Mason v. The Ship Blaireau
Annotate this Case
6 U.S. 240 (1804)
U.S. Supreme Court
Mason v. The Ship Blaireau, 6 U.S. 2 Cranch 240 240 (1804)
Mason v. The Ship Blaireau
6 U.S. (2 Cranch) 240
Salvage. One-third of the gross proceeds of the ship and cargo allowed as salvage, one-third of which was allowed to the owners of the saving vessel and cargo, which was divided between the owner of the vessel and the charterers, who were owners of the cargo.
Apprentices to the owners of the saving vessel, who are entitled to a portion of the salvage adjudged to those who were actively engaged in the saving, are entitled to the portions allowed to them, and the same does not belong to their master.
The right of the master to the earnings of his apprentice in the way of his business or of any other business which is substituted for it is different from a right to his extraordinary earnings, which do not interfere with the profits the master may derive from his services.
When a seaman had been left by the master of the vessel, which he, with all those who belonged to her, had abandoned as a wreck on the ocean, and the seaman assisted in bringing the wreck and cargo into a place of safety, where they were libeled for salvage, the Court allowed the seaman a portion of the amount adjudged to the salvors. The principles of policy which withhold from the mariners of a ship their wages on her being lost and which deny them salvage for saving their ship, however great the peril may be, do not apply to this case.
If we search for the motives for the very ample reward for services rendered at sea in saving property from peril, we shall find them in a liberal and enlarged policy. The allowance for such services (one very much exceeding the mere risk encountered and labor employed in effecting them) is intended as an inducement to render them, which it is for the public interests and for the general interests of humanity to hold forth to those who navigate the ocean. It is perhaps difficult on any other principle to account satisfactorily for the very great difference which is made between the retribution which is allowed for services at sea and on land; neither will a fair calculation of the real hazard or labor be a foundation for such a difference; nor will the benefit received always account for it.
The captain of the saving vessel, having embezzled a part of the property saved, forfeits all claim to salvage. If a wise and humane policy be among the essential principles which induce a continuance in the allowance of that liberal compensation which is made for saving a vessel at sea, we must at once perceive the ground on which it is refused to the person whose conduct ought to be punished instead of rewarded.
The salvage allowed to a slave who was one of the salvors was adjudged to his master, the master having agreed to manumit the slave and to pay him one-fifth of the sum allowed him as a salvor.
The French merchant ship The Blaireau, laden with sugar and coffee and bound from Martinique to Bordeaux on the night of 30 March, was run down by the Spanish sixty-four gun ship called the St. Julien, in latitude 3546' north, longitude 46 west from Paris. The Blaireau was greatly injured by the encounter, and before morning there were three feet water in her hold. The Spanish commander pursuing his regular course, and not being able to wait for an attempt to repair the Blaireau, took her crew and passengers on board his ship, excepting one of the seamen, Thomas Toole, an Irishman, who could not be found, as was asserted in their protest by the officers and crew of the Blaireau; but he alleged that he was prevented in the first instance by force and the refusal of permission to accompany them and afterwards he remained voluntarily on board the Blaireau. Being alone with the wreck, Toole, as he asserted, endeavored to repair the brig, put her before the wind and hoisted a signal of distress. In this situation she was found the next day by the ship Firm, bound from Lisbon to Baltimore. The persons on board the Firm were Mr. Christie, one of her charterers; the master, William Mason; a mate, William Stevenson;
a carpenter, boatswain, and cook; six seamen; a boy; two apprentices to the owners of the Firm; and a negro, Tom, a slave of the Rev. Mr. Ireland.
The Firm was about three hundred and sixty tons burden, carpenter's measure, carrying about five hundred tons of cargo; her value was $10,000; she was owned in London by John Jackson, and was chartered to Charles B. Young and Charles Christie, who had a cargo on board of her of the value of $4,000. The proper complement of men for the Blaireau was sixteen hands, and she sailed faster than the Firm. The sum of 2,000 sterling was insured on the Firm. She remained with the Blaireau two days while she was proceeding to Baltimore, took out part of her cargo, and rendered her every assistance.
When the Blaireau was taken possession of, she had about four feet of water in her hold, and could not have floated twelve hours longer. There was great risk and peril in taking charge of her. She was brought into Chesapeake Bay, after a navigation of nearly three thousand miles, by six persons who went on board of her from the Firm, and by Toole who was found on board. Part of her cargo was taken out of her and put on board the Firm to lighten her, and part was shifted aft. The Blaireau was navigated by the people of the Firm, without boat or anchors. She required to be pumped every two, three, or four hours in fair weather, and in blowing weather every hour. The bow was secured by a covering of leather, copper, and
sheet lead nailed on, and pitch and turpentine in large quantities poured down hot between the planks and the coverings. The labor of the working the Blaireau by the men on board was great and severe, and they had frequently thought of abandoning her, but fortunately persevered. She was a slight built vessel, and constructed without knees, and was very weak. The forestay was gone, and the foremast was secured by passing a large rope through the hawse holes and securing it to the foremast head. It was the opinion of several experienced sea captains that the bringing in the Blaireau was a service of great risk and peril, and nearly desperate, and such as they would not have undertaken.
