The Frances
12 U.S. 335

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Frances, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 335 335 (1814)

The Frances

12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 335

Syllabus

A naturalized citizen who, in time of peace, returns to his native country for the purpose of trade, but with the intention of returning again to his adopted country, continuing in the former a winding up complicated business and engaging in no new commercial transactions whatever with the enemy, and actually returning to his adoptive country in a little more than a year after his first his knowledge of the war, is to be considered as having obtained a domicile in his native country, and his goods, captured after the war, liable to condemnation.

Goods appearing by the ship's papers to be a consignment from alien enemies to American merchants condemned in toto as prize although further proof was offered that American merchants were jointly interested and that they had a lien upon the goods in consequence of advances made by them.

Further proof on these points refused.

Page 8 U. S. 336

The facts were as follow:

War was declared by the United States against Great Britain on 18 June, 1812.

The ship Frances, having on board a cargo of goods of British manufacture consigned to various persons in the United States, sailed from Greenoch, in Scotland, on 19 July in the same year for New York. On 28 August following, she was captured by the Yankee privateer and carried into the District of Rhode Island, where the cargo was libeled as enemy property.

Robert and James Thompson and William Steele, naturalized citizens of the United States, claimed a considerable part of this cargo as their own property, and also claimed 130 packages, another part of the same cargo, as being owned by them jointly with British subjects or as having a lien upon the property in consequence of advances made upon the consignment.

These goods were all consigned by James Thompson, a naturalized citizen of the United States residing in Scotland, to William Steele, a citizen of the United States carrying on the business of the concern in New York.

All the goods claimed except the 130 packages were incontestably the property of the Claimants, and on the trial, restoration of two-thirds was decreed to Robert Thompson and William Steele, residents in the United States, in which decree the captors acquiesced. The remaining third, which belonged to James Thompson, who resided in Scotland, was condemned, and from this sentence he has appealed to this Court.

Page 7 U. S. 336

The 130 packages were also condemned as enemy property, and from this sentence the Claimants have appealed to this Court; but, having received more full information than they originally possessed respecting the ownership of these goods, they now abandon their claim as to this property except as to 66 boxes, of which they still claim to hold a moiety, the other moiety being acknowledged to be the property of Messrs. Dalgleish & Frame, British subjects.

A claim to all the above mentioned goods was also interposed by the United States for a violation of the nonintercourse laws, which claim was rejected in the circuit court, and an appeal taken to the Supreme Court.

James Thompson, as appeared from the evidence, was a native of Scotland, and came to the United States in the year 1793, where he resided, carrying on trade and commerce till the year 1801. In 1797 he was naturalized. In the year 1801 he went to France on the commercial business of his house, and sometime afterwards passed over to England, where he was employed in making purchases for and shipments to his house. In the year 1803 he settled in Glasgow, where he continued doing that part of the business of the partnership which was to be transacted in Great Britain, until the declaration of war. After the knowledge of that event, he transacted no commercial business whatever, and was exclusively employed in arranging his affairs in such manner as would enable him to return to the United States. This being accomplished, he, in August, 1813, engaged a passage on board the cartel ship, the Robert Burns, about to sail from Liverpool to New York, but was stopped by the orders of government. He then passed over to Ireland and privately embarked for the United States, where he arrived in November last. Several affidavits were taken to show that he always considered the United States as his permanent place of residence, and that he uniformly expressed his determination to return. His letters manifested the same intention. It also appeared that his business was complicated, and required his attention after he ceased to engage in new adventures, but it did not appear that he had performed any act which could be considered as

Page 8 U. S. 337

commencing to return until August 1813, when he engaged a passage on board the Robert Burns.

As to the 66 boxes of merchandise, the moiety of which was still claimed by Robert and James Thompson and William Steele, they prayed, on bringing up the cause to this Court, to be allowed to make further proof of their property in the said goods; and offered, as further proof, the affidavit of James Thompson that they were the joint property of the house of Dalgleish & Frame and of Messrs. Thompsons & Steele, under a contract made by two letters which were exhibited, and which he said were original. In addition to this, James Thompson swore that he gave his bill for the moiety of these goods, which bill he had paid, and that he was prevented from notifying this contract to his partners in his letter to them by the hurry produced by the shipment. The Claimants offered also the affidavit of William Steele, stating that sometime after the papers of the ship Frances were opened, he received the invoice and letters annexed to his affidavit in an envelope with some other papers. That the letters were in the handwriting of John Frame and James Thompson. That before he received them, he was convinced from the marks that the goods in the invoice were in some respects the joint property of his house and of Dalgleish & Frame, which fact he stated to the agents of the captors as well as the judge of the circuit court, at the trial in June, 1813, and that James Thompson was in the habit of taking goods on joint account from houses in Scotland and sending them to the house in America without specifying whether they were on joint account or on commission.

The letters referred to were one from Dalgleish & Frame dated Glasgow, 27 June, 1812, and addressed to Mr. James Thompson, Glasgow, in which they say the goods were printed in consequence of his orders and express a hope that he will take the whole contained in the invoice, or if not that he will allow them to go to his house on joint account. The other was a letter addressed to Messrs. Dalgleish & Frame, signed James Thompson and dated Glasgow 1 July, 1812, in which he acknowledges the receipt of their letter of 27 June, 1812, and says that as there are a

Page 8 U. S. 338

great many more goods in the invoice than he had ordered, and as he did not wish to take to large a quantity, he would send them on joint account.

The invoice, or rather bill of parcels, is dated Glasgow, 27 June, 1812, and was headed "Messrs. R. & J. Thompson and W. Steele bought of Dalgleish & Frame."

The affidavit of John Frame, taken in Glasgow, was also exhibited, in which he swears that the goods are the joint property of Messrs. R. & J. Thompson and Wm. Steele and of Dalgleish & Frame.

Such was the further proof offered.

In the Frances were two letters from James Thompson to Wm. Steele. The first was dated Glasgow, July 13, 1812, in which he says

"I annex a list of goods consigned by the Frances. These consignments are the safest and surest trade for us, and it was from this conviction that I allowed of so many consignments."

In the annexed list of consignments, referred to in the foregoing letter, were the goods shipped by Messrs. Dalgleish & Frame. In this letter he writes on the business of the house, speaks of the consignments generally, recommends that the goods should be promptly sold at the market price, and accounts of sales returned, but makes no allusion to any interest in the goods of Dalgleish & Frame.

Page 8 U. S. 347

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