippi mainland, or shore, and within 6 leagues of the Mississippi
shore; that the said Louisiana acts are not in conflict with the aforesaid
Mississippi acts, the boundaries of Louisiana only embracing such islands,
as clearly shown by said acts creating and admitting her, as were within
the Gulf of Mexico and also within 3 leagues of her gulf coast,- that is
to say, within the Gulf of Mexico proper and to the south of said state of
Louisiana, as contemplated by Congress; that the said line from the mouth
of Pearl river to the Gulf of Mexico, dividing the territory of
Mississippi from the state of Louisiana, was never defined until the
passage of the act creating the state of Mississippi, when, for the first
time, the southern boundary of the Mississippi territory, the western part
of which was, by said act, made the state of Mississippi, was accurately
defined and established, as herein stated; that the line above described
and defined by the said Mississippi acts includes no islands which are
within 3 leagues of the Louisiana mainland and also in the Gulf of Mexico,
as the limits [202 U.S. 1, 18] of the Gulf of Mexico are defined by the said state in her original bill
herein.'
That the state of Louisiana 'claims title and sovereignty over some of the
islands belonging to the state of Mississippi by virtue of certain alleged
action of certain officers of the United States government and local
officers of the state of Louisiana,' but the claim 'is not well founded
because of the matters herein set forth, and because said islands and
territory have not been susceptible to actual use and occupation, and
because said claim is in violation of 3, art. 4, of the Constitution of
the United States . . .' But if the court should adjudge said islands and
territory approved by the aforesaid officials to the state of Louisiana to
belong to said state, then cross complainant prayed that the claim of
title of Louisiana thereto 'be restricted to the real lands or islands so
lost to the state of Mississippi, and be in no case permitted to affect
any lands under the waters, or any of the public oyster reefs thereunder.'

It was then alleged that Mississippi had 'exercised sovereignty and
jurisdiction over said waters within 18 miles of her shore aforesaid,' and
that by her statutes, as codified in 1857, had asserted such jurisdiction.

And that, by the legislation of Congress and the state, the " Mississippi
sound' was recognized as a body of water, 6 leagues wide, wholly within
the state of Mississippi, from Lake Borgne to the Alabama line, separate
and distinct from 'the Gulf of Mexico."
The cross bill further averred that Congress, 'in the early history of the
Republic, in dealing with the Gulf coast or shore,' was not perfectly
familiar with the line, and by several acts 'creating the Gulf states,
respectively, treated the said Gulf coast or shore as a line running
generally from east to west,' and said states were, in the contemplation
of Congress, 'so formed and bounded as to give to each state jurisdiction
over the waters adjacent to its shore or coast for a certain specified
distance southward from its mainland line; that it was [202 U.S. 1, 19] not intended to give to any state jurisdiction over waters adjacent to and
immediately south and in front of any other state or territory.' But that
the deep-water channel line contended for by Louisiana would take nearly
all of the Hancock county water front, much of that of Harrison county,
and possibly some of that of Jackson county, over all which Mississippi
had exercised jurisdiction since her admission.
Reference was then made to the organization of Hancock and Jackson
counties in December, 1812, and of Harrison county, in 1841; and to
certain sections of the Revised Code of Mississippi of 1880 and a
codification of 1892, making a general reference to islands within 6
leagues of the Mississippi shore; and it was charged that during all this
time the government of the Mississippi territory and that of the state of
Mississippi had exercised full and complete jurisdiction and sovereignty
over the waters in the 'Mississippi sound' as a part of the three counties
aforesaid.
The prayer was that it be decreed 'that the boundary line dividing the
states of Mississippi and Louisiana is the line which, beginning at a
point 6 leagues due south of that point on the shore where the Alabama and
Mississippi line enters the Gulf of Mexico, runs westwardly with the
meanderings of the shore 6 leagues always therefrom until said line
reaches and touches the real mainland of Louisiana about 2 miles due west
of the 'Indian mound' and 'Lake of the Mound,' and thence in an almost due
northward direction along and on the high-tide mark of the said Louisiana
mainland to Mississippi sound at or near Nine Mile bayou, and thence
further along said mainland at the high-tide mark westwardly to that point
due south of the middle of the most southern or eastern junction of Pearl
river with Lake Borgne, and thence from said point due north to the said
Pearl river; that the said line be located and permanently buoyed at the
joint expense of the two states; that the full title and sovereignty over
all the islands and the land under the waters north and east of the said
line so established be decreed and adjudged to be in the [202 U.S. 1, 20] state of Mississippi, and that the state of Louisiana and her citizens be
perpetually enjoined from disputing such title and sovereignty of the
state of Mississippi therein,' and for costs and general relief.
The following 'Exhibit Map' was attached. [See post.]
The state of Louisiana filed replication, and also an answer to the cross
bill, the allegations of which were in substance denied. [202 U.S. 1, 21] As to the act of May 14, 1812, the state said that it could not and did
not change the boundaries of Louisiana, and that, in fact, the southern
portion of the Mississippi territory as claimed was not then in possession
of the United States, and did not extend south of the 31st degree of north
latitude; that February 12, 1813, an act was passed 'authorizing the
President of the United States to take possession of a tract of country
lying south of the Mississippi territory and west of the river Perdido,'
but that this was not published until 1818; nor were the resolution of
January 15 and the act of March 3, 1811, on the relations of the United
States to Spain, published until after April 20, 1818. 3 Stat. at L. 471,
472.
The cause being at issue, much evidence, documentary and otherwise, was
taken, and the case was argued October 10, 11, and 12.
Messrs. John Dymond, Jr., Francis C. Zacharie, Walter Guion, Albert
Estopinal, Jr., and Alexander Porter Morse for complainant.
[202 U.S. 1, 27] Messrs. Hannis Taylor, James N. Flowers, Monroe McClurg, and William
Williams for defendant.
[202 U.S. 1, 33]
Mr. Chief Justice Fuller delivered the opinion of the court:
The demurrer was overruled because the court was of opinion that the bill
presented a prima facie case of justiciable controversy between the state
of Louisiana and the state of Mississippi as to the boundary line between
them, and we are clear that the proofs establish the existence of such a
controversy as to fully sustain our jurisdiction
It is apparent that the enforcement of the oyster legislation of the two
states led to a conflict between the authorities of both, which involved a
dispute as to the true boundary line.
