The Aurora
12 U.S. 203

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Aurora, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 203 203 (1814)

The Aurora

12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 203

Syllabus

The acceptance and use of an enemy's license on a voyage to a neutral port, prosecuted in furtherance of the enemy's avowed objects, is illegal, and subjects vessel and cargo to confiscation.

It is not necessary, in order to subject the property to condemnation, that the person granting the license should be duly authorized to grant it, provided the person receiving it takes it with the expectation that it will protect his property from the enemy.

Sailing with an intention to further the views of the enemy is sufficient to condemn the property although that intention be frustrated by capture.

The following were the material facts of the case:

Some months after the declaration of war, the ship Aurora, documented as American property and owned by Thomas M. Clarke and Ebenezer Wheelright, the claimants, who are American citizens, sailed from Newburyport to Norfolk in ballast. At the latter place she took in a cargo consisting of bread, flour, corn, &c., and sailed from thence on or about 12 November, 1812, ostensibly for St. Bartholomews, a neutral island belonging to the Swedes, for which port she had obtained

Page 12 U. S. 204

her clearance. The cargo was consigned to the supercargo of the ship. On 26 November, 1812, she was captured by the American privateer schooner Governor Tompkins on the high seas. At the time of capture, she was to the leeward of St. Bartholomews, and had on board a British license, which she exhibited to the captors, supposing them to be British. This license consisted of three documents:

1st. A pass for the West Indies exclusively from Andrew Allen his Britannic Majesty's consul residing at Boston, to which is annexed a copy of a letter, under the consular seal from Admiral Sawyer to Mr. Allen as follows:

"To the commanders of any of his Majesty's ships of war or of private armed ships belonging to his Majesty."

"Whereas from a consideration of the great importance of continuing a regular supply of flour and other dry provisions and lumber to the British islands in the West Indies, it has been deemed expedient by his Majesty's government that notwithstanding the hostilities now existing between Great Britain and the United States of America, every protection and encouragement should be given to American vessels laden with flour and other dry provisions and lumber and bound to the British islands in the West Indies. And whereas in furtherance of these views of his Majesty's government, Herbert Sawyer Esq. vice admiral and commander in chief of his Majesty's squadron on the Halifax station, has directed to me a letter under date of 5 August, 1812, a copy whereof is hereunto annexed, wherein I am instructed to furnish a copy of his letter, certified under my consular seal, to every American vessel so laden and bound to the West Indies, which is designed as a perfect safeguard and protection to such vessel in the prosecution of such voyage. Now therefore, in pursuance of these instructions, I have granted to the American ship Aurora, William Augustus Pike, master, burden 254 47/95ths tons, now lying in the harbor of Newburyport and bound to Norfolk for a cargo of flour, corn, and other dry provisions for St. Bartholomews, the annexed document, to avail only in a direct

Page 12 U. S. 205

voyage to the West Indies and back to the United States, requesting all the officers commanding his Majesty's ships of war or of private armed vessels belonging to subjects of his Majesty not only to suffer the said Aurora to pass without molestation, but also to extend to her all due assistance and protection in the prosecution of her voyage to the West Indies and in her return to the United States laden with merchandise not exceeding the net amount of her outward cargo, or in ballast only."

"Given under my hand and seal of office this first day of October, 1812."

"ANDREW ALLEN, Jr. [SEAL]"

"His Majesty's consul"

To the above pass was annexed the following copy of a letter from Admiral Sawyer certified under the consular seal, and alluded to in the above document.

"His Majesty's ship Centurion"

"At Halifax, 5 August, 1812"

"SIR,"

"I have fully considered that part of your letter of the 18th ultimo, which relates to the means of ensuring a constant supply of flour and other dry provisions to Spain and Portugal and to the West India islands, and being aware of the importance of the subject, concur in the proposition you have made."

"I shall therefore give directions to the commanders of his Majesty's squadron under my command not to molest American vessels so laden, and unarmed, bona fide bound to British, Portuguese, or Spanish ports, whose papers shall be accompanied with a certified copy of this letter under the consular seal."

"I have the honor to be, sir,"

"Your most obedient humble servant,"

"H. SAWYER, Vice-Admiral"

"Andrew Allen Esq."

"British Consul Boston "

Page 12 U. S. 206

"Office of his Britannic Majesty's Consul"

"I, Andrew Allen, Jr., his Britannic Majesty's consul for the States of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut, do hereby certify that the annexed paper is a true copy of a letter addressed to me by H. Sawyer Esq., vice-admiral and commander in chief of his Majesty's squadron on the Halifax station."

"Given under my hand and seal of office, at Boston in the State of Massachusetts, this first day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twelve."

"ANDREW ALLEN, Jr. [SEAL.]"

2d. The following certificate of the Consul:

"Office of his Britannic Majesty's Consul"

"I, Andrew Allen, Jr., his Britannic Majesty's consul for the States of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, do hereby certify that the ship Aurora, Wm. Augustus Pike, being bound to St. Bartholomews (on account of the existing law of the United States, which prevents her return to the United States from a British port) contemplates fulfilling the object comprised in the accompanying license from H. Sawyer Esq., Vice-Admiral and Commander in Chief on the Halifax station, through a neutral port in alliance with Great Britain."

"Given under my hand and seal of office at Boston, in the State of Massachusetts, this second day of October in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twelve."

"ANDREW ALLEN, Jr. [SEAL]"

3d. The following general pass for the West Indies.

"Office of his Britannic Majesty's Consul"

"I, Andrew Allen, Jr., his Britannic Majesty's consul for the States of Massachusetts, New Hampshire,

Page 12 U. S. 207

Rhode Island, and Connecticut, request all officers commanding his Majesty's ships of war, of private armed ships belonging to subjects of his Majesty, to permit the American ship Aurora, William Augustus Pike, master, now lying in the harbor of Newburyport, and furnished with a protection from Vice-Admiral Sawyer for the purpose of carrying flour, corn, lumber, and other necessary provisions to the West Indies and proceeding to Norfolk in ballast for a cargo, to pass without molestation."

"Given under my hand and seal of office, at Boston in the State of Massachusetts this first day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twelve."

"ANDREW ALLEN, Jr. [SEAL]"

The Aurora was carried into Newport, Rhode Island, and there libeled. The circuit court of that district condemned vessel and cargo as prize to the captors, from which sentence the claimants appealed to this Court.

Page 12 U. S. 219

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