United States v. The Francis Hatch

The citation for this case is 25 Fed. Cas. 1201, Case No. 15,158. The case is from the December, 1864 term of the Federal District Court for the District of Maryland.

The Francis Hatch was a schooner owned by a man who presented himself as John P. Williams. The vessel made three voyages between New York and Baltimore. During those voyages, she allegedly let off passengers and cargo at night near Gwyn’s Island in the Chesapeake Bay, which is near the Virginia shore. The charge was that she “conveyed passengers and merchandise from the city of New York to that part of the state of Virginia declared to be in insurrection by the president’s proclamation, without a license or permit from the proper authorities. There are some nine counts are articles in the libel, propounding the matters relied on as grounds of causes of forfeiture, some drawn under the act of July 13, 1861; and the others under the act of May 20, 1862, and its supplements, and the various rules and regulations of the secretary of the treasury, prepared under the authority given to him by said acts.” [25 Fed. Cas. 1201]

Authorities seized the vessel at the end of its third voyage, in November 1864. The owner’s lawyer claimed, “as the voyage was ended, and the cargo intended for a state in insurrection no longer on board; and that as the vessel when seized was not proceeding to a state in insurrection, there could be no forfeiture in this case under the 5th section of the act of July 13, 1861; and that there can be no forfeiture of the vessel under the act of May 20, 1862 and its supplement and under the rules and regulations of the secretary of the treasury with the approval of the president that a vessel violating the same shall be forfeited such a provision is unconstitutional and void, the secretary of the treasury under the power given to him by the said acts of congress ‘to make such rules and regulations as may be necessary and proper to carry into effect the purpose of said acts,’ had no authority to forfeit the vessel, &c. and that even if congress had intended to impart to him any such authority, they had no constitutional right to do so, as it would be the exercise of a legislative power by a branch of the executive department of the government.” [25 Fed. Cas. 1201, 1202]

District Judge Giles ruled that there could be no forfeiture of the vessel under the act of July 13, 1861. He further ruled, “Neither the act of May 20th. 1862 nor that of July 2d. 1864 provides for a forfeiture of the vessel. But the act of May 20th. 1862 contains a provision forfeiting any goods, wares, or merchandise transported in violation of the said act, or of any regulation of the secretary of the treasury, established in pursuance of the authority given to him by said act.” [25 Fed. Cas. 1201, 1203]

Judge Giles decided the provisions giving the Secretary of the Treasury authority to determine rules and regulations was constitutional. He wrote, “I am of the opinion, therefore, that the regulations of the secretary of the treasury, to which I have referred, are valid, and that by them this vessel must be forfeited to the United States, and I will sign a decree to that effect. As I said before, the evidence has convinced me that this vessel, on her last voyage, conveyed passengers and goods on their way to Virginia, who reached there; that this was done with the knowledge of Hayden (whose true name is Snowden), and who was himself on board, and who was the real owner of the “Francis Hatch,” the name of John P. Williams being used for the purpose of deception.” [25 Fed. Cas. 1201, 1205]

This was a case of smuggling both people and cargo into the confederacy. The vessel was seized and the owners forfeited the vessel due to violation of the regulations promulgated by the Secretary of the Treasury as authorized by Congress. Here we see the law was sufficient to strike a blow against a supporter of the rebellion.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: