The Thomas Gibbons,
Annotate this Case
12 U.S. 421 (1814)
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U.S. Supreme Court
The Thomas Gibbons, 12 U.S. 8 Cranch 421 421 (1814)
The Thomas Gibbons
12 U.S. (8 Cranch) 421
Under the eighth section of the Prize Act of June 26, 1812, the President had full authority to issue the instruction of 28 August, 1812.
The commissions of the privateers of the United States may be qualified and retained by the instructions of the President.
A shipment, made even after a knowledge of the war, is to be considered as having been made in consequence of the repeal of the orders in council if made within so early a period thereafter as would leave a reasonable presumption that the knowledge of that repeal would induce a suspension of hostilities on the part of the United States.
By the mere act of illicit intercourse, the property of a citizen is not divested ipso facto; it is only liable to be condemned as enemy property or as adhering to the enemy if rightfully captured during the voyage.
The President's instruction of 28 August, 1812, was meant to protect all British merchandise on board an American ship, without any exception on account of British proprietary interest.
The ship Thomas Gibbons sailed from Liverpool for Savannah, on 16 August, 1812, was captured on 12 October following on the high seas, off Tybee Lighthouse, and, the same day, brought into the port of Savannah as prize to the privateer Atas.
The ship and cargo were under the protection of a special license, dated 21 July, 1812, and conceived in the usual terms of the document usually denominated the Sidmouth license, except that in this instance the protection was extended to the return voyage back to Liverpool, there to discharge the cargo and receive freight if it should be found not to be allowable for the vessel and cargo to enter the ports of the United States.
The clearance from Liverpool, 13 August, 1812, mentioned the ship as being released in consequence of her license from an embargo laid on American vessels.
The cargo, shipped at Liverpool by sundry British merchants, was consigned to sundry commercial houses at Savannah and was claimed by the respective consignees -- by some in their own behalf and by others in behalf of their correspondents in the interior.
From the evidence introduced into the cause it appeared that part of the goods, although expressed to be on account and risk of the consignees, was shipped without previous orders or authority; that some of them were shipped under general orders (transmitted in time of peace) to ship goods; others under particular orders given during the operation of the orders in council and the nonintercourse act, such as to ship "when the trade opened," "at a proper season," "as soon as it was legal to ship to the United States," &c., and lastly that some of them were shipped with an understanding that they were to become the property of the citizen consignee upon arriving at the port of destination.
The commission of the Atas was granted on 24 September, 1812, and was accompanied by a copy of the President's instruction to privateers of 28 August, 1812, by which the public and private armed vessels of the United States are directed not to interrupt
"any vessels belonging to citizens of the United States coming from British ports to the United States laden with British merchandise in consequence of the alleged repeal of the British orders in council. "