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United States Supreme Court

69 U.S. 383

The Slavers(Reindeer)

THE bark Reindeer, Cunningham, master, was forced by stress of weather into Newport, R. I., July 11, 1862, where the collector of the port immediately placed her in custody of a revenue officer. On the 1st of August he made a formal seizure of her for violating the laws relating to the slavetrade. On the 7th of August following, the United States filed a libel and information in the District Court for Rhode Island, against the bark, her tackle, cargo, &c., in a case of seizure and forfeiture, alleging,

First. The fitting and other preparation of the vessel within, and causing her to sail from, the port of New York, by a citizen or resident, &c., of the United States, for the purpose of carrying on a trade in slaves, contrary to the provisions of the first section of the act of Congress of 22d March, 1794, [1] &c.

Second. The employment and making use of the said vessel by a citizen or persons, &c., residing in the United States, in the transportation or carrying of slaves, &c., contrary to the provisions of the first section of the act of 10th May, 1800; [2] and,

Third. The fitting, &c., of said vessel within, and causing her to sail from, the port of New York, by a citizen or citizens of the United States, or other person or persons, for the purpose of procuring negroes, mulattoes, or persons of color, &c., to be held, sold, or otherwise disposed of as slaves, &c., contrary to the provisions of the second section of the act of 20th April, 1818, [3] &c.

On the 28th of August, 1861, one Gregorio Tejedor, said to be a Spanish subject, residing at Havana, and alleging himself to be owner of the cargo and charterer of the bark, intervened, averring that he was the bon a fide owner of the cargo and charterer of the vessel.

On the 2d of September, 1861, D. M. Coggeshall, sheriff of the county of Newport, and H. P. Booth, J. E. Ward, and Samuel Shephard, alleging themselves to be attaching creditors of one Pearce of New York, owner of the vessel, filed a claim and answer, denying the allegation of the libel that the vessel was a slaver. They also averred that Coggeshall, as sheriff, on the 20th July, 1861, again on the 26th July, 1861, seized and attached the bark, by virtue of attachments duly issued out of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island; that, by virtue thereof, he then became possessed of her, and ever since has held, and, by reason thereof, that this court has no jurisdiction of the vessel, &c. They also averred that the acts charged were stated to have been done at New York, and not within the district of Rhode Island, and therefore denies jurisdiction.

During the progress of the cause, the vice-consul of the Queen of Spain, at Boston, filed a claim, professing to intervene 'for the Government of her Catholic Majesty,' and claiming the bark and cargo as the property of Gregorio Tejedor, a Spanish citizen. But there was no sufficient evidence that he was authorized to do this by the Government of Spain, or that the Government participated in the controversy in the court below.

The District Court condemned the vessel, cargo, &c., from which decree, Coggeshall, sheriff, and Booth, Ward, and Shephard, appealed to the Circuit Court. Tejedor also prayed an appeal, but did not take it.

So far, therefore, as the interests and rights of Tejedor were concerned, the decree of the District Court was final, and could not be here disturbed.

The Circuit Court ordered a sale of the vessel, &c., and cargo; and, on the 20th of January, 1862, the marshal sold her for $3000, and the cargo for $7756.52.

The Circuit Court heard the case on the appeal of Coggeshall, Ward, Booth, and Shephard, and affirmed the decree of the District Court, from which decree the said Coggeshall, Ward, Booth, and Shephard appealed to this court.

This case, therefore, came before this court neither on the claim or appeal of the alleged owner of the vessel, nor on the claim or appeal of the alleged owner of the cargo, but on the appeal of persons who had attached-legally or otherwise-the vessel, &c., and cargo, at Newport, as judgment creditors of P. L. Pearce, of New York, by virtue of process of attachment issued out of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island against Pearce.

The facts on which their claim arose, as derived from a full and accurate printed statement prepared by Mr. Coffey, late Assistant Attorney-General, and now special counsel of the United States in the matter, were essentially as follow:

The bark, then on a voyage somewhere, was forced by weather, as already mentioned, into Newport, July 11th, 1861.

On the 27th of June, 1861, Pearce, of New York, confessed judgment to H. P. Booth, in the Supreme Court, City and County of New York, for $11,128.56.

