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Governor of Georgia v. Madrazo, 26 U.S. 1 Pet. 110 110 (1828)

Governor of Georgia v. Madrazo

26 U.S. (1 Pet.) 110


In the District Court of the United States for the District of Georgia, a libel was filed claiming certain Africans as the property of the libellant which had been brought into the State of Georgia and were seized by the authority of the governor of the state for an alleged illegal importation; process was issued against the slaves, but was not served. The case was taken by appeal to the circuit court, and the Governor of Georgia filed a paper in the nature of a stipulation importing to hold the Africans subject to the decree of the circuit court, &c. Held that such a stipulation could not give jurisdiction in the case to the circuit court, as process could not issue legally from the circuit court against the Africans, because it would be the exercise of original jurisdiction in admiralty, which the circuit court does not possess.

It may be laid down as a rule which admits of no exception that in all cases where jurisdiction depends on the party, it is the party named in the record.

The libel and claim exhibited a demand for money actually in the Treasury of the State of Georgia, mixed up with the general funds of the state, and for slaves in the possession of the government, the possession of both of which was acquired by means which it was lawful in the state to exercise. Held that the courts of the United States had no jurisdiction, the same being taken away by the 11th article of the amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

In a case where the chief magistrate of a state is sued, not by his name but by his style of office, and the claim made upon him is entirely in his official character, the state itself may be considered a party in the record.

These cases were brought before this Court from the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Georgia under the following circumstances.

The schooner Isabelita, a Spanish vessel owned by Juan Madrazo, a native Spanish subject domiciliated at Havana, was dispatched by him with a cargo, his own property, in the year 1812 on a voyage to the coast of Africa, where she took in a cargo of slaves. On her return voyage she was captured by a cruiser called the Successor under the piratical flag of Commodore Aury, the said cruiser being then commanded by one Moore, an American citizen, and having been fitted out in the port of Baltimore, and manned and armed in the River Severn, within the waters and jurisdiction of the United States. The Isabelita and the slaves on board were carried to Fernandina, in Amelia Island, and there condemned by a pretended court

Page 26 U. S. 111

of admiralty exercising jurisdiction under Commodore Aury, and sold under its authority by the prize agent, Louis Segallis, to one William Bowen. The negroes so purchased by Bowen were conveyed into the Creek nation in consequence, as it was alleged, of the disturbed State of East Florida, the insecurity of property there, and with a view to their settlement in West Florida, then a province of the Spanish monarchy. Being found within the limits of the State of Georgia, they were seized by an officer of the customs of the United States and delivered to an agent appointed by the Governor of Georgia under the authority of the act of the Legislature of that state passed in conformity to the provisions of the Act of Congress of March, 1807, prohibiting the importation of slaves into the United States, the negroes having been so brought into the United States in violation of that act.

Some of the negroes were sold by an order of the governor, without any process of law, and the proceeds paid over to the Treasurer of Georgia. The residue of the negroes are in possession of an agent appointed by the Governor of Georgia.

The Isabelita was fitted out as a cruiser at Fernandina, taken by Moore to Georgetown, South Carolina, seized there by the United States, sent round to Charleston, libeled in the district court of South Carolina, and, by a decree of that court restored to Madrazo, the claimant.

The Governor of Georgia filed an information in the District Court of the United States for the District of Georgia, praying that a part of these Africans, which remained specifically in his hands, might be declared forfeited, and may be sold.

A claim was given in in this case by William Bowen; Juan Madrazo, the libellant in the other case, did not claim.

The decree of the district court dismissed the claim of William Bowen and adjudged the negroes to be delivered to the Governor of Georgia to be disposed of according to law.

William Bowen appealed to the circuit court, by which court his claim was dismissed, and from the decree of that court dismissing his claim he has not appealed.

Juan Madrazo filed his libel in the District Court of Georgia, alleging that a Spanish vessel called the Isabelita, having on board a cargo of negroes, was piratically captured on the high seas, carried into the port of Fernandian, there condemned by some pretended tribunal, and sold; that the negroes were conveyed by the purchaser into the Creek nation, where they were seized by an officer of the United States and by him delivered to the government of the State of Georgia pursuant to an act of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia carrying into effect an act of Congress of the United States; that

Page 26 U. S. 112

a part of the said slaves were sold, as permitted by said act of Congress and as directed by said act of the general assembly of the said state, and the proceeds thereof deposited in the treasury of the said state; that part of the said slaves remain undisposed of under the control of the governor of the said state or his agents, and prays restitution of said slaves and proceeds. Claims were given in by the Governor of Georgia and by William Bowen. The district court dismissed the libel and the claim of William Bowen. From this appeal Juan Madrazo appealed to the circuit court.

The circuit court dismissed the libel and claim of the Governor of Georgia, and directed restitution to the libellant, and from this decree appeals have been taken by the State of Georgia and by William Bowen. A warrant of arrest was issued by the district court, but was never served. A monition also issued, and was served on the Governor and Treasurer of the State of Georgia.

In the circuit court the following proceedings took place:

"On motion of the proctors of the libellant Madrazo, ordered that he have leave to renew his warrant for the property libeled, but it shall be held a sufficient execution of such warrant if the governor, who appears as claimant, in behalf of the state, will sign an acknowledgment that he holds the same subject to the jurisdiction of this Court."

Whereupon the following instrument was filed December 24, 1823:

"Executive Department, Milledgeville, May 15, 1823"

"The executive having been furnished by the deputy marshal with the copy of an order passed by the circuit court of the United States in relation to certain Africans, the title to which is a matter of controversy in said circuit court, and also in the Superior Court of the County of Baldwin makes the following statement and acknowledgment, in satisfaction of said order and notice."

"Juan Madrazo"


"Sundry Africans"

"Libel in admiralty against sundry African negroes"

"The Governor of the State of Georgia acknowledges to hold sundry African negroes, now levied on, by virtue of sundry executions by the Sheriff of Baldwin County, subject to the order of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Georgia after the claim of said sheriff, or prior thereto, if the claim in the said circuit court shall be adjudged to have priority of the proceeding in the state court."

"JOHN CLARK, Governor"

Page 26 U. S. 113

Documentary evidence was introduced in the court below and witnesses were examined which proved the interest of Madrazo in the Isabelita, the illegality of the capture and condemnation, and which were intended to prove the identity of the negroes, the subject of the proceedings, with those who had been on board the Isabelita.

On the part of Juan Madrazo, it was contended:

1. That his proprietary interest in the slaves, and the illegality of the capture, and condemnation of the Isabelita and cargo, were fully proved, and that he is entitled to restitution of the property libeled.

2. That the court below had jurisdiction.

3. That the possession of the property libeled, the service of the monition, and the order of the circuit court and agreement of the Governor of Georgia, filed in that court, fix the parties in possession of the property for it, and that the process of the court will operate on them individually, and not on the State of Georgia.

On the part of the State of Georgia it was contended:

1. That the court below had no jurisdiction.

2. That there is no sufficient proof of proprietary interest to entitle Juan Madrazo to restitution of the property libeled.

Page 26 U. S. 118

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