The Three Friends United States v. the Three Friends

Decision Date01 March 1897
Docket NumberNo. 701,701
Citation166 U.S. 1,41 L.Ed. 897,17 S.Ct. 495
PartiesTHE THREE FRIENDS. UNITED STATES v. THE THREE FRIENDS et al
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

The steamer Three Friends was seized November 7, 1896, by the collector of customs for the district of St. Johns, Fla., as forfeited to the United States under section 5283 of the Revised Statutes, and thereupon, November 12th, was libele 1 on behalf of the United States in the district court for the Southern district of Florida.

The first two paragraphs of the libel alleged the seizure and detention of the vessel, and the libel then continued:

'Third. That the said steamboat or steam vessel, the Three Friends, was on, to wit, on the 23d day of May, A. D. 1896, furnished, fitted out, and armed, with intent that she should be employed in the service of a certain people, to wit, certain people then engaged in armed resistance to the government of the king of Spain, in the Island of Cuba, to cruise and commit hostilities against the subjects, citizens, and property of the king of Spain, in the Island of Cuba, with whom the United States are and were at that date at peace.

'Fourth. That the said steamboat or steam vessel, Three Friends, on, to wit, on the 23d day of May, A. D. 1896, whereof one Napoleon B. Broward was then and there master, and within the said Southern district of Florida, was then and there fitted out, furnished, and armed, with intent that said vessel, the said Three Friends, should be employed in the service of a certain people, to wit, the insurgents in the Island of Cuba, otherwise called the 'Cuban revolutionists,' to cruise and commit hostilities against the subjects, proeprty, and people of the king of Spain, in the said Island of Cuba, with whom the United States are and were then at peace.

'Fifth. That the said steamboat or steam vessel, Three Friends, on, to wit, on the 23d day of May, A. D. 1896, and whereof one N. B. Broward was then and there master, within the navigable waters of the United States, and within the Southern district of Florida and the jurisdiction of this court, was then and there, by certain persons to the attorneys of the said United States unknown, furnished, fitted out, and armed, being loaded with supplies and arms and munitions of war, and it, the said steam vessel, Three Friends, being then and there furnished, fitted out, and armed with one certain gun or guns, the exact number to the said attorneys of the United States unknown, and with munitions of war thereof, with the intent then and there to be employed in the service of a certain people, to wit, certain people then engaged in armed resistance to the government of the king of Spain in the Island of Cuba, and with the intent to cruise and commit hostilities against the subjects, citizens, and property of the king of Spain in the said Island of Cuba, and who, on the said date and day last aforesaid, and being so furnished, fitted out, and armed as aforesaid, then and there aforesaid, from the navigable waters of the United States, to wit, from the St. Johns river, within the Southern district of Florida, and within the jurisdiction of this court aforesaid, proceeded upon a voyage to the Island of Cuba aforesaid, with the in- tent aforesaid, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided. And that, by force and virtue of the acts of congress in such case made and provided, the said steamboat or steam vessel, her tackle, engines, machinery, apparel, and furniture, became and are forfeited to the use of the said United States.

'Sixth. And the said attorneys say that by reason of all and singular the premises aforesaid, and that by force of the statute in such case made and provided, the aforesaid and described steamboat or steam vessel, Three Friends, her tackle, machinery, apparel, and furniture, became and are forfeited to the use of the said United States.'

And concluded with a prayer for process and monition and the condemnation of the vessel as forfeited. Attachment and monition having issued as prayed, Napoleon B. Broward and Montcalm Broward, master and owners, intervened as claimants, applied for an appraisement of the vessel and her release on stipulation, and filed the following exceptions to the libel:

'(1) Section 5283, for an alleged violation of which the said vessel is sought to be forfeited, makes such forfeiture dependent upon the conviction of a person for doing the act or acts denounced in the first sentence of said section, and as a consequence of conviction of such person; whereas the allegations in said libel do not show what persons had been guilty of the acts therein denounced as unlawful.

'(2) The said libel does not show the Three Friends was fitted out and armed, attempted to be fitted out and armed, or procured to be fitted out and armed, in violation of said section.

'(3) The said libel does not show the said vessel was so fitted out and armed, or so attempted to be fitted out and armed, or so procured to be fitted out and armed or furnished, with the intent that said vessel should be employed in the service of a foreign prince or state or of a colony, district, or people with whom the United States are at peace.

'(4) The said libel does not show by whom said vessel was so fitted out.