On the 19th of July, 1861, after the arrival of the bark at Newport, Ward, Shephard, and Booth, partners, trading as Ward & Co., of New York, the appellants in this case, issued a writ out of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, at Newport, against Pearce, also of New York, for his arrest, and, for want of his body, for the attachment of his goods, &c., to the value of $500. On the 20th of July, 1861, the sheriff returned that on that day he had attached the bark and cargo, the goods and chattels of Pearce. The account for which this suit was brought was for $300 cash furnished Captain Cunningham, of bark Reindeer, to pay off rew, on 13th July, 1861, and $50 cash to Captain Cunningham, on 15th July, 1861, in all $350, advanced after the arrival of the vessel at Newport. On the third day of August Term, 1861, the plaintiffs obtained judgment by default for $350 debt, and costs, taxed at $9.90.

The Reindeer was a vessel of 248 tons, with one deck and three masts, 100 feet long, 35 feet 3 inches broad, and 11 feet deep. She was owned by Pearce, of New York, and was commanded by W. H. Cunningham, of the same place. Pearce was a ship chandler and commission merchant in New York during the winter of 1860-' 61, and had the vessel stripped, calked, resheathed, and refitted previous to her departure on a projected voyage. She was also built with a rider, an arrangement for laying an extra deck. Pearce employed J. E. Ward & Co., of New York (the claimants in this case, by virtue of their attachment of the vessel and cargo as above stated), to advertise and despatch her. Under these auspices she cleared and sailed for Havana on the 26th of January, 1861, where she arrived about the 20th of February following, consigned to Perez & Martinez, of that place.

J. E. Ward & Co. shipped on her to Havana, among other things, 14,700 lbs. of tasajo, or dried beef, and a box of hardware. Her outward manifest exhibited, besides, twenty-two packages of hardware.

The shipping articles, signed at New York, dated 26th of January, 1861, described the bark Reindeer as 'now bound from the port of New York to one or more ports in Cuba; from thence to one or more ports in Europe, if required, and back to a port of discharge in the United States, or from Cuba back to the United States.' The crew-list appended showed the captain, two mates, and seven men, of whom four deserted in Cuba, whose places were there filled. The captain and the rest of the crew remained all the time with the vessel, and were on her when she arrived at Newport.

The four sailors shipped in Cuba were shipped 'to go a voyage to Falmouth, from thence to one or more ports of Europe, and back to a port of discharge in the United States.'

Pearce, the owner of the vessel, arrived in Havana about the middle of March, and remained there until the 6th of May following.

The history of the vessel at Havana was thus: She laid at Havana from the 20th of February to the 22d of June, 1861. One of the consignees, Martinez, stated that Pearce went there to sell the vessel; that he made a contract to sell her to Tejedor for $7000, which Tejedor did not carry out; but that on the 10th of May Tejedor chartered the vessel, by charter-party, from Perez & Martinez, after Pearce had left Havana, for the sum of $8500, of which Tejedor paid $4000. Of this, Martinez testified that $1500 was for detention of the vessel from 23d of March until 10th of May. A charter-party was produced, dated 23d March, 1861, signed by Captain Cunningham, 'on behalf of P. L. Pearce, owner of the said vessel, and Perez & Martinez, according to instructions handed to them by said owners,' chartering the vessel to Gregorio Tejedor for three years, for which Cunningham acknowledges 'to have received this day from Gregorio Tejedor' $8500, giving Tejedor exclusive disposal of vessel, master, and crew, and right to place his own supercargo on board, he to bear all expenses and pay repairs.

On the 22d of June, 1861, the Reindeer cleared at Havana 'for Falmouth, England, and for orders.'

Having set sail from Havana on that day, the captain, in his protest, swore, 'that on Tuesday, the 2d day of July, 1861, at sea, in about latitude 31°, longitude 69°, during a squall, the ship was caught aback, and, having gained sternway, wrenched the rudder-head and carried away the foreyard, when, finding the ship unfit to perform the voyage, squared away for Newport, Rhode Island, where we arrived July 11.'

The location of the vessel, as above stated, when the captain was thus compelled to put into Newport, showed her, according to Maury's Geography of the Sea, [4] to have been on the route to the west coast of Africa.

