STYRIA, Antonio G. Scopinich, Claimant, Petitioner,
JAMES L. MORGAN et al.
186 U.S. 1
Argued and Submitted November 22, 25, 1901 - Decided May 19, 1902
Four libels in admiralty were filed in the district court of the United States for the southern district of New York against the steamship Styria, to recover damages for the failure duly [186 U.S. 2]to deliver at New York lifferent lots of sulphur, owned by the libellants, shipped on board the Styria at Port Empedocle, the port of the town of Girgenti, in Sicily, April 21-24, 1898, and shortly afterwards relanded at the port of shipment because it had become contraband of war. The facts were substantially undisputed, and were as follows:
The Styria was an Austrian steamship, owned by the Austro-Americana Steamship Company, and Burrill & Sons of Glasgow were her managing agents. She sailed April 16, 1898, with some cargo, from Trieste via Sicilian ports for New York, and on April 21 reached Port Empedocle, Sicily, her second loading port. Her master began at once to load on board the sulphur in question, and by April 24 it was all on board, bills of lading therefor ( containing the provisions copied in the margin ) had been signed, and the vessel cleared from the custom-house, and ready to proceed on her voyage to Messina and Palermo for a cargo of fruit, and thence to New York.
In the meantime, unknown to the master, war had broken out between the United States and Spain. On April 20, Congress passed, and the President approved, the joint resolution recognizing the freedom and independence of Cuba, and demanding that the government of Spain relinquish its authority in the island and withdraw its land and naval forces. 30 Stat. at L. 738. On the same day the Spanish minister in Washington demanded and received his passports. On April 21, the Amer-
To be delivered at the port of New York, 'restraints of princes and rulers or people' and other specified perils 'excepted; with liberty (in event of steamer putting back to this, or into any other port, or otherwise being prevented from any cause from commencing or proceeding in the ordinary course of her voyage) to ship or transship the goods by any other steamer.'
The exportation of sulphur is one of the principal industries of the island of Sicily, and immediately after the declaration of war Sicilian merchants urged the Italian government to request Spain to exempt it from the list of contraband. The Giornale di Sicila, a newspaper of Palermo, each issue of which had a double date, and was read by the master of the Styria on the day of its publication, contained, according to the translations in the record, the following information on the subject: On April 24-25, 1898, it was stated that the merchants of Messina had requested their deputy in the Italian Parliament to [186 U.S. 5] urge the government to induce Spain to exclude sulphur from being considered contraband of war; and that the deputy had been assured that the Minister for Foreign Affairs would telegraph to the Italian ambassador in Madrid to obtain what was required from the Spanish authorities. On April 26-27, it was stated that Spain included sulphur in the list of contraband of war, and that the Italian Council of Ministers had decided to induce Spain to revoke its decision. On April 27-28, it was stated that an Italian deputy had asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Parliament whether sulphur had been excluded from the list of contraband of war. On April 29-30, it was stated that the Spanish government had not yet pronounced itself upon the Italian demand to exclude sulphur from the list of contraband of war; that the Italian ambassador had been promised an immediate decision; that the Spanish Minister of Marine seemed decidedly adverse to the demand; but that it was hoped it would be conceded. The paper of May 1-2 contained, under date of May 1, from an anonymous correspondent at Rome, these statements: 'Although the official advice has not yet arrived, I assure you absolutely that the Spanish government has determined to exclude sulphur from the list of contraband of war. The Popolo Romano, confirming my information, says that the relative decree is imminent which has been provoked by the insistence of our ambassador in Madrid, who obtained from Sagasta that he should unite the Council of Ministers, in which, notwithstanding the opposition of the Minister of Marine, the opinion prevailed to exclude sulphur from contraband.' The Official Gazette will publish the decision regarding sulphur. Meantime the Spanish government has already ordered the commanders of its ships to allow sulphur to pass free.' The paper of May 3-4 contained, under date of May 3, from its Roman correspondent, this statement: 'The Department of Foreign Affairs decided not to publish in the Official Gazette the Spanish government's decision regarding the exclusion of sulphur from contraband of war. But the Minister of the Interior sent a circular to all the prefects in Sicily, informing them of the orders relative to the free navigation of cargoes of sulphur.'
