The Adula
176 U.S. 361 (1900)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Adula, 176 U.S. 361 (1900)

The Adula

No. 167

Argued November 7, 1899

Decided February 26, 1900

176 U.S. 361

Syllabus

A legal blockade may be established by a naval officer acting upon his own discretion, or under direction of superiors, without governmental notification.

In view of the operations being carried on for the purpose of destroying or capturing the Spanish fleet at Santiago de Cuba, and the reduction of that place, it was competent for the admiral commanding the squadron to establish a blockade there, and at Guantanamo, as an adjunct to such operations, and such blockade was valid as against all vessels having notice thereof. It appearing that Guantanamo was eighteen miles from the mouth of Guantanamo

Page 176 U. S. 362

Bay and was still occupied by the enemy, held that although the American troops occupied the mouth of the bay, the blockade was still operative as to vessels bound to the City of Guantanamo.

The legal effect of a lawful and sufficient blockade is a closing of the port and an interdiction of the entrance of all vessels of whatever nationality or business.

The sailing of a vessel with a premeditated intent to violate a blockade is ipso facto a violation of the blockade, and renders her subject to capture from the moment she leaves the port of departure.

If a master has actual notice of a blockade, he is not at liberty even to approach the blockaded port for the purpose of making inquiries.

If a neutral vessel be chartered to an enemy, she becomes to a certain extent and pro hac vice an enemy's vessel, and a notice to her charterer of the existence of a blockade is a notice to the vessel.

It appearing in this case that both the charterer and the vessel had been previously engaged in bringing away refugees from Cuba, and were chargeable with notice of the military and naval operations against that island, that such facts were of common knowledge at the port from which she sailed, and that intercourse with Cuban ports was dangerous, and it appearing from a preponderance of evidence that both the charterer and master of the vessel had knowledge of the blockade, held that the vessel was properly condemned.

If an examination of the ship's papers and the testimony of the crew, taken in preparatorio, make a case for condemnation, an order for further proof is only made where the interests of justice clearly require it. Held in this case that there was no error in denying the motion of the claimant for further proofs.

This was a libel in prize against the British steamship Adula, then under charter to a Spanish subject, which was seized June 29, 1898, by the United States cruiser Marblehead for attempting to run the blockade established at Guantanamo Bay in the Island of Cuba, and was subsequently sent into the port of Savannah for adjudication.

The Adula, a vessel of 372 tons, was built at Belfast in 1889 for her owner, the Atlas Steamship Company, Limited, a British corporation, and was registered in the name of its managing director, Sir William Bowers Forwood. Prior to the American-Spanish war, she was engaged in general trade between Kingston and other ports on the coast of Jamaica, and from time to time had made voyages to Cuban ports. After the breaking out of the war, the steamer was chartered by various persons, in the intervals of its regular work, for voyages to Cuba.

Page 176 U. S. 363

In the meantime, however, under the command of Rear Admiral Sampson, a blockade was established at Santiago, where the Spanish fleet lay under the command of Admiral Cervera. Upon June 8, a blockade of Guantanamo Bay was also established by order of Admiral Sampson, the blockading squadron being under the command of Commander McCalla. Both of these blockades were maintained during the war. On April 22, a blockade of the north coast of Cuba between Cardenas and Bahia Honda and of Cienfuegos on the south coast, was declared by the President. On June 27, the President by proclamation, gave notice that the Cuban blockade had been extended to included all the ports on the southern coast between Cape Frances and Cape Cruz. This included the port of Manzanillo. On the 28th, this proclamation was made known to the vessels off Guantanamo.

On June 27, the Adula, then at Kingston, was engaged in taking on a cargo for shipment. On the 28th, she discharged this cargo, and the agent of the Atlas company entered into a charter party with one Solis, a Spanish subject formerly resident in Manzanillo, of the material parts of which the following is a copy:

The Adula was put at the disposal of the charterer

"for the conveyance of passengers from Cuban ports hereinafter to be named, to Kingston. The ports that the vessel is to go to are Manzanillo, Santiago, and Guantanamo, but it is distinctly understood and agreed by the parties aforesaid that it shall not be deemed a breach of this agreement should the steamer be prevented from entering any of those ports from causes beyond the control of the company, but that, should she be able to enter one or all of them, she shall embark the passengers that the charterer shall engage for her and proceed on her voyage. If she is not permitted to enter either Manzanillo, Santiago, or Guantanamo, the vessel is to return to Kingston, and the voyage shall be considered completed, and the charter money hereinafter referred to earned without any deductions. . . . The charterer is to provide a good and efficient government pilot to conduct the ship safely into the ports which have been named. Should she be permitted to

Page 176 U. S. 364

enter them the charterer guarantees that the proper and efficient clearances shall be obtained for each port, so that the ship shall not be subjected to any fines for breach of regulations. . . . The company will give the option to the charterer for another voyage similar to this on similar terms, providing the charterer gives the company twenty-four hours' notice after the arrival of the steamer at Kingston."

Accompanying this charter were certain instructions printed in the margin, * from the agent of the company to Captain Yeates, the commander of the Adula. These were taken from

Page 176 U. S. 365

the ship when she was captured. The Adula left Kingston late in the afternoon of June 28. Before sailing, Solis asked from the United States consul at Kingston a permit to enter the ports of Guantanamo, Santiago, and Manzanillo. This the consul refused to give without special instructions from Washington. Just before sailing to Santiago, Solis cabled for a licensed pilot to meet the Adula. On leaving Kingston, she took her course around Morant Point at the easterly end of the island, first toward Santiago, and then to Guantanamo, and about 4 P.M. of the following day was met before reaching the harbor and brought to by the steamship Vixen, was directed to proceed, entered the harbor of Guantanamo, and was seized by the Marblehead, which, with other vessels of the fleet, was lying inside the bay, and was sent to Savannah, where a libel in prize was filed against her on July 21, 1898. The depositions in preparatorio were taken July 21, and her owner, the Atlas Steamship Company, appeared as claimant and filed its answer. The case was heard upon the proofs in preparatorio, and a decree of condemnation entered July 28th. 89 F. 351. Before the decree, claimant moved for leave to take further proofs. The court set the motion down for August 9, giving claimant leave to serve such affidavits and other papers as it might desire to read upon the motion, and directed the entry of the decree to be without prejudice to such motion. The motion was finally denied, and the vessel released upon a stipulation for her value.

From the decree of condemnation, her owner and claimant appealed to this Court.

Page 176 U. S. 366

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