Thirty Hogsheads of Sugar v. Boyle
Annotate this Case
13 U.S. 191 (1815)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Thirty Hogsheads of Sugar v. Boyle, 13 U.S. 9 Cranch 191 191 (1815)
Thirty Hogsheads of Sugar v. Boyle
13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 191
The produce of an enemy's colony is to be considered as hostile property so long as it belongs to the owner or the soil, whatever may be his national character in other respects, or whatever may be his place of residence.
An island in the temporary occupation of the enemy is to be considered as an enemy's colony.
In deciding a question of the law of nations, this Court will respect the decisions of foreign courts.
The law of nations is the great source from which we derive these rules respecting belligerent and neutral rights which are recognized by all civilized and commercial states throughout Europe and America. This law is in part unwritten and in part conventional. To ascertain that which is unwritten, we resort to the great principles of reason and justice, but, us these principles will be differently understood by different nations under different circumstances, we consider them as being in some degree fixed and rendered stable by a series of judicial decisions. The decisions of the courts of every country, so far as they are founded upon a law common to every country, will be received not as authority, but with respect. The decisions of the courts of every country show how the law of nations in the given case is understood in that country, and will be considered in adopting the rule which into prevail in this.
Without taking a comparative view of the justice or fairness of the rules established in the British courts and of those established in the courts of other nations, there are circumstances not to be excluded from consideration, which give to those rules a claim to our attention that we cannot entirely disregard. The United States having at one time formed a component part of the British empire, their prize law was our prize law. When we separated, it continued to be our prize law, so far as it was adapted to our circumstances, and was not varied by the power which was capable of changing it.
It will not be advanced, in consequence of this former relation between the two countries, that any obvious misconstruction of public law made by the British courts will be considered as forming a rule for the American courts, or that any recent rule of the British courts is entitled to more respect than the recent rules of other countries. But a case professing to be decided on ancient principles will not be entirely disregarded, unless it be very unreasonable or be founded on a construction rejected by other nations.
Appeal from the sentence of the Circuit Court for the District of Maryland condemning 30 hogsheads of sugar, the property of the claimant, a Danish subject, it being the produce of his plantation in Santa Cruz and shipped after the capture of that island by the British to a house in London for account and risk of the claimant, who was a Danish officer and the second in authority in the government of the island before its capture, and who, shortly after the capture, withdrew and has since resided in the United States and in Denmark. By the articles of capitulation, the inhabitants were permitted to retain their property, but could only ship the produce of the island to Great Britain. This sugar was captured in July, 1812, after the declaration of war by the United States against Great Britain, and libeled as British property.