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United States v. Furlong Hobson

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United States Supreme Court

18 U.S. 184

United States  v.  Furlong Hobson

THESE were several indictments in the Circuit Court of Georgia and South Carolina. The following are the cases as stated for the decision of this Court:

The UNITED STATES v. JOHN FURLONG, alias HOBSON.

THE prisoner was indicted before the Circuit Court of Georgia, for the piratical murder of Thomas Sunley, on the act of Congress of the 30th April, 1790, c. 36. Verdict, guilty. The offence was committed on a vessel and crew, all English. The person murdered was an English subject. The piratical vessel was a vessel of the United States, and run away with by the captain and crew. The prisoner is an Irishman, and a subject of the king of Great Britain. It was moved by the prisoner's counsel, that the judgment be arrested on the following grounds, via.:1st. Because the indictment does not charge the prisoner as a citizen of the United States.

2d. Because the indictment does not charge the act, as committed on board of an American vessel, but charges it as committed on board of a foreign vessel, or vessel of owners unknown.

3d. Because the 8th section of the act of 30th April, 1790, c. 36. is virtually repealed by the act of 3d March, 1819, c. 76. to protect the commerce of the United States, and punish the crime of piracy.

Upon which grounds, the judges being divided in opinion, at the request of the counsel for the prisoner, it was ordered, that the indictment and proceedings thereon, together with the grounds of the defendant's motion in arrest of judgment, be transcribed by the clerk of the Circuit Court, and certified by him, under the seal of the court, and sent to this Court, for their decision.

The UNITED STATES v. JOHN FURLONG, alias HOBSON.

THIS was another indictment against the same prisoner, before the same Court, on the act of Congress, of the 30th of April, 1790, c. 36. for the piratical murder of David May. Verdict, guilty. The same statement appears in the record, as in the case of the indictment of Furlong, for the murder of Thomas Sunley.

The UNITED STATES v. JOHN FURLONG, alias HOBSON.

THIS was another indictment against the same prisoner, before the same Court, on the act of the 3d of March, 1819, c. 76. for the piratical seizure of an unknown vessel. Verdict, guilty. The offence was committed on a foreign vessel, by a foreigner, from a vessel of the United States, which had been run away with by the captain and crew. It was moved by the prisoner's counsel, that the judgment be arrested on the ground that, as the constitution of the United States gives the power to Congress, to define and punish the crime of piracy, it is necessary that Congress define before it can punish, and that a reference to the law of nations is not such a definition as the constitution requires. Upon which ground, the Judges being divided in opinion, upon request of counsel for prisoner, it was ordered, that the indictment and proceedings thereon, together with the ground of the defendant's motion in arrest of judgment, be transcribed by the clerk of the Circuit Court, and certificed by him, under the seal of the Court, and sent to this Court for their decision.

The UNITED STATES v. JOHN FURLONG, alias HOBSON.

THIS was another indictment against the same prisoner, before the same Court, on the act of the 30th of April, 1790, c. 36. for a piratical robbery, committed on an American ship. Verdict, guilty. The offence was committed on a vessel of the United States, from a vessel of the United States, which had been run away with by the captain and crew. The prisoner is an English subject. It was moved by the prisoner's counsel, that the judgment be arrested, on the ground, that the 8th section of the act of 30th of April, 1790, c. 36. on which the indictment is founded, is virtually repealed by the act of the 3d of March, 1819, c. 76. entitled, 'an act to protect the commerce of the United States, and punish the crime of piracy.' Upon which ground the Judges being divided in opinion, upon the request of the counsel for the prisoner, it was ordered, that the indictment and proceedings thereon, together with the grounds of the defendant's motion in arrest of judgment, be transcribed by the clerk of the Circuit Court, and certified by him, under the seal of the Court, and sent to this Court for their decision.

The UNITED STATES v. BENJAMIN BRAILSFORD and JAMES GRIFFEN.

THE prisoners were indicted before the Circuit Court of South Carolina, for piracy on an American ship, under the act of Congress of the 30th of April, 1790, c. 36. The Court divided on the following questions:

1st. Whether an American citizen, fitting out a vessel in an American port, really to cruize against a power at peace with the United States, is protected by a commission from a belligerent from punishment for any offence committed by him against vessels of the United States.

