« AnteriorContinuar »
in the service of some persons to the said Attorney unknown, to commit hostilities against the subjects, citizens, and property of the said government of Spain, with which the United States were, and now are, at peace ; (6th) “ that all and singular the matters hereinbefore secondly, thirdly, fourthly, and fifthly articulated, are all and each of them contrary to the third section of the act of Congress approved April 20th, 1818, entitled "An act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States, and to repeal the acts therein mentioned’”; and that, by reason of the premises and by virtue of the said act, the said steamship, her tackle, &c., and arms, &c., became forfeited. The prayer of the amended libel is as follows: "wherefore, the said Attorney of the United States, on behalf of the said United States, prays the usual process and monition of this Honorable Court against the said steamship, now under seizure by the Marshal of this District aforesaid, and her tackle, apparel, furniture, arms, and ammunition, in this behalf to be made, and that all persons interested in the said steamship and her tackle, apparel, furniture, arms, and ammunition aforesaid may be cited to answer the premises, and that, all due proceedings being had thereon, this Honorable Court may be pleased to decree for the forfeiture aforesaid, and that the said steamship Meteor and her tackle, &c., and arms and stores aforesaid, may be condemned for the use of the United States, according to the said act of Congress,” &c.
On the 13th of February, 1866, William F. Cary filed a claim to the vessel, her tackle, &c., which was subscribed by him and duly sworn to. The claim is in the words following: “And now William F. Cary, of the city of New York, merchant, intervening as agent for the interest of Robert B. Forbes and John M. Forbes, of Boston, in the State of Massachusetts, in the said steamship, her tackle, &c., appears before this Honorable Court, and makes claim to the said steamship, &c., &c., as the same are attached by the Marshal, under process of this Court, at the instance of the United States, and the said William F. Cary doth aver that he was in possession of the said steamship, &c., at the time of the attachment thereof, and that the persons above named are the true and bona fide sole owners of the said steamship, &c., and that no other person is the owner thereof, and the said Cary was and is the true and lawful bailee thereof, as agent and consignee; wherefore he prays to defend accordingly.”
On the same 13th of February, 1866, the said claimant William F. Cary filed his answer to the libel. The answer is as follows: “ The answer of William F. Cary, of the city of New York, intervening for the interest of his principals, Messrs. John M. Forbes and Robert B. Forbes, of Boston, in the State of Massachusetts, to the libel of information of Daniel S. Dickinson, Attorney of the United States for the Southern District of New York, who prosecutes on behalf of the said United States, against the said steamship Meteor, her tackle, apparel, and furniture, in a cause of seizure and forfeiture, alleges as follows: First, The said respondent admits that the said steamship Meteor is now, and was at the time of her seizure, lying in the port of New York, within the Southern District of New York, and within the jurisdiction of this Court, and that, at the time of her seizure, she was ready to go to sea. Second, But the said respondent denies each and every other allegation in the said libel contained, and avers that the same are untrue, and he denies that by reason of the premises in the said libel set forth, or for any other cause, the said steamship, her tackle, &c., became or is forfeited, or subject to forfeiture. Wherefore the said respondent prays that the said libel may be dismissed with costs, and that the said steamship, her tackle, &c., may be restored to the possession of this respondent, as the agent of her said owners.”
On the 15th of February, 1866, the Attorney of the United States filed exceptions to the claim. The exceptions allege “ that the said Robert B. Forbes and John M. Forbes were not at the time of the forfeiture alleged in the libel aforesaid, and are not now the sole, true, and lawful owners of the said steamship Meteor, her tackle, &c., in manner and form as the said Robert B. Forbes and John M. Forbes have above claimed ”; and the exceptions pray that the claim may be dismissed.
On the 26th of March, 1866, the cause being upon the calendar for trial, was called in its order. The Attorney of the United States insisted before the Court, that the hearing on the exceptions to the claim must be brought on before the trial of the issue raised by the answer to the libel; and that the affirmative upon the allegations made in the claim was cast upon the claimant. The counsel for the claimant controverted this position, and claimed that the Attorney of the United States should proceed to trial upon the issue raised by the answer to the libel, and produce proofs in sup
port of the libel, or submit to a decree dismissing it. The Court decided that no triable issue had been framed on the exceptions to the claim ; that any issue which might be framed on such exceptions would be an immaterial issue; that the suit was one in rem, prosecuted solely against a vessel and her appurtenances under seizure, and not a suit in personam in any manner affecting personally the claimant, or the principals represented by him ; that the Court possessed no authority or jurisdiction over or in respect to the claimant or his principals, otherwise than through and by means of the res itself; and that the trial of the cause must proceed on the issue raised by the libel and the answer. accordingly proceeded with upon that issue.
