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U.S. Supreme Court

Durousseau v. United States, 10 U.S. 6 Cranch 307 307 (1810)

Durousseau v. United States

10 U.S. (6 Cranch) 307


The appellate powers of the Supreme Court of the United States, are given by the Constitution, but they are limited and regulated by the Judicial Act and other acts passed by Congress on the subject.

This Court has appellate jurisdiction of decisions in the district courts of Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Orleans, even in causes properly cognizable by the district courts of the United States.

To an action of debt for the penalty of an embargo bond, it is a good plea, under the Act of Congress of 12 March, 1808, s. 3, that the party was prevented from relanding the goods in the United States by unavoidable accident.

This was a suit brought by the United States against

Page 10 U. S. 308

Durousseau and others upon a bond given in pursuance of the Act of Congress of December 22, 1807, usually called the Embargo Act (Laws U.S. vol. 9, p. 7). The bond bears date 16 May, 1808, and the condition is that the goods therein mentioned should be "relanded in the United States at the port of Charleston or at some other port of the United States, the dangers of the seas excepted."

The proceedings in the court below are according to the forms of the civil law, by petition or libel and answer. The libel is in the nature of an action of debt for the penalty of the bond, and the plea is in the nature of a special plea, stating facts which were supposed to be sufficient evidence that the defendants were prevented by the dangers of the seas from relanding the goods in the United States.

The answer or plea states that the vessel sailed from New Orleans with intent to proceed to the port of Charleston, and that in the due prosecution of her voyage from New Orleans to Charleston, she was,

"on 26 May, 1808, and on divers days from the said 26 May till 1 June then next following, upon the high seas by unavoidable accident by force of the winds and waives, so much injured and endamaged that upon the said 1 June, for the preservation of the said vessel and cargo and the lives of her crew and passengers, it was found necessary to put into the port of Havana to refit the said vessel for her voyage aforesaid, and that the persons administering the government at the said port of Havana, by force of arms, and against the will and consent of these defendants and of the captain and supercargo of the said vessel and all other persons having the charge and direction of the said vessel or cargo whatever, did detain the said vessel and cargo at the said port of Havana and by superior force did prevent the said vessel, with her cargo, from pursuing her said voyage to the port of Charleston aforesaid or from going to any other port of the United States and landing the said cargo therein pursuant to the condition of the said bond, and did also by force so as aforesaid prevent and have

Page 10 U. S. 309

always hitherto prevented the said cargo or any part thereof from being sent in any other manner to the said United States and landed therein pursuant to the condition of the said bond; and these defendants aver that the damages and injuries aforesaid sustained by the said vessel were unavoidable and by force of the winds and waves, and that by reason of the detention and continuation thereof as aforesaid by superior force as aforesaid, they could not at any time heretofore, nor can they yet, land the said goods, wares, and merchandises in the said United States, pursuant to the condition of the said bond in the said petition set forth, by reason whereof, and also by force of the statutes in such case made and provided, these defendants are, as they are advised, discharged from the payment of the said sum of money in the said bond or obligation mentioned, or any part thereof; these defendants therefore pray that a jury may be empanelled to inquire of the facts aforesaid, should they be denied by the United States, and that these defendants may be hence dismissed with their reasonable costs and damages in this behalf most wrongfully expended,"


To this answer the attorney for the United States filed a general demurrer, and the court below, without argument, rendered judgment for the United States, whereupon the defendants sued out their writ of error.

Page 10 U. S. 312

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