United States v. The Brig Malek Adhel
Annotate this Case
43 U.S. 210 (1844)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. The Brig Malek Adhel, 43 U.S. 2 How. 210 210 (1844)
United States v. The Brig Malek Adhel
43 U.S. (2 How.) 210
Under the Act of Congress of March 3, 1819, ch. 75 (200), to protect the commerce of the United States and punish the crime of piracy, any armed vessel may be seized and brought in, or any vessel the crew whereof may be armed, and which shall have attempted or committed any piratical aggression, search, restraint, depredation, or seizure upon any vessel, and such offending vessel may be condemned and sold, the proceeds whereof to be distributed between the United States and the captors, at the discretion of the court.
It is no matter whether the vessel be armed for offense or defense, provided she commits the unlawful acts specified.
To bring a vessel within the act, it is not necessary that there should be either actual plunder or an intent to plunder; if the act be committed from hatred, or an abuse of power, or a spirit of mischief, it is sufficient.
The word "piratical" in the act is not to be limited in its construction to such acts as by the laws of nations are denominated piracy, but includes such as pirates are in the habit of committing.
A piratical aggression, search, restraint, or seizure is as much within the act as a piratical depredation.
The innocence or ignorance on the part of the owner of these prohibited acts, will not exempt the vessel from condemnation.
The condemnation of the cargo is not authorized by the act of 1819.
Neither does the law of nations require the condemnation of the cargo for petty offenses, unless the owner thereof cooperates in, and authorizes the unlawful act. An exception exists in the enforcement of belligerent rights.
Costs in the admiralty are in the sound discretion of the court, and no appellate court should interfere with that discretion, unless under peculiar circumstances.
Although not per se the proper subject of an appeal, yet they can be taken notice of incidentally, as connected with the principal decree.
In the present case, as the innocence of the owners was established, it was proper to throw the costs upon the vessel, which was condemned, to the exclusion of the cargo, which was liberated.
On or about 30 June, 1840, the brig Malek Adhel sailed from New York bound to Guayamas, in California, under the command of Joseph Nunez. The vessel was armed with a cannon and
some ammunition, and there were also pistols and daggers on board. It appeared from the evidence, which is hereinafter particularly set forth, that she stopped several vessels upon the high seas, and at length put into the port of Fayal, where she remained for some days. Departing thence, she arrived at Bahia, in Brazil, about the twenty-first of August, 1840, where she was seized by the Enterprise, a vessel of war belonging to the United States, and sent into the port of Baltimore for adjudication. A libel was there filed against vessel and cargo upon five counts, all founded upon the act of Congress to protect the commerce of the United States, and to punish the crime of piracy, passed on 3 March, 1819, ch. 76, (200). Two other counts were afterwards added in an amended information, charging the acts complained of to have been done in violation of the laws of nations.
A claim was filed for the brig, her tackle, apparel, furniture, and cargo, on behalf of Peter Harmony, Leonardo Swarez, and Bernard Graham.
The evidence produced upon the trial in the district court, will be recapitulated when the proceedings before the circuit court are stated; under which evidence the case was argued, together with the following admission of the proctors for the United States:
"v. District Court, United States"
"The Malek Adhel and cargo"
"The proctors of the United States in this case admit, for the purposes of this case, and to have the same effect as if fully proven, that the claimants were, when the Malek Adhel left New York, the exclusive owners of that vessel, and were such owners during the period the acts stated in the information are alleged by the United States to have been done. And they also admit that the claimants never contemplated or authorized said acts. They further admit that the equipments of the said vessel when she left New York, and ever afterwards, were the usual equipments of a vessel of her class, on an innocent commercial voyage from that port to Guayamas, the voyage stated in the evidence in this case."
"and REVERDY JOHNSON"
"Proctors for the United States"
"Baltimore, 15 June, 1841"
The district court condemned the vessel, restored the cargo to the claimants, apportioned a part of the costs upon the claimants, and directed the residue to be deducted from the proceeds of the property
condemned. Both parties appealed from this decree; the claimants from the condemnation of the vessel, and the United States from that part of it which restored the cargo.
The cause came before the circuit court upon the evidence which had been given before the district court (reduced to writing by consent), and upon additional evidence which is set forth in the following deposition. It was corroborated in its main points by the evidence of two other persons.
