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Q. Who compose it?
A. Mr. Edward J. Hale, William H. Forbes, R. S. Russell, and myself.
Q. Is Robert B. Forbes a member of it?
A. Unless owning this ship together makes us partners; we are not in the common acceptation ; he does not belong to my firm.
Q. How much money did you personally pay for the construction of this vessel ?
Mr. EvArts. I object to that, as wholly irrelevant.
MR. WEBSTER. The way to arrive at the question of ownership of the vessel is to prove how much interest the witness on the stand has.
Mr. Evarts. That has nothing to do with the question. The question here is, are these gentlemen owners ? and who else are owners ? and how much the ship cost is wholly unimportant; no matter how much this witness paid, — whether for one-half of the vessel or not. He is a witness to prove who were the owners at the time of the seizure. Either we are trying the merits or the exceptions.
MR. WEBSTER. The exceptions.
MR. EVARTS. The exception is, that at the time this claim was put in, R. B. Forbes and John M. Forbes were not the owners. It is to examine the personal standing and not the merits.
MR. WEBSTER. The allegation of Mr. Cary, as agent of the owners, is, that no other person but Robert B. and John M. Forbes is interested in this ship. I wish to ascertain from the witness whether that is true or not, and my question is, how much the witness paid for his interest in that ship.
MR. Evarts. The pleading is, that “ Robert B. and John M. Forbes were not, at the time of the forfeiture alleged in the libel, and are not now the sole, true, and lawful owners of the said steamship Meteor, her tackle," &c.
The Court admits the question, and counsel for the claimants except.
WITNESS. I do not know.
Q. Have you paid anything ?
Q. Can you not recollect anything as to the amount? Is your mind a blank as to the amount of money you have paid ?
A. In the accounts which have been going on at times, my brother has paid an amount, and perhaps I have paid, and it is impossible for me to divide the exact amount which I have paid. You ask me what I know. I cannot answer from knowledge what amount I have paid.
Q. Do you know that you have paid any amount?
Q. Do you own the interest of $90,000, or did you at the time this ship was seized ?
A. Yes. Q. Who owned the remainder ? A. At the time this ship was seized, I owned one-half of the ship, and R. B. Forbes owned the other half. Q. And you paid $90,000 for one-half ? Mr. Evarts. That I object to. That is not what he said. Mr. WEBSTER. My question is, whether he paid $90,000 for onehalf ?
A. I remember that at one time 'I paid $90,000. I cannot say that I have not paid more.
Q. But you have paid $90,000 ?
A. I remember the sum of about $90,000; you ask me if my mind was a blank, or had any impression of it, and I remember
Q. Do you remember that you paid $90,000 for one-half ? A. I cannot say what share $90,000 represented of the cost of the ship; I cannot remember.
Q. When did you pay that $90,000 ? Mr. Evarts. I object to this, as wholly immaterial on the issue of who were the owners. Question admitted. Exception.
A. At various times.
A. To shipbuilders, machine-shops, and the various cost of building the ship.
Q. Then I understand you that you paid $90,000 for the construction of the ship ?
A. Towards the construction and equipment.
Q. Who besides yourself and R. B. Forbes, assisted in the construction of the ship?
Mr. Evarts objects as immaterial.
MR. EVARTS. Allow me to suggest, Mr. Forbes and his brother built the ship, and he is asked who aided in its construction. We are trying the issue of legal ownership, and equitable interests of all kinds are to be laid out of the question, — they never furnish a right to appear and claim a vessel that is seized. It is
he legal title that gives the party his standing here as owner, and if the registered owners of the ship have any measure or kind of accountability toward other people, growing out of the evidence that they have contributed toward building her, or otherwise, it does not in the least touch this question of personal standing or the right to intervene as the person representing the title and' ownership. We are litigating now who are the legal representatives or claimants of the ship. Suppose that Mr. Forbes names any number of speculative partners in the enterprise, retaining an equitable interest, it would not touch the question of legal ownership, which is alone the question before your Honor.
