« AnteriorContinuar »
Opinion of the Court.
States; but that excluding shore batteries and submarine defences, the American vessels and armaments were superior in force to the Spanish vessels.
The court below — all its members concurring – was of opinion that the land batteries, mines and torpedoes that supported the Spanish vessels during the naval engagement in Manila Bay should be excluded from consideration, and that the claim of the plaintiff came within the clause of the statute allowing the sum of one hundred dollars for each person on board of the vessels sunk or destroyed “if the enemy's vessel was of inferior force," and not within the clause allowing the sum of two hundred dollars, “if [the enemy's vessel was) of equal or superior force.” Judgment was accordingly entered against the United States for the sum of $9570, upon the basis of one hundred dollars for each person on board, at the commencement of the engagement, of the enemy's vessels sunk or destroved.
The counsel have called our attention to several cases in this and other courts. Do any of those cases constitute a direct adjudication of the question now before us ?
In The Ironclad Atlanta, 3 Wall. 425, 432, the question was whether a certain American vessel, the Nahant, was to be regarded as one of the capturing vessels in a naval engagement in Wassau Sound, Georgia, in 1863. The court said: “The importance of the point is this: the Weehawken was confessedly inferior in force to the Atlanta, and if she is alone to be regarded in the comparison of forces, the whole prize-money goes to the captors. On the other hand, the combined force of the two monitors was superior to that of the Atlanta, and if both are to be regarded as capturing vessels, only one balf of the prize-money goes to the captors, and the decree must be affirmed. The mere fact that the only shot fired and the only damage done was by the Weehawken is not decisive. Other circumstances must be taken into account in determining the matter - such as the force, position, conduct and intention of the Nahant. The two vessels were known to be under the same command, and of nearly equal force. The Atlanta descended the sound to attack both, and governed herself with reference to their combined action. It is not reasonable to suppose that
Opinion of the Court.
her course would have been the one pursued, had she bad only thé Weeba wken to encounter. Besides, the fire of the Atlanta was directed entirely to the Nahant, and of course diverted from her consort. It is possible that a different result might have followed had the fire been turned upon the Weehawken. This diversion must be considered in every just sense of the terms as giving aid to her. Again, the power of the shot of the Weehawken had evidently surprised the officers of the Atlanta, who found their vessel speedily disabled and their crew demoralized. The advance upon her, at full speed, of a second monitor, of equal force, ready to inflict similar injuries, may have bastened the surrender. It can hardly be supposed that the approach of the second monitor did not enter into the consideration of the captain and officers of the Atlanta. If the shot from the guns of one of the monitors could, in a few moments, penetrate the casemate of the Atlanta, crush in the bar of her pilot-house, and prostrate between forty and fifty of her men, her captain might well conclude that the combined fire of both would speedily sink his vessel and destroy his entire crew. It cannot be affirmed, nor is it reasonable to suppose, that any of the incidents of the battle would have occurred as they did if the Nahant had not been present in the action."
Another case referred to is that of The Siren, 13 Wall. 389, 395. That was a case in prize arising out of certain captures near Charleston, South Carolina, in 1865, of rebel vessels during the late civil war, as the result of the joint action of the land and naval forces of the United States. This court, affirming the judgment of the District Court for the District of Massachusetts, held that Congress had made no provision in reference to joint captures by the army and navy, and that such captures enured exclusively to the benefit of the United States. The court said: “We have already adverted to the ingress of the navy into the harbor of Charleston on the morning of the 17th day of February. At nine o'clock that morning an officer of the land forces hoisted the national flag over the ruins of Fort Sumpter. Flags were also raised over Forts Ripley and Pinckney. At ten o'clock a military officer reached Charleston. The mayor surrendered the city to him. Four hundred and Opinion of the Court.
fifty pieces of artillery, military stores, and much other property were captured with it. Contemporaneously with these things was the seizure of the Siren by the Gladiolus, and the approach and arrival of the rest of the fleet. The two forces were acting under the orders of a common government, for a common object, and for none other. They were united in their labors and their perils, and in their triumph they were not divided. They were converging streams toiling against the same dike. When it gave way both swept in without further obstruction. The consummation of their work was the fall of the city. Either force, after the abandonment of their defences by the rebels, could have seized all that was taken by both. The meritorious service of the Gladiolus was as a salvor, and not as a captor. Precedence in the time of the arrival of the respective forces is an element of no consequence. Upon principle, reason and authority, we think the judgment of the District Court was correctly given.”