John Myers, a witness, produced and examined on the part of the United States, deposes as follows:
"That he was not first mate when he joined the Malek Adhel; Peterson was first mate; witness joined her 23d June, 1840. On Friday, afterwards, Peterson came on board, hauled the vessel out into the stream. On Sunday, Captain Nunez told Peterson to go on shore on account of a quarrel; Peterson was intoxicated; witness was then made first mate; witness told the captain, that one of the crew (W. R. Crocker) was competent to go out as second mate, and he was then promoted to that office. On Tuesday, 30 June, took pilot, got under weigh about ten or eleven o'clock that day, and went to sea; discharged the pilot on afternoon of same day; fourth or fifth day out, captain said the chronometer wouldn't speak, had forgotten to wind it up; on 6 July, saw a vessel standing to the northward, and we to the eastward, five or six miles apart; ran down to the vessel and hove main topsail back; ran to leeward and then to windward of her, and fired a blank cartridge; hailed the vessel and asked 'where from?' they said from Savannah, bound to Liverpool; we hailed her again, and told her to send her boat alongside; she sent her boat with four men and an officer, and they came alongside; Captain Nunez asked if they had a chronometer; officer in the boat said he did not know whether they had or not; would go on board and see; went on board and returned in about half an hour with a chronometer; brought it on board, and while we were regulating our chronometer, our captain and four men went on board the other vessel, which was the 'Madras, of Hull;' captain stayed on board a short time and then returned; they then took their chronometer and returned to their vessel, the Madras; while we were hoisting our boat up and securing her, the Madras made sail; as soon as the boat was secured, we ran to leeward some distance, and fired another blank cartridge, but not in the direction of the Madras, and then proceeded on our own course."
9 or 10 July, a vessel was standing to the westward, we to the eastward; captain said he would run after the vessel and catch her, as he wanted to send a letter to New York; made sail after her, and finding we did not come up very fast, we fired a blank cartridge; they still not taking any notice, our captain told the man to load a gun with shot; loaded the gun with shot and fired, when the other vessel hove her main topsail back; we were about half a mile apart; we both had our American flag flying at first; when the second shot was fired, Captain Nunez ordered the Mexican or Columbian flag to be hoisted; we then hailed; they said they were from Liverpool, bound to Charleston; her name was the brig 'Sullivan;' she was an American vessel; had 'Sullivan, New York,' on her stern; hailed her and told her to send a boat alongside; while they were coming, our captain told Martin (called Peter Roberts in the shipping articles) to tell the crew not to speak any English, while the boat was alongside; this order the captain first told him in Spanish, then in English; when the boat came alongside, they asked where we were from; captain told Martin in Spanish, to say, we were from Vera Cruz, bound to Barcelona, and out forty-five days; Martin did so; our captain then told him we wanted some lamp oil; the officer in the other boat said he did not know whether they had any, but he would go on board and see; when they reached their own vessel, they hoisted their boat, and proceeded on their course; we had lamp oil sufficient to last us twelve months; after they proceeded on their course, we made sail likewise; ran to leeward and fired a shot at her; this fire our captain ordered Martin to make; he (Martin) generally acted as gunner. Martin belonged to Malaga, and spoke Spanish; at the time of second fire, the vessels were about an eighth of a mile apart, hailing distance; we then kept on, and she did the same; the gun was fired at her; we were then standing to eastward, she to westward; did not see where the ball struck."
"The next vessel we saw and spoke, was the Ten Brothers; this was two or three days after the affair with the Sullivan; passed her without doing anything. Next vessel we met was the 'Vigilant, of New castle, England;' spoke her; she showed English colors; hailed her, and told her to send her boat alongside; she did so. Nunez asked if they had a chronometer; they said that they had none; they were out of water, and wanted bread; we gave them two small barrels and some bread, by our captain's orders; we went on our course. The next vessel we met was the San Domingo,
two days afterwards; our captain was acquainted with the passengers on board; he asked them to dine with him, which they did; after they left, Captain Nunez told witness that the passenger had been a slaver, and was just returning from a prosperous voyage; the vessel belonged to Terceira, one of the Western Islands; she was Portuguese; we laid together that night, and the next morning the Portuguese sent on board of us to buy provisions; we then parted company, and two or three days after, went into Fayal; Nunez said his intention in going to Fayal, was to repair the vessel, and get his chronometer rated; remained there five or six days; had one carpenter employed four days, who did some slight work; he made a side ladder and some awning extensions, and put her to her head to find out leak. The principal leak was about eight or ten inches above the water line; the vessel leaked at sea, but not at Fayal; leaked as bad after we left there as she did before; the place of the leak discovered at Rio; there never having been oakum at all in that part of the seam, could put a knife in the seam; leak came into cabin; that leak was not stopped at Fayal."
