Springbok Case

72 U.S. (5 Wall. 1) 1; 1867


The British owned bark Springbok sailed from London, December 8. 1862. and was captured by a United States vessel of war on February 3d, 1863, about one hundred and fifty miles east of the British port of Nassau on the Island of New Providence. This port was near the southern coast of the United States, and it was a matter of common knowledge that it had been largely used as one for the call and trans-shipment of cargoes intended for the ports of the insurrectionary States of the Union, then under blockade by the federal government. The vessel was brought into the port of New York, and after a hearing in the United States district court, both vessel and cargo were condemned. On appeal to the supreme court of the United States, the vessel was released, but the decree of the lower court as to the cargo was affirmed.The ship's papers were on their face regular, and it was said by Chief Justice Waite, "they all showed that the voyage on which she was captured was from London to Nassau, both neutral ports within the definition of neutrality furnished by international law. The shippers, too, were really genuine and there was no concealment of any of them and no spoliation. The owners were neutrals and do not appear to have any interest in the cargo. There is no sufficient proof that they had any knowledge of its alleged unlawful destination."


Does the Doctrine of Continuous Voyage apply in the case at bar.


YES. Where the papers of a ship sailing under a charter party are all genuine and regular and show a voyage between ports neutral within the meaning of international law, where there has been no concealment nor spoliation of them, where the stipulations of the charter party in favor of the owners are apparently in good faith, where the owners are neutrals, have no interest in the cargo, and have not previously in any way violated neutral obligations, and there is no sufficient proof that they have any knowledge of the unlawful destination of the cargo, in such a case, its aspect being otherwise fair, the vessel will not be condemned because the neutral port to which it is sailing has been constantly and notoriously used as a port of call and transshipment by persons engaged in systematic violation of blockade and in the conveyance of contraband of war, and was meant by the owners of the cargo carried on this ship to be so used in regard to it.

The facts that the master declared himself ignorant as to what a part of his cargo, of which invoices were not on board (having been sent by mail to the port of destination) consisted, such part having been contraband, and also declared himself ignorant of the cause of capture, when his mate, boatswain and steward all testified that they understood it to be the vessel's having contraband on board, held not sufficient, of themselves, to infer guilt to the owners of the vessel, in no way compromised with the cargo. But the misrepresentation of the master as to his knowledge of the ground of capture held to deprive the owners of costs on restoration.

A cargo was here condemned for intent to run a blockade where the vessel was sailing to a port such as that above described, the bills of lading disclosing the contents of 619 packages of 2007 which made the cargo, the contents of the remaining 1388 being not disclosed; where both they and the manifest made the cargo deliverable to order, the master being directed by his letter of instructions to report himself on arrival at the neutral port to H., who "would give him orders as to the delivery of his cargo;" where a certain fraction of the cargo whose contents were undisclosed was specially fitted for the enemy's military use and a larger part capable of being adapted to it; where other vessels owned by the owners of the cargo, and by the charterer, and sailing ostensibly for neutral ports were, on invocation, shown to have been engaged in blockade running, many packages on one of the vessels, and numbered in a broken series of numbers, finding many of the complemental numbers on the vessel now under adjudication; where no application was made to take further proof in explanation of these facts, and the claim of the cargo, libeled at New York, was not personally sworn to by either of the persons owning it, resident in England, but was sworn to by an agent at New York, on "information and belief."

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