The Pitt
21 U.S. 371

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Pitt, 21 U.S. 8 Wheat. 371 371 (1823)

The Pitt

21 U.S. (8 Wheat.) 371

Syllabus

The Nonintercourse Act of 18 April 1818, c. 65, prohibits the coming of British vessels to the ports of the United States from a British port closed against the commerce of the United States, either directly or through an open British port, but it does not prohibit the coming of such vessels from a British closed port through a foreign port (not British) where the continuity of the voyage is fairly broken.

This was an allegation of forfeiture in the District Court of Delaware, against the British sloop Pitt, under the Nonintercourse Act of April 18, 1818, c. 65, the first section of which provides

"That from and after 30 September next, the ports of the United States shall be and remain closed against every vessel owned wholly or in part by a subject or subjects of his Britannic Majesty coming or arriving from any part or place in a colony or territory of his Britannic Majesty that is or shall be by the ordinary laws of navigation and trade closed against vessels owned by citizens of the United States, and such vessel that in the course of the voyage shall have touched at or cleared out from any port or place in a colony or territory of Great Britain which shall or may, by the laws of navigation and trade aforesaid, be open to vessels owned by citizens of the United States shall nevertheless be deemed to

Page 21 U. S. 372

have come from the port or place in the colony or territory of Great Britain, closed as aforesaid against vessels owned by citizens of the United States, from which such vessel cleared out and sailed before touching and clearing out from an intermediate and open port or place as aforesaid, and every such vessel so excluded from the ports of the United States that shall enter or attempt to enter the same in violation of this act shall, with her tackle, apparel, and furniture, together with the cargo on board such vessel, be forfeited to the United States."

The vessel in question, belonging to British subjects in the Island of Jamaica, departed from the port of Kingston in that island on 16 August, 1818, with a cargo belonging to the same owners and a clearance for San Blas, and arrived at Old Providence, a small Spanish island on the coast of Honduras, on the 22d of the same month. At this island the cargo was discharged and another taken in consisting principally of Caracas cocoa, fustic, and Spanish hides. She sailed from thence 6 September following with orders to come to anchor off the lighthouse at Cape Henlopen, the western cape of Delaware Bay, and there waited instructions from the agents of the owners at Philadelphia. The vessel arrived off Fenwick's Osland, about 30 miles south of the Delaware, on 29 September, 1818, when a pilot boarded her and delivered to the master written instructions from the agents of the owners not to enter the Delaware, but to proceed to Halifax or Bermuda. But the master

Page 21 U. S. 373

stated that his bread and water were insufficient for the voyage, and proceeded off the capes of the Delaware to procure a supply of those articles, but was compelled (as alleged) by stress of weather, on 1 October, 1818, to put into the Whorekiln Roads opposite to Lewiston, where the vessel was seized by the officers of the revenue for a breach of the act before mentioned.

The district court pronounced a decree of condemnation, which was reversed in the circuit court, and the cause was then brought by appeal to this Court.

Page 21 U. S. 377

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