In 1886 the state of Louisiana passed an act vesting the power to control
the oyster industry in the hands of the officials of the parishes of the
state in their several localities, along general lines laid down in the
law. La. Laws 1886, act No. 106. This was followed by the acts of 1892 (
No. 110), 1896 (No. 121), and 1900 (No. 159). By the act of 1896
nonresident oyster fishermen were prohibited from fishing oysters in
Louisiana waters, and the dredging of oysters was also prohibited, in this
particular differing from the laws of Mississippi, which permitted it. By
a concurrent resolution of 1900 a legislative commission was created, to
investigate and report on the oyster industry of the state.
In January, 1898, the parochial authorities of the parish of St. Bernard
equipped and sent out an official expedition to exclude from the oyster
water of the parish any nonresident [202 U.S. 1, 34] oyster fishermen who might be found fishing therein. Nonresident
Mississippi oystermen were found fishing oysters there, and they were
notified that they must stop fishing and move out of those waters. These
Mississippians then complained to the Mississippi authorities and a
conference ensued between representatives of the parish of St. Bernard and
the county of Hancock. In January, 1901, at the instance of the Louisiana
legislative commission appointed under the act of 1900, and of committees
appointed from the police juries of the Louisiana parishes of St. Bernard
and Plaquemines, a meeting of the state officials of Louisiana was held in
New Orleans to consider the subject of the dispute with the state of
Mississippi, and the invasion by nonresidents of the Louisiana oyster
waters. This meeting resulted in the appointment by the governor of
Louisiana of a commission of five members, and an official communication
from the governor of Louisiana addressed to the governor of Mississippi,
requesting the latter to appoint a similar commission to see if it were
possible to effect an amicable settlement of the dispute between the two
states. This Mississippi commission was accordingly appointed, and the two
commissions held a joint conference in New Orleans in March, 1901.
Louisiana presented at the conference a map showing the Louisiana
contention as to the boundary, which is the map attached to the bill, and
marked Exhibit E. The Mississippi commission reported that it was
impossible to effect an amicable extrajudicial settlement of the dispute,
and that the only hope of settlement was a friendly suit in the Supreme
Court of the United States. This report was submitted by the Mississippi
commission to the governor of Mississippi, and was transmitted to the
legislature of that state. At this session the state of Mississippi passed
a new law controlling her oyster waters and oyster industry. Laws 1902,
chap. 58. This act created a state oyster commission, vested with entire
control of the Mississippi oyster industry. It took the control of the
industry out of the hands of the coast county authorities and centralized
it in this state department, which was authorized to establish a [202 U.S. 1, 35] system of patrol of the Mississippi oyster waters, and to maintain patrol
boats to sustain the oyster laws in her territory. In July, 1902, the
state of Louisiana followed the example of the state of Mississippi and
adopted an act (Acts 1902, No. 153) creating a state oyster commission of
Louisiana as a state department, vested with full control of the oyster
industry of Louisiana, and authorized to establish patrol boats and
maintain an armed patrol on the Louisiana oyster waters to protect her
rights in the oyster industry therein. In view of the danger of an armed
conflict, the oyster commissions of both states, in September, 1902,
adopted a joint resolution establishing a neutral territory between the
two states 'pending the final decision by the Supreme Court of the United
States in the boundary suit to be instituted,' to remain a common fishing
ground. This modus vivendi did not include all of the disputed territory,
but the waters of Mississippi sound between the deep-water channel and the
north shore line of the Louisiana marshes were embraced by it.
In the following October this bill was filed. Louisiana appeared through
her governor and her attorney general, and the action of the governor in
instituting the suit was subsequently approved, ratified, and confirmed by
the legislature.
The facts that the act of Congress admitting the state of Louisiana gave
that state all islands within 3 leagues or 9 miles of her coast, and that
the subsequent act of Congress admitting the state of Mississippi
purported to give that state all islands within 6 leagues or 18 miles of
her shore, and that some islands within 9 miles of the Louisiana coast
were also within 18 miles of the Mississippi shore, furnished the basis
for a boundary controversy, although, in our judgment, the apparent
inconsistency is reconcilable, as hereinafter explained. And that
controversy involved to each state pecuniary values of magnitude, as is
shown by the evidence on both sides. We think that there existed between
the two states, in their sovereign capacity as states, a controversy
affecting the boundary line separating them in the locality in [202 U.S. 1, 36] question of a character to justify the exercise of our original
jurisdiction within the rules laid down in Miscourt v. Illinois, 200 U.S. 496 , 50 L. ed. --, 26 Sup.Ct.Rep. 268; Missouri v. Illinois, 180 U.S. 208 , 45 L. ed. 497, 21 Sup.Ct.Rep. 331; Pennsylvania v. Wheeling & B. Bridge
Co. 13 How. 589, 14 L. ed. 279; Louisiana v. Texas, 176 U.S. 1 , 44 L. ed. 347, 20 Sup.Ct.Rep. 251; Kansas v. Colorado, 185 U.S. 125 , 46 L. ed. 838, 22 Sup.Ct.Rep. 552.
2. The state of Louisiana was admitted into the Union by the act of Congress
approved April 8, 1812 (2 Stat. at L. 701, chap. 50), which commenced as
follows:
'Whereas, the representatives of the people of all that part of the
territory or country ceded under the name of 'Louisiana' by the treaty
made at Paris on the thirtieth day of April, one thousand eight hundred
and three, between the United States and France, contained within the
following limits, that is to say: Beginning at the mouth of the River
Sabine; thence by a line to be drawn along the middle of said river,
including all islands, to the thirty-second degree of latitude; thence due
north to the northernmost part of the thirty-third degree of north
latitude; thence along the said parallel of latitude to the River
Mississippi; thence down the said river to the River Iberville; and from
thence along the middle of the said river and Lakes Maurepas and
Ponchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico; thence bounded by the said gulf to the
place of beginning including all islands within three leagues of the coast
; . . .'
Map of diagram No. 1, given in the opening statement, shows the limits as
thus defined.
By an act of Congress approved April 14, 1812 (2 Stat. at L. 708., chap.