The case chiefly relied upon by the plaintiff is United States v. Farragut, 22 Wall. 406. The question now presented might perhaps have been determined under the pleadings in that case, if it had not been withdrawn from consideration before this court rendered its judgment. Admiral Farragut and others of the American navy filed a libel in admiralty in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia on account of certain prizes taken below New Orleans in April, 1862. The plaintiff and the Government referred the cause to the determination and award of certain persons, whose award was to be final upon all questions of law and facts involved — the award to be entered as a rule and decree of court in the case, with the right also of either party to appeal to this court as from other decrees or judgments in prize cases. The arbitrators made an award, holding among other things that certain captures were not a conjoint operation of the army and navy of the United States. Exceptions were filed to the award, as erroneous in point both of law and fact. The exceptions were overruled and a decree was entered for the claimants. After the case came to this court the Attorney General, according to the report of the case, dismissed the ap peal as to certain property covering $613,520 of the aggregate Opinion of the Court.
sum allowed by the decree, and that sum was distributed among the captors. That part of the case, it is stated, raised the very question now presented, and it is contended that the action of the Attorney General should be regarded as indicating the interpretation placed upon the statute by the Executive Department. We cannot accept this view. It does not appear from the report of the case what reasons induced the Attorney General to dismiss the appeal of the Government as to the matters referred to. It may have been because of the conviction that, under the facts disclosed by the record, the capture in question was not the result of the conjoint action of the army and navy, but of the action alone of the navy. It is sufficient to say that this court regarded the statement by the arbitrators that the capture was not the joint act of the army and navy as binding upon it, and what appears in the opinion about other points has no bearing upon the present case.
Another case referred to by counsel is Porter v. United States, 106 U. S. 607, 611. But the decision there did not go beyond the point that the act of June 30, 1864, 13 Stat. 306, 311, c. 174, did not allow bounty where the vessels of the enemy, during the late rebellion, were destroyed by the combined action of the land and naval forces of the United States. The court said: “Prize-money, or bounty in lieu of it, is not allowed by the laws of Congress where vessels of the enemy aré captured or destroyed by the navy with the coöperation of the army. To win either, the navy must achieve its success without the direct aid of the army, by maritime force only. No pecuniary reward is conferred for anything taken or destroyed by the navy when it acts in conjunction with the army in the capture of a fortified position of the enemy, though the meritorious services and gallant conduct of its officers and men may justly entitle them to honorable mention in the history of the country.”
Nor has The Selma, 1 Lowell, 30, 34, any bearing upon the present discussion. That case arose out of certain captures made in the action of August 5, 1864, in the bay of Mobile. It was there decided—and nothing else was decided that in order to entitle a vessel to participate in the distribution of a
Opinion of the Court.
prize, its situation during the naval engagement must have been such that it could have rendered assistance in the actual conflict in which the prize was taken. The court said : “Suppose it had happened in the case now before me, as once occurred on the Mississippi under the same great captain, that only a small number of vessels had made good the passage of the forts; and that they had found themselves only equal or inferior in force to the enemy within, and had then succeeded by their skill and gallantry in making this capture. It would be impossible, I think, under the case of The Atlanta, or on principle, to hold that the vessels outside were actual takers, and to reduce the credit and reward of the conquerors to the level of a capture by superior force. And it will not be easy under our law to define actual captors in such a way as not to require of them at least the qualifications of position and power to do service which the statute peremptorily imposes on constructive takers."
We have referred quite fully to these cases because they were made the subject of comment by counsel. But we do not think that any of them meet the precise question now presented. They throw no light on the inquiry whether, in estimating the force of the enemy's vessel, the support furnished by land batteries, mines and torpedoes is to be taken into consideration.
The words in the existing statute relating to the distribution of prize-money are not entirely new. In the act of March 2, 1799, 1 Stat. 709, 715, c. 24, § 5, relating to the navy of the United States, it was provided : “That all captured national ships or vessels of war shall be the property of the United States—all other ships or vessels, being of superior force to the vessel making the capture, in men or in guns, shall be the sole property of the captors-and all ships or vessels of inferior force shall be divided equally between the United States and the officers and men of the vessel making the capture.”
In an act of April 23, 1800, 2 Stat. 45, 53, c. 33, 87, for the better government of the navy, it was provided : “That a bounty shall be paid by the United States of twenty dollars for each person on board any ship of an enemy at the commencement of an engagement, which shall be sunk or destroyed by