ROSS v. RITTENHOUSE
2 U.S. 160

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

ROSS v. RITTENHOUSE, 2 U.S. 160 (1792)

2 U.S. 160 (Dall.)

Ross et al. Executors
v.
Rittenhouse

Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

April Term, 1792

In this cause a verdict was taken for the plaintiff, subject to the opinion of the Court on a case stated. After argument, the Judges recapitulated the facts and arguments of counsel, and delivered their opinions seriatim in the following terms:

M'Kean, Chief Justice:

This case is, in brief, as follows: The British sloop Active had been captured as prize on the high seas, in September, 1778, and was brought into the port of Philadelphia, where she was libelled in the Court of Admiralty of the State, held before George Ross, Esq. the then Judge, on the 18th day of the same month. The four persons, for whose use this action is brought, claimed the whole vessel and cargo, as their exclusive prize; but Thomas Huston, master of the brig Convention, a vessel of war belonging to the State of Pennsylvania, claimed a moiety for the States, himself, and crew; and James Josiah, master of the sloop Gerard, a private vessel of war, claimed for himself, owners, and

Page 2 U.S. 160, 161

crew, a fourth part, allowing a fourth for the four persons before named. All the claimants were citizens of the United States. The libels were tried by a Jury, on the 15th of November, 1778, and a general verdict given, in the proportions above mentioned, which was confirmed by the sentence of the Court. Gideon Umstead and the other three persons, were American mariners on board the Active; they had risen upon the master, and confined him and the other mariners in the cabin, where a contest was kept up for the command of the vessel. The Convention and Gerard came up with her, and the question was, whether the four American mariners had subdued the rest of the crew before these vessels came in sight; that is, whether hostilities had then ceased? The jury were of opinion, they had not, and gave the verdict accordingly. Gideon Umstead and the three other mariners appealed from the sentence, to the Court of Appeals of the United States, which, on the 15th of December following, reversed the sentence of the Judge of the Admiralty, and decreed the whole to the appellants. The Judge refused obedience to the decree of reversal, and paid a moiety of the net proceeds of the prize into the treasury of the State, taking a bond of indemnity from the defendant in this action, as treasurer of the State, upon which bond this action is brought. The Executors of Judge Ross, the obligee, having been previously sued in the Court of Common Pleas, for the county of Lancaster, in this State, for the money so paid, and judgment being obtained against them by default, without any knowledge of the defendant. Thereupon several questions have been made, which may be stated as follows: 1st. Had the Court of Appeals jurisdiction to investigate facts, after a trial and general verdict by a Jury, and to give a contrary decision, without the intervention of another Jury? 2nd. Had the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster county jurisdiction in the action by Umstead and others, against the Executors of the Judge; or should not the decree of the Court of Appeals have been carried into execution by that Court, or the Court of Admiralty, without the aid or interference of any common law court? 3rd. Can an action be maintained on this bond, the condition whereof is virtually to disobey the Court of Appeals, and the laws of the land, if that Court had of right a power to decide contrary to the general verdict of a Jury? And, can the plaintiffs, without having defended, or given notice to the present defendant of the suit in the Court of Common Pleas, support an action on this bond? I conceive it proper to premise, that I took notice at the time this action was first brought to trial in this Court, 'that when [2 U.S. 160, 162]


Official Supreme Court case law is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia case law is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.