The Springbok
72 U.S. 1

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Springbok, 72 U.S. 5 Wall. 1 1 (1866)

The Springbok

72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 1




1. Though invocation, in prize cases, is not regularly made on original hearing, but only after a cause has been fully heard on the ship's documents and the preparatory proofs, and where suspicious circumstances appear from these, yet where the court below, in the exercise of its discretion, has allowed it on first hearing, the decree will not necessarily be reversed, decrees of condemnation having passed in both the cases invoked, one pro confesso and the other by a decree of the highest appellate court.

2. Where the papers of a ship sailing under a charter party are all genuine and regular and show a voyage between ports neutral within the meaning of international law, where there has been no concealment nor spoliation of them, where the stipulations of the charter party in favor of the owners are apparently in good faith, where the owners are neutrals, have no interest in the cargo, and have not previously in any way violated neutral obligations, and there is no sufficient proof that they have any knowledge of the unlawful destination of the cargo, in such a case, its aspect being otherwise fair, the vessel will not be condemned because the neutral port to which it is sailing has been constantly and notoriously used as a port of call and transshipment by persons engaged in systematic violation of blockade and in the conveyance of contraband of war, and was meant by the owners of the cargo carried on this ship to be so used in regard to it.

3. The facts that the master declared himself ignorant as to what a part of his cargo, of which invoices were not on board (having been sent by mail to the port of destination) consisted, such part having been contraband, and also declared himself ignorant of the cause of capture, when his mate, boatswain and steward all testified that they understood it to be the vessel's having contraband on board, held not sufficient, of

Page 72 U. S. 2

themselves, to infer guilt to the owners of the vessel, in no way compromised with the cargo. But the misrepresentation of the master as to his knowledge of the ground of capture held to deprive the owners of costs on restoration.

4. A cargo was here condemned for intent to run a blockade where the vessel was sailing to a port such as that above described, the bills of lading disclosing the contents of 619 packages of 2007 which made the cargo, the contents of the remaining 1388 being not disclosed; where both they and the manifest made the cargo deliverable to order, the master being directed by his letter of instructions to report himself on arrival at the neutral port to H., who "would give him orders as to the delivery of his cargo;" where a certain fraction of the cargo whose contents were undisclosed was specially fitted for the enemy's military use and a larger part capable of being adapted to it; where other vessels owned by the owners of the cargo, and by the charterer, and sailing ostensibly for neutral ports were, on invocation, shown to have been engaged in blockade running, many packages on one of the vessels, and numbered in a broken series of numbers, finding many of the complemental numbers on the vessel now under adjudication; where no application was made to take further proof in explanation of these facts, and the claim of the cargo, libeled at New York, was not personally sworn to by either of the persons owning it, resident in England, but was sworn to by an agent at New York, on "information and belief."

Appeal from a decree of the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York respecting the British bark Springbok and her cargo, which had been captured at sea by the United States gunboat Sonoma during the late rebellion and libeled in the said court for prize.

The vessel was owned by May & Co., British subjects, and was commanded by James May, son of one of the owners.

She had been chartered 12th November, 1862, by authority of May, the captain, to T. S. Begbie, of London, to take a full cargo of

"Lawful merchandise, and therewith proceed to Nassau, or so near thereunto as she may safely get, and deliver same, on being paid freight as follows &c., the freight to be paid one-half in advance on clearance from custom house, subject to insurance, and the remainder in cash on delivery. Bills of lading are to be signed by master at current rate of freight, if required, without prejudice to this charter party. It being agreed that master or owners have absolute lien on cargo for all freight, dead freight,

Page 72 U. S. 3

demurrage, or other charges. The ship is to be consigned to the charter's agent at port of unloading, free of commission. Thirty running days are allowed the freighter for loading at port of loading and discharging at Nassau."

This document had an endorsement on it by Speyer & Haywood, persons hereinafter described.

The letter of instructions to the master was thus:

"LONDON, December 8, 1862"


"Dear Sir -- Your vessel being now loaded, you will proceed at once to the port of Nassau, N.P., and on arrival report yourself to Mr. B. W. Hart there, who will give you orders as to the delivery of your cargo and any further information you may require."

"We are, dear sir &c.,"


"For the Charters"

The letter to the agent of the consignee, directed "B. W. Hart, Nassau," and from these same persons, Speyer & Heywood, was thus:

"Under instructions from Messrs. Isaac, Campbell & Co., of Jermyn Street, we enclose you bills of lading for goods shipped per Springbok, consigned to you."

The London custom house certificate was "from London to Nassau;" the certificate of clearance declared the "destination of voyage, Nassau, N.P.;" and the manifest was of a cargo from "London to Nassau."

The log book was headed, "Log book of the bark Springbok on a voyage from London to Nassau."

The shipping articles, November, 1862, were of a British crew,

"on a voyage from London to Nassau, N.P.; thence, if required, to any other port of the West India Islands, American ports, British North America, east coast of South America and back to the final port discharge in the United Kingdom or continent of Europe, between the Elbe and Brest, and finally to a port in the United Kingdom; voyage probably under twelve months. "

Page 72 U. S. 4

The cargo, valued at

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