United States v. Schooner Emperor

United States v. Schooner Emperor

Lower Court

  • United States Supreme Court


  • 1839


  • 476


  • 864


Of Congress of 1818, the just section of which is as follows. "From and after the passing of this act it shall not be lawful to import or bring in any manner whatsoever, into the US or territories thereof, from any foreign kingdom, place, or country, any negro mulatto or person of color as a slave or to be held, to service or labour; and any ship, vessel or other water craft employed in any importation as aforesaid shall be liable to seizure, prosecution and forfeiture, in any district in which it may be found- one half thereof to the use of the US the other half to the use of him or them who shall prosecute the same to effect."

The question for the consideration of the Court is one of:

Evidence- are the circumstances put in proof by the United States such as to justify the condemnation of this vessel. The Marshal of this Court testifies that in May 1837, he seized eight negroes in Washington, County on the River Econofina in West Florida and on the Plantation of Joseph Crosky. The negroes could not speak the English language - two of them were tattooed and two of them had their front teeth of the upper jaw filed to a point- they appeared to be foreigners and of different African tribes as they would not associated or eat together.

Here then are foreign negroes to all appearances Africans- and from their ignorance of the language [?] newly introduced into the country- held to labor in this Territory. What are the facts and circumstances which may be relied upon to show that these negroes were imported in the Emperor and in violation of the laws of the United States?

Charles G. Cox the master of the Emperor sometime before the recurrences which led to the seizure of his vessel, conversed with several persons, upon the subject of the laws of this country against the slave trade. These laws seemed to be familiar to him and he spoke of the trade as of a speculation to the witness Elsuardi declared he was engaged to land some negroes at Apalachicola or St. Joseph after which he would land others at the same rate for Elsaurdi in the United States viz at $100 per head. He running the risk at sea and Elsaurdi that of landing them and on shore. This witness also held conversations about the importation of slaves with a Frenchman whose name was Malherbe and who was afterwards seen with Cox at the place of deposit for slaves in the Havana where they were bargaining for negroes. And Cox said some days after, he had purchased a few at $300 with the intention to land them in the United states- Cox and his vessel sailed from the Havana and Malherbe disappeared about the same time. The destination of the Schooner seems to have been Tobasco, a port in Mexico, but she is next heard of in the Bay of St. Joseph of West Florida and Malherbe on board as a passenger, was landed there. The crew was composed of foreigners- Spaniards and Italians who did not speak English- on the 6[th] day of February the vessel