"We took in at Fayal, potatoes, bread, and beef, for the use of the crew; we also took in two men as passengers, and a cabin boy; one of the passengers was named Silvie and the other Curry; the boy is here; the last I saw of the passengers was at Rio; got under weight from Fayal on Tuesday; do not know whether Nunez knew the two passengers before he saw them at Fayal; came to anchor and waited until Wednesday; there was a pleasure party to come on board to said about the harbor; in attempting to tack she missed stays, captain at the helm; missed stays a second time; we were about twenty yards from the rocks; Nunez knew nothing of the usages of an American vessel before we left New York; I always worked the vessel myself; Nunez might have known, but he did not speak English well enough to make the men understand. After the sailing match about the harbor, we left Fayal with the whaling vessel Minerva, from New Bedford; Nunez went on board of her and took the chronometer to have it rated; had done nothing with it at Fayal; Nunez knew nothing about managing chronometer, though it is the captain's duty. Captain Nunez remained on board the Minerva five or six hours; he went on shore at Fayal before we had our sails furled; he went in a shore boat. After Nunez came from the Minerva we made sail and proceeded on our course; he brought chronometer with him; next day, we saw a vessel
standing to westward with all sail set, going directly before the wind; we were standing to southward; Nunez ordered to chase her; finding we did not come up very fast we fired, by Nunez's orders, a blank cartridge towards her; she still went on her course; Nunez ordered one of the guns to be shotted and fired at her, which was done; she then hove her maintop back; we were then about a mile astern of her; we rounded to, to fire at her; we came up, hailed her; she said she was from Palermo, bound to Boston; she was the Emily Wilder; told her to send her boat alongside with their chronometer; they came alongside with the chronometer; we rated ours by it; I rated it and found a difference of time, and noted it in the log book; after comparing the time of the two, they then took chronometer and went on board again; I made the entry in the log book; we each made sail and stood on our course; they asked us no questions, except where we were from; Nunez said, from New York, bounded around Cape Horn; we stood to southward until 4th of August; the day before, captain said he was going to Rio; I told him it was a bad place to go, because it was a rendezvous for American vessels of war; on the 4th of August Nunez came on deck about half-past seven in the evening, and found fault with some orders witness had been giving, and Nunez told me that he did not want me to do more work on board the ship, and I accordingly went off duty; we ran on our course; that night Captain Nunez had the watch from eight to twelve; I heard a noise on board, went up and saw a vessel close ahead on the weather bow; when we came up Nunez hailed her, and told them to heave the maintop back; they did so, and we did the same; this was about ten o'clock at night; hailed them again and told them to send their boat aboard of us with the captain and his papers; this they said they could not do as their boat leaked and the night was dark; Nunez then got angry and told us to double shot the gun; it was done, and fired towards the strange vessel; Martin directed the gun; we were within close hailing distance."