The persons who went on board the Blaireau from the Firm were Charles Christie, supercargo and one of the charterers of the Firm; William Stevenson, first mate; John Brown Hall and John Wilson, seamen; John Moat a boy, and negro Tom.
Mason, the master, and Stevenson, the mate, were the only persons capable of taking an observation and navigating the vessels or either of them into port.
It was in evidence that William Mason the master of the Firm, had embezzled part of the cargo of the Blaireau, to the amount of $1,760.71.
The French consul put in a claim to the Blaireau and cargo on behalf of the owners.
On 14 July, 1803, the judge of the district court, the honorable James Winchester, made the following decree:
"The counsel for the parties respectively intervening in this cause were heard by the court, and their argument, together with all and singular the proceedings and testimony in this cause, were by the court maturely considered."
"And it appearing to the court that the circumstances of extreme danger under which the salvage of the ship Blaireau and cargo was effected require a salvage and compensation as liberal as is consistent with precedents and legal principles; that the danger,
labor, and service of the persons actually employed in navigating and bringing in the said ship greatly exceeded the danger, labor, and service of the persons who remained on board the ship Firm, and that their compensation should exceed at the rate of fifty percent the compensation of those who remained on board the ship Firm; that among the persons on board the Blaireau, the station, trust, and services of William Stevenson and Charles Christie entitle them to a compensation exceeding that of seamen at the rate of fifty percent, and that the apprentices, cook, and negro slave should not be classed with seamen, nor seamen with the carpenter and second mate, and there not being any general rule by which to settle the proportions of salvage among persons of those different stations, but that the same must depend upon the sound discretion of the court applied to the circumstances of every particular case; that William Mason, Captain of the said ship Firm, having fraudulently embezzled and secreted, with intent to appropriate the same to his own use, lace and other articles of a large value which constituted a part of the cargo of the said ship Blaireau, is not entitled to any salvage or other compensation; that in strictness, the officers and crew are the only salvors, and the owners of the ship Firm and cargo, as such, can only come in for any share of salvage upon the consideration of the risk to which their property was exposed; that upon these principles, salvage should be paid to and among the persons entitled thereto at the rate of three-fifths of the net proceeds of the sales of the said ship and cargo, and that of this sum, one-ninth part of the net salvage will be a just and liberal compensation to the owners of that ship and her cargo for any hazard to which their property was exposed."
"It is this 14 July, 1803, by me, James Winchester, Judge of the District Court of the United States for Maryland District, and by the power and authority of this Court, ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the net amount of sales of the said ship Blaireau, her tackle, apparel, and furniture and cargo, after deducting the costs in the cause, and the sum of $388 heretofore decreed by consent to Charles Christie for expenses and disbursements relative to the said ship Blaireau and cargo,
amounting as stated by the clerk of this court, to the sum of $60,272.68, shall be paid, applied and disposed of to and among the persons and in the manner following, to-wit: "
"To the owners of the ship Firm and cargo, the sum of $4,018.14 3/4, to be divided between them in the proportions of their respective interests agreeably to the admitted estimation thereof, to-wit: "
"To the owners of the ship Firm for the value of the said ship and freight, $18,000, and"
"To the owners of the cargo of the said ship, $4,000."
"To the persons on board the said ship Blaireau as follows, to-wit: "
"To William Stevenson, the sum of $3,403.63 1/4."
"To Charles Christie, the sum of $3,403.63 1/4."
"To Brown Hall, John Wilson, and Thomas Toole, seamen, each the sum of $2,269.08 3/4."
"To John Moat, an apprentice boy, the sum of $1,134.54 3/4."
"And that there be retained a like sum of $1,134.54 3/4 in this court to and for the benefit of such person or persons as may hereafter make title to the same as owner or owners of the said negro Tom."
"To the persons on board the said ship Firm, as follows, to-wit, "
"To John Blackford second mate, the sum of $1,890.90 3/4."
"To John Falconer, carpenter, the sum of $1,890.93 3/4."
"To George Glass, the cook, and John McMon, an apprentice, each the sum of $1,756.36 3/4."
