The Grapeshot
76 U.S. 129

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

The Grapeshot, 76 U.S. 9 Wall. 129 129 (1869)

The Grapeshot

76 U.S. (9 Wall.) 129

Syllabus

1. When, during the late civil war, portions of the insurgent territory were occupied by the national forces, it was within the constitutional authority of the President, as commander-in-chief, to establish therein provisional courts for the hearing and determination of all causes arising under the laws of the state or of the United States, and the Provisional Court for the State of Louisiana, organized under the proclamation of October 20, 1862, was therefore rightfully authorized to exercise such jurisdiction.

2. When, upon the close of the war, and the consequent dissolution of the court thus established, Congress, in the exercise of its general authority in relation to the national courts, directed that causes pending in the Provisional Court, and judgments, orders, and decrees rendered by it, which, under ordinary circumstances, would have been proper for the jurisdiction of the circuit court of the United States, should be transferred to that court and have effect as if originally brought, or rendered therein, a decree in admiralty rendered in the Provisional Court, as upon appeal from the district court, became at once, upon transfer, the decree of the circuit court, and an appeal was properly taken from it to this Court.

3. Liens for repairs and supplies, whether implied or express, can be enforced in admiralty only upon proof made by the creditor that the repairs or supplies were necessary, or believed, upon due inquiry and credible representation, to be necessary in a foreign port.

4. Where proof is made of necessity for the repairs or supplies, or for funds raised to pay for them by the master, and of credit given to the ship, a presumption will arise, conclusive in the absence of evidence to the contrary, of necessity for credit. The cases of Pratt v. Reed and Thomas v. Osborn explained.

5. Necessity for repairs and supplies is proved where such circumstances of exigency are shown as would induce a prudent owner, if present, to

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order them, or to provide funds for the cost of them on the security of the ship.

6. The ordering by the master of supplies and repairs on the credit of the ship is sufficient proof of such necessity to support an implied hypothecation in favor of the materialman, or of the ordinary lender of money to meet the wants of the ship, who acts in good faith.

7. To support hypothecation by bottomry, evidence of actual necessity for repairs and supplies is required, and, if the fact of such necessity be left unproved, evidence is required of due inquiry and of reasonable grounds of belief that the necessity was real and exigent.

This case, which in its original form was a libel in the District Court of Louisiana on a bottomry bond, and as such involved nothing but the correct presentation of the principles of maritime law relating to that matter, and the examination of a good deal of contradictory evidence, to see how far the particular case came within them, presented subsequently, and in consequence of the rebellion and the occupation by our army of the mere City of New Orleans, while the region surrounding it generally was still held by the Confederate powers and troops, a great question of constitutional law, the question namely, how far, with that clause of the Constitution in force which declares that:

"The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish,"

the President could establish a Provisional Court, and how far Congress, on the suppression of the rebellion, could, by its enactment, validate the doings of such a court, transfer its judgments, and make them judgments of the now reestablished former and proper federal courts, from one of which, the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Louisiana, the cause purported to be brought here.

The case -- which in this Court consisted accordingly of three parts -- to-wit:

1. The matter of jurisdiction,

2. That of the principles of maritime law in regard to bottomry bonds,

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3. The one of their application to the particular case, on the evidence, is all stated in the opinion of the Court, not all consecutively in the opening of it, but all completely enough and with distinctness from the opinion itself, in three different parts, as the three respective topics arise to be treated of.

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