Court of the United States
248 U.S. 392
Argued Dec. 13, 1918
- Decided Jan. 13, 1919
[248 U.S. 393] Messrs.
Julius J. Frank and Everett P. Wheeler, both of New York City, for Standard
[248 U.S. 395] Mr.
Clarence Bishop Smith, of New York City, for The Bris. [248 U.S. 396]
Mr. Justice McKENNA delivered
the opinion of the Court.
This case was submitted
with Nos. 449 and 450, 248 U.S. 377 , 39 Sup. Ct. 147, and No. 479, 248
U.S. 387 , 39 Sup. Ct. 149, being a suit in admiralty, as they were, to
recover prepaid freight upon a shipment of articles of merchandise which
were not carried to destination, the carriage having been prevented by
action of the government. Judgment was rendered for libelant and the case
taken to the Circuit Court of Appeals.
The case is here on certificate
from that court (254 Fed. 987), induced, as the court recites, by its decision
in the case of International Paper Co. v. The Schooner Gracie D. Chambers
(No. 479), to review which a certiorari has been granted by this court.
The facts as certified are
'On August 17, 1917, varnish
belonging to libelant was shipped by it in the port of New York for Gothenburg,
Sweden, upon the steamship Bris, consigned to the Allmanna Svenska Elektriska
A. B. Westeras, and the agents for said ship thereupon delivered to libelant
a bill of lading, of which a copy is annexed hereto, which formed a contract
between libelant and claimant in reference to said goods. Particular reference
is made to clause 6, clause 7 and the next to last clause of the bill of
lading. The libelant paid in advance the freight mentioned in said bill
of lading. At the time of said shipment, shippers were required to obtain
export licenses from the British government on cargo of this class, and
were also required by the United States Statutes to obtain export licenses
from the United States government in connection with such articles as the
President should, by proclamation, designate. At the time that said shipment
was made the President had designated certain articles as to which licenses
U.S. 397]must be thus procured when destined for Gothenburg, Sweden,
but varnish was not included among them. At the time of shipment, the libelant
presented a license which it had procured from the British government.
On August 27, 1917, the President made a further proclamation, effective
August 30, 1917, whereby shippers of varnish and all other cargo destined
for Gothenburg, Sweden, were required to procure licenses before the same
could be exported. The libelant thereupon made application for such a license,
and the claimant held its vessel in port until October 8th, to see if such
licenses could be procured, before beginning the discharge of the cargo.
Unless shipments were accompanied by the aforesaid licenses they were not
allowed by the men-of-war belonging to the Allies to proceed to destination.
On or about October 8th the United States, acting through the Exports Administrative
Board, refused the application for a license to transport the goods mentioned
in the libel, and other cargo destined for Gothenburg, and claimant thereupon
began to unload the cargo of the Bris and concluded the discharge on October
22, 1917. The claimant continued ready and willing to carry said cargo
forward if a license therefor were obtained by libelant. The libelant took
redelivery of the cargo at the port of shipment and made a demand upon
the claimant that the claimant should return the freight paid, which demand
was refused. The question aforesaid is as follows:
'1. Did the bill of lading
contract justify the carrier, under the facts stated, in refusing to refund
the prepaid freight?'
Clause 6 of the bill of lading
is as follows:
'... Prepaid freight is
to be considered as earned on shipment of the goods and is to be retained
by the vessel's owners, vessel or cargo lost or not lost, or if there be
a forced interruption or abandonment of the voyage at a port of distress
or elsewhere. ...'
The material parts of clause
U.S. 398] 7 are as follows:
'Also, in case the ship
shall be prevented from reaching her destination by ... war ... or the
hostile act of any power,' the master may wait until the impeding obstacle
be removed 'or discharge the goods into any depot or at any convenient
port or bring her cargo back to port of shipment where the ship's responsibility
shall cease . ...'
Clause 2 should be considered.
It exempts 'by arrest and restraint of princes, rulers or 'bt arrest and
restraint of princes, rulers or peoples.'
We think the case is within
the principle of the decision of the cases submitted with it. In this case,
however, it is urged that the clause relied on by the ship to justify the
retention of the advance of freight does not contain the word 'irrevocable'
and that upon that word stress was put by the Circuit Court of Appeals
and presumably by this court. The word undoubtedly is one of intensity
but its absence does not remove the meaning or intention of its associates.
Their declaration is that 'prepaid freight is to be considered as earned
on shipment of the goods and is to be retained by the vessel's owners,
vessel or cargo lost or not lost.' The declaration is clear, and, in anxiety
of purpose, uses some tautology. The words 'prepaid freight is to be considered
as earned' declare a completed right and carried the power of retention
without the expression of the latter. And the expression of the right and
the power cannot be put aside. Counsel, however, would make them purposeless
and would consider the bill of lading as if they were not contained in
it, and urges that the only effect of the refusal of clearance to the ship
was the 'commercial frustration of the adventure' working a dissolution
of the contract, absolving from performance but requiring the restitution
of the payments that were made as the consideration of performance.
We are not insensible to
the appealing force of the contentions nor to the strength of the argument
advanced [248 U.S. 399] to support them, but the contract determines
against them and the reasons for assigning to it that effect we have given
in our opinions in the other cases.
We, therefore, answer the
questions certified in the affirmative.