Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2014

Publication Source

Florida International University Law Review


This article takes an in-depth look at Mitchel v. United States. In order to place the Forbes Purchase in historical context, Part I provides an overview of European and American control of Florida. Part II details the events that led to the sale by the Creek and Seminole Indians of nearly a million and a half acres in 1804-1806 and 1810-1811. Part III describes the efforts of the purchasers and subsequent grantees to obtain confirmation of the Forbes Purchase. Part IV details the decisions in the Mitchel litigation. The purchase is compared in Part V to other transfers of Indian lands to private individuals, including the sales by the Illinois and Piankeshaw Indians of their homelands in 1773 and 1775. What distinguishes Mitchel from Johnson is the fact that the Spanish government both approved and confirmed the Forbes Purchase. Finally, I explain in Part VI why I disagree with scholars who argue that Mitchel rejects the Johnson doctrine. Rather than embrace Marshall’s views of the discovery doctrine set forth in Worcester, the Supreme Court in Mitchel endorsed and applied the Johnson discovery rule.

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Florida International University





Place of Publication

Miami, FL