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United States Supreme Court

21 U.S. 380

The Mary Ann Plumer

APPEAL from the District Court of Louisiana. This was an allegation of forfeiture, in the Court below, against the brig Mary Ann, for a violation of the act of March 2d, 1807, c. 77. prohibiting the importation of slaves into any port or place within the jurisdiction of the United States, from and after the 1st. day of January, 1808. The libel contained two counts. The first alleged, that the brig Mary Ann, on the 10th of March, 1818, sailing coastwise from a port in the United States, to wit, the ports of New-York and Perth Amboy, to a port or place within the jurisdiction of the same, to wit, the port of New-Orleans, and having on board certain negroes, mulattoes, or persons of colour, for the purpose of transporting them to be sold or disposed of as slaves, or to be held to service or labour, to wit, No. 1, Lydia, &c. did, laden and destined as aforesaid, depart from the ports of New-York and Perth Amboy, where she then was, without the captain or commander having first made out and subscribed duplicate manifests of every negro, mulatto, and person of colour, on board said brig Mary Ann, and without having previously delivered the same to the collectors or surveyors of the ports of New-York and Perth Amboy, and obtained a permit, in manner as required by the act of Congress, in such case made and provided, contrary to the form of said act. The second count was, for taking on board thirty-six negroes, mulattoes, or persons of colour, previous to her arrival at her said port of destination, contrary to the act, &c. [a]

The Court below condemned the vessel, as liable to forfeiture, under the act referred to, and the claimant appealed to this Court. Feb. 10th.

Mr. D. B. Ogden, for the appellant, argued, (1.) That the libel was insufficient in its allegations to sustain the sentence which had been rendered by the Court below. It alleges, that the vessel sailed from the ports of New-York and Perth Amboy, without the captain's having made out the duplicate manifests required by law, and without his having previously delivered the same to the collectors or surveyors of the ports of New-York and Perth Amboy. This is too vague and general. The act directs the manifest to be delivered to the collector or surveyor of a single port. (2.) The libel alleges, that the manifest required by law, was not made out and delivered before the vessel sailed. But this allegation, as laid, is disproved by the manifest itself, which is in evidence; and if the prosecutor intended to have availed himself of any defects in the manifest, those defects ought to have been specified in the libel. It ought to have charged the not specifying the names, &c., if it was intended to rely on that objection. (3.) The libel does not bring the case within the 9th section of the act, on which it is founded, by stating that the vessel was 'of the burthen of forty tons, or more.' The clause of forfeiture, in the latter part of that section, although it is in general terms, 'any vessel,' &c. ought, upon every just principle of interpretation, to be restricted to the vessels of forty tons, or more, which are mentioned in the first part of the section. It is not sufficient to charge the offence in the very words of the statute, but the sense and effect of those words must be looked to, so as to give the party notice of the precise offence meant to be charged. [b]

The Attorney General, contra, insisted, that this case did not at all resemble that of the Hoppet, where the ship, and the innocent goods, were held not to be forfeited, because there was no charge applicable to them, inasmuch as they were not alleged to belong to the owner of the prohibited articles, the French wines. This libel of information does not merely contain a general reference to the law; it gives the party precise notice of the charge, and secures him against any other prosecution for the same offence, which is all that can reasonably be required. In the case of the Samuel, [c] there was a more serious objection to the form of the allegation, which, however, did not prevail. Those technical niceties, which were once insisted on, in criminal informations at common law, are not regarded in admiralty informations, which are modelled upon the more liberal and rational principles of the civil law. A libel may even allege the offence in the alternative of several facts, if each alternative constitute a substantive offence and cause of forfeiture. [d] Here it charges the non-delivery of a manifest, as required by the act, and the proof is, a delivery of a manifest, totally defective in every particular required by the act. March 1st.

Mr. Chief Justice MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court, and, after stating the case, proceeded as follows:

NotesEdit

^a  The 9th section of the act, on which this proceeding was grounded, provides, 'that the captain, master, or commander, of any ship or vessel, of the burthen of forty tons or more, from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, sailing coastwise, from any port in the United States to any port or place within the jurisdiction of the same, having on board any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, for the purpose of transporting them, to be sold or disposed of as slaves, or to be held to service or labour, shall, previous to the departure of such ship or vessel, make out and subscribe duplicate manifests of every such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, on board such ship or vessel, therein specifying the name and sex of each person, their age and stature, as near as may be, and the class to which they respectively belong, whether negro, mulatto, or person of colour, with the name and place of residence of every owner or shipper of the same, and shall deliver such manifests to the collector of the port, if there be one, otherwise to the surveyor, before whom the captain, master, or commander, together with the owner, or shipper, shall severally swear or affirm, to the best of their knowledge and belief, that the persons therein specified were not imported or brought into the United States from and after the first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and eight, and that, under the laws of the State, they are held to service or labour; whereupon the said collector or surveyor shall certify the same on the said manifests, one of which he shall return to the said captain, master, or commander, with a permit, specifying thereon the number, names, and general description of such persons, and authorizing him to proceed to the port of his destination.

And if any ship or vessel, being laden and destined as aforesaid, shall depart from the port where she may then be, without the captain, master, or commander, having first made out and subscribed duplicate manifests of every negro, mulatto, and person of colour, on board such ship or vessel as aforesaid, and without having previously delivered the same to the said collector or surveyor, and obtained a permit, in manner as herein required, or shall, previous to her arrival at the port of her destination, take on board any negro, mulatto, or person of colour, other than those specified in the manifests, as aforesaid, every such ship or vessel, together with her tackle, apparel, and furniture, shall be forfeited to the use of the United States, and may be seized, prosecuted, and condemned, in any Court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof; and the captain, master, or commander, of every such ship or vessel, shall, moreover, forfeit, for every such negro, mulatto, or person of colour, so transported, or taken on board, contrary to the provisions of this act, the sum of one thousand dollars, one moiety thereof to the United States, and the other moiety to the use of any person or persons who shall sue for and prosecute the same to effect.'-

^b  The Hoppet, 7 Cranch's Rep. 389.

^c  1 Wheat. Rep. 9.

^d  The Caroline, 7 Cranch's Rep. 496. and note of errata to the same volume.

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).