Annotate this Case
12 U.S. 385 (1814)
- Syllabus |
U.S. Supreme Court
The Euphrates, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 385 385 (1814)
12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 385
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND
Further proof, inconsistent with that already in the case, refused on the part of the claimant.
The merchandise in this case was libeled in the District Court of Rhode Island as belonging to subjects of Great Britain. The capture was stated in the libel to have been made on or about 23 August, 1812. No libel was filed against the vessel.
In June term, 1813, a claim was interposed on behalf of the United States, on the ground that these goods were imported in violation of the nonintercourse laws.
In May, 1813, Matthias Bruen interposed a claim to certain merchandise on board of the Euphrates, alleging that he is the sole legal owner thereof.
The papers connected with this shipment were as follow:
1. An invoice dated Mansfield, 30 June, 1812, purporting the goods therein described to be shipped at Liverpool, under insurance, consigned to Mr. Henry Watkinson, New York, or in case of his absence to Mr. John French Ellis of that place, for sale on account of the manufacturers, Siddons & Johnston, who were British subjects.
2. A bill of lading by which it appeared that the goods were shipped at Liverpool on 7 July, 1812, on board of the Euphrates, to be delivered to Henry Watkinson, he paying freight, &c.
3. A letter from Siddons & Johnston dated Mansfield, 30 June, 1812, in which they say
"We have this day consigned to you for sale on our account sixteen trunks, . . . (which are the goods claimed). We hope we shall shortly hear of sales being made by you, to advantage; we hope they will at least net us what they are invoiced at, covering all expenses.
We shall leave this shipment to your discretion to make the best and most advantageous returns you can."
There being no proof whatever on the part of the claimant, and he not appearing to have any interest whatever by any of the papers on board, the goods were condemned both in the district and circuit courts, and the claimants adjudged to pay costs to the libellants.
From this decree there was an appeal on the part of Mr. Bruen to this Court.
LIVINGSTON, J. delivered the opinion of the Court.
The Court does not understand the counsel for the appellant as contending that there was any error in the sentence of the circuit court or that any other than sentence of condemnation could have been pronounced there. It was indeed a very clear case on the proceedings before that court. But it is supposed that Mr. Bruen is entitled to an order for further proof, and that the facts which he will be able to make out if an opportunity be afforded him will entitled him to a restitution of the property.
Without rejecting the application on account of its being made at so late a period, the Court has looked into the proof which it is proposed to bring forward, and, on comparing it with the proof already in the cause, we are of opinion that it is totally incompetent to make out a title in the appellant. There is not the least reason to believe that these goods were shipped in consequence of any previous orders given to Mr. Watkinson by merchants in this country and transmitted by him to Messrs. Siddons & Johnston. On the contrary, whatever orders may have been sent to those gentlemen by Mr. Watkinson, it is most manifest that they did not, in this case, act upon them, for the invoice and letter accompanying the shipment announce in terms not to be misunderstood that these goods were sent to the United States for the exclusive account and at the sole risk of the British manufacturers.
It has not escaped the notice of the Court that not one of the gentlemen who are alleged to have given orders for these goods on Messrs. Siddons & Johnston, through Mr. Watkinson, and who all reside in the United States, appears as a claimant for any part of them. Instead of this, we find them, or several of them, assigning their interest in this adventure, whatever it may be, to the claimant; but for what value does not appear, and every instrument takes care to express that the property is to be recovered at the risk and expense of Mr. Bruen. Thus is a total stranger to the shipment, and a mere volunteer who may not have paid
a single cent for his title, made a party claimant -- a mode of proceeding novel at least, and well calculated to awaken suspicions not at all favorable to his pretensions. Whether a title to goods obtained in this way would under any circumstances be sustained by a court of prize we will not say, but it is in our opinion sufficient reason, of itself, to refuse the party any opportunity to make further proof. Mr. Bruen not only does not pretend that he owned any part of these goods at or previous to the time of capture, but merely that he was the legal owner at the time of filing his claim, and upon the affidavits now laid before the Court as the ground of an order for further proof, it appears that this legal title was acquired in the way already mentioned -- that is, by a number of persons assigning to him a chose in action, which they must have considered of no value, or at any rate not worth pursuing. Such conduct can entitle the party to no favor or indulgence whatever. Upon the whole, the Court is as well satisfied with the decree of the circuit court, as it is with the total insufficiency of the evidence in reserve to produce any alteration in it.
The application, therefore, for further proof is rejected, and the sentence of the circuit court affirmed with costs.