"To Daniel Ross, Samuel Monk, Martin Burk, Mark Catlin, and Joachim Daysontas, sailors of the Firm, the sum of $1,512.73 each."
"That no salvage or compensation whatever shall, for the cause above recited, be paid to the said William Mason, but that the libel in this cause filed, so far as it relates to the claim of the said Mason personally and only, shall stand, and the same is hereby dismissed."
"And it is by these presents further ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the residue of the proceeds of the sales aforesaid shall be deposited in the Bank of Baltimore in the name of this court and to the credit of this cause to the use and benefit of such person or persons as may in this court make title thereto as owner or owners of the said ship Blaireau and cargo or such person or persons as may be legally authorized by them to receive the same."
From this decree appeals were entered by the salvors, the charterers of the Firm, and the French consul.
Mr. Justice Chase, in the circuit court, on 27 December, 1803, decreed as follows:
"The court having heard the parties on the appeal in this cause by their counsel and fully examined the evidence, exhibits and proofs, and maturely considered the same, does order, adjudge and decree, and it is hereby ordered, adjudged and decreed by the said court that the decree of the said district court be and hereby is in all things affirmed, and (with respect to the said Mason with the costs of his appeal) except only so far as the said decree shall hereinafter by this decree be changed or altered."
"And it is now further ordered, adjudged, and decreed by this Court as follows, to-wit: "
"That there be paid to John Jackson, of St. Paul's Parish in the County of Middlesex, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (who appears to this court to be the owner of the ship Firm) the sum of $2,870.12 and eight dimes, on the amount of the value of the said ship estimated at the sum of $10,000."
"That there be paid to Charles Bedford Young and Charles Christie, Jr. (who appear to this Court to be the owners of the cargo on board the said ship Firm), the sum of $1,148.05 on the amount of the value of the said cargo, estimated at the sum of $4,000."
"That there be paid to William Stevenson the sum of $2,269,08 and nine dimes."
"That the salvage money adjudged by the district court and affirmed by this court to be paid to John Moat (who appears to this court to be an apprentice to the above named John Jackson, owner of the ship Firm) be paid by the clerk of this court to the said John Moat or to his proctor or attorney in fact for the use and benefit of the said John Moat, and that the said salvage money be not paid to the said John Jackson or to his
attorney or to any other person or persons whatsoever who shall claim the said salvage money as owner or master of the said apprentice, and that the said salvage money remain in court until paid according to this decree."
"That the salvage money adjudged by the district court and affirmed by this court to be paid to John McMon (who appears to this court to be an apprentice to the above named John Jackson) be paid by the clerk of this court to the said John McMon, or to his proctor or attorney in fact, for the use and benefit of the said John McMon, and that the said salvage money be not paid to the said John Jackson or to his attorney or to any other person or persons whatsoever who shall claim the said salvage money as owner or master of the said apprentice, and that the said salvage money remain in court until paid according to this decree."
"That the salvage money adjudged by the district court and affirmed by this court to be retained for the owner of negro Tom, be paid to the Rev. John Ireland (late of this state, but now of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) who appears to this court to be the owner of the said negro Tom, or to the Rev. Joseph G. I. Bend, and Lewis Atterbury, who appear to this court to be the attorneys in fact of the said John Ireland and who have expressed in writing to this court that they, being duly authorized by the said John Ireland, will immediately on the receipt of the said salvage money manumit the said negro Tom, according to the law of the State of Maryland, and will pay the said negro Tom one-fifth part of the said salvage money, and have consented that the same may be retained by the clerk of this court for the use of the said negro Tom."
"And it is further ordered, adjudged, and decreed that the appellants (except William Mason) pay no costs in this court on the appeal. "
The case was removed to this Court by writs of error on behalf of all the parties in the circuit court.
William Mason the master of the Firm, assigned for error that no salvage had been allowed to him. John Jackson, the owner of the Firm, assigned for error that he was not allowed a reasonable portion of the salvage, that nothing should have been allowed to the freighters, and that the sums allowed to the apprentices ought to have been adjudged to him. William Stevenson claimed a greater amount as salvage.
The freighters of the Firm claimed a greater portion of the salvage for the charterers and owners, and that the amount allowed to them as charterers was not sufficient.
The French consul representing the claimants of the Blaireau, assigned for error 1. that the whole amount of salvage was more than in equity and good conscience the salvors were entitled to, and that it ought not to have exceeded one-third of the value of the ship and cargo; 2. that Toole having shipped as a mariner on board the Blaireau at certain wages, was not entitled to salvage; 3. that William Mason, the master of the Firm, had forfeited all right to salvage by reason of his embezzlement of part of the cargo of the Blaireau.