The counsel for the claimant then insisted that the Court, sitting as a Court of Admiralty, was incompetent to adjudge the cause and give the relief prayed for in the libel, and that the case must be tried by a jury, and moved that a jury be summoned and impannelled to try it. The Court decided that the case was one of the seizure of a vessel upon waters navigable from the sea by vessels of ten or more tons burden, for the breach of a law of the United States, and was a civil cause of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, and was within the cognizance of this Court sitting as a Court of Admiralty, and must be tried without a jury. The jurisdiction of the Courts of Admiralty of the United States in cases like the present is unquestionable, and is based upon constitutional •and statutory authority, and settled by judicial decisions of long standing. (Constitution U. S., Art. 3, Sec. 2; Act of September 24, 1789, Sec. 9, 1 U. S. Stat. at Large, 77; Glass v. The Sloop Betsey, 3 Dallas, 6; Penhallow v. Doane, Id. 54; The United States v. La Vengeance, Id. 297; The United States v. The Schooner Betsey, 4 Cranch, 443; Whelan v. The United States, 7 Cranch; 112; The United States v. The Schooner Little Charles, 1 Brock., 347.) The four cases of The Slavers, (2 Wallace S. C. R., 350 to 403) were all libels of information filed in the District Court in Admiralty. Those cases were all carried by appeal to the Supreme Court, and in all of them the vessels were condemned and forfeited for violations of the acts against the slave-trade, without any question being raised by either the Court or counsel as to the jurisdiction of the District Court in Admiralty.
The counsel for the claimant then insisted that the libel must be dismissed for the reason that under the third section of the act of April 20, 1818, upon which the libel is founded, an indictment and conviction of the person or persons committing the offence named in that section is a necessary prerequisite to a decree for the forfeiture of the vessel. It was admitted by the Attorney of the United States that there had been no such indictment or conviction. The third section of the act of April 20, 1818 (3 U. S. Stat. at Large, 448), enacts that if any person shall, within the limits of the United States, fit out and arm, or attempt to fit out and arm, or procure to be fitted out and armed, or shall knowingly be concerned in the furnishing, fitting out, or arming of any ship or vessel, with intent that such ship or vessel shall be employed in the service of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people, to cruise or commit hostilities against the subjects, citizens, or property of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people with whom the United States are at peace, or shall issue or deliver a commission within the territory or jurisdiction of the United States, for any ship or vessel, to the intent that she may be employed as aforesaid, every person so offending shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and shall be fined not more than ten thousand dollars, and imprisoned not more than three years; and every such ship or vessel, with her tackle, apparel, and furniture, together with all materials, arms, ammunition, and stores which may have been procured for the building and equipment thereof shall be forfeited, one half to the use of the informer, and the other half to the use of the United States.” The Court ruled that such previous conviction or indictment is not necessary under the statute, and denied the motion of the claimant to dismiss the libel.
As this question in regard to the necessity of a prior conviction of some person upon an indictment for a violation of the third section of the act of 1818, before a condemnation of the offending vessel can be had, was much debated on the trial, it is deemed proper to state somewhat at length the reasons for the decision made by the Court that such prior conviction is not necessary. The counsel for the claimant, in summing up the case before the Court, after the evidence had all been put in, somewhat modified the views he had previously urged as to the necessity of a prior conviction of some person under the act, and maintained, that under the third section, the forfeiture of the vessel follows as a consequence of the completion of the offence forbidden by that section, and only as such consequence; that before the vessel can be forfeited, there must either be an ascertained conviction of some person for the commission of the offence in question, or else there must be, on the trial of the issue raised by the libel and answer, satisfactory evidence of the commission by some person of the personal offence; and that such person must be some one whose action concerning the vessel can, from his relation to the vessel or its owners, be imputed to the owners as their action.
The positions thus maintained by the counsel for the claimant overlook the clearly marked distinction between a forfeiture resulting from a seizure under the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States, and a forfeiture resulting from a conviction and judgment in a court of law. This clearly marked distinction is founded upon the character of a proceeding in rem in the Admiralty. The proceeding in the present case is wholly one in rem, and the character of such a proceeding is nowhere more accurately defined than in the opinion of Chief Justice Marshall, in the case of The United States v. The Schooner Little Charles (1 Brock. 347). The vessel in that case was seized, as forfeited to the United States, for a violation of the embargo laws of December 22, 1807, and January 9, 1808 (2 U. S. Stat. at Large, 451 453). A libel was filed against her, alleging that she departed from a port of the United States to a foreign place, with a cargo on board, contrary to the provisions of the embargo laws, and that she had therefore become forfeited to the United States, and had been seized within the jurisdiction of the Court, as forfeited, and it prayed for a decree of forfeiture. On the trial of the cause, the District Court rejected as testimony the report and manifest of the cargo of the vessel, signed by the master, as incompetent evidence, upon the ground that the ex parte oath of the master thereto could not be read as evidence in the cause, he being, no party to it. On an appeal taken by the United States to the Circuit Court, an objection was made to the admissibility in evidence of the report and manifest, with the oath of the master, upon the ground that the case was a criminal case, and that the declarations of the master could not affect the vessel or the owner. Upon this point, Chief Justice Marshall says (page 354): "The argument that in criminal cases no authority can be given, that the character of principal