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SHEPPARD V. TAYLOR, 30 U. S. 675 (1831)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sheppard v. Taylor, 30 U.S. 5 Pet. 675 675 (1831)

Sheppard v. Taylor

30 U.S. (5 Pet.) 675


The ship Warren, owned in Baltimore, sailed from that port in 1806, the officers and seamen having shipped to perform a voyage to the northwest coast of America, thence to Canton, and thence to the United States. The ship proceeded under the instructions of the owners to Conception Bay on the coast of Chili by the orders of the supercargo, he having full authority for that purpose. The cargo had in fact been put on board for an illicit trade against the laws of Spain on that coast. After the arrival of the Warren, she was seized by the Spanish authorities, the vessel and cargo condemned, and the proceeds ordered to be deposited in the royal chest. The officers and seamen were imprisoned and returned to the United States, some after eighteen months and others

not until four years from the term of their departure. The King of Spain subsequently ordered the proceeds of the Warren and cargo to be repaid to the owners, but this was not done; afterwards, the owners, having become insolvent, assigned their claims for the restoration of the proceeds and for indemnity from Spain to their separate creditors, and the commissioners under the Florida treaty awarded to be paid to the assignees a sum of money, part for the cargo, part for the freight, and part for the ship Warren. The officers and seamen having proceeded against the owners of the ship by libel for their wages, claiming them by reason of the change of voyage, from the time of her departure until their return to the United States respectively, and having afterwards claimed payment out of the money paid to the assignees of the owners under the treaty, it was held that they were entitled, towards the satisfaction of the same, to the sum awarded by the commissioners for the loss of the ship and her freight, with certain deductions for the expenses of prosecuting the claim before the commissioners, with interest on the amount from the period when a claim for the same from the assignees was made by a petition.

If the ship had been specifically restored, the seamen might have proceeded against it in the admiralty in a suit in rem for the whole compensation due to them. They have by the maritime laws an indisputable lien to this extent. There is no difference between the case of a restitution in specie of the ship itself, and a restoration in value. The lien

reattaches to the thing, and to whatever is substituted for it. This is no peculiar principle of the admiralty. It is found incorporated into the doctrines of courts of common law.

Freight, being the earnings of the ship in the course of the voyage, is the natural fund out of which the wages are contemplated to be paid, for although the ship is bound by the lien of the wages, the freight is relied on as the fund to discharge it, and is also relied on by the master to discharge his personal responsibilities for disbursements and wages.

Over the subject of seamen's wages the admiralty has an undisputed jurisdiction, in rem as well as in personam, and wherever the lien for the wages exists and attaches upon the proceeds, it is the familiar practice of that court to exert its jurisdiction over them, by way of monition to the parties holding the proceeds. This is familiarly known in the cases of prize and bottomry, and chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 30 U. S. 676

salvage, and is equally applicable to the case of wages. The lien will follow the ship and its proceeds into whose hands soever they may come by title or purchase from the owner.

In December, 1810, a libel was filed by James Sheppard and others, officers and seamen of the merchant ship Warren, against Lemuel Taylor, Samuel Smith, James A. Buchanan, John Hollins, and Michael McBlair, owners of the merchant ship Warren, claiming wages, they having shipped in 1806, at Baltimore, for a voyage from that port to the northwest coast, thence to Canton, and home to the United States.

The facts of the case, as they appeared in the libel and supplemental libels, petition, and in the depositions and documents filed and taken in the case, were that the ship Warren, of the burden of about six hundred tons, and armed with twenty-two guns, commanded by Andrew Sterrett, sailed from Baltimore on 12 September, 1806. The crew, including the officers and apprentices, consisted of about 112 persons, and were shipped for a voyage designated in the shipping articles, to be from the port of Baltimore to the northwest coast of America, thence to Canton and home to the United States. No other voyage but that expressed in the articles was known to be intended by anyone on board of the Warren, except Mr. Pollock, who was the supercargo of the vessel. There were, however, two sets of instructions, one, those which expressed the voyage as stated, and which were given to captain Sterrett, the other, sealed, private instructions, and which were delivered to Mr. Pollock.

When the ship arrived at a certain latitude, the sealed instructions were opened and were communicated to the captain. These instructions changed the destination of the ship, and the nature and character of voyage. They gave the entire control over the course of the voyage to Mr. Pollock, and from that time she proceeded directly for the coast of Chili to prosecute an illicit and smuggling trade with the Spanish provinces, on the western coast of South America, all trade with those provinces being then notoriously forbidden, under chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 30 U. S. 677

heavy penalties, unless conducted under a license from the Crown of Spain.

The officers and crew of the Warren protested against this deviation from the prescribed voyage, and captain Sterrett, from disappointed and wounded feelings, disdaining himself to engage in an illicit trade and unwilling to expose his officers and men to its perils and consequences, became partially deranged and shot himself as the Warren was doubling Cape Horn.

Mr. Evans, the chief mate, succeeded in the nominal command of the ship, but Mr. Pollock asserted and maintained the entire control over her, and he ordered her to steer direct for Conception Bay and the port of Talcahuana, on the coast of Chili, where they were to feign distress and ask for an asylum.

The vessel arrived on 20 January, 1807, within a short distance of that port, after an absence from Baltimore of 120, and on her arrival was hailed by the guarda costas of the government. Mr. Pollock answered in Spanish, and took the ship's papers with him on shore, where he had an interview with the commandant of Talcahuana.

During his absence an altercation took place between captain Evans and the Spanish armed vessels, which resulted in the exchange of some guns, but no lives were lost on either side. Mr. Pollock having remained on shore under a flag of truce, on the following day communicated by a verbal message to captain Evans, an order to enter the port, alleging, that the firing on the Warren by the guarda costas had been through mistake, and that all things would be well managed. The crew remonstrated, and proposed to proceed with the ship on the voyage for which they had sailed, and to leave the supercargo on shore. Captain Evans refused to enter the port unless by a written order, which was then sent to him, and he was informed by the messenger that Mr. Pollock was under no restraint whatever.

The Warren then entered the port of Talcahuana, and captain