57), additional territory was added to the state of Louisiana, described
thus:
'All that tract of country comprehended within the following bounds, to
wit: Beginning at the junction of the Iberville with the River
Mississippi; thence along the middle of the Iberville, the River Amite and
of the Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain to the eastern mouth of the Pearl
river; thence up the eastern branch of Pearl river to the thirty-first
degree of north latitude; thence along the said degree of latitude to the
River Mississippi; thence down the said river to the place of be- [202 U.S. 1, 37] ginning, shall become and form a part of the said state of Louisiana, and
be subject to the Constitution and laws thereof in the same manner, and
for all intents and purposes, as if it had been included within the
original boundaries of the said state.'
This added territory is shown on map or diagram No. 2. The eastern
boundary of Louisiana was thereby moved eastward from the Mississippi to
Pearl river, and Louisiana was given the country south of the 31st degree
of north latitude, and north of the boundary formed by the River
Iberville, the middle of Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain, and the
Rigolets.
The River Iberville is called on this map Bayou Manchac, and is still
known by that name. The Rigolets is a gut connecting the waters of Lakes
Pontchartrain and Borgne, both of which are bodies of salt water and were
originally arms of the sea. In order to reach the open waters of the Gulf
of Mexico from the middle of Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain the line ran
through the Rigolets into Lake Borgne, and after the addition to the state
by the act of April 14, 1812, the eastern boundary line of Louisiana
entered Lake Borgne to the south by Pearl river as well as the Rigolets.
To get from Lake Borgne into the open water of the Gulf of Mexico beyond
Chandeleur islands and around to the western boundary of Louisiana, it was
necessary, as Louisiana contends, to follow the deep-water channel north
of Half Moon or Grand island, through Mississippi sound, and thence by the
pass between Cat island and Isle a Pitre, north of the Chandeleur islands,
into the open Gulf. Many maps are given in the record, some made at dates
long prior to the admission of Louisiana as a state, some at that time,
and some within a few years thereafter, and all show the St. Bernard
peninsula to be geographically a true part of the state of Louisiana, or
of an area of country that was to form the state, and that the said
peninsula projected itself as a well-defined arm of land out into the
waters of the Gulf, branching off as a projection from the main body of
land com- [202 U.S. 1, 38] posing the state, and forming a part of it. We observe that on many of
these early maps the term 'peninsula' is applied to this projection, and
that designation is sufficiently accurate for the purpose of description.
November 14, 1803, President Jefferson sent a communication to Congress,
in which, among other things, he said:
'The object of the following pages is to consolidate the information
respecting the present state of Louisiana, furnished to the Executive by
several individuals among the best informed on the subject.
'Of the province of Louisiana no general map, sufficiently correct to be
depended upon, has been published, nor has any been yet procured from a
private source. It is indeed probable that surveys have never been made
upon so extensive a scale as to afford the means of laying down the
various regions of a country which, in some of its parts, appears to have
been but imperfectly explored. . . .
'St. Bernardo.
'On the east side of the Mississippi, about 5 leagues below New Orleans,
and at the head of the English bend, is a settlement known by the name of
the Poblacion de St. Bernardo, or the Terre aux Aoeufs, extending on both
sides of a creek or drain, whose head is contiguous to the Mississippi,
and which, flowing eastward, after a course of 18 leagues, and dividing
itself into two branches, falls into the sea and Lake Borgne. This
settlement consists of two parishes, almost all the inhabitants of which
are Spaniards from the Canaries, who content themselves with raising
fowls, corn, and garden stuff for the market at New Orleans. The lands
cannot be cultivated to any great distance from the banks of the creek, on
account of the vicinity of the marsh behind them, but the place is
suspectible of great improvement, and of affording another communication
to small craft of from 8 to 10 feet draught, between the sea and the
Mississippi.'
'Country from Plaquemines to the Sea, and Effect of the Hurricanes. [202 U.S. 1, 39] 'From Plaquemines to the sea is 12 or 13 leagues. The country is low,
swampy, chiefly covered with reeds, and having little or no timber, and no
settlement whatever. It may be necessary to mention here, that the whole
lower part of the country, from the English turn downwards, is subject to
overflowing in hurricanes, either by the recoiling of the river, or reflux
from the sea on each side; and, on more than one occasion, it has been
covered from the depth of 2 to 10 feet, according to the descent of the
river, whereby many lives were lost, horses and cattle swept away, and a
scene of destruction laid. The last calamity of this kind happened in
1794, but fortunately they are not frequent. In the preceding year the
engineer who superintended the erection of the fort at Plaquemines was
drowned in his house near the fort, and the workmen and garrison escaped
only by taking refuge on an elevated spot in the fort, on which there
were, notwithstanding, 2 or 3 feet of water. These hurricanes have
generally been felt in the month of August. Their greatest fury lasts
about twelve hours. They commence in the southeast, veer about to all the
points of the compass, are felt most severely below, and seldom extend
more than a few leagues above, New Orleans. In their whole course they are
marked with ruin and desolation. Until that of 1793, there had been none
felt from the year 1780.'
This communication was, of course, before Congress when the act of 1812,
admitting Louisiana, was approved, and the peninsula was clearly
recognized as forming part of the parish of St. Bernard, as was its marshy
character and that of the adjoining parish.
By the act of Congress, approved March 1, 1817 (3 Stat. at L. 348, chap.
23, 2), the inhabitants of the western part of the then Mississippi
territory were authorized to form for themselves a state constitution and
to be admitted into the Union, with the following boundaries: 'Beginning
on the river Mississippi at the point where the southern boundary line of
the state of Tennessee strikes the same; thence east along the said
boundary line to the Tennessee river; thence up the same to the mouth of
Bear [202 U.S. 1, 40] creek; thence by a direct line to the northwest corner of the county of
Washington; thence due south to the Gulf of Mexico; thence westwardly,
including all the islands within six leagues of the shore, to the most
eastern junction of Pearl river with Lake Borgne; thence up said river to
the thirty-first degree of north latitude; thence west along the said
degree of latitude to the Mississippi river; thence up the same to the
beginning.'
The people in convention, August 15, 1817, formed a constitution and state
government (approved subsequently by popular vote), and the state was
admitted by resolution December 10, 1817. 3 Stat. at L. 472.
The state of Alabama was admitted by the act of March 2, 1819 (3 Stat. at
L. 489, chap. 47, 2), which provided: 'That the said state shall consist
of all the territory included within the following boundaries, to wit:
Beginning at the point where the thirty-first degree of north latitude
intersects the Perdido river; thence, east, to the western boundary line
of the state of Georgia; thence along said line to the southern boundary
line of the state of Tennessee; thence, west, along said boundary line, to
the Tennessee river; thence, up the same, to the mouth of Bear creek;
thence, by a direct line, to the northwest corner of Washington county;
thence, due south, to the Gulf of Mexico; thence, eastwardly, including
all islands within six leagues of the shore to the Perdido river; and
thence, up the same to the beginning.'
