The Merrimack
12 U.S. 317

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Merrimack, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 317 317 (1814)

The Merrimack

12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 317




Goods purchased by British merchants before the war between the United States and Great Britain in pursuance of orders from American citizens, shipped to the agent of the British merchants in the United States, also an American citizen, "on account and risk of an American citizen," and no circumstances of fraud or unfairness appearing in the transaction, were vested in the American citizens at the time of the shipment, and are not liable to condemnation, although the vessel sailed from England after the declaration of war was known there. Restitution.

But if goods be purchased as above, though the accompanying invoices, bills of lading and letters be addressed by the British consignors to the American citizens for whom the purchase was made, and all concur to show the property to be in them, yet if these documents are enclosed in a letter from the consignors to their agent in the United States, though an American citizen, directing him not to deliver the goods in case of the existence of certain circumstances, nor until he should have received payment from the consignees in cash, the property in the said goods continued in the British consignors at the time of capture. Condemnation.

Goods by the same ship, so purchased and consigned to the agent of the consignors, being an American citizen, in whose name also the bill of lading is made out, but the bill of parcels and invoice in the name of the American merchants for whom the purchase was made, the shipment also being expressed to be on the account, though goods are spoken of in the letter of the consignee as British property, bested in the American merchants at the time of shipment.

The circumstance that the goods continue during the whole voyage at the risk of the shippers is immaterial.

The following are the material facts of the case:

The ship Merrimack, owned by citizens of the United States, sailed from Liverpool for Baltimore a few days after the declaration of war by the United States against Great Britain was known in that country, having on board a cargo of goods shipped by British subjects and consigned to citizens of the United States. On 25 October, 1812, she was captured in the Chesapeake Bay between Annapolis and Baltimore by the private armed vessel Rossie, Joshua Barney, commander.

The goods, being libeled as prize in the District

Page 12 U. S. 318

Court of Maryland, were severally claimed by sundry citizens of the United States.

The claimants were:

1. William and Joseph Wilkins, merchants of Baltimore, claimed the goods contained in eleven cases and one bale marked "W.J.W."

These goods were made up for them, in pursuance of their orders, before the war was known in Great Britain, by a manufacturing company, one member of which, Thomas Leich, resided in Leicester in Great Britain, and the other, Edward Harris was an American citizen residing in the United States.

The bill of parcels was in the name of Messrs. William and Joseph Wilkins. This paper also served for an invoice, and there was no other on board for these goods.

The bill of lading was in the name of Edward Harris, who was the consignee.

The goods were accompanied by a letter from Thomas Leich to Edward Harris dated Leicester, 29 July, 1812, in which he says

"With this you will receive bill of lading of 11 cases of worsted and cotton hosiery for Messrs. W. & J. Wilkins, Baltimore, and with insurance to

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