The Three Friends
166 U.S. 1 (1587)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Three Friends, 166 U.S. 1 (1897)

The Three Friends

No. 701

Argued February 15, 1897

Decided March 1, 1587

166 U.S. 1

Syllabus

When a libel in admiralty is ordered to stand dismissed if not amended within a time named, the prosecution of an appeal within that time is a waiver of the right to amend, and the decree of dismissal takes effect immediately.

In admiralty cases, although the decree of the circuit court of appeals is made final in that court, this Court may require any such case to be certified for its review and determination with the same power and authority as if it had been brought here directly from the District or Circuit Court, and although this power is not ordinarily to be exercised, the circumstances justified the allowance of the writ in this instance.

The forfeiture of a vessel proceeded against under Rev.Stat. § 5283, does not depend upon the conviction of the person or persons charged with, doing the acts therein forbidden.

Neutrality, strictly speaking, consists in abstinence from any participation in a public, private or civil war and in impartiality of conduct toward

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both parties: but the maintenance unbroken of peaceful relations between two powers when the domestic peace of one of them is disturbed is not neutrality in the sense in which the word is used when the disturbance has acquired such head as to have demanded the recognition of belligerency, and, as mere matter of municipal administration, no nation can permit unauthorized acts of war within its territory in infraction of its sovereignty, while good faith towards friendly nations requires their prevention.

The word " people," as used in Rev.Stat. § 5283, forbidding the fitting out or arming of vessels with intent that they shall be employed in the service of any foreign people, or to cruise or commit hostilities against the subjects, citizens, or property of any foreign people with whom the United States are at peace, covers any insurgent or insurrectionary body conducting hostilities, although its belligerency has not been recognized.

Although the political department of the government has not recognized the existence of a de facto belligerent power, engaged in hostility with Spain, it has recognized the existence of insurrectionary warfare, prevailing before, at the time, and since the forfeiture sought to be enforced in this case was incurred, and the case sharply illustrates the distinction between recognition of belligerency and recognition of a condition of political revolt -- between recognition of the existence of war in a material sense and of war in a legal sense.

The courts of the United States having been informed by the political department of the existence of an actual conflict of arms, in resistance of the authority of a government with which the United States are on terms of peace and amity, although acknowledgment of the insurgents as belligerents has not taken place, the statute is applicable to the case.

The order for the release of the vessel was improvidently made, as it should not have been released.

The steamer Three Friends was seized November 7, 1896, by the collector of customs for the district of St. Johns, Fla., as forfeited to the United States under § 5283 of the Revised Statutes, and thereupon, November 12th, was libeled on behalf of the United States in the District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The first two paragraphs of the libel alleged the seizure and detention of the vessel, and the libel then continued:

"Third. That the said steamboat or steam vessel, the Three Friends, was on, to-wit, on the 23d day of May, A.D. 1896, furnished, fitted out, and armed with intent that she should be employed in the service of a certain people, to-wit, certain people then engaged in armed resistance to the government of the King of Spain, in the Island of Cuba, to cruise

Page 166 U. S. 3

and commit hostilities against the subjects, citizens, and property of the King of Spain, in the Island of Cuba, with whom the United States are and were at that date at peace."

"Fourth. That the said steamboat or steam vessel, Three Friends, on, to-wit, on the 23d day of May, A.D. 1896, whereof one Napoleon B. Broward was then and there master, and within the said Southern District of Florida, was then and there fitted out, furnished, and armed, with intent that said vessel, the said Three Friends, should be employed in the service of a certain people, to-wit, the insurgents in the Island of Cuba, otherwise called the 'Cuban revolutionists,' to cruise and commit hostilities against the subjects, property, and people of the King of Spain, in the said Island of Cuba, with whom the United States are and were then at peace."