The Giornale di Sicilia of May 5-6, 1898, contained, under [186 U.S. 6]the heading 'Sulphur is not War Contraband,' the following: 'From the Minister of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce, the following telegram has been sent: 'Chamber of Commerce, Palermo: I inform the Chamber of Commerce, for the useful information of merchants, that by the decree of April 23d of the Spanish government are considered, as contraband of war, arms, projectiles, fuses, powder, sulphur, nitre, dynamite, explosives, uniforms, ornaments, saddles, engines for ships, derricks, screws, boilers, and all that is necessary for the construction, repair, and armament of men of war. I would also state that, in consequence of our request, the Spanish government has given notice to the commanders of its vessels to let sulphur pass free.
Early in the morning of May 8, the master sailed, without the sulphur, to Palermo, and thence to Messina, took on board at each place a cargo of fruit, and on June 3 arrived at New York. Soon after the arrival there, these libels were filed.
The Giornale di Sicilia of May 7-8, 1898 (which did not reach the master before he sailed from Port Empedocle), contained, under the heading 'The Exportation of Sulphur may be continued,' the following: 'The Prefettura also with its communication confirms to us that the exportation of sulphur, notwithstanding the Spanish-American war, may continue. Indeed, the Spanish government has officially declared, in the circular to the commandants of their ships, that sulphur is not to be considered as contraband of war. An official and public declaration is lacking, but there is no doubt that sulphur will pass freely.'
On May 10, 1898, the Foreign Office in London, answering a telegram from Burrill & Sons, wrote them: 'Spanish government state that decree already issued cannot be altered, but that [186 U.S. 7]as temporary measure Naval Departments have been ordered not to treat sulphur as contraband of war. They lay stress on the fact that the measure is temporary only.'
It appeared from inquiries made by the Foreign Office in London, and by the American Ambassy in Italy, in June and July, 1898, that the actual state of facts was as follows: The Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs verbally stated to the Italian ambassador at Madrid, on April 29, 1898, and to the British ambassador at Madrid, on May 6, 1898, that while the decree of April 23 could not be altered, orders would be given to the Naval Departments, as a temporary measure, not to treat sulphur as contraband of war. On May 31, 1898, the Spanish Minister, in a note to the British ambassador at Madrid, stated that the treatment of sulphur as contraband of war would be temporarily suspended; that the orders which had been given to that effect would not be revoked without due notice; and that the eventual revocation of the orders would not, in any case, apply to vessels at sea in ignorance of it, while the necessary time would be given for the execution of pending contracts. It did not appear that Spain ever made any public announcement of the modification of her intentions in regard to the treatment of sulphur, or ever agreed to let sulphur go free permanently.
A vessel which lay alongside the Styria at Port Empedocle, loading sulphur, sailed before she did, and arrived at New York in safety on May 19. Two other vessels laden with sulphur came safely from the Sicilian port of Licata to the United States about the same time. And no sulphur ships were taken by Spain during the war.
Presently after the signing of the Peace Protocol between the United States and Spain on August 12, 1898, the parties to these cases stipulated in writing that the steamship company should forward the sulphur from Port Empedocle by the first available vessel to New York, and deliver it to the consignees, upon the terms and for the freight specified in the original bills of lading; that the sulphur, upon arrival, should be sold at current market rates, and the proceeds, less charges incurred, be credited on account of the damages, if any, recovered by the libellants; that, if the Styria was justified in relanding and [186 U.S. 8] storing the sulphur as was done, the company should have a lien upon the sulphur for the charges against it in Sicily; and that, if it was not so justified, the sulphur should be free from any charges except freight.
Under this stipulation, the steamship company paid the expenses of storage in Sicily, and reloaded the sulphur and brought it to New York in its steamship Abazzia, sailing September 4, and arriving September 30, and there delivered it to the consignees, who paid the freight as agreed, and sold the sulphur at the current market rates. And the company filed cross libels for the charges in Sicily.
The district court found for the libellants, holding that the discharge of the cargo was too hasty and precipitate, and not justified by the facts of the case; and entered decrees for the libellants in small amounts, and dismissed the cross libels. 93 Fed. 474, 95 Fed. 698.
