Robertson v. Baldwin
This was an appeal from a judgment of the district court for the Northern district of California, rendered August 5, 1895, dismissing a writ of habeas corpus issued upon the petition of Robert Robertson, P. H. Olsen, John Bradley, and Morris Hanson.
The petition set forth, in substance, that the petitioners were unlawfully restrained of their liberty by Barry Baldwin, marshal for the Northern district of California, in the county jail of Alameda county, by virtue of an order of commitment, made by a United State commissioner, committing them for trial upon a charge of disobedience of the lawful orders of the master of the American barkentine Arago; that such commitment was made without reasonable or probable cause, in this: that at the time of the commission of the alleged offense, petitioners were held on board the Arago against their will and by force, having been theretofore placed on board said vessel by the marshal for the district of Oregon, under the provisions of Rev. St § 4596, subd. 1, and Id. §§ 4598, 4599, the master claiming the right to hold petitioners by virtue of these acts; that sections 4598 and 4599 are unconstitutional, and in violation of section 1 of article 3, and of the fifth amendment to the constitution; that section 4598 was also repealed by congress on June 7, 1872 (17 Stat. 262); and that the first subdivision of section 4596 is in violation of the thirteenth amendment, in that it compels involuntary servitude.
The record was somewhat meager, but it sufficiently appeared that the petitioners had shipped on board the Arago at San Francisco for a voyage to Knappton, in the state of Washington, thence to Valparaiso, and thence to such other foreign ports as the master might direct, and return to a port of discharge in the United States; that they had each signed shipping articles to perform the duties of seamen during the course of the voyage, but, becoming dissatisfied with their employment, they left the vessel at Astoria, in the state of Oregon, and were subsequently arrested, under the provisions of Rev. St. §§ 4596-4599, taken before a justice of the peace, and by him committed to jail until the Arago was ready for sea (some 16 days), when they were taken from the jail by the marshal, and placed on board the Arago against their will; that they refused to 'turn to,' in obedience to the orders of the master, were arrested at San Francisco, charged with refusing to work, in violation of Rev. St. § 4596, were subsequently examined before a commissioner of the circuit court, and by him held to answer such charge before the district court for the Northern district of California.
Shortly thereafter they sued out this writ of habeas corpus, which, upon a hearing before the district court, was dismissed, and an order made remanding the prisoners to the custody of the marshal.
Whereupon petitioners appealed to this court.
J. H. Ralston, for appellants.
Sol. Gen. Conrad, for appellee.
Mr. Justice BROWN, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the opinion of the court.