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Who Owned it Before That?

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September 14, 2011

in Back Title

by Katherine McKay, CLTP, former Administrator of PLTI and Executive Vice President of PLTA

Since this column is entitled Back Title, I thought I’d revive an old chestnut about the ultimate back title.  This story’s been around many times, from several sources, but it still gives me a laugh.  So, to take your mind away from the ungodly heat and endless rain and floods of this summer of 2011, here it is.

Compiling title evidence can be a complex task.  Back in the 1930s, a title report was required by the federal government’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) before approval of a loan.  One loan applicant, New Orleans Attorney N.R. Howard, had supplied title information dating back to 1803, but the RFC then asked, “Who owned the land before that?” 

Howard replied, “I note you wish titles to extend further than I have presented.  I was unaware that any educated person did not know that Louisiana was purchased from France in 1803.  France acquired title by conquest from Spain, who acquired it by right of discovery in 1492 by a Genoese sailor named Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the Spanish Queen, Isabella.  The Queen, being a pious woman and careful about titles (almost as careful, I might say, as the RFC) took the precaution of securing the Pope’s blessing on the voyage before she financed Columbus.  Now the Pope, as you know, is the emissary of Christ, who is the Son of God, and God, it is commonly accepted, made the world.  Therefore, I believe it is safe to assume that He also made that part of the world called Louisiana.

It seems safe to assume that the RFC granted the loan.

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