137 U.S. 202 (1890), Jones v. U.s.

Citation:137 U.S. 202, 11 S.Ct. 80, 34 L.Ed. 691
Party Name:JONES v. UNITED STATES.
Case Date:November 24, 1890
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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137 U.S. 202 (1890)

11 S.Ct. 80, 34 L.Ed. 691

JONES

v.

UNITED STATES.

United States Supreme Court.

November 24, 1890

In error to the circuit court of the United States for the district of Maryland

COUNSEL

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[11 S.Ct. 80] Archibald Stirling, Jr., E. J. Waring, and John Henry Keene, Jr., for plaintiff in error.

Atty. Gen. Miller, for the United States.

OPINION

GRAY, J.

This was an indictment, found in the district court of the United States for the district of Maryland, and remitted to the circuit court under Rev. St. § 1039, alleging that Henry Jones, late of that district, on September 14, 1889, 'at Navassa island, a place which then and there was under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, and out of the jurisdiction of any particular state or district of the United States, the same being, at the time of the committing of the

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offenses in the manner and form as hereinafter stated by the persons hereinafter named, an island situated in the Caribbean sea, and named 'Navassa Island,' and which was then and there recognized and considered by the United States as containing a deposit of guano, within the meaning and terms of the laws of the United States relating to such islands, and which was then and there recognized and considered by the United States as appertaining to the United States, and which [11 S.Ct. 81] was also then and there in the possession of the United States, under the laws of the United States then and there in force relating to such islands,' murdered one Thomas N. Foster, by giving him three mortal blows with an axe, of which he there died on the same day; and that other persons named aided and abetter in the murder. The indictment, after charging the murder in usual form, alleged that the district of Maryland was the district of the United States into which the defendant was afterwards first brought from the island of Navassa. The defendant filed a general demurrer, which was overruled, and he then pleaded not guilty. The jury returned a verdict of guilty; and a bill of exceptions was tendered by the defendant, and allowed by the court, in substance, as follows: At the trial, the United States, to prove that Navassa island was recognized and considered by the United States as appertaining to the United States, and in the possession of the United States, under the provisions of the laws of the United States in force with regard to such islands, offered in evidence certified copies of papers, from the records of the state department of the United States, as follows: A copy of a memorial addressed to the secretary of state by Peter Duncan, signed and sworn to by him on November 18, 1857, before a commissioner of the circuit court of the United States for the district of Maryland, and certified by the present secretary of state to be 'a true copy from senate executive document No. 37, 36th congress, 1st session, filed in this department with papers relating to the discovery of guano on the island of Navassa,' which was in these words:

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'To the honorable the secretary of state of the United States: Peter Duncan, a citizen of the United States, respectfully represents to the department of state of the United States that on the first day of July in the year 1857 he did discover a deposit of guano on an island or key in the Caribbean sea, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other government, which said island or key is called 'Navassa,' and lies in latitude 18º18' north, longitude 75º west, forty-five miles, or thereabouts, from the island of St. Domingo, and seventy miles, or thereabouts, from the island of Jamaica. The said island of Navassa is about two miles in length, and a mile and a half in width, apparently of volcanic origin, and elevated about three hundred feet above the surface of the sea, presenting a rocky perpendicular cliff or shore on all sides except for a small space to the north. It is covered with small shrubs upon the surface beneath which is a deposit of phosphatic guano, varying in depth from one to six feet, and estimated in quantity at one million of tons. And said claimant further represents that on the 19th day of September, 1857, he did take peaceable possession of and occupy said island or key of Navassa in the name of the United States, and continues so to occupy the same, and is prepared to furnish satisfactory evidence thereof, and of all others the requisites and facts prescribed by the act of congress in such case made and provided. Wherefore he prays that said key or island of Navassa may be considered and declared as appertaining to the United States, and that he the said claimant, may have the rights and advantages allowed and secured to him as such discoverer, which are by the act of congress aforesaid provided. PETER DUNCAN.'

