4885 Bags of Linseed

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

66 U.S. 108

4885 Bags of Linseed

Appeal from the decree of the Circuit Court of the United

States for the district of Massachusetts.

The libel in this case was filed in the District Court by Paul Sears, Reuben Hopkins, James Smith, Alexander Child, William N. Batson, and Rowland H. Crosby, owners of the ship Bold Hunter, against four thousand eight hundred and eighty-five bags of linseed, seven thousand pockets of linseed, and fifteen hundred and thirty bags of pegue cutch. The goods libelled were part of a larger quantity brought to Boston from Calcutta by the Bold Hunter for Augustine Wills, and were at the time in store. The libellants demanded $14,948 57 as freight, less $5,000, which had been paid on account; and for this balance of freight they insisted that their lien had not been waived or impaired by the delivery of the goods under the circumstances.

After warrant and monition were issued, and the goods seized by the marshal in pursuance thereof, Rufus Wills, administrator of Augustine Wills, deceased, came in as claimant, and made answer to the libel, denying that the libellants had any lien on the goods for the freight.

The parties did not dispute about the facts of the case. It appeared by their mutual admissions that the libellants were owners of the Bold Hunter, and, in October, 1856, chartered her to Tuckerman, Townsend & Co. for a voyage from Calcutta to Boston, at $15 per ton on whole packages, and half that rate on loose stowage. The charter party contained the usual lien clause, with a stipulation that the freight should be paid in five and ten days after discharge at Boston, the credit not to impair the ship-owner's lien for freight. On the ship's arrival at Calcutta, the charterers did not furnish an entire cargo, and procured some shipments on freights-among others, one to Augustine Wills-for which the master signed bills of lading, in the usual form, at various rates of freight, all less than the charter rates. These bills of lading were passed over to the libellants by Tuckerman, Townsend & Co. in part settlement of the charter money, and the libellants undertook to collect the freights. The ship arrived at Boston in October, 1857. The larger portion of the goods consigned to Wills were discharged by the consent of all parties, without being landed, into the ship Cyclone, bound to London, and the remainder were delivered to the claimant, who took them to the customhouse stores, and entered them in bond in the name of Augustine Wills. When the Bold Hunter arrived, Augustine Wills, the consignee, was sick, and he died before the goods were all discharged. Rufus Wills, the claimant, acted as his agent before his death, and was his administrator afterwards. The goods were discharged and delivered without qualification, and nothing was said about holding them or any part of them for freight. The claimant, before the death of the consignee, paid $5,000 on the freights, but afterwards declined to pay any more, saying that he did not know how the estate of Augustine Wills would turn out.

The District Court dismissed the libel, and the decree was afterwards affirmed by the Circuit Court. Whereupon the libellant took this appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Mr. C. G. Loring, for the libellants.

1. The ship-owner has a lien on the goods, which is independent of possession, and not necessarily lost by delivery to the debtor. This lien does not imply a right of property, but the privilege of resorting to the thing for payment, in preference to general creditors. The Volunteer, (1 Summ., 551;) Logs of Mahogany, (2 Sumn., 603;) Raymond & Tyson, (17 How., 53;) Valin Com. on Code, art. 24; 2 Boulay Paty Com. on Code, 479; Abbot on Shipping, 127, 284; The Freeman, (18 How., 188;) The Yankee Blade, (19 How., 90;) Dupont de Nemours vs. Vance, (19 How., 171.) Waiver of the lien cannot be inferred from the fact that a portion of the cargo was at the request of the claimant discharged into another vessel to be carried to London. The libellants had a right to resort to that which remained in store at Boston for payment of their freight upon the whole. Abbot on Shipping, 377; Ang. on Car., 360; Soddergreen vs. Flight, (6 East., 422;) Boggs vs. Martin, (1 B. Monr., 239;) Bernal vs. Prin, (1 Gale, 17.) There being a stipulation in the charter party that the credit to be given for the freight should not impair the lien, that instrument does not receive its proper meaning unless the lien follows the goods into the hands of the consignee. It does follow them, subject only to the agreement of the ship-owner that he will not enforce it for a few days.

2. The admiralty jurisdiction is the 'chancery of the seas,' and gives relief wherever a court of equity would do so in a similar case. In equity an agreement for a lien binds the thing and creates a trust as between the parties. Fletcher vs. Morey, (2 Story, 565.) The consignee, if not an immediate party to this contract, (the charter party,) knew of it, claimed the credit under it, and cannot allege that the lien of the libellants was lost by delivery. The lien may be enforced against him without regard to the possession. Collyer vs. Fuller, (1 Turn. & Rup., 469;) Alexander vs. Heriot, (1 Bailey Ch., 223;) Read vs. Hill, (2 Dessau, 552;) Dow vs. Ker, (Spear's Ch. R., 413.)

3. Even if this case be adjudged by the rules of the common law, it is with the libellants, for the courts of common law will give effect to the intentions of the parties. Small vs. Moates (9 Bing., 574;) Wilson vs. Kymer, (1 Maule & Selwyn, 167;) Bigelow vs. Heaton, (6 Hill, 43;) S.C.., 4 Denio, 496; Dodsley vs. Varley, (12 Ad. & Ell., 632;) Hussey vs. Thornton, (4 Mass., 405.)

Mr. S. W. Bates, of Massachusetts, (with whom were Messrs. Story and May,) for the claimant, contended that the lien for freight was lost by the delivery; that the libellants stand upon the same footing with other creditors, and are left to their remedy in personam.

1. The carrier's lien for freight is a right to hold, not a right to take. It begins with, rests upon, and ends with, the possession. Delivery has always been held a waiver, or rather an abandonment, of the right.

2. Augustine Wills, whom the claimant represents, was no party to the agreement made by Tuckerman & Co. with the ship-owners. He could have known nothing about it. He did not know upon what vessel the goods were shipped until they arrived at Boston. A sub-freighter or consignee is not bound by the charter party, his bill of lading not referring to it. Abbot on Shipping, 6th ed., 287-8; Paul vs. Birch, (2 Atk., 621;) Mitchell vs. Scaife, (2 Camp., 298;) Faith vs. E. Ind. Co., (4 B. & A., 630;) Shepard vs. De Bernales, (13 East., 570.)

3. The libellants say that the maritime law is derived from the civil law, and the civil law gave a privilege to carriers which did not depend upon possession, and was not lost by alienation. This confounds the common law lien of carriers with the carriers' privilegium under the civil law. They are different things. The privilege of the civil law did not depend upon possession, because the carrier had no right to retain possession. It was a mere preference over other creditors. But by the common law the carrier may keep the goods until the freight is paid; so he may by the maritime law; and under both systems, for the same reason, his lien is gone when he parts with the goods. Parker vs. Hill, (2 Wood & Minot, 106;) Raymond vs. Tyson, (17 How., 53;) Parson's Merc. Law, 345. Some maritime liens are like the privilegium of the civil law; for instance, a lien for supplies or materials which may be enforced by one who never was in possession. Van Bokelyn vs. Ingersoll, (5 Wend., 315.) But not so of liens like this.

Mr. Chief Justice TANEY.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).