Annotate this Case
12 U.S. 221 (1814)
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U.S. Supreme Court
The Adventure, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 221 221 (1814)
12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 221
The case of a vessel and cargo belonging to a citizen of one belligerent nation captured on the high seas by a cruiser of the other belligerent, given to a neutral and by him brought into a port and libeled in a court of his own country, between which and the nation to which the vessel originally belonged war breaks out before final adjudication, is to be considered as a case of salvage, one moiety adjudged to the libellants and the other moiety to remain subject to the future order of the court from which the appeal was brought up and to be restored to the original owner after the termination of the war unless legislative provision should previously be made for the confiscation of enemy's property found in the country at the declaration of war.
The act of bringing in the cargo, though consisting of articles the importation of which was prohibited by law, was not considered, under the. peculiar circumstances of this case, as subjecting the property to forfeiture.
There is no precise rule as to the amount of salvage, nor is it in its nature reducible to rule. For it must in every case depend upon peculiar circumstances, such as peril incurred, labor sustained, value decreed, &c., all of which must be weighed and estimated by the court that awards the salvage. As far as the inquiries of this Court have extended, where a proportion of the thing saved has been awarded, a half has been the maximum and an eighth the minimum; below that it is usual to adjudge a compensation in numero. In some cases, indeed, more than a half has been awarded, but they will be found to be cases of very extraordinary merit or on articles of very small amount.
The facts of the case, as stated by JOHNSON, J. in delivering the opinion of the Court, were as follow:
The libellants were the master and crew of the American brig Three Friends. On 14 November, 1811, whilst on their voyage from Salem to the Brazils
with a valuable cargo on board, they were captured by the Nymphe and Medusa, French frigates, and by them the brig was plundered and burnt. On the 21st, the frigates captured the Adventure, a British ship laden with British goods, and after taking out a part of the cargo, made a present of the residue to the libellants. The fact of the gift is established by a writing under the hand of the captain of the Medusa, commander of the squadron, in which he says, "Je donne au capitaine", &c., in the language of an unqualified donation. On 23 November, they left the squadron and arrived at Norfolk on 1 February, 1812, after a long and boisterous voyage in a large ship navigated by a very inadequate crew. On her arrival in the United States, she was libeled by the captain and crew as their property acquired under the donation of the French captor, and the United States interposed a claim for the forfeiture incurred under the nonimportation act. At the time of her arrival, peace existed between this country and Great Britain, but on 18 June following, and pending this suit, war was declared.