Both parties appealed to the circuit court of appeals, which held that the sulphur was rightly discharged, but should have been reloaded before the Styria left Port Empedocle; and entered decrees for the libellants for increased damages, and upon the cross libels for the expenses of unloading, warehousing, and reloading in Sicily. 41 C. C. A. 639, 101 Fed. 728.
The cases were then brought to this court by writs of certiorari, granted on petitions of both parties. 179 U.S. 683 , 45 L. ed. 385, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 926, 179 U.S. 685 , 45 L. ed. 386, 21 Sup. Ct. Rep. 917.
Messrs. J. Parker Kirlin, Charles R. Hickox, and Converse & Kirlin for petitioner.
Messrs. Charles C. Burlingham, Harrington Putnam, and Wing, Putnam, & Burlingham for Morgan et al.
Messrs. Latham G. Reed, John M. Bowers and Bowers & Sands for Parsons.
Messrs. Edward B. Hill and William J. Curtis for Malcolmson.
Mr. Melville H. Regensburger and Messrs. Stern & Rushmore for Munroe et al.
Statement by Mr. Justice Shiras: [186 U.S. 9]
Mr. Justice Shiras delivered the opinion of the court:
The master of a ship is the person who is intrusted with the care and management of it, and the great trust reposed in him by the owners, and the great authority which the law has vested in him, require on his part and for his own sake, no less than for the interest of his employers, the utmost fidelity and attention. Abbott, Shipping, 7th Am. ed. 167.
It was well said by the district judge in the present case, that 'though exceptions . . . noted in the bill of lading contemplate cimcumstances of war, and are therefore applicable in the extraordinary circumstances that arose, still the carrier is not thereby relieved from the duty of acting with reasonable prudence for the interests of all concerned. The master, as the agent of all concerned, is still bound to a prudent regard for the interests of the cargo, and 'must endeavor to hold the balance evenly' between ship and cargo when their interests conflict.'
Courts, in passing upon such questions, should endeavor to put themselves in the position of the actors in the transaction, and not be ready to find that the course actually pursued was blameworthy because the results were unfortunate; what those concerned have a right to demand of a master, when confronted with unexpected emergencies, is not an infallible, but a deliber- [186 U.S. 10] ate and considerate, judgment. Mere good faith will not excuse him, if his decision turns out to have been wrong, but the result is not always a true criterion whether a man pursued a prudent course or not. Holladay v. Kennard, 12 Wall. 254, 20 L. ed. 390.
Applying these principles to the facts of the present case, we have to inquire whether the conduct of the master of the Styria showed a reasonable exercise of judgment, having regard to the rights of the owners of the vessel and those of the several owners of cargo.
That the situation was a difficult one is obvious, and is shown by the fact that the learned judges of the courts below, though having the advantage of a full disclosure of the facts and of able discussion by counsel, disagreed on the critical question in the case, whether the master was right in deciding that it was his duty to reland and store the contraband goods.
As heretofore stated, the Styria was an Austrian steamship, owned by the Austro-Americana Steamship Company, and Burrill & Sons of Glasgow were her managing agents. She sailed April 16, 1898, with some cargo, from Trieste via Sicilian ports for New York, and on April 21 reached Port Empedocle, Sicily, her second loading port. Her master began at once to load on board different lots of sulphur owned by the libellants, and by April 24 it was all on board, bills of lading therefor had been signed, and the vessel cleared from the custom-house, and was ready to proceed on her voyage to Messina and Palermo for additional cargo of fruit, and thence to New York. On April 27, the master, having learned that war between Spain and the United States had broken out, and being aware that sulphur was a contraband article, began to reland the sulphur at Port Empedocle, and had it all unloaded and warehoused by May 7. He gave notice in writing to the shippers, and to the consignees named in the bills of lading, that, 'on finding risky my passage to New York with the actual sulphur cargo for facts of war,' he was discharging that portion of his cargo. On the same day he gave notice in writing to the Austrian consul at Girgenti 'that, by order of the representative of my owners, for facts of war,' he was discharging and warehousing the sulphur from the Styria, for whom it might concern; and [186 U.S. 11] also gave notice in writing, through the Austrian consul, to the director general of the customs at Girgenti, that, having loaded the sulphur on the Styria, 'and sulphur being declared contraband of war, war actually existing between Spain and the United States of America, in behalf of the present laws, I deem it in the interest of all whom it might concern to discharge the whole sulphur here on receiving the necessary permit from the customs;' and asking that duties might be remitted on reshipment. On April 30 and May 2 the shippers of the sulphur protested against the unloading; and on May 3 and 5, respectively, the master replied that he, 'in discharging the goods, acted as was his right, and in the best interest of the goods,-which is confirmed by the fact, published in the papers, and discussed in the Italian Parliament, that sulphur had been declared contraband of war by one of the belligerent powers.' And at the conclusion of the unloading, on May 7, the master gave notice to the shippers that, as soon as they paid the expense incurred on their account, the sulphur would be delivered to them; and to the consignees that the sulphur was lying in the warehouses at Port Empedocle, at the risk and expense of whom it might concern.
