United States v. Skiddy - 36 U.S. 73 (1837)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Skiddy, 36 U.S. 11 Pet. 73 73 (1837)
United States v. Skiddy
36 U.S. (11 Pet.) 73
Certain persons who were slaves in the State of Louisiana were by their owners taken to France as servants, and after some time were by their own consent sent back to New Orleans, some of them under declarations from their proprietors that they should be free and one of them, after her arrival, was held as a slave. The ships in which these persons were passengers were, after arrival in New Orleans, libeled for alleged breaches of the Act of Congress of April 20, 1818, prohibiting the importation of slaves into the United States. Held that the provisions of the act of Congress do not apply to such cases. The object of the law was to put an end to the slave trade and to prevent the introduction of slaves from foreign countries. The language of the statute cannot properly be applied to persons of color who were domiciled in the United States and who are brought back to their place of residence after their temporary absence.
The French ship Garonne, from Havre, and the ship Fortune, also from Havre, were libeled, by several proceedings, by the United States at New Orleans, in the District Court of the United States, January, 1836, under the provisions of the first section of the Act of Congress, passed April 20, 1818, entitled
"An act in addition to an act to prohibit the introduction of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, from and after the first day of January, 1808, and to repeal certain parts of the same."
The ship Garonne had arrived in New Orleans, about 21 November, 1835, having on board a female, Priscilla, who had been born a slave in Louisiana, the property of the widow Smith, a native of that state, and resident in New Orleans. Mrs. Smith and her daughter, being in ill health, went from New Orleans, with her family, in 1835, to Havre, taking with her, as a servant, Priscilla, having previously obtained from the mayor of the city a passport for the slave, to prove that she had been carried out of the state, and that she should again be admitted into the same. Priscilla being desirous of returning to New Orleans, from Paris, was sent back on board the
Garonne, under a passport from the charge des affaires of the United States, in which she was described as a woman of color, the servant of a citizen of the United States. On the arrival of the ship, the baggage of the girl was regularly returned as that of the slave of Mrs. Smith.
The facts of the case of the ship Fortune were as follows: Mr. Pecquet, a citizen of New Orleans, went to France, in 1831, taking with him two servants, who were his slaves, as was alleged in the testimony, with an intention to emancipate them. They remained with the family of Mr. Pecquet in France for some time, and returned to New Orleans, at their own instance, in the ship Fortune in 1835, as was asserted, as free persons. The passport of the American legation represented these females as domestics of Mr. Pecquet, of New Orleans, a citizen of the United States. After their return to New Orleans, it did not appear, that they were claimed or held by the agent of Mr. Pecquet, or by any person, as slaves, but no deed of emancipation for either of them had been executed. On the arrival of the Fortune, in the list of passengers which was certified under the oath of the master, these persons, by name, were stated to be the slaves of Mr. Pecquet. The declarations of Mr. Pecquet that these persons were brought back as free, and that it was his intention that they should be free, were in evidence.
The District Court of Louisiana dismissed both the libels, and the United States prosecuted these appeals.