The Richmond v. United States
13 U.S. 102 (1815)

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U.S. Supreme Court

The Richmond v. United States, 13 U.S. 9 Cranch 102 102 (1815)

The Richmond v. United States

13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 102

APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT

FOR THE DISTRICT OF GEORGIA

Syllabus

The Nonintercourse Act of 28 June, 1809, which requires a vessel bound to a permitted port to give bond in double the amount of vessel and cargo not to go to a prohibited port is applicable to a vessel sailing in ballast.

If a merchant vessel of the United States be seized by the naval force of the United States within the territorial jurisdiction of a foreign friendly power for a violation of the laws of the United States, it is an offense against that power which must be adjusted between the two governments. This Court can take no cognizance of it. The law does not connect the trespass with the subsequent seizure by the civil authority under the process of the district court so as to annul the proceedings of that court against the vessel.

Appeal from the sentence of the Circuit Court for the District of Georgia affirming the sentence of the district court, which condemned the ship Richmond for a violation of the Nonintercourse Act of 28 June, 1809, vol. 10, 13, by departing from Philadelphia bound on a foreign voyage to a permitted port without having given bond not to go to a prohibited port.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court as follows:

The ship Richmond, an American registered vessel, sailed from Philadelphia in ballast in December, 1809, with a clearance for New York, but proceeded to Portsmouth in Great Britain, where she arrived in 1810. She made two voyages to Amelia Island in East Florida, during the second of which she was seized in St. Mary's River by gunboat No. 62, January 14, 1812, and libeled in the District Court of Georgia for violating the act passed 28 June, 1809, for amending the nonintercourse

Page 8 U. S. 103

law. The Richmond was condemned in both the district and circuit courts, and from their sentence the claimants have appealed to this Court.

The claimants contend

1. That the vessel was not liable to forfeiture.

2. That the seizure was made within the territory of Spain, and that all proceedings founded thereon are void.

When the Richmond sailed from Philadelphia, commercial intercourse between the ports of Great Britain and those of the United States was permitted. But the Act of 28 June, 1809, vol. 10, p. 13, enacts, that

"No ship or vessel bound to a foreign port of place with which commercial intercourse has been or may be thus permitted, except . . . , shall be allowed to depart unless the owner or owners, consignee, or factor of such ship or vessel shall, with the master, have given bond with one or more sureties to the United States in a sum double the value of the vessel and cargo that the vessel shall not proceed to any port or place with which commercial intercourse is not thus permitted, nor be directly nor indirectly engaged during the voyage in any trade with such port or place."

If a vessel shall depart without having given such bond, the vessel with her cargo are declared to be wholly forfeited.

It is contended that this act does not apply to vessels departing from the United States to a permitted port in ballast.

The act is certainly not expressed with all the precision that could be wished. The case contemplated by the legislature most probably was that of a vessel sailing with a cargo, but there is reason to believe that a vessel departing in ballast also was within the meaning and intent of the law. The bond is provided to prevent a breach of the existing restrictive laws by a vessel clearing out or sailing for a permitted port, but actually proceeding to a prohibited port. This might be done by a vessel with or without a cargo, and the condition of the bond would be violated in its letter as well as spirit by

Page 8 U. S. 104

the vessel's sailing without the cargo to a prohibited port. The Court understands the law, then, directing a bond to be given in double the value of the vessel and cargo, to apply to the cargo if there be a cargo, but to the vessel only if there be no cargo.

The seizure of an American vessel within the territorial jurisdiction of a foreign power is certainly an offense against that power which must be adjusted between the two governments. This Court can take no cognizance of it, and the majority of the Court is of opinion that the law does not connect that trespass, if it be one, with the subsequent seizure by the civil authority under the process of the district court so as to annul the proceedings of that court against the vessel. One judge, who does not concur in this opinion, considers the testimony as sufficient to prove that the Richmond, when first seized by the gunboat, was within the jurisdictional limits of the United States.

The sentence is affirmed with costs.

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