The Hiram - 14 U.S. 440 (1816)
U.S. Supreme Court
The Hiram, 14 U.S. 1 Wheat. 440 440 (1816)
14 U.S. (1 Wheat.) 440
An agreement in a court of common law, chancery, or prize made under a clear mistake will be set aside.
If an agreement be made to confess a judgment or a judgment be actually confessed, a court of law will set it aside, and if the judgment be no longer in the power of a court of law, relief may be obtained in chancery.
So also an agreement entered into in a suit originally depending in a court of chancery will be relaxed or set aside if it be proved to the court to have been entered into under a mistake.
This was a vessel laden with flour and bound from Baltimore to Lisbon, captured, and finally condemned by this Court at February term, 1814, for sailing under a license from the enemy. The present case was that of the claimants of a greater part of the cargo. The ship was owned
and the license procured, by Samuel G. Griffith, a citizen of the United States. Separate bills of lading were at first signed by the master, one for each shipper, and separate letters of instruction were given to Patterson Hartshorne, the supercargo. But in the expectation, as was alleged, that in case of detention, the delay and expense would be less considerable if the cargo appeared to be the property of one individual than if there should be several small claims, one general bill of lading was signed to the owner of the ship and one general letter of instruction was given in his name to the supercargo, so as to make the whole cargo appear to be owned by Mr. Griffith, the owner of the ship and of a small part of the cargo. At the May term, 1814, of the circuit court, the property of the claimants was condemned by that court upon the ground that their counsel had, at the preceding term, entered into an agreement with the captors that the decision of the Supreme Court as to Griffith's claim should conclude the rest. Of this agreement the circuit judge had made a memorandum in his minute book, but it was not entered on the records of the court until the May term, at which condemnation was pronounced, when it was admitted by the claimants' counsel to have been made, and was recorded. From this last sentence of condemnation an appeal was taken to this Court.