The islands, marsh or otherwise claimed by Louisiana in this case were all
within 3 leagues of her coast. The act admitting Mississippi was passed
five years after the Louisiana act, yet Mississippi claims thereunder the
disputed territory, as being islands within 18 miles of her shore. If it
were true that this repugnancy between the two acts existed, it is enough
to say that Congress, after the admission of Louisiana, could not take
away any portion of that state and give it to the state of Mississippi.
The rule, Qui prior est tempore, portior est jure, applied, and 3 of art.
4 of the Constitution does not permit the claims of any particular state
to be [202 U.S. 1, 41] prejudiced by the exercise of the power of Congress therein conferred.
But it is said that the act admitting Louisiana, the act admitting
Mississippi, and the act admitting Alabama, must be construed as in pari
materia; and, being so construed, that Congress must be held to have had
in view in the three acts a division of the coast along the Gulf of Mexico
so as to equalize the water frontage of Mississippi, Louisiana, and
Alabama.
We do not regard these acts as in pari materia in any proper sense. They
provided for the admission of three separate states, and the subject of
each was not only not identical with, but not even similar to, that of the
others. They did not form part of a homogeneous whole, of a common system,
so as to allow a claimant under the later act to successfully contend that
it changed the earlier act by construction or effected such change because
declaratory of the meaning of the prior act.
And assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Louisiana and Mississippi
acts were irreconcilably inconsistent, but remembering that when Louisiana
was admitted into the Union, the territory now composing the coast
counties of Mississippi, that is, below the 31st degree of north latitude,
was not actually a part of the Mississippi territory, but was in dispute
between the United States and Spain the theory of any preconcerted design
in regard to the water front of the two states is too unreasonable to be
entertained.
In the treaty of peace between England, France, and Spain of February 10,
1716, article 7, on the subject of the boundary line separating the
dominions of England and France in the New World, provided: 'That for the
future the confines between the dominions of His Britannic Majesty and
those of His Most Christian Majesty in that part of the world shall be
fixed irrevocably by a line drawn along the River Mississippi from its
source to the River Iberville, and from thence by a line drawn along the
middle of this river and the Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain to the sea.'
According to this treaty England retained the port of Mobile and its river
and everything east [202 U.S. 1, 42] of the Rigolets. The island of Orleans, formed by the River Iberville,
Lakes Maurepas, and Pontchartrain, the Rigolets, the Gulf of Mexico, and
the Mississippi river, remained the property of France. In the treaty of
February 10, 1763, practically the same language is used in describing the
boundary line separating the British from the French territory, and by the
twentieth article the cession to England of Florida by Spain and all that
Spain possessed on the continent of North America was provided for. By the
treaty of September 3, 1783, between England and Spain, England retroceded
East and West Florida to Spain. By the treaty of St. Ildefonso of October
1, 1800, Spain ceded to France 'the colony or province of Louisiana with
the exent that it now has in the hands of Spain, and that it had when
France possessed it, and such as it should be after the treaties
subsequently entered into between Spain and other states.' April 30, 1803,
France ceded to the United States 'the colony or province of Louisiana'
using the same description as used by Spain in ceding the territory to
her, and stating in article 2: 'In the cession made by the preceding
article are included the adjacent islands belonging to Louisiana . . .' [8
Stat. at L. 202.]
There is nothing in any of these transfers to raise a doubt that the
peninsula of St. Bernard was part of the Island of Orleans, and that this
Island of Orleans was in fact formed by the extension to the sea of the
boundary line coming down through the middle of Lakes Maurepas and
Pontchartrain, and so finding its way to the sea by the deep-water
channel.
March 26, 1804, an act of Congress was approved, dividing the country
acquired as Louisiana from France into two parts, providing:
'That all that portion of country ceded by France to the United States
under the name of Louisiana, which lies south of the Mississippi territory
and of an east and west line to commence on the Mississippi river at the
thirty-third degree of north latitude, and to extend west to the western
boundary of the said cession, shall constitute a territory of the United [202 U.S. 1, 43] States under the name of the territory of Orleans, the government whereof
shall be organized and administered as follows:
... * *
'Section 12. The residue of the province of Louisiana ceded to the United
States, shall be called the district of Louisiana, the government whereof
shall be organized and administered as follows: . . .' [2 Stat. at L. 283,
287, chap. 38.]
Congress manifestly regarded the lands to the east, that were south of the
Mississippi territory, and which form the disputed area of to-day, as part
of the original island of Orleans, included in the treaty of April 30,
1803; and these were given to the territory of Orleans, whose southeastern
boundary was the original southeastern boundary of the island of Orleans.
At that date the Mississippi territory did not extend south of the 31st
degree of north latitude, and its domain did not reach the shore of
Mississippi sound, so-called.
February 20, 1811 (2 Stat. at L. 641, chap. 21), an act of Congress was
approved 'to enable the people of the territory of Orleans to form a
constitution and state government, and for the admission of such state
into the Union on an equal footing with the original states and for other
purposes.' The description of the limits was as follows: 'Beginning at the
mouth of the River Sabine, thence, by a line to be drawn along the middle
of the said river, including all islands, to the thirty-second degree of
latitude, thence due north to the northernmost part of the thirty-third
degree of north latitude, thence along the said parallel of latitude to
the River Mississippi, thence down the said river to the River Iberville,
and from thence along the middle of the said river and Lakes Maurepas and
Ponchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico, thence, bounded by the said gulf to
the place of beginning including all islands within three leagues of the
coast etc., etc.'
The eastern boundary thus described is a water boundary, and, in exending
this water boundary to the open sea or Gulf of Mexico, we think it
included the Rigolets and the deep-water sailing channel line to get
around to the westward. A little [202 U.S. 1, 44] over one year later Louisiana was created a state by the act of Congress
of April 8, 1812, with this identical eastern boundary line; and the
addition of territory by the act of April 14, 1812, did not affect the
deep-water sailing channel line as a boundary.