On the day after her arrival at Newport, the captain borrowed of T. & J. Coggeshall $30 to pay the crew; on the 15th July, $60, and on the 18th, $50, for the same purpose; making a bill, with other advances, of $186.83. The crew were then discharged, and all disappeared, none of them being produced as witnesses by claimant, or otherwise accounted for. The captain drew a sight draft on Pearce, to reimburse T. & J. Coggeshall, which Pearce paid.

On the arrival of the vessel at Newport, Pearce wrote the captain (23d July, 1861), directing the bills of lading to be forwarded to him; and he paid the wages and expenses of the voyage.

Martinez testified that on her arrival at Havana, 20th of February, 1861, all her cargo from New York was delivered. He also says his house (Perez & Martinez) loaded her afterwards for Tejedor; that everything was put on board with permits from the custom-house; that he got the permits himself from the custom-house in every instance; and that he was on the wharf when the goods were shipped to the vessel in the lighter, and saw every package put on board.

The list of cargo taken from the vessel showed a quantity of articles not on the manifest. These were casks of high-colored paint, pickled fish, coarse salt, two barrels of lime, and four jars of chloride of lime, cases of medicines, medicinal herbs and lint, coarse sponges, one demijohn of disinfecting fluid, sixty-five water-pipes, part full and part empty, which appeared to have been used as fresh-water pipes, and a quantity of flag matting.

Her manifested cargo was of 117 pipes of rum, 65 half pipes of rum, 16 pipes of biscuit, 8740 lbs. of tasajo, or dried beef, a large quantity of which she had brought from New York, one box of hardware, and 19 packages of the same, wine, brandy, gin, candles, cigars, and 200 oars. Part of the cargo consisted of casks and packages of saucepans, cooking-pans with covers, iron spoons, thirty mess or campkettles, three casks, each containing iron chains from 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch in diameter, of such length that one or two chains occupied a cask, padlocks, and machats, or war-knives. On the ship's manifest these were described as 'one bale hardware,' 'nineteen packages hardware.'

The marshal of the United States, Sanford, found on board the vessel, when he seized her at Newport, a package purporting to be a sealed letter, containing several papers, among them a paper issued from the custom-house at Havana upon what is called a 'sea letter;' a letter used for the protection of vessels against the examination of a man-of-war at sea, not to be opened by the captain, but only by an officer of the customs, or an officer of a man-of-war. This 'sea letter,' dated 22d of June, 1861, the day of the bark's departure from Havana, declared the destination of the Reindeer to be St. Antonio. St. Antonio is an unimportant island in the Cape de Verd Group, in a line from Havana to the western coast of Africa. The other papers were custom-house permits for embarking certain articles on the vessel, one dated 22d of May, and the other 19th of June. Both declared her to be bound for St. Antonio, and both were obtained by Perez & Martinez, who loaded the vessel for Tejedor.

The manifest of cargo from Havana to Falmouth reported 'two passengers, cabin,' Don Pedro Garcia and Don H. A. Pinto. These persons came whth the vessel to Newport. Garcia had been captain of a coasting vessel in Cuba, and said that he had been to the coast of Africa after slaves, but was now a passenger. Pinto first said that he was on board as supercargo, which he afterwards repeated; but after he was arrested and put in jail, he denied that he was anything but a passenger.

Mr. Gillet, for the appellant: We admit that Tejedor, by not appealing, acquiesced in the decision of the Circuit Court, and that his claims must be laid out of view on this hearing. He conceded, so far as the present appellants are concerned, that the vessel and cargo belonged to Pearce, and was lawfully attached, and that he has no claim upon either.

The questions are, therefore, now between the United States, claiming through the marshal's seizure under the libel, and that of the sheriff and creditors upon their prior seizure under the attachments.

1. We contend upon these that there was no sufficient evidence to show a fitting out, &c., of the vessel in New York. Whatever fitting out and clearance there was by any one for any place, was at Havana by Perez & Martinez for Tejedor, a Spanish subject, residing at Havana. It is not even certain that the voyage was for the slave-trade at all. The history of objects and motives in Cuba is not well proved. [The counsel here exfoliated and enforced these views, commenting on and interpreting, as he conceived it, the evidence.]

