La Conception - 19 U.S. 235 (1821)
U.S. Supreme Court
La Conception, 19 U.S. 6 Wheat. 235 235 (1821)
19 U.S. (6 Wheat.) 235
Where a capture is made of the property of the subjects of a nation in amity with the United States by a vessel built, armed, equipped, and owned in the United States, such capture is illegal, and the property, if brought within our territorial limits, will be restored to the original owners.
Where a transfer of the capturing vessel in the ports of the belligerent state under whose flag and commission she sails on a cruise is set up in order to legalize the capture, the bona fides of the sale must be proved by the usual documentary evidence in a satisfactory manner.
This was an allegation filed in the District Court of South Carolina by the Vice Consul of his Catholic Majesty, claiming restitution of the ship La Conception and cargo as the property of Spanish subjects to him unknown, which had been illegally captured by the armed ship La Union, sailing under the flag of Buenos Ayres and pretending to have a commission or letter of marque from that government, but actually built, equipped, armed, and manned in the United States. A claim was interposed
by one Brown claiming the property as having been taken by him as commander of La Union on the high seas under a commission from the government of Buenos Ayres authorizing him to capture the property of the subjects of Spain. The district and circuit courts decreed restitution of the property to the captors, no sufficient evidence being produced of the capturing vessel's having been equipped or having augmented her force in the ports of the United States. On appeal to this Court, further proof was taken showing conclusively that the capturing vessel was originally built, owned, and equipped in this country, and after proceeding to Buenos Ayres, and sailing from that port on a cruise, had touched at the port of New Orleans, and there illegally augmented her force, since which the capture in question was made. This evidence was attempted to be repelled on the part of the captors by testimony tending to show a transfer of the capturing vessel at Buenos Ayres to domiciled subjects of that country, and that the subsequent augmentation of her force at New Orleans, if any, was very trifling, and only amounted to a replacement of her former equipment.