The St. Lawrence
12 U.S. 434 (1814)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The St. Lawrence, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 434 434 (1814)

The St. Lawrence

12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 434

Syllabus

A vessel sailing to an enemy's country after knowledge of the war, and captured bringing from that country a cargo consisting chiefly of enemy goods, is liable to confiscation as prize of war.

Suppression of papers, where it appears to have been intentional and fraudulent and attended with other suspicious circumstances, is good cause for refusing further proof.

But where the suppression appears to be owing to accident or mistake and no other suspicious circumstances appear in the case further proof may be allowed.

Page 12 U. S. 435

The material facts of the case were as follow:

The ship St. Lawrence, Silas Webb master, was captured on 20 June, 1813, by the private armed vessel America, and, with her cargo, libeled as prize in the District Court of New Hampshire. On the proceedings which were had there, it appeared that the St. Lawrence, owned by Robert Dickey of New York and Hugh Thompson of Baltimore, arrived at Liverpool from Sweden in April, 1813, with a cargo of iron and deals. In the month of May, 1813, the agent of Dickey and Thomson entered into a contract for the sale of the St. Lawrence with the house of Ogden, Richards & Selden of Liverpool, the contract to be ratified or disaffirmed by Dickey & Thompson and the bill of sale to be executed by them, in case of affirmance, to Andrew Ogden and James Heard of New York, or either of them. On 5 May, 1813, a license was granted by the Privy Council of Great Britain to Thomas White of London and others permitting them to export direct to the United States an enumerated cargo in the St. Lawrence, provided she cleared out before the last day of that month. On the 30th of May 1813, she sailed from Liverpool for the United States with the cargo specified in the license. Mr. Alexander McGregor and his family were passengers on board.

Upon the return of the monition in the district court, Andrew Ogden interposed a claim in behalf of himself and McGregor to the ship and part of the cargo. He also claimed another part of the cargo as his sole property. He likewise interposed a claim in favor of Selah Strong and Son, of John Whitten, of the firm of Howard, Phelps & Co. -- of Abraham and George Smedes -- of Peter and Ebenezer Irving & Co. -- of Henry Van Wart -- of Irving & Smith -- of Jabez Harrison -- of Hugh R. Toler -- and of Thomas C. Butler. This claim was an affidavit of Mr. Ogden in which he swore that he had not a full knowledge of the concerns of all the persons for whom he claimed, but verily and fully believed that many of the said goods on board the St. Lawrence were sent in payment of debts due previous to the war to several of the persons for whom he claimed. This claim was filed on 17 August, 1813.

Page 12 U. S. 436

William Penniman, of Baltimore, also interposed a claim for five chests of merchandise, which he swore were purchased for him by John Barnet of London prior to the war with funds which he had in England eighteen months before the declaration of war and in pursuance of orders given by him nine months previous to that event. He also swore that he had at Baltimore the original invoice of the purchase of said goods and other documentary evidence to prove the aforesaid fact.

There was also a claim of the master for two cases and five trusses of merchandise and six bolts of Russia duck.

In none of these claims was there a designation of the marks or numbers of the casks, bales, or cases which belonged to the different parties for whom the property was claimed.

The master, in answer to the 12th standing interrogatory, said that for the names of the respective laders, he referred to the bills of lading. That the goods were mostly, if not all, consigned "to order." That the goods were to be delivered to order at such place as the owners or consignees should appoint, but that he did not know what interest any of the consignees or the shipper might have in the goods.

In answer to the 16th interrogatory, the captain stated that his letter bags, two in number, had been taken possession of and sent to the custom house, and that, as to any letter he had directed to the consignees or owners, he had done what he had a right to do, and that all his other papers had been forcibly taken away.

By Mr. McGregor's answer to the 9th interrogatory, it appeared that he was interested one-half part in the ship; that his sole object in becoming interested in the ship was that of returning to the United States; that he also owned one-half of the copperas and of the earthenware on board, shipped by Ogden, Richards & Selden and, as he believed, one-half of the coal, but that as to the last article, he was not positive, no invoices of said goods having been delivered to the deponent.

Page 12 U. S. 437

In relation to the vessel, Mr. McGregor deposed that the only document relative to the sale of the ship he believed to be a letter to the former owners from their agent requesting them to make a bill of sale transferring said ship to Andrew Ogden and James Heard, or either of them, which he gave to Andrew Ogden.

It appeared further from the examination of Mr. McGregor that he was born in Scotland, was naturalized in the United States in 1795, had lived the last seven years in Liverpool, and was returning in the St. Lawrence with his family to the United States.

The goods claimed by Ogden as his sole property were shipped by the house of Ogden, Richards & Selden. The two gentlemen last named resided at Liverpool.

The district court condemned the St. Lawrence and all the cargo, except the parts claimed by McGregor and the master. Both parties appealed from this decree to the circuit court, where the ship and whole cargo were condemned. From this decree the claimants appealed to the Supreme Court.

Page 12 U. S. 440

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