The Commercen
14 U.S. 382 (1816)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Commercen, 14 U.S. 1 Wheat. 382 382 (1816)

The Commercen

14 U.S. (1 Wheat.) 382

Syllabus

Quaere whether the British rule of the war of 1756 be founded on correct principles.

The Rule of 1756 stands upon two grounds: 1st, that a trade, such as the coasting or colonial trade, which, by the permanent policy of a nation, is reserved for its own vessels, if opened to neutrals during war, must be opened under the pressure of the enemy's arms, and in order to obtain relief from that pressure, which relief a neutral has no right to afford; 2d, if the trade be not opened by law, that a neutral employed in a trade thus reserved by the enemy to his own vessels identifies himself with that enemy and assumes a hostile character.

A neutral ship, laden with a cargo of provisions, the property of the enemy specially permitted to be exported for the supply of his forces, is not entitled to freight.

It makes no difference in such a case as the above that the enemy is carrying on a distinct war in conjunction with his allies, who are in amity with the country of the captor, and that the provisions are intended for the supply of the enemy's troops engaged in that distinct war, and that the ship in which the provisions are transported belongs to subjects of one of those allies.

This was the case of a Swedish

Page 14 U. S. 383

vessel captured on 16 April, 1814, by the private armed schooner Lawrence on a voyage from Limerick, in Ireland, to Bilboa, in Spain. The cargo consisted of barley and oats, the property of British subjects, the exportation of which is generally prohibited by the British government, and as well by the official papers of the custom house as by the private letters of the shippers, it appears to have been shipped under the special permission of the government for the sole use of his Britannic Majesty's forces then in Spain. Bonds were accordingly given for the fulfillment of this object. At the hearing in the district Court of Maine, the cargo was condemned as enemy's property, and the vessel restored, with an allowance, among other things, of the freight for the voyage, according to the stipulation of the charter party. The captors appealed from so much of the sentence as decreed freight to the neutral ship, and upon the appeal to the Circuit Court of Massachusetts, the decree as to freight was reversed, and from this last sentence an appeal was prosecuted to this Court.

Page 14 U. S. 387

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