April 7, 1798 (1 Stat. at L. 549, chap. 28, 3), an act was approved 'for
an Amicable Settlement of Limits with the State of Georgia, and
Authorizing the Establishment of a Government in the Mississippi
Territory,' which read in part: 'That all that tract of country bounded on
the west by the Mississippi; on the north by a line to be drawn due east
from the mouth of the Yasous to the Chatahouchee river; on the east by the
River Chatahouchee; and on the south by the 31st degree of north latitude
shall be, and hereby is, constituted one district, to be called the
Mississippi territory.' This was in conformity with the treaty between
Spain and the United States of October 27, 1795. [8 Stat. at L. 138]. Maps
of that date, and subsequently, show that the admitted rights of the
United States did not at the time extend south of the 31st degree of north
latitude at that point.
By an act of January 15, 1811, the President of the United States was
authorized, among other things, in the event that any foreign government
attempted to occupy the same, to take possession of the country lying east
of the River Perdido, and south of the state of Georgia and the
Mississippi territory. The River Perdido is in the state of Alabama east
of the state of Mississippi, and flows into the Gulf of Mexico between
Mobile bay, in Alabama, and Pensacola bay, in Florida. A few days later,
and on March 3, 1811, an act of Congress was approved, providing that the
act of January 15, 1811, and this act, should not be published until the
end of the next session of Congress, unless with the consent of the
President.
By resolution approved January 15, 1811, it was specifically declared that
the United States could not, without serious inquietude, see any part of
the territory adjoining the southern border of the United States pass into
the hands of any foreign power, 'and that a due regard to their own safety
compels [202 U.S. 1, 45] them to provide, under certain contingencies, for the temporary occupation
of the said territory.' 3 Stat. at L. 471.
May 14, 1812, an act of Congress was passed (2 Stat. at L. 734, chap. 84)
to enlarge the boundaries of the Mississippi territory, which used the
following language: 'That all that portion of territory lying east of
Pearl river, west of the Perdido, and south of the thirty-first degree of
latitude, be, and the same is hereby, annexed to the Mississippi
territory,' etc. The country described was not at the time in the
possession of the United States, and on February 12, 1813, Congress passed
an act 'authorizing the President of the United States to take possession
of a tract of country lying south of the Mississippi territory and west of
the River Perdido,' which act referred to the tract as 'not now in
possession of the United States.' 3 Stat. at L. 472. But it was not until
the enabling act in respect of Mississippi, approved March 1, 1817, that
the language was used: 'Thence due south to the Gulf of Mexico; thence,
westwardly including all the islands within six leagues of the shore, to
the most eastern junction of Pearl river with Lake Borgne,' etc. [3 Stat,
at L. 348, chap. 23, 2.]
The claim of Mississippi is that the disputed area is composed of islands,
and as those islands are within 18 miles of her shore, that they were
given to her by the act of March 1, and the resolution of December 10,
1817. It is true there are some islands in that area, such as Grassy, Half
Moon, Petit Pass, and Isle a Pitre, all of which are between the deep-
water channel on the north and the main coast line of St. Bernard
peninsula on the south.
The contention of Louisiana is that these islands were previously given to
her by the act of April 8, 1812, more than five years prior to the
admission of Mississippi, and that her title thereto, even if the acts
were in conflict, is superior to that of the state of Mississippi; and she
also contends that the islands belong to her because they are south of the
deep-water sailing channel line, which she submits is the true boundary
line between the two states. Mississippi denies that the peninsula [202 U.S. 1, 46] of St. Bernard and the Louisiana marshes constitute a peninsula in the
true sense of the word, but insists that they constitute an archipelago of
islands. Certainly there are in the body of the Louisiana marshes or St.
Bernard peninsula portions of sea marsh which might technically be called
islands, because they are land entirely surrounded by water, but they are
not true islands. They are rather, as the Commissioner of the General Land
Office wrote the Mississippi land commissioner in 1904, 'in fact, hummocks
of land surrounded by the marsh and swamp in said townships. . . .'
And when the Louisiana act used the words: 'Thence bounded by the said
gulf to the place of beginning, including all islands within three leagues
of the coast' [2 Stat. at L. 701, chap. 50], the coast referred to is the
whole coast of the state, and the peninsula of St. Bernard formed an
integral part of it. Lake Borgne and Mississippi sound are bodies of salt
water, and, as such, parts of the sea or gulf, and as the coast of
Louisiana began along the north shore of the peninsula, it is not to be
supposed that the islands referred to by Congress in the Louisiana act
were solely those islands to the south of that state.
The contention of Mississippi is based upon an assumed inconsistency
between the Louisiana and the Mississippi acts, but we think, upon a true
interpretation, in the light of the facts, that no such inconsistency can
be imputed. The maps show that there is a chain, not of alluvial, but of
sea-sand islands, running from the west shore of Mobile bay, in the state
of Alabama, westward to and inclusive of Cat island, in the state of
Mississippi. This chain forms the southern boundary of Mississippi sound,
and the islands are all relatively the same distance from the shore of the
states of Mississippi and of Alabama. They, beginning at the eastern end,
are Dauphin, Petit Bois, Horn, Ship, and Cat islands, and there are some
other islands lying within this chain. If Congress referred to these
islands as being thus within 6 leagues of the shore, when the act creating
the state of Mississippi was passed, it follows that there would be no
conflict with prior existing boundaries of [202 U.S. 1, 47] the state of Louisiana, particularly if the deep-water sailing channel
line be taken as the correct boundary between the states. And when
Congress created a separate territorial government for the eastern part of
Mississippi territory and called it Alabama, by the act of March 3, 1817 [
3 Stat. at L. 372, chap. 59], it used the same language concerning the
western and southern boundary of the territory: 'Thence due south to the
Gulf of Mexico, thence eastwardly, including all the islands within six
leagues of the shore to the Perdido river and thence up same to the
beginning.' It seems obvious to us that it was to this chain of islands
that Congress referred when it admitted Mississippi into the Union, and
that it had no intention whatsoever of giving Mississippi any claim of
ownership in the sea-marsh islands, which had been previously granted to
the state of Louisiana.
We are of opinion that the peninsula of St. Bernard in its entirety
belongs to Louisiana; that the Louisiana marshes at the eastern extremity
thereof form part of the coast line of the state; and that the islands
within 9 miles of that coast are hers, except as restricted by the deep-
water sailing channel regarded as a boundary. Cat island, for instance, is
within the 9 miles, but it is north of the deep-water channel, is not
alluvial, and is conceded by both states to belong to Mississippi.
