The @Bello Corrunes,@
19 U.S. 152

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U.S. Supreme Court

The @Bello Corrunes,@, 19 U.S. 152 (1821)

The @Bello Corrunes@

19 U.S. 152


A foreign consul has a right to claim or institute a proceeding in rem, where the rights of property of his fellow citizens are in question without a special procuration from those for whose benefit he acts.

But a consul cannot receive actual restitution of the res in controversy without a special authority from the particular individuals who are entitled.

A capture made by citizens of the United States of property belonging to subjects of a country in amity with the United States is unlawful wheresoever the capturing vessel may have been equipped or by whomsoever commissioned, and the property thus captured, if brought within the neutral limits of this country, will be restored to the original owners.

Whatever difficulty there may be under our municipal institutions in punishing as pirates citizens of the United States who take from a state at war with Spain a commission to cruise against that power, contrary to the fourteenth article of the Spanish treaty, yet there is no doubt that such acts are to be considered as piratical acts for all civil purposes, and the offending, parties cannot appear, and claim in our courts the property thus taken.

It seems that the terms "a state with which the said King shall be at war" in the fourteenth article of the treaty include the South American provinces which have revolted against Spain.

But however this may be, the neutrality act of June 1797, ch. 1, extends the same prohibition, with all its consequences, to a colony revolting and making war against its parent country:

In the case of such an illegal capture, the property of the lawful owners cannot be forfeited for a violation of the revenue laws of this country by the captors or by persons who have rescued the property from their possession.

The rights of salvage may be forfeited by spoliation, smuggling, or other gross misconduct of the salvors.

Page 19 U. S. 153

This was the case of a Spanish vessel and cargo stranded on Block Island, and there seized by the officers of the customs. An information on behalf of the United States was filed in the district court against the property as forfeited for an alleged breach of the revenue laws. His Catholic Majesty's Vice Consul for the District of Rhode Island interposed a claim on behalf of "certain subjects of the King of Spain," the original owners of the ship and cargo, which was bound on a voyage from the port of Tarragona, in Spain, to La Vera Cruz, and was taken off Cape St. Antonio, on the west end of the Island of Cuba, on 21 March, 1818, by an armed vessel called the Puyerredon, commanded by one James Barnes, sailing under Buenos Ayres colors, and asserting a right to make captures under the authority of the government of that place. Restitution to the original Spanish owners was claimed

Page 19 U. S. 154

upon the ground that the capturing vessel had been equipped in the ports of this country, in violation of our neutrality. An allegation was also filed by Barnes demanding restitution of the property to the captors as having been taken jure belli on the high seas. Another claim was also filed by certain persons, part of the original crew of the Bello Corrunes, left on board after the capture, who asserted a claim for salvage, in case the property should be restored to the original Spanish owners, under the following circumstances. The master of the captured vessel, and all her crew except four, were taken out, and a prize master and crew put on board from the Puyerredon. Thus equipped, the Bello Corrunes cruised in company with the Puyerredon nearly two months, during which period another Spaniard, of the original crew of the Bello Corrunes, was returned to that vessel. The two vessels afterwards separated, and on 8 of May, in lat. 32

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