Otis v. Walter (15 U.S. 18)

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Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

15 U.S. 18

Otis  v.  Walter

ERROR to the supreme judicial court of the state of Massachusetts.

This was an action of trover brought in the state court, in which Walter, the plaintiff in that court, recovered of Otis, the defendant in that court, damages for the conversion of sundry articles constituting the cargo of a vessel called the Ten Sisters. The defendant in the court below, collector of the port of Barnstable, in Massachusetts, had detained the vessel under suspicion of an intention to violate the embargo laws, particularly the act of the 25th of April, 1808, sec. 6. and 11. The vessel sailed from Ipswich with a cargo of flour, tar, and rice, in order to carry the same to Barnstable, or to a place called Bass river in Yarmouth; and proceeded to Hyannis, in the collection district of Barnstable. On her arrival there, the master applied to the collector for a permit to land the cargo, which was refused by the latter, who shortly afterwards seized and detained the vessel under the above-mentioned acts. This detention was given in evidence as a defence to the action under the general issue, and the chief justice of the supreme court of Massachusetts instructed the jury 'that the said several matters and things, so allowed and proved, were not sufficient to bar the plaintiff of his said action, nor did they constitute or amount to any defence whatever in the action,' &c. Whereupon the jury found a verdict, and the court rendered a judgment for the plaintiff.

The Attorney-General, for the plaintiff in error, argued, that this case fell under the principle of that of Crowell v. M'Fadon,a and it would appear that the vessel was in itinere; but that even if this were not the state of the case, the jury ought to have been left to make their own inference from the facts, and not to have been charged by the judge that no defence whatever was made out.

Mr. Read, for the defendant in error, contended, that the case of Otis v. Baconb was perfectly in point, and showed that the vessel, having arrived at her port of discharge, was no longer within the operation of the embargo laws; and that if the collector's defence was not completely made out-if it was, in any respect, materially defective, it was not made out at all.

Mr. Justice JOHNSON delivered the opinion of the court.


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).