MR. WEBSTER. That is just the point at which I propose to arrive. I propose to arrive in the end at the legal, subsisting, actual interests ; to lay before the Court the facts upon which your Honor can determine as to what that interest is, so that your Honor may know, as matter of fact, who were the legal owners of the steamer at the time of the seizure; and I suggest, although I may not ex
I amine the witness as the learned counsel desires (he being one of the owners), if I am permitted, I may arrive at that result.
WITNESS. May I amend my answer in regard to the $90,000 ? MR. WEBSTER. Certainly.
WITNESS. I wish to say that when I mentioned giving that amount for construction, it may have been given when the ship was fitted out for New Orleans, for outfit; she was used as a trans
port by the government for carrying troops, and the government not paying promptly, I had to advance to fit her up, and provide her for that purpose ; so this amount may not have been all used for construction. I happen to have this amount of $90,000 on my mind, and how much of it was for construction, and how much for coal and stores, I cannot say.
The Court. You need not consider yourself as accounting critically for the particular items of account; but give a statement, as accurately as you can, of the interest you acquired in her.
Q. Did your friends in Boston assist you and your brother in the building of the Meteor ?
MR. EVARTS. I object, as immaterial. It is consuming time to no end. What we are trying now is, who were the owners at the time of the seizure? That is a very simple and direct inquiry, and does not in the least involve any of these considerations.
The DISTRICT ATTORNEY. We do not propose to ask this, an interested witness, who are the owners in gross, and take his judgment upon it. If we have a right to proceed in the question at all, we have a right to proceed in a manner well understood in courts of justice, in our own way, so that it is legal, — in examining and reaching these facts.
The Court. I consider myself somewhat in a particular position in relation to this inquiry. According to my opinion on tlie question of law involved in the controversy, it is all immaterial, but I take this testimony provisionally, so that it may be considered in the Court above.
THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY. Then, if we are entitled to prove it provisionally, we are entitled to prove it in the usual form. It does not detract from our mode of proof that your Honor may consider it immaterial, so long as we are allowed to go into it.
The Court. I wish you to have a fair latitude in the matter.
The DISTRICT ATTORNEY. The counsel has complained of the consumption of time, and not a question is put but he makes a couple of speeches.
Mr. Evarts. I propose to try the case legally. I know no other mode. What is the issue? Who were the owners of this ship at the time the claim was put in? That is the whole thing; and my friend wants to have a history of the building of the ship and the money that went into it.
Question admitted. Mr. Evarts excepts.
MR. WEBSTER. Now as to the question whether a few friends in Boston aided you and your brother in building the Meteor ?
A. We had assistance from a great many friends.
Mr. Webster offers the letter in evidence, dated at Boston, 13th of September, 1865, addressed by R. B. Forbes to Frederick C. Schmidt, New York.
Mr. Evarts. I object as immaterial. If your Honor will look at the letter, you will see that it has not the least bearing on the question of ownership, and it has a bearing on the merits of this controversy, concerning which there was an express reservation, before we started in the examination of the witness.
MR. WEBSTER. I propose to introduce the letter solely on the question of ownership, and as a statement by R. B. Forbes that in September, 1865, there were other owners to the ship, — he saying distinctly “I cannot name a price until I consult the other owners.” He also adds the statement, “ the ship was built by myself and a few friends to cruise for British pirates, and she would have been taken by the government had not Fort Fisher fallen.”
MR. EVARTS. That has nothing to do with this question. The only point there is, that she was built by a few friends and himself. It is wholly immaterial who were the owners in 1865. That letter contains matter on the merits; and certainly there is the greatest obligation here on the part of the government not to introduce evidence on the merits under the pretext of there being some symptom of ownership at that time. I have the greatest objection to this; it is not conducting the trial according to the principles that have been professed — not in the least. I made the reservation that this witness was not to be examined on questions bearing on the merits. Now, the evidence as to who owns this vessel, and is interested in it, can be given by this witness in a very direct manner, and in answer to direct questions; and I object to his giving