The Brig Short Staple and Cargo v. United States,
Annotate this Case
13 U.S. 55 (1815)
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U.S. Supreme Court
The Brig Short Staple and Cargo v. United States, 13 U.S. 9 Cranch 55 55 (1815)
The Brig Short Staple and Cargo v. United States
13 U.S. (9 Cranch) 55
If a vessel be captured by a superior force and a prize master and a small force be put on board, it is not the duty of the master and crew of the captured vessel to attempt to rescue her, for they may thereby expose the vessel to condemnation, although otherwise innocent.
This was an appeal from the sentence of the Circuit Court for the District of Massachusetts, which affirmed that of the district court condemning the brig Short Staple and cargo.
The facts of the case are thus stated by THE CHIEF JUSTICE in delivering the opinion of the court.
This vessel was libeled in the District Court of Massachusetts in March, 1809, for having violated the embargo
laws of the United States by sailing to a foreign port. The fact is admitted by the claimants, who allege in justification of it that the vessel was captured while on her voyage to Boston by a British armed vessel and carried into St. Nichola Mole, where the government of the place seized the cargo.
It appeared in evidence that the Short Staple sailed from Boston about 10 October, 1808, with instructions to procure a cargo of flour and return therewith to Boston unless the embargo should be removed before the commencement of her return voyage, in which case she was directed to proceed to the Island of Gaudaloupe. At Baltimore she took on board a cargo of flour, and sailed thence for Boston about 28 October. She was detained several days in Hampton Roads by contrary winds. During this detention, the British armed vessel Ino put into Hampton Roads for the purpose of repairing some damage sustained in a storm on the coast. The Ino had been in the port of Boston while the Short Staple lay there, and had cleared out for the Cape of Good Hope, though her real destination was Jamaica. The reason her captain has since assigned for this imposition was that by clearing out for the Cape of Good Hope, he was allowed to take on board a larger supply of provisions than would have been allowed had he cleared out for any port in the West Indies.
As soon as the wind was favorable, the Short Staple, together with another vessel likewise bound from Baltimore to Boston, called the William King, put to sea and was followed by the Ino, which soon overtook them and took possession of them both as prize, alleging that they were bound to a French island. The captor put a prize master and two hands on board the Short Staple and sailed in company with them until they fell in with a British ship of war. The captain of the Ino directed the prize master to meet the ship of war and submit to her orders, while the Ino, dreading that her hands might be impressed, made sail to the windward and escaped. After their papers had been examined, the Short Staple and the William King were permitted to proceed on their voyage and were carried into St. Nichola Mole, the place appointed by the captain of the Ino for
meeting them when he was separated from them by the ship of war. They arrived at the Mole about two days after parting from the Ino, which followed them and entered the port soon after them. The government of the place insisted on detaining one of the vessels, as provisions were scarce at the Mole, and the Short Staple was given up to them. Her cargo was landed under the direction of the government, and purchased at about $32 per barrel. Having received about $1,200 in part pay for the cargo, the captain of the Short Staple sailed to Turk's Island and loaded her with a cargo of salt, with which he returned to a port in Massachusetts, where his vessel was seized as having violated the embargo laws. The William King appears to have been carried to Jamaica and there liberated without having been libeled. The Short Staple was condemned in both the district and circuit courts, and the case is brought before this Court by writ of error.