As both the district court and the circuit court of appeals held that, within the provisions of the bills of lading, the master had the right to decide on the course to pursue, whether to discharge the sulphur, or to refuse to sail until there was some reasonable assurance of safety, or to immediately proceed on his voyage, it is unnecessary for us to discuss the meaning of the bills of lading in that regard, but only to determine whether the decision of the master, to discharge charge and warehouse the goods, was a reasonable exercise of the discretion vested in him.
The learned judge of the district court held that, while the bills of lading contemplated circumstances of war, and were therefore applicable, yet that the master's right under them could not be exercised without waiting a reasonable time to see whether the danger of continuing the voyage with the sulphur might not be removed by negotiation between the Italian and Spanish governments. He thus expressed himself: [186 U.S. 12] 'The sulphur being generally regarded as contraband of war, and also within the express terms of the Spanish proclamation, a voyage through the Mediterranean, past the coast of Spain and through the Straits of Gibraltar, would presumably be pecuniarily dangerous to the cargo, even though the vessel, as a neutral, might not be liable to condemnation as prize. In case of seizure, however, the shipowner would suffer from the considerable delay incident to the seizure, though she were ultimately released. Except, therefore, for the negotiations immediately entered on for procuring an exception of sulphur from contraband, I have no doubt that it would have been both the right and the duty of the master, for the interests of the cargo as well as of the ship, to refuse to sail with this cargo after clearing on April 24, until there was some reasonable assurance of safety. See The San Roman, L. R. 3 Adm. & Eccl. 583, when there was a delay of three months. The discharge and storage of the cargo, however, was an act necessarily involving considerable expense to the shipper or consignee; and before imposing such an expense upon the cargo the master, in my judgment, was bound, in view of the daily reports of current negotiations and the expectations of the exception of sulphur, to wait a reasonable period for satisfactory assurances in that regard. . . . I must find, therefore, that the ship was not justified by clauses (a) and ( b) of the bill of lading . . . in discharging and storing the cargo on account of the shippers, as she did, between April 27th and May 7th; that by the 10th of May there was reasonable assurance that it would be safe to go on with the voyage, and that this was not an unreasonable time for the ship to wait under the facts and circumstances currently known in Sicily at that time.' 93 Fed. 474, 95 Fed. 698.
