United States v. Willings & Francis
8 U.S. 48 (1807)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Willings & Francis, 8 U.S. 4 Cranch 48 48 (1807)

United States v. Willings & Francis

8 U.S. (4 Cranch) 48

Syllabus

An American registered vessel, in part transferred by parol while at sea to an American citizen and resold to her original owners on her return into port before her entry, does not, by that operation, lose her privileges as an American bottom, nor become subject to foreign duties.

In case of alienation to a foreigner the privileges of an American bottom are ipso facto forfeited; but in case of alienation to a citizen, they are not forfeited until after she ought to have been registered anew, and the oath which entitles her to enter as an American bottom, does not require such new register.

This was an action of debt brought originally in the District Court of the United States for the District of Pennsylvania for the penalty of a bond dated November 16, 1802, conditioned to pay to the collector of the customs

"the sum of $7,720.41, or the amount of the duties to be ascertained as due and arising on certain goods, . . . entered by the above bounden Willings and Francis, as imported in the ship Missouri from Canton, as per entry dated 16 November, 1802."

The pleadings, which ended in a general demurrer to the surrejoinder, brought into view the question, whether the ship Missouri, at the time of her arrival and entry from Canton, was entitled to the privileges of a registered ship of the United States, for if she was, the sum mentioned in the condition of the bond (which had been calculated as if she had been a foreign bottom) was too large by the sum of $702.05.

The facts upon which this question arose appear, by the record, to be as follows:

The ship Missouri, when she sailed from Philadelphia for Canton, was a duly registered ship of the United States, owned wholly by Willings & Francis, citizens of the United States. While at sea, and while the register of the ship was on board in possession of the master, she was in part sold by Willings and Francis, in Philadelphia, to J. G. Koch and others, citizens of the United States, on 12 February, 1801, but was not then registered anew by her former name, nor was there an instrument in writing, in the nature of a bill of sale, reciting at length the certificate of registry. On 15 November, 1802, after the arrival of the ship at Philadelphia, and before any report or entry, Koch and others, the vendees, made a parol resale of their part of the ship to Willings and Francis, whereby the whole was revested in them. Afterwards, on the same 15 November (it being the day of her arrival), the register

Page 8 U. S. 49

was delivered up by the master of the ship to the collector of the port of Philadelphia, and the vessel duly reported and entered; and T. W. Francis, one of the part owners, resident at that port, upon the entry of the ship, offered to make oath that the register contained the names of all the persons who were then owners of the ship; that since the granting of the register, the ship had been in part sold by W. and F. to Koch and others, who had resold the same to W. and F. and that no foreigner had any share or interest in the ship. On 22 December, 1802, W. and F. made a bill of sale to Koch and others, reciting the register at length in due form of law, whereupon the ship was registered anew by her former name, as the property of Willings and Francis, and Koch and others, as joint owners. On 7 January, 1803, Koch and others, by a bill of sale reciting the register at length, in due form of law, resold and reconveyed their part of the ship to Willings and Francis, whereupon the register was delivered up, and the ship registered anew by her former name, as the property of W. and F.

By the 14th section of the Act of Congress of 31 December, 1792, vol. 2. 146, 147, it is enacted,

"That when any ship or vessel which shall have been registered pursuant to this act or the act hereby in part repealed shall in whole or in part be sold or transferred to a citizen or citizens of the United States or shall be altered in form or burden, . . . in every such case the said ship or vessel shall be registered anew by her former name, according to the directions hereinbefore contained (otherwise she shall cease to be deemed a ship or vessel of the United States), and her former certificate of registry shall be delivered up to the collector, to whom application for such new registry shall be made at the time that the same shall be made."

"And in every such case of sale or transfer there shall be some instrument of writing, in the nature of a bill of sale, which shall recite at length the said certificate; otherwise the said ship or vessel shall be incapable of being so registered anew. And in every case in which a ship or vessel is hereby required to be registered anew, if she shall not be so registered anew, she shall not be entitled to any of the privileges or benefits of a ship or vessel

Page 8 U. S. 50

of the United States. And further, if her said former certificate of registry shall not be delivered up as aforesaid, except the same may have been lost, . . . the owner or owners of such ship or vessel shall forfeit and pay the sum of five hundred dollars, to be recovered with costs of suit."

And by the 17th section it is enacted,

"That upon the entry of every ship or vessel of the United States from any foreign port or place, if the same shall be at the port or place at which the owner or any of the part owners reside, such owner or part owner shall make oath or affirmation that the register of such ship or vessel contains the name or names of all the persons who are then owners of the said ship or vessel; or if any part of such ship or vessel has been sold or transferred since the granting of such register, that such is the case and that no foreign subject or citizen hath, to the best of his knowledge and belief, any share, by way of trust, confidence, or otherwise, in such ship or vessel."

"And if the owner . . . shall refuse to swear or affirm as aforesaid, such ship or vessel shall not be entitled to the privileges of a ship or vessel of the United States."

The judgment of the district court, upon the demurrer, was in favor of the United States, but it was reversed upon a writ of error in the circuit court, and the United States brought the case up by writ of error to this Court.

Page 8 U. S. 55

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