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This webpage reproduces a section of
History of Louisiana

Charles Gayarré

in the edition published by
William J. Widdleton,
New York, 1867

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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 p632  Third Item from the Appendix
to Volume III

Regulations of Intendant Morales regarding Grants of Land

"1. To each newly-arrived family, à chaque famille nouvelle, who are possessed of the necessary qualifications to be admitted among the number of cultivators of these provinces, and who have obtained the permission of the Government to establish themselves on a place which they have chosen, there shall be granted, for once, if it is on the bank of the Mississippi, four, six, or eight arpents in front on the river, by the ordinary depth of forty arpents; and if it is at any other place, the quantity which they shall be judged capable to cultivate, and which shall be deemed necessary for pasture for their beasts, in proportion and according to the number of which the family is composed; understanding that the concession is never to exceed eight hundred arpents in superficies.

"2. To obtain the said concession, if they are asked for in this city, the permission which has been obtained to establish themselves in the place from the Governor, ought to accompany the petition; and if, in any of the posts, the Commandant at the same time will state that the lands asked for are vacant, and belong to the domain, and that the petitioner has obtained permission of the Government to establish himself; and referring to the date of the letter or advice they have received.

"3. Those who obtain concessions on the bank of the river, ought to make, in the first year of their possession, levees sufficient to prevent the inundation of the waters, and canals sufficient to drain off the water when the river is high; they shall be held, in addition, to make, and keep in good order, a public highway, which ought to be at least thirty feet wide, and have bridges of fifteen feet over the canals or ditches which the road crosses; which regulations ought to  p633 be observed, according to the usages of the respective districts, by all persons to whom lands are granted, in whatever part they are obtained.

"4. The new settlers who have obtained lands shall be equally obliged to clear and put in cultivation, in the precise time of three years, all the front of their concessions, for the depth of at least two arpents, under the penalty of having the lands granted reunited to the domain, if this condition is not complied with. The Commandants and Syndics will watch what is enjoined in this and the preceding article, be strictly observed; and occasionally inform the Intendant of what they have remarked, well understanding that in case of default they will be responsible to his Majesty.

"5. If a tract of land belonging to minors remain without being cleared, or as much of it as the regulations require; and that the bank, the road, the ditches, and the bridges are not made, the Commandant or Syndic of the district will certify from whom the fault has arisen; if it is in the guardian, he will urge him to put it in order; and, if he fails, he shall give an account of it; but, if the fault arises from want of means of the minor to defray the expense, the Commandant or Syndic shall address a statement of it to the intendancy, to the end that sale of it may be ordered for the benefit of the minor, to whom alone this privilege is allowed; if, in the space of six months, any purchaser presents himself; if not, it shall be granted gratis to any person asking it, or sold for the benefit of the treasury.

"6. During the said term of three years, no person shall sell or dispose of the land which has been granted to him, nor shall he ever after the term, if he has failed to comply with the conditions contained in the preceding article; and to avoid abuses and surprise in this respect, we declare that all sales made without the consent of the intendancy, in writing, shall be null and of no effect; which consent shall not be granted until they have examined, with scrupulous attention, if the conditions have or have not been fulfilled.

"7. To avoid, for the future, the litigations and confusion of which we have examples every day, we have also judged it very necessary that the Notaries of this city, and the Commandants of posts, shall not take any acknowledgment of conveyances of land obtained by concession; unless the seller (grantor) presents and delivers to the buyer the title which he has obtained, and in addition, being careful to insert in the deed the metes and bounds, and other descriptions, which result from the title, and the procès-verbal of the survey which ought to accompany it.

 p634  "8. In case that the small depth of the points, upon which the land on the river is generally formed, prevent the granting of forty arpents, according to usage, there shall be given a greater quantity in front to compensate it; or, if no other person asks the concession, or to purchase it, shall be divided equally between the persons nearest to it, who may repair the banks, roads, and bridges, in the manner before prescribed.

