Annotate this Case
12 U.S. 155 (1814)
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U.S. Supreme Court
The Rapid, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 155 155 (1814)
12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 155
After a declaration of war, an American citizen cannot lawfully send a vessel to the enemy's country to bring away his property.
Everything that issues from a hostile country is prima facie the property of the enemy, and it is incumbent on the plaintiff to support the negative of the proposition. But if the claimant be a citizen or an ally, at the same time that he makes out his interest, he confesses the commission of an offense which, under a well known rule of the civil law, deprives him of his right to prosecute his claim.
The law of prize is part of the law of nations. In it a hostile character is attached to trade independently of the character of the trader who pursues or directs it. Condemnation is equally the fate of the property of the belligerent and of property found engaged in anti-neutral trade.
The trading with an enemy condemned by the prize law does not simply consist in negotiation or contract. Intercourse, inconsistent with actual hostility, is the offense against which the operation of the rule is directed.
The material facts in the case were these:
Jabez Harrison, a native American citizen, the claimant and appellant in this case, had purchased a quantity of English goods in England before the declaration of war by the United States against that country and deposited them on a small island belonging to the English, called Indian Island and situated near the line between Nova Scotia and the United States. Upon the breaking out of the war, Harrison's agents in Boston hired the Rapid, a vessel licensed and enrolled for the cod fishery, to proceed to the place of deposit and bring away the goods. The Rapid accordingly sailed from Boston on 3 July, 1812, with Harrison, the claimant, on board, proceeded to Eastport, where Harrison was left, and from thence, agreeably to Harrison's orders, to Indian Island, where the cargo in question was taken on board. On 8 July, while on her return, she was captured by the Jefferson privateer on the high seas and brought into Salem. The goods, being libeled as prize, and claimed by Harrison as his property, were condemned in the Circuit Court of Massachusetts to the captors on the ground that, by "trading with the enemy," they had acquired the character of enemies' property.
A claim was also interposed by the United States on the ground of a violation by the Rapid of the nonintercourse act. This claim was also rejected. From the decree of the circuit court, the United States and Harrison appealed.