Also a copy of a proclamation, certified by the present secretary of state to be 'a copy of a proclamation issued by this department on the 8th day of December, 1859, in respect

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to the discovery of guano on the island of Navassa by Peter Duncan,' which was in these words:

'Lewis Cass, secretary of state of the United States, to all to whom these presents shall come, greeting: Know ye that Peter Duncan, a citizen of the United States, has filed in this department the required notice of the discovery of guano on and of the occupation of the island of Navassa, in the Caribbean sea, in the name of the United States of America, the same being in north latitude eighteen degrees and ten minutes, and in longitude seventy-five degrees west; and that Edward K. Cooper, also a citizen of the United States, and the assignee of the said Peter Duncan, has entered into sufficient bonds under and according to the provisions of the act of the congress of the United States passed on the eighteenth day of August, in the year eighteen hundred and fifty-six; wherefore the said Edward K. Cooper is entitled, in respect to the guano on the said island, to all the privileges and advantages intended by that act to be secured to citizens of the United States who may have discovered deposits of guano: provided always, that the said Edward K. Cooper shall abide by the conditions and requirements imposed by the act of congress aforesaid. In witness whereof I, Lewis Cass, secretary of state of the United States of America, have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the department of state to be affixed at Washington this eighth day of December, 1859. LEWIS CASS. [Seal.]'

The United States further proved that on September 14, 1889, the island of Navassa was in the possession of the Navassa Phosphate Company, incorporated by the state of New York, and which held the island as assignees of Duncan and Cooper, mentioned in the foregoing papers; that the persons then 'on the island consisted of 137 colored laborers of said company and 11 white officers, or superintendents, all residents of the United States, appointed by the company, the laborers, including the defendant, being employed in

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digging the phosphate, or guano, and transporting by railroad propelled by man power, and handling the phosphate, or guano, found on the island and putting it on shipboard, which digging and mining is carried on by digging and blasting with dynamite and working with picks and other iron tools, and which phosphate or guano so mined is the article called 'Navassa Phosphate' in the market, and is the only substance on the island which is dug, mined, worked, transported, or sold, the said laborers [11 S.Ct. 82] being shipped at Baltimore under shipping articles,' a copy of which is in the margin; 1 that on that day

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a riot took place there, in which a large number of laborers were engaged against the officers, and the defendant killed Thomas N. Foster, one of the officers, under circumstances which the jury found amounted to murder, as charged in the indictment; and that afterwards the defendant was first brought into the district of Maryland, as therein charged. Evidence offered by the defendant that on April 16, 1889,

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a foreign vessel was loading at Navassa with a cargo of this phosphate of lime, intended for the use of persons other than citizens or residents of the United States, and finished such loading a few days afterwards, was excluded by the court as immaterial; and the defendant excepted to its exclusion. After verdict, the defendant moved in arrest of judgment for various reasons, the only one of which relied on in argument was this: 'Because the act of August 18, 1856, c. 164, now codified with amendments as title 72 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, is unconstitutional and void, and the court was without jurisdiction to try the defendant under the indictment found against him.' The motion was overruled, and the defendant sentenced to death; and he sued out this writ of error under the act of February 6, 1889, c. 113, §6, (25 St. 656.)

The provisions of the act of congress of August 18, 1856, c. 164, entitled 'An act to authorize protection to be given to citizens of the United States who may discover deposits of guano,' (11 St. 119,) since re-enacted in title 72, §§ 5570-5578, of the Revised Statutes, are as follows: By section 1, when any citizen of the United States shall 'discover a deposit of guano on any island, rock, or key, not within the lawful jurisdiction of any other government, and not occupied by the citizens of any other government, and shall take peaceable possession thereof, and occupy the same, said island, rock, or key may, at the discretion of the president of the United States, be considered as appertaining to the United States;' provided that the discoverer, as soon as practicable, shall give notice, on oath, to the state department of the United States of such discovery, occupation, and possession, describing the...

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