Annotate this Case
12 U.S. 253 (1814)
U.S. Supreme Court
The Venus, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 253 253 (1814)
12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 253
If a citizen of the United States establishes his domicile in a foreign country between which and the United States hostilities afterwards break out, any property shipped by such citizen before knowledge of the war and captured by an American cruiser after the declaration of war must be condemned as lawful prize.
Upon a shipment of goods to be sold on joint account of the consignee and shipper or of the latter alone, at the option of the consignee, the right of property does not vest in the consignee until he has made his election under the option given him.
If two partners own jointly a commercial house in, New York, and one of them obtains an American register for a ship by swearing that he, together with his partner, of the City of New York, merchant, are the only owners of the vessel for which the register is obtained, when in fact his partner is domiciled in England, the vessel is liable to forfeiture under the Act of Congress of December 31, 1792.
The following were the facts of the case, as stated by WASHINGTON, J. in delivering the opinion of the Court:
This is the case of a vessel which sailed from Great Britain with a cargo belonging to the respective claimants, as was contended, before the declaration of war by the United States against Great Britain was or could have been known by the shippers. She sailed from Liverpool on 4 July, 1812, under a British license, for the port of New York and was captured on 6 August, 1812, by the American privateer Dolphin and sent into the District of Massachusetts, where the vessel and cargo were libeled in the district court.
The ship, 100 casks of white lead, 150 crates of earthen ware, 35 cases and 3 casks of copper, 9 pieces of cotton bagging, and a quantity of coal, were claimed by Lenox & Maitland.
198 packages of merchandise and 25 pieces of cotton bagging were claimed by Jonathan Amory as the joint property of James Lenox, William Maitland, and Alexander
McGregor, not distinguishing the proportions of each, but the 25 pieces of cotton bagging were afterwards claimed for McGregor as his sole property, and also 5 trunks of merchandise.
21 trunks of merchandise were claimed by James Magee, of New York, as the joint property of himself and John S. Jones, residing in Great Britain.
The district court, on the preparatory evidence, decreed restitution to Magee & Jones, and also to Lenox & Maitland, except as to the 100 casks of white lead, as to which and as to the claim of McGregor further proof was ordered.
From this decree, so far as it ordered restitution of the merchandise to Magee & Jones and to Maitland and of the ship to Lenox & Maitland, the captors appealed to the circuit court, where the decree was affirmed pro forma, and an appeal was taken to this Court.
In April, 1813, the cause was heard of further proof in the district court, and in August the claim of McGregor was rejected, as well as that of Lenox & Maitland to the white lead. But at another day, on a further hearing, the court ordered restitution to McGregor of one-fourth of the property claimed by him, and condemned the other three-fourths as belonging to his partners, being British subjects. Both parties appealed, as did also Lenox & Maitland in relation to the white lead. A pro forma decree of affirmance was made, from which an appeal was taken to this Court.
Maitland, McGregor and Jones were native British subjects, who came to the United States many years prior to the present war, and, after the regular period of residence, were admitted to the rights of naturalization. Sometime after this, but long prior to the declaration of war, they returned to Great Britain, settled themselves there, and engaged in the trade of that country, where they were found carrying on their commercial business at the time these shipments were made and at the time of the capture. Maitland is yet
in Great Britain, but has, since he heard of the capture, expressed his anxiety to return to the United States, but has been prevented from doing so by various causes set forth in his affidavit. McGregor actually returned to the United States sometime in May last; Jones is still in England.
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