The Adeline - 13 U.S. 244 (1815)


U.S. Supreme Court

The Adeline, 13 U.S. 9 Cranch 244 244 (1815)

The Adeline

13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 244

Syllabus

American property recaptured may be restored on payment of salvage, although the libel prays condemnation of it as prize of war, and does not claim salvage. Salvage is an incident to the question of prize.

A test affidavit ought to state that the property, at the time of shipment and also at the time of capture, did belong and will, if restored, belong to the claimant, but an irregularity in this respect is not fatal.

A test affidavit by an agent is not sufficient if the principal be within the country and within a reasonable distance from the court. But if test affidavits liable to such objections have been acquiesced in by the parties in the courts below, the objections will not prevail in this Court.

By the Act of 3 March, 1800, one-sixth part only is allowed to a privateer for salvage upon the recapture of the cargo on board a private armed vessel of the United States, although one-half be allowed for the recapture of the vessel.

The property of persons domiciled in France (whether they be Americans, Frenchmen, or foreigners) is good prize if recaptured after being twenty-four hours in possession of the enemy, that being the rule adopted in the French tribunals.

Further proof will be allowed by this Court where the national character and proprietary interest of goods recaptured do not distinctly appear.

Property unclaimed will be decreed as good prize.

Where merits clearly appear on the record, it is the settled practice in admiralty proceedings not to dismiss the libel, but to allow the party to assert his rights in a new allegation.

No proceedings can be more unlike than those in the common law and in the admiralty. In prize causes, in an especial manner, the allegations, the proofs, and the proceedings are in general modeled on the civil law, with such additions and alterations as the practice of nations and the rights of belligerents and neutrals unavoidably impose.

The court of prize is emphatically a court of the law of nations, and it takes neither its character nor its rules from the mere municipal regulations of any country.

In cases of mere civil salvage, it may be fit and proper that the libel should distinctly allege and claim salvage, though not indispensable.

In cases of military salvage, the party may, if he please, adopt a similar proceeding, but it is by no means necessary, and would in most cases be highly inexpedient. Recaptures are emphatically cases of prize, for the definition of prize goods is that they are goods taken on the high seas jure belli out of the hands of the enemy.

Where the principal is without the country or resides at a great distance from the court, the admission of a claim and test affidavit by his agent is the common course of the admiralty. But where the principal is within a reasonable distance, something more than a formal affidavit by his agent is expected; at least the suppletory oath of the principal so to the facts should be tendered.

The American letter of marque, schooner Adeline, sailed from Bourdeaux for the United States with a cargo owned in part by citizens of the United States and

Page 13 U. S. 245

in part by French subjects. On 14 March, 1814, she was captured in the bay of Biscay by a British squadron, who put a prize crew on board and ordered her for Gibraltar. After being six days in the possession of the British she was recaptured, near Gibraltar, by the American privateer Expedition, who put a crew on board and ordered her for the United States where she arrived and was libeled, with her cargo, by the recaptors, in the District Court at New York, as prize of war. The vessel was claimed by citizens of the United States residing therein as was also part of her cargo.

Another part of the cargo was claimed by French subjects resident in the United States; another part by French subjects, resident in France; another part by citizens of the United States, resident in France; another part by French subjects whose residence was not state; another part by citizens of the United States, whose residence was not stated; and another part by "alien friends," without stating of what nation or where resident. Some of the claims stated the property, at the time of capture to belong to the persons therein mentioned, and did not state to whom it belonged at the time of shipment.

The district court condemned as good prize all the property owned by Frenchmen and other persons resident in France, and all the property of those persons whose residence was not stated, and restored all the property belonging to persons resident in the United States upon payment of one-sixth for salvage. The vessel was restored by consent of parties on payment of one-half for salvage. The sentence was affirmed pro forma by consent in the circuit court.

The recaptors appealed as to the rate of salvage, which they contended ought to have been one-half, and those claimants whose property was condemned also appealed.

Page 13 U. S. 283



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