United States v. Klintock - 18 U.S. 144 (1820)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Klintock, 18 U.S. 144 (1820)
United States v. Klintock
18 U.S. 144
A commission issued by Aury, as "Brigadier of the Mexican Republic" (a republic whose existence is unknown and unacknowledged) or as "Generalissimo of the Floridas" (a province in the possession of Spain) will not authorize armed vessels to make captures at sea.
Quaere whether a person acting with good faith under such a commission may be guilty of piracy?
However this may be in general, under the particular circumstances of this case, showing that the seizure was made not juri belli, but animo furandi, the commission was held not to exempt the prisoner from the charge of piracy.
The Act of 30 April, 1790, c. 36, s. ___, extends to all persons, on board all vessels, which throw off their national character by cruising piratically, and committing piracy on other vessels.
This was an indictment in the Circuit Court of Virginia against Ralph Klintock, a citizen of the United States, charging him with a piracy committed on the high seas in April, 1818, on a vessel called the Norberg, belonging to persons to the jurors unknown. He was found guilty generally.
The facts stated were that the prisoner is a citizen of the United States; that the vessel in which he sailed as first lieutenant was called the Young
Spartan, was owned without the United States, and cruised under a commission from Aury, styling himself Brigadier of the Mexican Republic and Generalissimo of the Floridas, granted at Fernandina, after the United States government took possession of it. That he was convicted of a piracy, committed on the Norberg, a Danish vessel in consequence of practicing the following fraud upon her. The second officer of the privateer brought on board some Spanish papers which he concealed in a locker and then affected to have found them on board. The vessel was then taken possession of, the whole original ship's company left on an island on the coast of Cuba, and the second officer being put in command, took the name of the original captain, sailed for Savannah, and entered her there, personating the Danish captain and crew. The Young Spartan followed, and put into a port in the vicinity.
The counsel for the prisoner moved that the judgment be arrested on the following grounds:
First, that Aury's commission exempts the prisoner from the charge of piracy.
Second, that the fraud practiced on the Dane does not support the charge of piracy as an act piratically done, and not in the exercise of belligerent rights.
Third, that the prisoner is not punishable under the provisions of the 8th section of the act of 1790.
Fourth, that the Act of 30 April, 1790, 8th section, "entitled an act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States," does not extend to an American citizen entering on board of a foreign vessel committing piracy upon a vessel exclusively owned by foreigners.
Upon these errors in arrest of judgment, the judges of the circuit court were divided in opinion, and directed the points, with their division thereon, to be certified to this Court.