'(5) Said libel does not show in the service of what foreign prince or state or colony or district or body politic the said vessel was so fitted out.

'(6) The said libel does not show that said vessel was so armed or fitted out or furnished with the intent that such vessel should be employed in the service of any body politic recognized by or known to the United States as a body politic.'

The vessel was appraised at $4,000, and a bond on stipulation given for $10,000, upon which she was directed to be released. The cause came on to be heard upon the exceptions to the libel, and on January 18th the following decree was entered (78 Fed. 175):

'This cause coming on to be heard upon exceptions to the libel, and having been fully heard and considered, it is ordered that said second, third, fifth, and sixth exceptions be sustained, and that the libelant have permission to amend said libel; and, in event said libel is not so amended within ten days, the same stand dismissed, and the bond herein filed be canceled.'

From this decree the United States, on January 23d, prayed an appeal to the United States circuit court of appeals for the Fifth circuit, which was allowed and duly prosecuted.

The following errors were assigned:

'First. For that the court, over the objection of the libelants, allowed the said steam vessel, Three Friends, to be released from custody upon the giving of bond.

'Second. For that the court erred in sustaining the 2d, 3d, 5th, and 6th exceptions of the claimants to the libel of information of the libelants.

'Third. For that the court erred in entering a decree dismissing the libel of information herein.'

On February 1st application was made to this court for a writ of certiorari to bring up the cause from said circuit court of appeals, and, having been granted and sent down, the record was returned accordingly.

Atty. Gen. Harmon and Asst. Atty. Gen. Whitney, for the United states.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 5-12 intentionally omitted]

Page 12

W. Hallett Phillips and

[Argument of Counsel from pages 12-40 intentionally omitted]

Page 40

A. W. Cockrell, for respondents.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 40-49 intentionally omitted]

Page 49

Mr. Chief Justice FULLER, after stating the facts in the foregoing language, delivered the oponion of the court.

It is objected that the decree was not final, but, inasmuch as the libel was ordered to stand dismissed if not amended within 10 days, the prosecution of the appeal, within that time, was an election to waive the right to amend, and the decree of dismissal took effect immediately.

In admiralty cases, among others enumerated, the decree of the circuit court of appeals is made final in that court by the terms of section 6 of the judiciary act of March 3, 1891; but this court may require any such case, by certiorari or otherwise, to be certified 'for its review and determination with the same power and authority in the case as if it had been carried by appeal or writ of error to the supreme court,'—that is, as if it had been brought directly from the district or the circuit court. 26 Stat. 826, c. 517, § 6.

Accordingly, the writ of certiorari may be issued in such cases to the circuit court of appeals, pending action by that court; and, although this is a power not ordinarily to be exercised (American Const. Co. v. Jacksonville, T. & K. W. Ry. Co., 148 U. S. 372, 385, 13 Sup. Ct. 758), we were of opinion that the circumstances justified the allowance of the writ in this instance, and the case is properly before us.

We agree with the district judge that the contention that forfeiture under section 5283 depends upon the conviction of a person or persons for doing the acts denounced is untenable. The suit is a civil suit in rem for the condemnation of the vessel only, and is not a criminal prosecution. The two proceedings are wholly independent, and pursued in different

Page 50

courts, and the result in each might be different. Indeed, forfeiture might be decreed if the proof showed the prohibited acts were committed, though lacking as to the identity of the particular person by whom they were committed. The Palmyra, 12 Wheat. 1; The Ambrose Light, 25 Fed. 408; The Meteor, 17 Fed. Cas. 178.

The Palmyra was a case of a libel of information against the vessel to forfeit her for a piratical aggression, under certain acts of congress which made no provision for the personal punishment of the offenders; but it was held that, even if such provision had been made, conviction would not have been necessary to the enforcement of forfeiture. And Mr. Justice Story, delivering the opinion, said: 'It is well known that at the common law, in many cases of felonies, the party forfeited...

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    ...of war or belligerency exists in another country. In re Cooper, 143 U.S. 472, 12 S.Ct. 453, 36 L.Ed. 232 (1892); The Three Friends, 166 U.S. 1, 17 S.Ct. 495, 41 L.Ed. 897 (1897); Underhill v. Hernandez, 168 U.S. 250, 18 S.Ct. 83, 42 L.Ed. 456 (1897). In those situations a court would be una......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Johan D. Van Der Vyver, Prosecuting Offenses Against the Law of Nations in the United States
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    • Emory University School of Law Emory International Law Reviews No. 20-2, December 2006
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