"9. Although the King renounces the possession of the lands sold, distributed, or conceded, in his name, those to whom they are granted or sold ought to be apprised that his Majesty reserves the right of taking from the forests known here under the name of cypress woods, all the wood which may be necessary for his use, and more especially which he may want for the navy, in the same manner and with the same liberty that the undertakers have enjoyed to this time; but this, notwithstanding, they are not to suppose themselves authorized to take more than is necessary, nor to make use of or split those which are cut down and found unsuitable.

"10. In the posts of Opelousas and Attakapas, the greatest quantity of land that can be conceded, shall be one league front by the same quantity in depth; and when forty arpents cannot be obtained in depth, a half league may be granted; and, for a general rule, it is established, that, to obtain, in said posts, a half league in front by the same quantity in depth, the petitioner must be owner of one hundred head of cattle, some horses and sheep, and two slaves, and also in proportion for a larger tract, without the power, however, of exceeding the quantity before mentioned.

"11. As much as it is possible, and the local situation will permit, no interval shall be left between concessions; because it is very advantageous that the establishments touch, as much for the inhabitants, who can lend each other mutual support, as for the more easy administration of justice, and the observance of rules of police, indispensable in all places, but more especially in new establishments.

"12. If, notwithstanding what is before written, marshy lands, or other causes, shall make it necessary to leave some vacant lands, the Commandants and Syndics will take care that the inhabitants of the district alone may take wood enough for their use only, well understanding that they shall not take more; or, if any individual of any other post, shall attempt to get wood, or cut fire-wood without having obtained the permission of this intendancy, besides the indemnity which he shall be held to pay the treasury for the damage sustained, he shall be condemned, for the first time, to the payment of a fine of twenty-five dollars; twice that sum for the second offence; and, for  p635 the third offence, shall be put in prison, according as the offence may be more or less aggravated; the said fines shall be divided between the treasury, the Judge, and the Informer.

"13. The new settler, to whom land has been granted in one settlement, cannot obtain another concession without having previously proven that he had possessed the first during three years, and fulfilled all the conditions prescribed.

"14. The changes occasioned by the current of the river, are often the cause of one part of a concession becoming useless, so that we have examples of proprietors pretending to abandon and re-unite to the domain a part of the most expensive, for keeping up the banks, the roads, the ditches, &c., and willing to reserve only that which is good; and seeing that, unless some remedy is provided for this abuse, the greatest mischief must result to the neighbours, we declare that the treasury will not admit of an abandonment or re-union to the domain of any part of the land the owner wishes to get rid of, unless the abandonment comprehends the whole limits included in the concession or act in virtue of which he owns the land he wishes to abandon.

"15. All concessions shall be given in the name of the King, by the General-Intendant of this province, who shall order the Surveyor-General, or one particularly named by him, to make the survey and mark the land, by fixing bounds, not only in front, but also in the rear; this (survey) ought to be done in the presence of the Commandant or Syndic of the district and of two of the neighbors; and these four shall sign the procès-verbal which shall be drawn up by the Surveyor.

"16. The said procès-verbal, with a certified copy of the same, shall be sent by the Surveyor to the Intendant, to the end that, on the original, there be delivered, by the consent of the King's Attorney, the necessary title paper; to this will be annexed the certified copy forwarded by the Surveyor. The original shall be deposited in the office of the Secretary of the Treasury, and care shall be taken to make annually a book of all which have been sent, with an alphabetical list, to be the more useful when it is necessary to have recourse to it, and for greater security, to the end that, at all times, and against all accidents, the documents which shall be wanted, can be found. The Surveyor shall also have another book, numbered, in which the procès-verbal of the survey he makes shall be recorded, and, as well on the original, which ought to be deposited on record, as on the copy intended to be annexed to the title, he shall note the  p636 folio of the book in which he has enregistered the figurative plat of survey.