3. That there is a deep-water sailing channel line emerging from the mouth of
Pearl river, and extending east between Lower Point Clear and Grand
island, is shown by the numerous maps, surveys, and sketches in the
record. It separates into two branches, one of them passing between Cat
island and Isle a Pitre.
Among the maps put in evidence by Louisiana is one prepared by George
Gauld, M. A., for the British Admiralty, in the year 1778, and, from the
relative depths of water given, the existence of this same channel,
extending out into the Gulf, southwest of Cat island, is shown, and is the
same as noted on maps of subsequent years.
February 14, 1839, an act of the legislature of Mississippi was [202 U.S. 1, 48] approved, providing for a survey of the Mississippi coast. The survey and
report are given in full in the record, and the deep-water channel above
referred to is traceable in detail on the sketch. The channels indicated
on this survey and on the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey map are
the same channels. It may be noted, in passing, that the body of water now
known as 'Mississippi sound,' is not so designated on this sketch, and the
first map which uses this name, to which our attention has been called,
was issued in 1866
Louisana lies between the states of Mississippi to the east and Texas to
the west. The southern portion of Louisiana is geologically of an alluvial
formation, containing the delta of the Mississippi river. The peninsula of
the parish of St. Bernard is practically a part of this delta formation.
Mississippi's mainland borders on Mississippi sound. This is an enclosed
arm of the sea, wholly within the United States, and formed by a chain of
large islands, extending westward from Mobile, Alabama, to Cat island. The
openings from this body of water into the Gulf are neither of them 6 miles
wide. Such openings occur between Cat island and Isle a Pitre; between Cat
and Ship islands; between Ship and Horn islands; between Horn and Petit
Bois islands; between Petit Bois and Dauphin islands; between Dauphin
island and the mainland on the west coast of Mobile bay. The maps show all
this, and, among others, reference may be made to Jeffrey's map of 1775,
given in the record, and which, in reduced form, is reproduced from
Jeffrey's Atlas of 1800 as the frontispiece of vol. 2, Adams's History of
the United States.
Now to repeat, the boundary of Louisiana separating her from the state of
Mississippi to the east is the thread of the channel of the Mississippi
river, and this extends south until it reaches the 31st degree of north
latitude and then runs directly east along that degree until Pearl river
is reached; thence south along the channel of that river to Lake Borgne.
Pearl river flows into Lake Borgne, Lake Borgne into Mississippi sound,
and Mississippi sound into the open Gulf of Mexico [202 U.S. 1, 49] through, among other outlets, South pass separating Cat island from Isle a
Pitre.
If the doctrine of the thalweg is applicable, the correct boundary line
separating Louisiana from Mississippi in these waters is the deep- water
channel.
The term 'thalweg' is commonly used by writers on international law in
definition of water boundaries between states, meaning, the middle, or
deepest, or most navigable channel. And while often styled 'fairway' or
'midway' or 'main channel,' the word itself has been taken over into
various languages. Thus, in the treaty of Lunevillc, February 9, 1801, we
find 'le thalweg de l'Adige,' 'le thalweg du Rhin,' and it is similarly
used in English treaties and decisions, and the books of publicfsts in
every tongue.
In Lowa v. Illinois, 147 U.S. 1 , 37 L. ed. 55, 13 Sup.Ct.Rep. 239, the rule of the thalweg was stated and
applied. The controversy between the states of Iowa and Illinois on the
Mississippi river, which flowed between them, was as to the line which
separated 'the jurisdiction of the two states for the purposes of taxation
and other purposes of government.' Iowa contended that the boundary line
was the middle of the main body of the river, without regard to the
'steamboat channel' or deepest part of the stream. Illinois claimed that
its jurisdiction extended to the channel upon which commerce on the river
by steamboats or other vessels was usually conducted. This court held that
the true line in a navigable river between states is the middle of the
main channel of the river.
Mr. Justice Field, delivering the opinion of the court, said:
'When a navigable river constitutes the boundary between two independent
states, the line defining the point at which the jurisdiction of the two
separates is well established to be the middle of the main channel of the
stream. The interest of each state in the navigation of the river admits
of no other line. The preservation by each of its equal right in the
navigation of the stream is the subject of paramount interest. It is
therefore, laid down in all the recognized treatises of inter- [202 U.S. 1, 50] national law of modern times that the middle of the channel of the stream
marks the true boundary between the adjoining states up to which each
state will, on its side, exercise jurisdiction. In international law,
therefore, and by the usage of European nations, the term 'middle of the
stream,' as applied to a navigable river, is the same as the middle of the
channel of such stream, and in that sense the terms are used in the treaty
of peace between Great Britain, France, and Spain, concluded at Paris in
1763. By the language, 'a line drawn along the middle of the River
Mississippi from its source to the River Iberville,' as there used, is
meant along the middle of the channel of the River Mississippi.'
This judgment related to navigable rivers. But we are of opinion that, on
occasion, the principle of the thalweg is applicable, in respect of water
boundaries, to sounds, bays, straits, gulfs, estuaries, and other arms of
the sea.
As to boundary lakes and landlocked seas, where there is no necessary
track of navigation, the line of demarcation is drawn in the middle, and
this is true of narrow straits separating the lands of two different
states; but whenever there is a deep-water sailing channel therein, it is
thought by the publicists that the rule of the thalweg applies. 1 Martens
( F. de) 2d ed. p. 134; Hall, 38; Bluntschli, 5th ed. 298, 299; 1
Oppenheim, pp. 254, 255.
Thus Martens writes: 'What we have said in regard to rivers and lakes is
equally applicable to the straits or gulfs of the sea, especially those
which do not exceed the ordinary width of rivers or double the distance
that a cannon can carry.'
So Pradier Fod er e says (vol. 2, p. 202), that as to lakes, 'in
communication with or connected with the sea, they ought to be considered
under the same rule as international rivers.'
The same view is confirmed by decisions of this court and of many arbitral
tribunals.
In Re Devoe Mfg. Co. 108 U.S. 401 , 27 L. ed. 764, 2 Sup.Ct.Rep. 894, the question at issue was in regard to
the boundary line between New York and New Jersey, under an agreement
between the two [202 U.S. 1, 51] states. The jurisdiction of the state of New Jersey was claimed 'to extend
down to the bay of New York, and to the channel midway of said bay,' and
this court sustained the claim. See Hamburg American S. S. Co. v. Grube, 196 U.S. 407 , 49 L. ed. 529, 25 Sup.Ct.Rep. 352.
