The JosephAnnotate this Case
12 U.S. 451 (1814)
U.S. Supreme Court
The Joseph, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 451 451 (1814)
12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 451
A case of hostile trade not excused by the necessity of obtaining funds to pay the expenses of the ship nor by the opinion of an American minister, expressed to the master, that by undertaking the voyage he would violate no law of the United States.
If an American vessel be captured on a circuitous voyage to the United States, in a former part of which voyage she has been guilty of conduct subjecting her to confiscation, though at the time of capture she is committing no illegal act, she must be condemned.
Where the termini of a voyage are already fixed, the continuity of such voyage cannot be broken by a voluntary deviation of the master for the purpose of carrying on an intermediate trade.
A capture as prize of war may lawfully be made within the territorial limits of the United States at any place below water mark.
This was the case of a vessel, the Joseph, owned by American citizens, captured by the privateer Fame on 16 July, 1813. The Joseph sailed from Boston with a cargo on freight on or about 6 April, 1812, on a voyage to Liverpool and the north of Europe and thence directly or indirectly to the United States. She arrived in Liverpool and there discharged her cargo, and, on 30 June following, with another cargo, of mahogany, taken in at Hull, sailed for St. Petersburg under the protection of a British license granted on 8 June, 1812, authorizing
the export of mahogany to St. Petersburg, and the importation of a return cargo to England. The brig arrived at St. Petersburg, and there received news of the war between the United States and Great Britain. About 20 October, 1812, she sailed from St. Petersburg for London with a cargo of hemp and iron on freight, consigned to merchants in London, and having wintered in Sweden in the spring of 1813, she sailed, under convoy instructions from the British ship Ranger, for London, where she arrived and delivered her cargo. About 29 May, she sailed for the United States in ballast under a British license, and was captured on 16 July at no great distance from Boston Lighthouse. She was sent into the port of Salem for adjudication as prize.
In the District Court of Massachusetts, the claim of the owners, Messrs. Dall and Vose, was rejected and the property condemned to the United States. From this decree the captors and claimants appealed.
In the circuit court, the property was condemned to the captors. From this decree the claimants and the United States appealed.
It was contended on the part of the claimants
1. That it was lawful, in June, 1812 (before the war), to take the license to go from England to the north of Europe and to bring back a cargo to England.
2. That the taking a freight from the north of Europe to England was from necessity to obtain funds to pay the debts of the ship, the master not having been able to sell the cargo at St. Petersburg for any price.
3. That the opinion of the minister of the United States at St. Petersburg, who told the captain of the Joseph that there was no law against his returning to England under the protection of his license, and who also sent dispatches by the Joseph to the government of the United States, though he knew of the intention to return to England and thence to the United States, was in effect a license, especially as to the claim of the United States.
4. That there was no trade with the enemy, but with neutrals only, the freight having been taken on neutral account in a neutral territory and delivered to a neutral house in Great Britain.
5. That if any offense was committed, it was completed upon the delivery of the freight in Great Britain, and that therefore the vessel was not liable to capture or seizure on that account in a subsequent voyage from Great Britain to the United States.
6. That if she was liable to seizure for having adopted the character of an enemy vessel by any act contrary to the allegiance of the owners, yet she was not to be condemned as prize to the captors, as she was voluntarily returning to the United States and her port of discharge, and had actually arrived within the District of Massachusetts. That the capture therefore was not the occasion of her being brought in, so that if she was liable at all, even as enemies' property, the condemnation must be to the United States as a droit of admiralty. But
7. That the vessel was not liable to be condemned to the United States, because the declaration of war was in effect an invitation, if not a command, to the citizens of the United States abroad at the time to return home, and the law allowed a reasonable time and way to effect that return.
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