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Foster v. Neilson



James Foster, Pleasants Elam


David Neilson

Petitioners' Claim

That a grant of land in Spanish West Florida in 1804 was valid under the terms of an 1818 treaty, even though the U.S. government had previously claimed its rights to the land.

Chief Lawyers for Petitioners

Coxe, Webster

Chief Lawyer for Respondent


Justices for the Court

Gabriel Duvall, William Johnson, John Marshall (writing for the Court), Joseph Story, Smith Thomson, Bushrod Washington

Justices Dissenting

None (John McLean was not yet appointed)


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

January 1829


That the interpretation of treaties respecting national boundaries is a political matter committed to the Congress and the president, and not the courts. Accordingly, the courts are bound by the determination of Congress and the president that the land at issue was part of the United States in 1804, and the grant to the petitioners was invalid.

Related Cases

  • Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803).
  • United States v. Percheman, 32 U.S. 51 (1833).

Further Readings

  • Corwin, Edward S. The President: Office and Powers 1787-1957. New York: New York University Press, 1957.
  • Schubert, Glendon A. The Presidency in the Courts. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1957.
  • Tebeau, Charlton W. A History of Florida. Coral Gables, Fla.: University of Miami Press, 1971.

Additional topics

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