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Alexander v. Baltimore Insurance Company, 8 U.S. 4 Cranch 370 370 (1808)

Alexander v. Baltimore Insurance Company

8 U.S. (4 Cranch) 370


A policy upon a ship is an insurance of the ship for the voyage, not an insurance on the ship and the voyage. The underwriters undertake for the ability of the ship to perform the voyage, not that she shall perform it at all events.

The loss of the voyage as to the cargo is not a loss of the voyage as to the ship. If at the time of the offer to abandon, the ship be in possession of the master, in good condition, and at full liberty to proceed on the voyage, the loss of the cargo will not authorize the owner of the vessel to recover as for a total loss of the vessel.

THE CHIEF JUSTICE, in delivering the opinion of the Court, stated the material facts found by the special verdict to be as follows, viz.:

This action was brought against the underwriters to recover the amount of a policy insuring the ship John and Henry, from Charleston to Port Republicain or one other port in the Bite of Leogane. On 2 October, 1803, the John and Henry, while prosecuting her voyage, was seized by a French privateer and carried into the port of Mole St. Nicholas, where the cargo

Page 8 U. S. 371

was taken by M. de Noailles, the French commandant, for the use of the garrison. On the same day, the master of the vessel received a written engagement from M. de Noailles to pay for the cargo in coffee, after which the vessel was unladen. The captain remained at the Mole in expectation of receiving payment until 29 October, when he sailed in the John and Henry for Cape Francois, with an order on that place for payment in coffee. On 4 November she was seized by a British squadron then blockading Cape Francois and condemned as prize. Cape Francois is not in the route to Port Republicain nor to any port in the Bite of Leogane, nor in the route to return from Mole St. Nicholas to the United States. The abandonment was made in December on account of the capture by the French privateer. The declaration claims the amount of the policy in consequence of that capture. The judgment of the court below was for the defendant.

The only question decided by this Court was whether the plaintiff had a right to abandon and recover as for a total loss.

Page 8 U. S. 373

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