In the San Juan water boundary controversy versy between the United States
and Great Britain, Emperor William I. gave the award in favor of the
United States, October 21, 1871, by deciding 'that the boundary line
between the territory of Her Brittanic Majesty and the United States
should be drawn through the Haro channel;' and it is apparent that the
decision was based on the deep-channel theory as applicable to sounds and
arms of the sea, such as the straits of San Juan de Fuca; indeed, in a
subsequent definition of the boundary, signed by the Secretary of State,
the British Minister, and the British representative, the boundary line
was said to be prolonged until 'it reaches the center of the fairway of
the straits of San Juan de Fuca.' The fairway was the equivalent of the
thalweg.
Again, in fixing the boundary line of the Detroit river, under the 6th and
7th articles of the treaty of Ghent, the deep-water channel was adopted,
giving Belle isle to the United States, as lying north of that channel. [8
Stat. at L. 221.]
So in the Alaskan boundary case, the majority of the arbitration tribunal,
made up of Baron Alverstone, Lord Chief Justice of England, Mr. Secretary
Root, and Senators Lodge and Turner, held that the middle of the Portland
channel was the proper boundary line, and included Wales island, to the
north of which the channel passed. This sustained the American contention
in regard to the thalweg and the island lying south of it.
But counsel contend that the rule 'as to the flow of the midchannel or
thalweg of the River Iberville (now known as Manchac) through the east,
through Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain, expires by its own limitation
when such midchannel reaches Lake Borgne, which, in contemplation of the
rule, is the [202 U.S. 1, 52] open sea, and part of the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.' This contention
is inconsistent, as matter of fact, with the allegation of the cross bill
that 'the Mississippi sound was recognized as a body of water 6 leagues
wide, wholly within the state of Mississippi, from Lake Borgne to the
Alabama line, separate and distinct from the Gulf of Mexico,' and with
Mississippi's Exhibit Map A, presenting her claim, while the record shows
that the strip of water, part of Lake Borgne and Mississippi sound, is not
an open sea, but a very shallow arm of the sea, having outside of the
deep- water channel an considerable depth.
The maritime belt is that part of the sea which, in contradistinction to
the open sea, is under the sway of the riparian states, which can
exclusively reserve the fishery within their respective maritime belts for
their own citizens, whether fish, or pearls, or amber, or other products
of the sea. See Manchester v. Massachusetts, 139 U.S. 240 , 35 L. ed. 159, 11 Sup.Ct.Rep. 559; McCready v. Virginia, 94 U.S. 391 , 24 L. ed. 248.
In Manchester v. Massachusetts, the court said: 'We think it must be
regarded as established that, as between nations, the minimum limit of the
territorial jurisdiction of a nation over tide waters is a marine league
from its coast; that bays wholly within its territory, not exceeding 2
marine leagues in width at the mouth, are within this limit; and that
included in this territorial jurisdiction is the right of control over
fisheries, whether the fish be migratory, freeswimming fish, or free-
moving fish, or fish attached to or embedded in the soil. The open sea
within this limit is, of course, subject to the common right of
navigation; and all governments, for the purpose of selfprotection in time
of war or for the prevention of frauds on its revenue, exercise an
authority beyond this limit.'
Questions as to the breadth of the maritime belt or the extent of the sway
of the riparian states require no special consideration here. The facts
render such discussion unnecessary.
Islands formed by alluvion were held by Lord Stowell, in respect of
certain mud islands at the mouth of the Mississippi, [202 U.S. 1, 53] to be 'natural appendages of the coast on which they border, and from
which, indeed, they are formed.' The Anna (1805) 5 C. Rob. 373.
As to these particular waters, the observations of Mr. Hall, 4th ed. p.
129, are in point: 'Off the coast of Florida, among the Bahamas, along the
shores of Cuba, and in the Pacific, are to be found groups of numerous
islands and islets rising out of vast banks, which are covered with very
shoal water, and either form a line more or less parallel with land or
compose systems of their own, in both cases inclosing considerable sheets
of water, which are sometimes also shoal and sometimes relatively deep.
The entrance to these interior bays or lagoons may be wide in breadth of
surface water, but it is narrow in navigable water.'
He then states the specific case of the Archipi elago de los Canarios on
the coast of Cuba, and says: 'In cases of this sort the question whether
the interior waters are, or are not, lakes inclosed within the territory,
must always depend upon the banks, and the width of the entrances. Each
must be judged upon its own merits. But in the instance cited, there can
be little doubt that the whole Archipie elago de los Canarios is a mere
salt water lake, and that the boundary of the land of Cuba runs along the
exterior edge of the bank.'
In such circumstances as exist in the present case, we perceive no reason
for declining to apply the rule to the thalweg in determining the
boundary.
4. Moreover, it appears from the record that the various departments of the
United States government have recognized Louisiana's ownership of the
disputed area; that Louisiana has always asserted it; and that Mississippi
has repeatedly recognized it, and not until recently has disputed it.
The question is one of boundary, and this court has many times hled that,
as between the states of the Union, long acquiescence in the assertion of
a particular boundary and the exercise of dominion and sovereignty over
the territory within it should be accepted as conclusive, whatever the
international [202 U.S. 1, 54] rule might be in respect of the acquisition by prescription of large
tracts of country claimed by both. Virginia v. Tennessee, 148 U.S. 503 , 37 L. ed. 537, 13 Sup. Ct. Rep. 728; Indiana v. Kentucky, 136 U.S. 479 , 34 L. ed. 329, 10 Sup.Ct.Rep. 1051; Missouri v. Kentucky, 11 Wall. 395,