2. The vessel and cargo were in possession of the State Court of Rhode Island, and that court had a right to retain the custody. The principle that the court, whose process first seizes property, cannot be interfered with by another jurisdiction, was settled by Taylor v. Carryl in this court. [5] For this reason there is no jurisdiction.

3. The offence, such as it is, so far as Pearce is concerned, is charged to have been committed in New York. Yet the vessel is seized in Rhode Island, where no offence is committed at all, nor is alleged to have been. Jurisdiction fails here, too.

Mr. Coffey, special counsel of the United States, contra: No doubt, Havana was the place where most of the fitting out was done. This, however, was to evade detection. The voyage was begun in New York. Much of that same '14,700 pounds of tasajo,' or dried beef, that same 'box,' and those same, or very nearly those same 'twenty-two packages of hardware,' which were shipped to Havana from New York, were found on the vessel at Newport, and after they had been shipped from Havana to some other place; what other place we shall consider directly. Further than that, the same sailors (four excepted), who left New York January 26, 1861, for Havana, are found on board at Newport (on July 11th), after the voyage to Havana had been ended, and the vessel at rest there for four months. This shows the continuity of the voyage.

To what place was this voyage? Maury's Geography of the Sea shows that the vessel was in the direct course to Africa when compelled to put into Newport. The cargo was all of it suited to the slave-trade. Much of it was scarce suited to anything else. Machats, or war-knives, innocently described as 'hardware;' 'sponges,' an article used to wash slaves after being packed under the hatches; 'vinegar,' given to them to rinse their mouths; 'medicines,' for these poor beings; disinfecting fluids, chloride of lime, mess-kettles, casks of long iron chains, with padlocks, as indicative of the purpose of the voyage as manacles or handcuffs would be, are for the slave-trade specially. How can such articles be vindicated as a cargo to Falmouth, England, especially as coming from Cuba? Tasajo is imported from Buenos Ayres, and is a food specially for slaves. St. Antonio was more truly described as a destination, since it was in the direct line of the true destination; but it was not itself that destination. St. Antonio is a poor port of the Cape de Verds; insignificant and insecure at once; a place for which such a cargo would have been wholly too large, and as much unsuited. The extent of the repairs show a long voyage. Garcia and Pinto, though entered as passengers, confessed that they were not so; though they afterwards tried to lie themselves out of the confession, when the vessel was seized. Undoubtedly they were managers of the voyage.

The charter-party was a fraud. The testimony of Martinez brought to sustain it, shows that Tejedor paid $1500 more for the use of the vessel for three years, than Pearce asked for the whole title; and nearly three times as much as the vessel brought when sold at Newport. Martinez testifies that Pearce 'made a contract to sell her to Tejedor.' No doubt this was the scheme; but when the vessel was compelled to put into Rhode Island, and was seized, it became plain that this plan would not stand; a sale being a nearly invariable badge of a slaver voyage. A charter-party was resorted to, and an attachment by creditors.

It is not worth while to discuss the law of priority between State and Federal liens; for the marshal of the United States took the vessel as soon as she entered Newport; and,

2. The attachment, as we have signified, is as much fraudulent as every other part of the scheme. The case comes here confessedly on the appeal of the attaching creditors. The attachment was for a sum of $350, and $9.90 costs. Is it to vindicate a right to this sum that an appeal is taken from the Circuit Court of Rhode Island to this high tribunal? that counsel are made to wait the 'law's delay,' for half a winter in the Federal metropolis? Will counsel assert this? Pearce was plainly owner.

But if the attachment were not fraudulent, the United States would have priority; for a forfeiture made absolute by statute, relates back to the time of the commission of the offence. This is ancient and settled law. [6]

It is settled as well, that the district where the seizure is made has jurisdiction of a proceeding in rem. [7]

Mr. Justice CLIFFORD delivered the opinion of the court.


^1  1 Stat. at Large, 347.

^2  2 Id. 70.

^3  3 Id. 450.

^4  Plate VIII.

^5  20 Howard, 583.

^6  Roberts v. Wetherall, 1 Salkeld, 223; S.C.., 12 Modern, 92; United States v. Grundy, 3 Cranch, 338; Gelson v. Hoyt, 3 Wheaton, 246.

^7  United States v. The Betsy, 4 Cranch, 452.

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).