2d. Whether it is competent for a jury to find, that a vessel within a marine league of the shore, at anchor in an open roadstead, where vessels only ride under shelter of the land at a season when the course of the winds is invariable, is upon the high seas.

3d. Whether the words, out of the jurisdiction of any particular State, in the 8th section of the act of Congress, of the 30th of April, 1790, c. 36. entitled, an act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States, must be construed to mean, out of the jurisdiction of any particular State of the United States.

4th. Whether the said 8th section of the said act is virtually repealed by the 5th section of the act of Congress, of March 3d, 1819, c. 76.

5th. Whether the said 5th section of the said act of March 3d, 1819, c. 76. furnishes any, and what definition of the crime of piracy.

The UNITED STATES v. DAVID BOWERS and HENRY MATHEWS.

THE prisoners were indicted before the Circuit Court of Georgia, under the act of 30th of April, 1790, c. 36. for a piratical robbery committed on an American ship. Verdict, guilty. The prisoners were part of the crew of the Louisa privateer, who rose upon their officers in October, 1818, and putting them out of the ship, proceeded on a piratical cruize. The Louisa was commissioned by the republic of Buenos Ayres, and commanded by Captain Almeida. There is no proof of her being American owned. The prisoners are American citizens, and the piracy for which they are convicted, was committed on the ship Asia, bearing the American flag. The captain asserted himself and vessel to be American; and on her stern was painted 'New-York.' The ship Asia, at the time of the robbery, was at anchor in an open roadstead, at the Island of Bonavista. The register of the ship Asia was not produced in evidence. Verdict, guilty.

The prisoner's counsel moved that the judgment be arrested on the following grounds, viz.

1st. That it is not competent to prove the national character of an American vessel, without evidence of her register.

2d. It is not competent for the jury to find that the piracy was sommitted on the high seas, when the evidence ascertained the Asia, at the time she was boarded, to have been at anchor in an open roadstead, at the island of Bonavista.

3d. That the prisoners are not punishable under the 8th section of the act of 30th of April, 1790, c. 36. entitled, 'An act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States;' the same having been virtually repealed by the act of 1819, c. 76. to protect the commerce of the United States, and to punish the crime of piracy.

4th. That there are two counts in the indictment, the first charging the offence to have been committed on the high seas, out of the jurisdiction of any particular State; the second, charging the offence to have been committed in a certain haven, near the island of Bonavista, out of the jurisdiction of any particular State, and that it is not competent for a jury to find a general verdict of guilty on both counts.

Upon which grounds, the Judges being divided in opinion, it was ordered, that the indictment and proceedings thereon, together with the grounds of the motion in arrest of judgment, be transcribed by the clerk of the Circuit Court, and certified by him, under the seal of the Court, and sent to this Court for their decision.

The UNITED STATES v. DAVID BOWERS and HENRY MATHEWS.

THE prisoners were indicted before the Circuit Court of Georgia, under the act of the 30th of April, 1790, c. 36. for a piratical robbery committed on a ship, the property of British subjects, and called the Sir Thomas Hardy, upon the high seas. The prisoners were citizens of the United States, and part of the crew of the Louisa privateer, mentioned in the preceding case. The prisoners were found guilty, and their counsel moved that the judgment be arrested upon the following grounds, viz.:

1st. That the act of the 30th of April, 1790, c. 36. eighth section, does not extend to piracy committed by the crew of a foreign vessel on a vessel exclusively owned by persons not citizens of the United States.

2d. That the eighth section of the act of the 30th of April, 1790, c. 36. entitled, 'an act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States,' has been virtually repealed by the act of the 3d of March, 1819, c. 76. entitled, 'an act to protect the commerce of the United States, and to punish the crime of piracy.'

Upon which grounds, the Judges being divided in opinion, it was ordered, that the indictment and proceedings thereon, together with the grounds of the motion in arrest of judgment, be transcribed by the clerk of the Circuit Court, and certified by him, under the seal of the Court, and sent to this Court for their decision.

     Feb. 21st.
      

These causes were argued by the Attorney General for the United States, and by Mr. Webster and Mr. Winder, for the prisoners.a

     March 1st.
      

Mr. Justice JOHNSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

NotesEdit

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).