"Fifth. That the said steamboat or steam vessel Three Friends, on, to-wit, on the 23d day of May, A.D. 1896, and whereof one N. B. Broward was then and there master, within the navigable waters of the United States, and within the Southern District of Florida and the jurisdiction of this Court, was then and there, by certain persons to the attorneys of the said United States unknown, furnished, fitted out, and armed, being loaded with supplies and arms and munitions of war, and it, the said steam vessel Three Friends, being then and there furnished, fitted out, and armed with one certain gun or guns, the exact number to the said attorneys of the United States unknown, and with munitions of war thereof, with the intent then and there to be employed in the service of a certain people, to-wit, certain people then engaged in armed resistance to the government of the King of Spain in the Island of Cuba, and with the intent to cruise and commit hostilities against the subjects, citizens, and property of the King of Spain in the said Island of Cuba, and who, on the said date and day last aforesaid, and being so furnished, fitted out, and armed as aforesaid, then and there aforesaid, from the navigable waters of the United States, to-wit, from the St. Johns River, within the Southern District of Florida, and within the jurisdiction of this Court aforesaid, proceeded upon a voyage to the Island of Cuba aforesaid, with the intent

Page 166 U. S. 4

aforesaid, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided. And that by force and virtue of the acts of Congress in such case made and provided, the said steamboat or steam vessel, her tackle, engines, machinery, apparel, and furniture, became and are forfeited to the use of the said United States."

"Sixth. And the said attorneys say that by reason of all and singular the premises aforesaid, and that by force of the statute in such case made and provided, the aforesaid and described steamboat or steam vessel Three Friends, her tackle, machinery, apparel, and furniture, became and are forfeited to the use of the said United States."

And concluded with a prayer for process and monition and the condemnation of the vessel as forfeited. Attachment and monition having issued as prayed, Napoleon B. Broward and Montcalm Broward, master and owners, intervened as claimants, applied for an appraisement of the vessel and her release on stipulation, and filed the following exceptions to the libel:

"1. Sec. 5283, for an alleged violation of which the said vessel is sought to be forfeited, makes such forfeiture dependent upon the conviction of a person for doing the act or acts denounced in the first sentence of said section, and as a consequence of conviction of such person; whereas the allegations in said libel do not show what persons had been guilty of the acts therein denounced as unlawful."

"2. The said libel does not show the Three Friends was fitted out and armed, attempted to be fitted out and armed, or procured to be fitted out and armed, in violation of said section."

"3. The said libel does not show the said vessel was so fitted out and armed, or so attempted to be fitted out and armed, or so procured to be fitted out and armed or furnished, with the intent that said vessel should be employed in the service of a foreign prince or state or of a colony, district, or people with whom the United States are at peace."

"4. The said libel does not show by whom said vessel was so fitted out."

"5. Said libel does not show in the service of what foreign

Page 166 U. S. 5

prince or state or colony or district or body politic the said vessel was so fitted out."

"6. The said libel does not show that said vessel was so armed or fitted out or furnished with the intent that such vessel should be employed in the service of any body politic recognized by or known to the United States as a body politic."

The vessel was appraised at $4,000, and a bond on stipulation given for $10,000, upon which she was directed to be released. The cause came on to be heard upon the exceptions to the libel, and on January 18th the following decree was entered:

"This cause coming on to be heard upon exceptions to the libel, and having been fully heard and considered, it is ordered that said second, third, fifth, and sixth exceptions be sustained and that the libelant have permission to amend said libel; and, in event said libel is not so amended within ten days, the same stand dismissed, and the bond herein filed be cancelled."

From this decree the United States, on January 23, prayed an appeal to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which was allowed and duly prosecuted.

The following errors were assigned:

"First. For that the court, over the objection of the libelants, allowed the said steam vessel, Three Friends, to be released from custody upon the giving of bond."

"Second. For that the court erred in sustaining the 2d, 3d, 5th, and 6th exceptions of the claimants to the libel of information of the libelants."

"Third. For that the court erred in entering a decree dismissing the libel of information herein."

On February 1, application was made to this Court for a writ of certiorari to bring up the cause from said circuit court of appeals, and, having been granted and sent down, the record was returned accordingly.

Page 166 U. S. 49

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