"17. In the office of the finances there shall also be a book, numbered, where the titles of concessions shall be recorded; in which, beside the ordinary clauses, mention shall be made of the folio of the book in which they are transcribed. There must also be a note taken in the contadoria (or chamber of accounts) of the army and finance, and that under the penalty of being void. The chamber of accounts shall also have a like book; and, at the time of taking the note, shall cite the folio of the book where it is recorded.

"18. Experience proves that a great number of those who have asked for land think themselves the legal owners of it; those who have obtained the first decree, by which the Surveyor is ordered to measure it, and to put them in possession; others, after the survey has been made, have neglected to ask the title for the property; and, as like abuses, continuing for a longer time, will augment the confusion and disorder which will necessarily result, we declare that no one of those who have obtained the said decrees, notwithstanding, in virtue of them, the survey has taken place, and that they have been put in possession, can be regarded as owners of land until their real titles are delivered, completed with all the formalities before recited.

"19. All those who possess lands in virtue of formal titles given by their Excellencies the Governors of this province, since the epoch when it came under the power of the Spanish; and those who possessed them in the time when it belonged to France, so far from being interrupted, shall, on the contrary, be protected and maintained in their possessions.

"20. Those who, without the title or possession mentioned in the preceding article, are found occupying lands, shall be driven therefrom, as from property belonging to the crown; but, if they have occupied the same more than ten years, a compromise will be admitted to those who are consider as owners, that is to say, they shall not be deprived of their lands. Always that, after information, and summary procedure, and with the intervention of the Procureur of the King, at the board of the treasury, they shall be obliged to pay a just and moderate retribution, calculated according to the extent of the lands, their situation, and other circumstances, and the price of estimation for once paid into the royal treasury. The titles to property will be delivered, on referring to that which has resulted from the proceedings.

 p637  "21. Those who are found in a situation expressed in the 18th article, if they have not cleared nor done any work upon the land they consider themselves proprietors of by virtue of the first decree of the Government, not being of the number of those who have been admitted in the class of new comers, in being deprived or admitted to compromise, in the manner explained in the preceding article: if they are of that class, they shall observe what is ordered in the article following.

"22. In the precise and peremptory term of six months, counting from the day when this regulation shall be published in each post, all those who occupy lands without titles from the Governor, and those who, in having obtained a certain number of arpents, have seized a greater quantity, ought to make it known, either to have their titles made out, if there are any, or to be admitted to a compromise, or to declare that the said lands belong to the domain, if they have not been occupied more than ten years; understanding, if it passes the said term, if they are instructed by other ways, they will not obtain either title or compromise.

"23. Those who give information of lands occupied, after the expiration of the term fixed in the preceding article, shall have for their reward the one-fourth part of the price for which they are sold, or obtained, by way of compromise; and, if desirable, he shall have the preference, either by compromise, at the price of appraisement, and there shall be made a deduction of one-fourth, as informer.

"24. As it is impossible, considering all the local circumstances, that all the vacant lands belonging to the domain, should be sold by auction, as it is ordained by the law 15th, title 12th, book 4th, of the collection of the laws of these kingdoms, the sale shall be made according as it shall be demanded, with the intervention of the King's Attorney for the board of finances, for the price they shall be taxed, to those who wish to purchase; understanding, if the purchasers have not ready money to pay, it shall be lawful for them to purchase the said lands at redeemable quit-rent, during which they shall pay the five per cent yearly.

"25. Besides the moderate price which the land ought to be taxed, the purchasers shall be held to pay down the right of media annata, or half-year's, to be remitted to Spain, which, according to the custom of Havana, founded on law, is reduced to two and a half per cent on the price of estimation, and made 18 per cent on the sum, by the said two and a half per cent; they shall also be obliged to pay down the fees of the Surveyor and Notary.

"26. The sales of land shall be made subject to the same condition,  p638 and charges of banks, roads, ditches and bridges, contained in the preceding article. But the purchasers are not subject to lose their lands, if, in the three first years, they do not fulfil the said conditions. Commandants and Syndics shall oblige them to put themselves within the rule, begin to perform the conditions in a reasonable term, and, if they do not do it, the said work shall be done at the cost of the purchasers.

