DOANE'S ADM'RS v. PENHALLOW - 1 U.S. 218 (1787)


U.S. Supreme Court

DOANE'S ADM'RS v. PENHALLOW, 1 U.S. 218 (1787)

1 U.S. 218 (Dall.)

Doane's Administrators
v.
Penhallow et al.

Court of Common Pleas, Philadelphia County

September Term, 1787

This was a foreign attachment, in which, and in two others against the same Defendants for the same cause, a motion was made to quash the writs. After argument, the President recapitulated the grounds of the motion, and delivered the opinion of the court as follows:

Shippen, President. On the hearing of this motion the Plaintiffs were called upon to shew their cause of action: They shew that on the 17th of September 1783, a certain cause, wherein Elisha Doane was claimant and appellant, against the Brigantine Susannah and her cargo, and John Penhallow and others libellants and appellees, was tried in the Court of Appeals in cases of capture established by Congress in the city of Philadelphia. And that it was there finally adjudged and decreed by the said Court of appeals, that the sentence or decree, given by the inferior and superior courts of Judicature in the State of New Hampshire in the said cause, should be revoked and annulled, and the property specified in the said claim should be restored to the claimant. The Plaintiffs further shew, by depositions, that notwithstanding this final decree of reversal, the Defendants, although requested, had refused, and still refuse, to restore the property specified in the claim of the said Elisha Doane, the said Defendants being owners and agents of the privateer M'Clary which captured the said Brigantine Susannah and her cargo, but had converted and disposed of the same to their own use. Upon this ground the action is brought to recover the value of

Page 1 U.S. 218, 219

the said Brig and cargo against the Defendants. Two other actions are brought by Isaiah Doane and James Sheppard against the same Defendants for the same cause. The motion to dissolve these attachments is founded on a rule and practice of this court, that in cases of foreign attachments, they will examine into the Plaintiffs cause of action, and if they find it not to be such as would intitle him to hold the Defendants to special bail, they will dissolve the attachment. This rule was founded on the mischiefs which were found to arise from groundless attachments of the ships and property of persons not inhabitants or resident within this State, and is conformable to the spirit of the attachment law. The counsel for the Defendants, in order to shew that there are not sufficient grounds to hold the Defendants to bail, have produced evidence of an original condemnation of the Brig and her cargo as lawful prize in the maritime court of New Hampshire, on the 16th day of December 1777, agreeably to an Act of Assembly of that State; and also a similar condemnation in the Superior Court of Judicature of that State, on an appeal from that maritime Court, with an order for sale and distribution of the property among the captors, and an actual sale and distribution accordingly. And they urge, that the subsequent reversal of those sentences, five or six years afterwards, by the commissioners of Congress appointed for hearing appeals in cases of prize, is null and void, and insufficient to revest the property in the claimants, Congress having had no power, before the Articles of Confederation, to receive appeals in case of prize. They also urge that a prior action has been brought by the present Plaintiffs against the Defendants in the State of Massachusets, for the same cause; and that on the trial of that action, the judges there determined, that the decree of reversal should not be given in evidence to the jury; and that the Plaintiffs, in order to avoid a verdict against them, had prayed and obtained leave to discontinue that action. And that, therefore, the present action is vexatious, and the Defendants should not be held to bail. A third reason is also urged by the Defendants counsel, that this being originally a cause of prize, it is exclusively of Admiralty jurisdiction; and that no action will lie at common law, either for the original taking, or any of the consequences. The court have heard, and deliberately considered, the several arguments on these points, delivered by learned counsel on both sides. The first point involves in it the sovereign rights of the separate States on the one hand, and the supreme power of the United States in Congress assembled on the other; and is, indeed, a momentous question; which, however, we shall shew in the decision of the third point, to be unnecessary, and, perhaps, improper for us to decide upon. On the second point, it is proper to declare, that we think ourselves indispensably bound to give full faith and credit to the legal acts of our Sister States; and that the judgements given in their [1 U.S. 218, 220]




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