Hijo v. United States
United States Supreme Court
HIJO v. UNITED STATES
Argued: April 28, 1904. --- Decided: May 16, 1904
This action was brought against the United States by J. Ribas Y Hijo, a Spanish corporation, to recover the sum of $10,000 as the value of the use of a certain merchant vessel taken by the United States in the Port of Ponce, Porto Rico, when that city was captured by the United States Army and Navy on July 28th, 1898.
The vessel was kept and used by the quartermaster's department of the Army until some time in April, 1899, when the War Department ordered its return to the owner, if all claim for use or damage for detention should be waived. Such conditional return was refused by the captain, who claimed to be a part owner, and with his crew he left the vessel.
Subsequently the consignees of the vessel were notified that it was at their disposal; that the government was about to discharge those having it in care; and they were requested to put some one in control of it. This they declined to do, and the vessel was abandoned, and in August, 1899, was wrecked in a hurricane.
The vessel was never in naval custody nor condemned as prize. When seized it was a Spanish vessel, carried the Spanish flag, and its owner, captain, and crew were all Spanish subjects. It did not come within any of the declared exemptions from seizure set forth in the Proclamation of the President dent of April 26th, 1898. 30 Stat. at L. 1770. A claim filed in the War Department in February, 1900, for its use was rejected.
Such being the facts found, the court below, upon final hearing, dismissed the action, upon the general ground that the vessel was properly seized as enemy's property, and its use was by the war power for war purposes.
A rehearing was asked and was denied, the court saying: 'A rehearing is asked upon the ground that the court has found, as a matter of fact, that the use continued until in April, 1899, and, as the protocol, followed by the President's proclamation, was dated August 12th, 1898 [30 Stat. at L. 1780], the complainants should recover on a quantum meruit the value of the use of the vessel between those dates. This was a seizure in time of war, and not in time of peace. It was, as has been said, a special case, arising from the necessary operation of war, and the war power of the government concluded it was necessary to take and use the property. Even conceding that the seizure did not terminate all right of the Spanish owner in the property, or to any use of it, yet the protocol and proclamation did not end the war. The protocol worked a mere truce. The President had not the power to terminate the war by treaty without the advice or consent of the Senate of the United States. If a treaty be silent as to when it is to become effective, the weight of authority is that it does not become so until ratified, and this was not done until in April, 1899 [30 Stat. at L. 1754], and the war did not end by treaty until then, and all the use made by the government of the vessel was justified by the rules of law and international law, without compensation.'
Mr. Charles M. Boerman for appellant.
[Argument of Counsel from page 317 intentionally omitted]
Solicitor General Hoyt and Assistant Attorney General McReynolds for appellee.
Mr. Justice Harlan delivered the opinion of the court:
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