United States v. Guillem
Annotate this Case
52 U.S. 47 (1850)
U.S. Supreme Court
United States v. Guillem, 52 U.S. 11 How. 47 47 (1850)
United States v. Guillem
52 U.S. (11 How.) 47
A neutral leaving a belligerent country, in which he was domiciled at the commencement of the war, is entitled to the rights of a neutral in his person and property as soon as he sails from the hostile port.
The property he takes with him is not liable to condemnation for a breach of blockade by the vessel in which he embarks, when entering or departing from the port, unless he knew of the intention of the vessel to break it in going out.
Baptiste Guillem, a French citizen, was domiciled in Mexico and had resided there about three years before the war with the United States was declared. His occupation was that of cook in a hotel, and he was engaged in it in Vera Cruz when hostilities with this country commenced. He was not naturalized, and had taken no steps to become a citizen of Mexico. He continued in Vera Cruz, pursuing his ordinary business, until he learned that an attack was about to be made on the city, by sea and land, by the forces of the United States. He immediately prepared to leave the country and return to France with his family, carrying with him all the money he had saved. He intended to embark in the British steamer, which was expected to arrive at Vera Cruz early in March, 1847, and obtained a passport from the French consul for that purpose. But the steamship was wrecked on the Island of Cuba, and did not reach Vera Cruz, and Guillem was still in that city when General Scott landed and closely besieged it.
The port of Vera Cruz had been blockaded by the naval
forces of the United States from the commencement of the war. When the land forces arrived, and the siege was about to commence, General Scott and Commodore Perry who commanded the blockading squadron agreed to leave the blockade open to the consuls and other neutrals, to pass out to their respective ships of war, until 22 March, after which all communication with the besieged city was interdicted.
On 13 March, a French vessel called La Jeune Nelly came into the port, having run the blockade. She came in in the daytime, with her colors flying, nor is there any evidence in the record to show that it was known in Vera Cruz that she had come into port without permission from the blockading ships. She sailed again on 19 March, bound for Havre in open day and without manifesting any desire for concealment, but yet in breach of the blockade. But there was no evidence that Guillem knew she came in or was sailing out in breach of the blockade. Guillem took passage on board of this vessel with his family, and took with him in gold and silver two thousand eight hundred and sixty dollars -- the whole amount of his three years' earnings in Mexico. The Jeune Nelly had no cargo, and sailed in ballast. The money of Guillem was not shipped as cargo, nor invoiced, but was taken with him as a part of his personal effects. The money was chiefly in two bags, which were kept in his stateroom, but a part of it was in a belt about his person.
The Jeune Nelly was captured by the blockading squadron a few hours after she sailed, and on the night following was wrecked and totally lost on one of the islands near the port, but the passengers, crew, and all the money and property on board, were saved. The passengers and crew were immediately released, and the money of Guillem and other property on board were taken possession of by the orders of Commodore Perry, and sent to New Orleans for adjudication. It was libeled in the district court, and condemned as lawfully seized. Guillem appealed from this decree to the circuit court, where it was reversed, and the money in question directed to be restored and refunded to him. The captors appealed from this last-mentioned decree to the supreme court.
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