Moodie v. The Phoebe Anne
3 U.S. 319 (1796)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Moodie v. The Phoebe Anne, 3 U.S. 3 Dall. 319 319 (1796)

Moodie v. The Phoebe Anne

3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 319

ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT FOR

THE DISTRICT OF SOUTH CAROLINA

Syllabus

A French privateer had taken out her guns, masts and sails, which remained on shore till the general repairs of the vessel were completed and they were again put on board, after which she sailed on a cruise and captured a British vessel, which she sent into Charleston. On a claim to restitution, on the ground that the privateer had been illegally fitted out in a neutral port, the Court decided that the mere replacement of her force could not be considered a material augmentation, even if an augmentation of force could be considered as a cause for restitution.

The Phoebe Anne, a British vessel, had been captured by a French privateer and sent into Charleston. The British Consul files a Libel claiming restitution of the prize upon a suggestion that the privateer had been illegally outfitted, or had illegally augmented her force, within the United States. On the proofs, it appeared that the privateer had originally entered the port of Charleston, armed and commissioned for war; that she had there taken out her guns, masts, and sails, which remained on shore till the general repairs of the vessel were completed, when they were again put on board, with the same force or thereabouts, and that on a subsequent cruise, the prize in question was taken. The decrees in the district and circuit courts were both in favor of the captors, and on the return of the record into this Court, Reed, having pointed out the additional repairs, argued generally on the impolicy and inconvenience of suffering privateers to equip in our ports.

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE ELLSWORTH.

Suggestions of policy and convenience cannot be considered in the judicial determination of a question of right. The treaty with France, whatever that is, must have its effect. By the 19th article it is declared that French vessels, whether public and of war or private and of merchants, may, on any urgent necessity, enter our ports and be supplied with all things needful for repairs. In the present case, the privateer only underwent a repair, and the mere replacement of her force cannot be a material augmentation, even if an augmentation of force could be deemed (which we do not decide) a sufficient cause for restitution.

By the Court:

Let the decree of the circuit court be affirmed.

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