"Curry, the forementioned passenger, then hailed in English and told them again to send their boat; the other captain answered in Portuguese or Spanish. Curry told witness that the answer was 'they might sink their brig, but he could not come on board.' Nunez then told us to lower out boat and go on board the strange brig; Curry, Crocker, the second mate, Peter Roberts, (Martin) John Gray and Dill or Smith, then went on board the stranger; Curry and Crocker had each a pair of pistols, they were buckled in a belt
round their bodies; our boat returned in about three quarters of an hour with Curry and the captain of the strange brig, and three of her men; Curry and the captain came on board the Malek Adhel, the men remained in their boat alongside; the strange captain gave Nunez a tin box with the ship's papers, I believe; ship's papers are carried in such boxes. Curry and Captain Nunez took them down below; strange captain remained on deck; I saw them down the companion way, examining the papers in the cabin; they had them about a quarter of an hour, and then brought them up and gave them to the Portuguese captain; Nunez spoke English and told Curry to tell strange captain he must may twenty dollars for the shot Nunez had fired at him, and ten dollars for a keg of oil which had been knocked over by the recoil of the gun. Nunez also told Curry in English to look and see if there were any guns and powder on board the other vessel, and if there were any, to spike the guns and bring the powder on board, and see if any sweetmeats were on board, and bring them on board also; then they shoved off, Curry with them, and went to the Portuguese vessel; Nunez told me that the Portuguese vessel was from Rio Grande, bound to Oporto, with a cargo of hides and horns; in half an hour after our boat returned with those who originally went on board the Portuguese vessel, and brought a jar of sweetmeats, one dog, and twenty dollars for the shot; after the boat was secured Captain Nunez put me on duty again; this was two o'clock in the morning; Curry told me he had got twenty dollars for the shot, but was ashamed to ask for the other ten for the oil; I saw Curry give the captain the money in Spanish dollars; Curry said he wouldn't take Brazilian money, which was first offered him by the Portuguese captain; after that we left the vessel and proceeded on our course. The next vessel we met was on 10 or 12 August; they were standing to northward, we to southward; when she came abeam of us, she tacked ship and went in the same direction with us; in about two hours after we hove our maintop back and ran foul of each other; Captain Nunez got enraged and told them to shot the gun and fire at the stranger; it was done; we fired a second shot; Nunez ordered the second shot."
"When the first shot was fired, we were within close hailing distance, and also, when each shot was fired; we fired five times, gun shotted each time. After our fifth fire, all our powder was gone. Nunez then told Martin something witness did not understand, and Martin then told the crew, he (Captain Nunez) said he would give
$500 to any volunteers of his crew, who would go and bring the captain aboard. Nunez asked me to go. I told him, I did not like it. He told me not to be afraid, and gave me his dirk; I threw the dirk down on the deck, and said to Nunez, I was afraid to go on board with the boat, for fear they would throw something in the long boat and sink her, when we were alongside. Nunez said he wanted to bring the other captain on board the Malek, and give him twenty-five lashes; we were then some distance astern. Nunez told Martin to take two men, Dell and Helm, and go on board; they did so, and remained half an hour; they returned and brought back with them the time. I saw one shot go through the flying jib; it was the second shot. When Martin came back, he told Nunez he must send his chronometer with an officer, and rate it; I took the chronometer, went on board the other vessel, and rated it. Strange captain asked me why Nunez had fired at him; I said I did not know; the captain had ordered it. He asked me where we were bound. I said, 'God only knows.' When I returned to the Malek Adhel, I told Nunez what had happened, and he laughed. The strange brig was the Albert; she was an English brig and bound to Rio; her stern sign was disfigured; she had English colors flying. We then proceeded on our course, and made the Brazils about the 20th or 21st of August; the land was some miles north of Cape Antonio. The passengers on board told me they were to go to Bahia. We got to Bahia about six o'clock in the evening, and Curry, Silvie, and the captain went ashore. They came on board again about nine o'clock next morning, and Nunez told me to make ready to clear the cargo, as he was going to repair his vessel. Nunez stayed about half an hour on board and went ashore again. Next morning got all clear, and about half-past eleven Nunez came on board; the men told me they would do no more work until they saw the American consul; this was told me before Nunez came on board; when he came, I told him; he asked me if I wanted to see the consul too. I said 'Yes.' He then said, 'Very well, I will go ashore and see.' He went on shore, and the next morning between nine and ten o'clock, he came on board again."