20 L. ed. 116; Rhode Island v. Massachusetts, 4 How. 591, 11 L. ed. 116.
The Louisiana enabling act of February 20, 1811, provided that all the
waste and unappropriated lands in said state should be and remain the
property of the United States government. In the disputed area of to-day
are included lands and waters located in various townships, all of which
are enumerated in the southeastern land district of Louisiana, east of the
Mississippi river. The lands in these townships were surveyed by the
government about the year 1842, all of them as being in and forming a part
of the state of Louisiana. By the swamp land grants of 1849 and 1850, the
United States granted to certain states the swamp and overflowed lands
within their respective limits, in order that these lands might be
reclaimed, protected from overflow, and brought into use. Louisiana made
application to the United States for the approval to her of these lands as
being part of her territory and situated within her limits. They all lay
south of the deepwater channel and were all approved to the state of
Louisiana May 6, 1852. They were then offered by the state through the
register therefor as a department of the many sales of them were made from
time to time to individuals, and patents issued therefor in various years
from 1853 to 1894. In 1892, in furtherance of the better protection of the
lands of the parishes of St. Bernard and Plaquemines from overflow, the
legislature of Louisiana adopted an act which created a Lake Borgne basin
levee commission, and provided a board of commissioners therefor, as a
department of the state government, and the register of the state land
office was authorized to transfer all of the unsold lands to the board,
which was done in April, 1895. The board was authorized by law to sell
these lands, and also to levy taxes to be used in establishing a
protective levee system in the district. The board made sales of a
considerable number of acres [202 U.S. 1, 55] to different individuals from September 16, 1898, to March 7, 1902. Isle a
Pitre was composed of certain enumerated sections of township 10, south of
range 20 east, and these lands were approved to Louisiana by the
Commissioner of the General Land Office of the United States May 6, 1852,
as forming part of that state, and they were subsequently patented, sold,
and conveyed to various individuals, the chain of title extending from
1852,-a period of over fifty years. The lands forming Isle a Pitre have
been paying taxes to the state of Louisiana for years. Political and
police control and jurisdiction by the parish of St. Bernard officials
were exercised over the disputed area, and many instances are given of
police control and jurisdiction by Louisiana officials over this general
territory. This territory consisted, as heretofore stated, of what was
known as the Louisiana marshes, and it is admitted that they have
immemorially been known by that name, though some of the witnesses for
Mississippi said that they were also known as Grand marshes; admitting,
however, that they were quite as frequently called the Louisiana marshes.
Some other matters may properly be referred to as showing the general
understanding of and acquiescence in the boundary asserted by Louisiana.
In January, 1901, the Superintendent of the Coast and Geodetic Survey was
applied to by a member of the house of representatives from Mississippi
for information in regard to the boundary line between Louisiana and
Mississippi in the present disputed area, and Hodgkins, an assistant in
the department, a well-known expert in such matters, made a report January
30, 1901, which, after considering the subject in all its phases, showed
that the correct boundary between the two states in the locality is the
deep-water sailing channel line contended for by Louisiana.
The United States Geological Survey published in the year 1900 a bulletin
devoted to a discussion of the boundaries of the states and territories,
and giving a history of changes as they may have occurred. The third
edition was published in [202 U.S. 1, 56] 1904. Gannett's Boundaries, 58th Congress, 2d Session, H. R. Doc. 678.
In the opinion of that Bureau, Louisiana was originally bounded by the
deep-water channel, and is the owner of the area in dispute to-day,
according to the report and the accompanying sketches.
In 1897, Louisiana requested the United States Commission of Fish and
Fisheries to make an investigation and report upon certain technical
matters in connection with the oyster industry of that state, which
investigation was made in February, 1898, by the United States Fish
Commission steamer Fish Hawk. A map was made of the area investigated in
St. Bernard parish, and that map is given in the opening statement as
Diagram No. 4. Louisiana's ownership was clearly recognized.
The General Land Office of the United States began, as early as 1842, a
detailed survey of the land forming the disputed area, of which township
plats appear in the record. The survey gave the location of Marsh island,
Half Moon or Grand Island, an unnamed island, Petit Pass island, and Isle
a Pitre, and the sections and townships comprised in these islands. They
were all designated as being in the southeastern land district of
Louisiana, east of the Mississippi river.
When, as we have said, Louisiana, in the year 1852, selected these and
other lands within her state limits as inuring to her under the swamp land
grants, the General Land Office, on May, 6, 1852, recognized the
correctness of the claim to the lands and approved and patented them to
her as a state. Mississippi also applied for the land inuring to her under
the provisions of those grants, and received her swamp lands, but the
state never selected and never had approved to her, as is shown by the
books of the state land office of Mississippi, any of the lands in the
disputed area of today; but it appeared that the state did have in her
land office books a record of the lands forming St. Joseph's island, which
lay immediately north of the deep-water channel, and did not extend south
of that channel. [202 U.S. 1, 57] The General Land Office of the United States, in all of the maps it has
caused to be made of Louisiana and Mississippi, has been consistent in its
recognition of the ownership by Louisiana of the disputed area. See maps
of Louisiana, 1879, 1886, 1887, 1896; and of Mississippi in 1890.
As before stated, in 1839 an engineer and surveyor made a report and
sketch of the coast of Mississippi, under the authority of that state.
This showed the territory lying south of the deep-water channel in outline
to be a peninsular formation. The report referred to Horn, Petit Bois,
Cat, and Ship islands as belonging to Mississippi, all of which are east
of the disputed territory; and the territory southwest of the deep-water
channel, or South pass, was described as the Louisiana marshes. The
official maps of Mississippi recognized Louisiana's ownership of the
disputed territory. The state map of October 26, 1866, which was approved
by Governor Humphrey and also by Governor Alcorn, did this; and other
maps, as the official map of Mississippi, published under an act of the
legislature of that state on March 8, 1882; Rand McNally's section map of
Mississippi, compiled from the records of the office of the surveyor
general of the board of immigration and agriculture, Jackson, Mississippi;
and the railroad commissioners' map of Mississippi gave like recognition.
The only exception seems to be a map of the railroad commission, issued in
1904, two years after this suit was instituted, wherein, on the 18-mile
theory, Mississippi for the first time cartographically extended her
claims into the St. Bernard, Louisiana, peninsula.
The record contains much evidence of the exercise by Louisiana of
jurisdiction over the territory in dispute, and of the general recognition
of it by Mississippi as belonging to Louisiana. Apparently Louisiana had
exercised complete dominion over it from 1812 with the acquiescence of
Mississippi, unless the fact that the latter made a general reference to
islands within 6 leagues of her shore in her Code of 1880 indicated
otherwise. But the evidence fails to satisfy us that she attempted any
physical possession or control until after 1900. The few in- [202 U.S. 1, 58] stances referred to as showing that Mississippi asserted rights in the
disputed area are of little weight and require no discussion.
Our conclusion is that complainant is entitled to the relief sought.
Decree accordingly.

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