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THE WILLIAM KING, 15 U. S. 148 (1817)

U.S. Supreme Court

The William King, 15 U.S. 2 Wheat. 148 148 (1817)

The William King

15 U.S. (2 Wheat.) 148


Under the Embargo Act of 22 December, 1807, the words an "embargo shall be laid" not only imposed upon the public officers the duty of preventing the departure of registered or sea letter vessels on a foreign voyage, but consequently rendered them liable to forfeiture under the Supplementary Act of 9 January, 1808.

In such case, if the vessel be actually and bona fide carried by force to a foreign port, she is not liable to forfeiture.

The Court being of opinion under the facts and circumstances of the case that the capture under which it was alleged the vessel was compelled to go to a foreign port was fictitious and collusive, the decree of condemnation in the court below was affirmed.

A libel was filed against this vessel in the District Court of New York, March, 1809, for a breach of the Act of 22 December, 1807, laying an embargo, and the several acts supplementary thereto, alleging that she proceeded from Baltimore without any clearance or permit, bound on a voyage

Page 15 U. S. 149

to Exuma, one of the Bahama Islands, where she took in a cargo of six thousand bushels of salt, with which she returned to New York. The claimants admitted the fact of going to Exuma and bringing away the salt, but alleged that it was from necessity; that the brig was regularly bound to Boston, but, being captured soon after she left Hampton Roads, by a British privateer, was sent to Jamaica, where she sold the cargo of flour which she had on board, the government of that colony not allowing it to be brought off. That she then went to Exuma.

The testimony in the case exhibits the following summary:

About the middle of October, 1808, the vessel arrived at Baltimore from Boston. At Baltimore she took on board a cargo of upwards of sixteen hundred barrels of flour, and sailed again, ostensibly for Boston, about the first of November. On reaching Hampton Roads, she stopped a few days, being, as was asserted, wind-bound. While there, a British privateer of ten guns and twelve men called the Ino arrived in the Roads. On the eighth of the month, the brig put to sea, the Ino following her. On the afternoon of the same day the Ino captured her within ten leagues of the shore, putting a prize master and one man on board. The vessels then proceeded for the West Indies. During the voyage, no attempt was made by the crew either to retake the brig or to escape, though favorable opportunities were not wanting. Her crew consisted of nine persons. After a short separation from the privateer, the brig arrived off St. Nichola Mole.

Page 15 U. S. 150

Here the privateer joined her, and thence the two went to Kingston. No prize proceedings were instituted against the brig, but on the contrary the supposed captors relinquished all claim to their prize, on reaching Kingston. From Kingston she went to Exuma, as above stated. The district court, on the hearing, pronounced a sentence of condemnation. A decree of affirmance pro forma was entered in the circuit court, from which the cause was brought by appeal. Mr. Hoffman, for the appellants and claimants, stated that this case was governed by the authority of the Short Staple, the William King having sailed from Hampton roads in company with that vessel, and both were seized by the British privateer Ino and compelled to go to the West Indies. The two cases are perfectly coincident in their circumstances, and restitution having been decreed in the case of the Short Staple, the same judgment must consequently be pronounced in the present case. He argued that the whole plan and system of the revenue laws indicated that it was not the legislative intention to cumulate a forfeiture of the ship (being a registered vessel) upon the penalty of the bond, which had been given for relanding the cargo in the United States.

Page 15 U. S. 152

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