1 U.S. 95 (1784)

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U.S. Supreme Court


1 U.S. 95 (Dall.)

Talbot qui tam &c.
The Commanders and Owners of three Brigsa

High Court of Errors and Appeals, of Pennsylvania

September Sessions, 1784

This was an appeal from a decree in the Admiralty on the following case: Silas Talbot, commander of the armed sloop Argo, belonging to, and in the service of these States, duly commissioned, sailed from New London, in the State of Connecticut, the twenty-ninth of August, 1779, on a cruise. On the sixth of September, after an engagement of three hours, he took as prize upon the High Seas, an armed Letter of Marque vessel, called the Betsey, of two hundred tons burthen, with a valuable cargo, belonging to subjects of Great Britain, not being inhabitants of Bermuda, and bound for New York, then in possession of the British naval and land forces. He took the commander and eleven of the people out of the prize, leaving three in her, and put on board a Prize master and eleven other hands, with instructions to proceed to New London. The firing was heard, and the engagement for more than an hour seen by persons on board three Letter of Marque Brigs that had lately sailed from Philadelphia. During the engagement the Betsey was perceived from the three Brigs, bearing towards them. Her surrender was also seen from on board them. The prize-master in obedience to his instructions, proceeded on his voyage in company with the Argo for New London. Some time after the three Brigs

a For the decree in the Admiralty in this case, and the evidence upon which it was principally founded, I beg leave to refer the Reader to a small volume of Reports of Cases in the Admiralty of Pennsylvania, published by the Honorable Francis Hopkinson, Esquire, the Judge of that Court; and printed by Dobson in Philadelphia. In this book will, likewise, be found several important decisions upon questions of Hypothecation. [ Talbot v. Commanders & Owners of Three Brigs 1 U.S. 95 (1784)

were discerned from on board the Betsey. Towards evening they chated the Argo and Betsey. The next day, early in the morning, the prize being in tow of the Argo, the three Brigs were seen from on board the Prize and the Argo, chasing them. The Brigs approached fast under British colours. Captain Talbot finding it impracticable for the prize to escape, with a trumpet hailed her, directing the prize-master to throw off the rope, and lye too with the prize, until the three Brigs should come up with her, adding, that he with the Argo would run a little to leeward and lye too also and that if the brigs should prove to be American, the prize-master should endeavour to obtain permission for the prize to come down by herself and inform him of the brigs being friends. In a short time the brigs came up, and from one or two of them under British colours, the Betsey was fired at twice, she then bearing British colours reversed, according to the custom of prizes, and being in the latitude of 39 degrees 4 minutes, and the longitude of 71 degrees 24 minutes. When first hailed, the people on board the Betsey answered, she was from Montserrat. Persons from two of the brigs, one of which had fired at the Betsey, boarded her. Among these was W. D. from the last mentioned brig. The commander of this brig was informed by the prize-master on board the Betsey, that she was a prize to the Argo, commanded by Captain Talbot; that the vessel then in sight was the Argo; that he was put on board the Betsey as prize master by Captain Talbot; he shewed him his written instructions as such; but, said the Betsey had been taken three days before. W. D. from on board the Betsey told the said commander, that the prize-master denied having seen the brigs the day before, or that she was then captured; but from every circumstance, and from the report of one of her English sailors, he was convinced, she was the same vessel seen engaged the day before. On board the brig, to the commander of which this information was given, were a boatswain and sail-maker, who had been taken by Captain Talbot about ten days before in a vessel from London, and sent by him prisoners to Philadelphia, and shipped there. One of the persons put into the Betsey by Captain Talbot, knowing them, mentioned this fact in conversation on board the said brig, to W. D. The person thus put on board by Captain Talbot also said, that the Betsey had been taken three days before. The papers on board the Betsey were examined by W. D. in behalf of the three brigs, and the number of names specified in the English papers, was found to correspond with the number of persons then on board. From these papers it appeared; that she was a British vessel bound from Montserrat to New York. W. D. made several other examinations on board the Betsey on behalf of the three brigs, and in the course of them was informed by a seaman who belonged to her while possessed by the British, that she was taken the day before. This sailor also said, she sailed from Montserrat. Before W. D. left Philadelphia, he had heard in the coffee-house there, a few days before he sailed, that the Argo a New England privateer had taken [1 U.S. 95, 97]

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