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United States Supreme Court

72 U.S. 372

The Hampton

AN act of Congress of July 13, 1861, [1] passed during the late rebellion, enacted that goods, chattels, wares, and merchandise coming from or going to a State or section in insurrection, by land or water, along with the vessel in which they were, should be forfeited,-but gave the Secretary of the Treasury a right to remit. And another, passed March 3, 1863, [2] 'that in all cases now, or hereafter pending, wherein any ship, vessel, or other property shall be condemned in any proceeding, by virtue of the acts above mentioned, or of any other laws on that subject, the court rendering judgment shall first provide for the payment of bona fide claims of loyal citizens.'

In January, 1863, the schooner Hampton and her cargo were captured by the United States steamer Currituck in Dividing Creek, Virginia, and having been libelled in the Supreme Court for the District of Columbia, were condemned as prize of war. The master of the vessel was her owner, but interposed no claim; nor did any one claim the cargo. One Brinkley, however, appeared and claimed the vessel as mortgagee. The bona fides of his mortgage was not disputed; nor that he was a loyal citizen. But it was set up that neither by the laws of war nor under the acts of Congress, could the claim be allowed. After a hearing the claim was dismissed by the court; the question involved, however, being certified by it to this court, as one of difficulty and proper for appeal. The matter was accordingly now here on appeal, taken by Brinkley, from the order dismissing his claim.

Mr. W. S. Waters, for the appellant and in support of the mortgage claim:

The question is, 'Does the mortgage as a claim prevail against the forfeiture?' We think it does.

The mortgage is a jus in re, and not a mere lien. [3]

Even then, if the case was unaffected by the act of Congress of March 3, 1863, the mortgage would prevail. This claim was not a secret one. Any fair and open claim existing at the time of capture upon property captured in war is valid, by the law of nations, if the claim amounts to a jus in re. [4]

The forfeiture in this case, however, was really for breach of municipal law, though the condemnation may have been through pleadings in prize. The act of July 13, 1861, was in force when the capture was made, and applicable to the facts of this case and controlled it. The general law of nations, as applicable to the question, was repealed to the extent of the provisions of this statute. Even therefore if, on principles of international law, the mortgage claim would not be allowed, we submit that under the statute of July 13, 1861, it would. For undoubtedly all municipal forfeitures are subject to claims such as this when accruing before the act which causes the forfeiture.

But finally, the act of March 3, 1863, is applicable, whatever ground of forfeiture may be assumed. The vessel, it will hardly be denied, was condemned by virtue of laws applicable to the rebellion; and the act provides, that out of the proceeds of the property so condemned, the claim of any bona fide loyal citizen of the United States shall be paid. [5]

Mr. Ashton, Assistant Attorney-General, contra.

Mr. Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  12 Stat. at Large, 256.

^2  Id. 762.

^3  Conard v. Atlantic Ins. Co., 1 Peters, 441-447; Thelusson v. Smith, 2 Wheaton, 396.

^4  The Sally Magee, 3 Wallace, 451; The Tobago, 5 Robinson, 194; The Marianna, 6 Id. 24.

^5  See The Sally Magee, 3 Wallace, 451.

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).