The London Packet
18 U.S. 132 (1820)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The London Packet, 18 U.S. 5 Wheat. 132 132 (1820)

The London Packet

18 U.S. (5 Wheat.) 132

Syllabus

A question of proprietary interest on further proof. Restitution decreed, with costs and expenses to be paid by the claimant.

In general, the circumstance of goods being found on board an enemy's ship raises a legal presumption that they are an enemy's property.

This was the claim of a Spanish subject to a parcel of hides laden on board of the London Packet, a British ship, at the port of Buenos Ayres in South America in the month of June, 1813. The London Packet, on her voyage to London, was captured by the private armed brig the Argus, and carried

Page 18 U. S. 133

into Boston for adjudication. On being libeled in the district court as prize of war, the consul of his Catholic Majesty filed a claim for the property in question in favor of Don Jeronimo Merino, a Spanish subject. The district court condemned the vessel and the whole of the cargo, except these hides, which were restored to the claimant, the court being satisfied there was not such proof of enemy's property therein as to authorize a decree of condemnation. For the ship and residue of the cargo no claim was interposed. From this decree, as to the hides, there was an appeal by the captors to the circuit court, where the same was reversed. The court, although it reversed the sentence which had been pronounced below, expressed its entire satisfaction as to the national character and domicile of the claimant and that the hides had been originally shipped by him, but condemned the property because, on the order for further proof, no affidavit had been offered either of the claimant or his confidential agent or clerk of his interest in the cargo at the time of the shipment. It was considered that the absence of such a document, so universally expected and required by prize tribunals, unavoidably threw a suspicion over the cause, and being wholly unaccounted for, it authorized a belief that there had been a voluntary if not a studied omission on the claimant's part. At the same term in which the sentence of reversal was pronounced, but not until after such sentence was known, the affidavit of the claimant, which had been received since the last adjournment of the court, was produced by the Spanish Consul, with a petition

Page 18 U. S. 134

that the decree might be rescinded for the purpose of admitting it into the case, or that the same might be so far opened for the consideration of the court as to make the affidavit of Merino a part of the evidence therein, so as to accompany the other testimony in the appeal to this Court. Upon this application the circuit court ordered that the affidavit should be received by the clerk and sent up with the other papers de bene esse, subject to the directions of this Court. The affidavit had been taken on an order below for further proof, but had not been received, as has been stated, when the decree of condemnation was pronounced.

Page 18 U. S. 137

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