THE @BELLO CORRUNES,@, 19 U. S. 152 (1821)

19 U. S. 152

U.S. Supreme Court

The @Bello Corrunes,@, 19 U.S. 152 (1821)

The @Bello Corrunes@

19 U.S. 152


A foreign consul has a right to claim or institute a proceeding in rem, where the rights of property of his fellow citizens are in question without a special procuration from those for whose benefit he acts.

But a consul cannot receive actual restitution of the res in controversy without a special authority from the particular individuals who are entitled.

A capture made by citizens of the United States of property belonging to subjects of a country in amity with the United States is unlawful wheresoever the capturing vessel may have been equipped or by whomsoever commissioned, and the property thus captured, if brought within the neutral limits of this country, will be restored to the original owners.

Whatever difficulty there may be under our municipal institutions in punishing as pirates citizens of the United States who take from a state at war with Spain a commission to cruise against that power, contrary to the fourteenth article of the Spanish treaty, yet there is no doubt that such acts are to be considered as piratical acts for all civil purposes, and the offending, parties cannot appear, and claim in our courts the property thus taken.

It seems that the terms "a state with which the said King shall be at war" in the fourteenth article of the treaty include the South American provinces which have revolted against Spain.

But however this may be, the neutrality act of June 1797, ch. 1, extends the same prohibition, with all its consequences, to a colony revolting and making war against its parent country:

In the case of such an illegal capture, the property of the lawful owners cannot be forfeited for a violation of the revenue laws of this country by the captors or by persons who have rescued the property from their possession.

The rights of salvage may be forfeited by spoliation, smuggling, or other gross misconduct of the salvors. clubjuris

Page 19 U. S. 153

This was the case of a Spanish vessel and cargo stranded on Block Island, and there seized by the officers of the customs. An information on behalf of the United States was filed in the district court against the property as forfeited for an alleged breach of the revenue laws. His Catholic Majesty's Vice Consul for the District of Rhode Island interposed a claim on behalf of "certain subjects of the King of Spain," the original owners of the ship and cargo, which was bound on a voyage from the port of Tarragona, in Spain, to La Vera Cruz, and was taken off Cape St. Antonio, on the west end of the Island of Cuba, on 21 March, 1818, by an armed vessel called the Puyerredon, commanded by one James Barnes, sailing under Buenos Ayres colors, and asserting a right to make captures under the authority of the government of that place. Restitution to the original Spanish owners was claimed clubjuris

Page 19 U. S. 154

upon the ground that the capturing vessel had been equipped in the ports of this country, in violation of our neutrality. An allegation was also filed by Barnes demanding restitution of the property to the captors as having been taken jure belli on the high seas. Another claim was also filed by certain persons, part of the original crew of the Bello Corrunes, left on board after the capture, who asserted a claim for salvage, in case the property should be restored to the original Spanish owners, under the following circumstances. The master of the captured vessel, and all her crew except four, were taken out, and a prize master and crew put on board from the Puyerredon. Thus equipped, the Bello Corrunes cruised in company with the Puyerredon nearly two months, during which period another Spaniard, of the original crew of the Bello Corrunes, was returned to that vessel. The two vessels afterwards separated, and on 8 of May, in lat. 3230' north, and longitude 74W. from London, the prize crew, assisted by the persons originally on board the Bello Corrunes, rose on the prize master and other officers and rescued the vessel from their possession. They then steered their course for the United States, and the vessel was by some means stranded upon Block Island, where the vessel and cargo were seized by the revenue officers.

A decree was entered in the district court pro forma and by consent of parties restoring the property to the original Spanish owners as claimed and dismissing the other allegations and claims. This decree was affirmed pro forma and by consent in clubjuris

Page 19 U. S. 155

the circuit court, and the cause was brought by appeal to this Court.

It appeared by the evidence in the courts below and by the further proof taken under a commission from this Court that the capturing vessel was formerly owned by citizens of the United States, and called the Mangoree, and was originally armed, equipped, and manned at Baltimore and sailed from that port in March, 1817, under the command of Barnes, a citizen of the United States, domiciled in that city, under Buenos Ayres colors, on a cruise, and after capturing several Spanish vessels, proceeded to Buenos Ayres, where the vessel arrived in August, 1817. The vessel was then altered from a schooner into a brig, and her name changed to the Puyerredon, an addition of one gun was made to her armament, some of the original crew were reshipped, and other seamen recruited. An alleged sale of the vessel took place to one Higginbotham, a citizen of the United States domiciled at Buenos Ayres, and a commission was issued by the Supreme Director of the United Provinces of South America, dated 20 November, 1817, authorizing Barnes to capture Spanish property, with which the vessel sailed from Buenos Ayres on the cruise during which the present capture was made. clubjuris

Page 19 U. S. 166