"27. Care shall be taken to observe in the said sales, that which is recommended in the 11th article, seeing the advantages and utility which result from consolidating the establishments always when it is practicable.

"28. The titles to the property of lands which are sold, or granted by way of compromise, shall be issued by the General-Intendant, who after the price of estimation is fixed, and of the media annata (half-year's) rent, or quit-rent, the said price of estimation shall have been paid into the treasury, shall put it in writing according to the result of the proceeding which has taken place, with the intervention of the King's Attorney.

"29. The said procedure shall be deposited in the office of the finance, and the title be transcribed in another book, intended for the recording of the deeds and grants of land, in the same manner as is ordered by the 17th Article, concerning gratuitous concessions. The principal chamber of accounts shall also have a separate book, to take a note of the titles issued for sales and grants under compromise.

"30. The fees of the Surveyor, in every case comprehended in the present regulation, shall be proportionate to the labor and that which it has been customary until this time to pay. Those of the Secretary of Finances, unless there has been extraordinary labor, and where the new settlers are not poor [for in this case he is not to exact any thing of them] shall be five dollars; and this shall include the recording and other formalities prescribed, and those of the Appraisers, and of the Interpreter, if, on any occasion, there is reason to employ him to translate papers, take declarations or other acts, shall be regulated by the provincial tariff.

"31. Indians who possess lands within the limits of the Government, shall not, in any manner, be disturbed; on the contrary, they shall be protected and supported; and to this, the Commandants, Syndics, and Surveyors, ought to pay the greatest attention, to conduct themselves in consequence.

"32. The granting or selling of any lands shall not be proceeded in without formal information having been previously received that  p639 they are vacant; and, to avoid injurious mistakes, we premise that, beside the signature of the Commandant or Syndic of the district, this information ought to be joined by that of the Surveyor, and of two of the neighbors well understanding. If, notwithstanding this necessary precaution, it shall be found that the land has another owner beside the claimant, and that there is sufficient reason to restore it to him, the Commandant or Syndic, the Surveyor, and the neighbors who have signed the information, shall indemnify him for the losses he has suffered.

"33. As far as it may be practicable, the inhabitants must endeavor that the petitions presented by them, to ask for lands, be written in the Spanish language; in which ought, also, to be written the advice or information which the Commandants are to give. In the posts where this is not practicable, the ancient usage shall be followed.

"34. All the lots or seats belonging to the domain, which are found vacant, either in this city, or boroughs, or villages, already established, or which may be established, shall be sold for ready money, with all the formalities prescribed in Article the twenty-fourth, and others, which concern the sale of lands.

"35. The owners of lots or places, which have been divided, as well those in front, as towards the N. E. and S. W. extremities, N. E. and S. W. shall, within three months, present to the intendancy the titles which they have obtained; to the end that, in examining the same, if any essential thing is found wanting it may be supplied, and they assured of their property in a legal way.

"36. The same thing must be done before the sub-delegates of Mobile and Pensacola, for those who have obtained grants for lots in these respective establishments; to the end that this intendancy, being instructed thereon, may order what it shall judge most convenient to indemnify the royal treasury, without doing wrong to the owner.

"37. In the office of the comptroller, contadoria of the army, or chambers of accounts of this province, and other boards under the jurisdiction of this intendancy, an account shall be kept of the amount of sales or grants of lands, to instruct his Majesty every year what this branch of the royal revenue produces, according as it is ordered in the thirteenth article of the ordinance of the King, of the 15th of October, 1754.

"38. The Commandants, or Syndics, in their respective districts, are charged with the collection of the amount of the taxes or rents laid on lands; for this purpose the papers and necessary documents  p640 are to be sent to them; and they ought to forward annually, to the general treasury, the sums they have collected, to the end that acquittances, clothed with the usual formalities of law, may be delivered to them."

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