The Anna Maria - 15 U.S. 327 (1817)
U.S. Supreme Court
The Anna Maria, 15 U.S. 2 Wheat. 327 327 (1817)
The Anna Maria
15 U.S. (2 Wheat.) 327
A suit by the owners of captured property, lost through the fault and negligence of the captors, for compensation id damages.
The right of visitation and search is a belligerent right which cannot be drawn into question, but must be conducted with as much regard to the safety of the vessel detained as is consistent with a thorough examination of her character and voyage.
Detention after search pronounced to be unjustifiable under the circumstances of the case.
The value of the captured vessel and the prime cost of the cargo, with all charges, and the premium of insurance, where it has been paid, allowed in ascertaining the damages.
The schooner Anna Maria, belonging to citizens of the United States, sailed from Alexandria on 27 September, 1812, laden with a cargo also belonging to American citizens and bound to St. Bartholomews, a neutral island. On 16 October, the schooner made the Virgin Islands, where she continued, it being calm, until the 19th. About mid-day on the 19th, light breezes sprung up from the eastward, and the Anna Maria, as stated by her master, was using her utmost endeavors to make St. Bartholomews. It appears, however, that the vessel headed towards St. Thomas, an island in possession of the British. In this situation a sail, which proved to be the Nonsuch privateer of Baltimore, was discovered bearing east northeast from them, which gave chase under English colors and soon overtook them. The Anna Maria was boarded about four in the afternoon, and her master, with all her papers, sent on board the Nonsuch. A search for other papers was commenced and continued for
about two hours. The boarding officer, who had appeared in the disguise of a British officer, then returned to the Nonsuch, being succeeded by another officer who kept possession of the Anna Maria with two men and was ordered to continue under the lee of the Nonsuch till the succeeding day, when it was intended, as alleged, to continue the search. The whole crew of the Anna Maria were taken out, and with her master put in irons. The next morning about nine, two other vessels were descried, and, as stated by the master of the Anna Maria and by one of the officers of the privateer, were chased by the Nonsuch. In the chase she lost sight of the Anna Maria, and soon afterwards fell in with her. The officer, with the two men on board her, attempted, as they say, to bring her into the United States, but, being in want of water, wood, and candles, they went into St. Jago del Cuba and sold a part of the cargo to enable them to purchase these necessaries. In attempting to bring the vessel out of port, she was run aground and injured, after which she was sold with the residue of her cargo, and the proceeds remained in the hands of the American consul for those who may be entitled to them.
The Nonsuch soon afterwards returned to the United States, and a libel was filed by the owners of the Anna Maria and cargo against the owners of the Nonsuch in the District Court of Maryland claiming compensation in damages for the injury they had sustained. This libel was dismissed by the district
court, and the decree affirmed by the circuit court, on which the cause was brought by appeal to this Court.