"He told me to tell all the crew, who wanted to see the consul, to come aft, and go on the larboard side; the whole crew went on the larboard side, Martin among them. The second mate, Mr. Crocker, and four or five men, went on shore that day; they stayed on shore until about three o'clock, and then returned. Captain Nunez came on board
the next morning, and told me the consul wanted to see me, and that I must go on shore with him. We went to the consul's office, and he asked me about these charges. I had kept an account of some small transactions on a piece of paper; I gave it to the consul. The captain said I could be discharged, if I desired it; but the consul said, 'Not until the affair was settled.' By small transactions, witness means the firing &c., Captain Nunez admitted that it was all right, as I had put it down. I told the American consul the same story as I am now telling. When we were going ashore, Nunez said, 'Suppose I sell the brig, how much she worth?' He also said one man had offered to give him $22,000 for her. I told him I did not know how much she was worth. I stayed on shore until two o'clock, and then went on board again; that night, about one or two o'clock, a vessel ran foul of us, and tore away our jib boom. The next morning while we were repairing it, the captain came on board and told me the consul wanted to see me. I went, returned afterwards on board, got my clothes and went ashore, where I remained nine or ten days; went on board, afterwards, the American brig Yankee, and remained there until the Enterprize, a United States schooner, seized and took the Malek and her crew. There were four men shipped by the captain at Bahia, after I left the brig; they were one Portuguese, one Spaniard, one English, and one American. The crew were examined in succession by the consul. We left Bahia on 26 September, under the charge of Lieut. Drayton, on board the brig; nine men and two officers were put on board; we then went to Rio; four of our crew were from the schooner Enterprize; we left Martin and the cook behind at Bahia. The day I returned from the consul's on board the Malek, Nunez and the cook had a quarrel, and Nunez struck the cook; cook said, 'When I shipped, I did not know I shipped on board a slaver.' I saw Captain Nunez at Rio, in prison. We stayed at Rio from 2 October until 1 March. We were taken before the authorities at Rio; they let the captain out of prison. I saw him afterwards walking about in Rio. I left Rio in the Malek, under the command of Lieut. Ogden, and with the crew who are now in prison, where we have been since we arrived. Lieut. Ogden had on board, besides ourselves, four men and one midshipman. I kept the log-book of the Malek; Captain Nunez got it from me, to take it to the consul the day we went before him. It was laid before the consul, and I never saw it afterwards. The log book contained some of the
particulars about the firing. [Here a book is shown to the witness.] This book was kept by the captain. Lieut. Drayton kept a log book from Bahia to Rio."
"Upon cross-examination, the witness further deposed:"
"While I was on board the Yankee, a midshipman and four men came on board and ordered me on board the schooner Enterprize. I was not imprisoned at Bahia. Peter Roberts (Martin) was among the men who went on the larboard side. I do not know whether the pistols Curry carried were loaded or not; one pistol out of the four was loaded, I know. The men who accompanied Curry were unarmed, to the best of my knowledge. The Albert answered the hail of the Malek Adhel. Our brig had her name on the stern. I saw Curry put the money down on the cabin table. I did not tell anyone I had seen the money counted out. On my examination at Bahia, I stated that Curry had told me that he had received the money. I do not recollect whether I stated then that I saw it. The cook's deposition was not taken, that I know of. Silvie and the boy were in the cabin with Nunez and Curry. I am from Philadelphia, but have sailed out of New York for the last five years. Have sailed as mate twice before. Before the offer of $500, made by Nunez to his crew to board the Albert, he had not ordered the crew, nor had they refused to go."
Further Cross-Examination of John Myers
"John Myers, upon his further cross-examination, deposed as follows:"
"We left Captain Nunez at Bahia. When we first arrived at Rio, I did not see him. The second time I went ashore, I saw him in jail. I do not known how long he remained in jail. We remained at Rio four months. I never saw Nunez after the frigate Potomac arrived. The Enterprize and the Malek Adhel went into Rio together. Nunez was at liberty on shore after the Enterprize arrived. I saw Nunez three or four days before we sailed from Rio; he told me he was going to take command again of the Malek Adhel. Martin went with the rest of the crew before the consul. I saw him in the consul's office. I never saw Martin at Rio; we left him at Bahia. I saw both Curry and Sylvie at Rio, but do not know how they got there. A vessel bound direct from Bahia to Guayamas would not stop at Rio. I did not see either Curry or Sylvie after the Potomac
arrived. I should think the Potomac was at Rio twelve or fifteen days before we sailed for home."
At November term, 1841, the circuit court affirmed the decree of the district court, dismissed the appeals, and ordered each party to pay their respective costs in that court. Both parties appealed to the Supreme Court.
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