The circuit court of appeals book a different view of the duty of the master to suspend his voyage and await the uncertain results of the rumored negotiations, and held that he had a right to unload the cargo of sulphur when he did. The following quotations sufficiently show the reasoning of the court:
Geipel v. Smith, L. R. 7 Q. B. 404, was a case where the defendants had agreed to load a cargo of coal in England and sail to Hamburg. After the charter party had been made war broke out between France and Germany, and the port of Hamburg was blockaded by the French fleet. The defendants refused to carry out the charter party, relying on an exception of restraints of princes and rulers. It was held that they were justified in their refusal. And as to the contention that the defendants were bound to be in readiness to carry the cargo as soon as the blockade should be raised, Cockburn, Ch. J., observed:
But, while we concur with the conclusion of the circuit court of appeals, that the master acted discreetly in landing and storing the contraband portion of the cargo when and as he did, we cannot accept the other conclusion of that court that, in the subsequent circumstances, it was the master's duty to reship the cargo and resume his voyage with the sulphur on board. Indeed, the facts and reasening which brought the court to its first, seem to us to be quite inconsistent with its latter, conclusion. In its opinion heretofore quoted, the court said that it [186 U.S. 21]was not the duty of the master 'to delay action on the expectation that a belligerent would voluntarily abandon one of its weapons on no better assurance that such action would be taken, than the statements of anonymous and irresponsible contributors to a newspaper published in a community which is extremely solicitous that such action be taken.' Yet the court thought that, on May 6, the situation had changed, and that the publication in a newspaper, purporting to be from the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce, that the Spanish government had given notice to the commanders of its vessels to let sulphur pass free, was an official declaration, upon the strength of which the master ought to have reshipped the sulphur. That publication, under the date of May 5 and 6, was as follows: 'Chamber of Commerce, Palermo: I inform the Chamber of Commerce, for the useful information of merchants, that by the decree of April 23 of the Spanish government, are considered as contraband of war, arms, projectiles, fuses, powder, sulphur. . . . I could also state that, in consequence of our request, the Spanish government has given notice to the commanders of its vessels to let sulphur go free.'
The publication of May 7 and 8 was as follows: 'The Prefettura, also, with its communication confirms to us that the exportation of sulphur, notwithstanding the Spanish-American war, may continue. Indeed, the Spanish government has officially declared in the circular to the commandants of their ships, that sulphur is not to be considered as contraband of war. An official and public declaration is lacking, but there is no doubt that sulphur will pass freely.'
It must be observed that these assurances did not come from any Spanish, but from Italian, sources. It was for the interest of the Italians to continue to export sulphur, and to give the impression that it could be done with security to the carrying vessels, and all statements from Italian sources must be weighed with reference to that fact. In the meantime, on May 7, the Styria had sailed, and the master testified that when he was clearing the ship to leave on the 7th of May that he saw a notice from the consul to say that there was a communication from the prefect that it was agreed between Italy and Spain that [186 U.S. 22]sulphur would not be taken, that Spanish vessels had instructions to let it go free, saying: 'It was not given officially-only a matter of verbal arrangement. Of course, the verbal arrangement you cannot believe.' 'On the 7th, in the evening, about eight o'clock, and I already had my clearances.' And he further testified, in reply to a question by libellant's counsel, as follows: 'Q. But the day before you sailed, on the 7th, you did read in the papers that the governments had come to an agreement-to an understanding? A. Yes,-not to an understanding, not to a safe understanding, but a temporary understanding, you know. Q. To the effect that sulphur temporarily would not be treated as contraband of war? A. Yes. Q. In spite of the previous proclamation, was it not? A. Yes, but the papers said, not officially confirmed, you see. That meant, of course, they could withdraw it at any moment. Q. The newspapers in which you read about these things, were what papers? A. I could not tell you. I believe the Sicilian Courier; I don't know; something like that; the paper published in Palermo,-the largest paper published in Palermo.'
From this it appears that when the Styria sailed on the evening of May 7 the only information that the captain had was that the newspapers said that a temporary verbal arrangement had been made between Italy and Spain that sulphur might go free, but that the captain's opinion was that a mere verbal arrangement could not be relied on, and that the statements contained in the newspapers could be withdrawn at any moment.
Giving to the evidence every reasonable intendment, it falls far short, in our opinion, of making it the master's duty to change his arrangements to sail on the evening of the 7th of May. The Spanish proclamation of April 23, declaring sulphur to be contraband, had not been withdrawn, and it is evident that the master had no right, in justice to the other cargo owners, to make a longer delay. A perishable cargo of fruit was awaiting the vessel at Palermo, and no one could foretell what the result of the negotiations would be. The master and the ship cannot reasonably be charged with knowledge of subsequent events. And when they are examined they do not show [186 U.S. 23] that, within a reasonable period, any change in affairs was disclosed that would have made it safe beyond question to have sailed with the contraband cargo on board. It was not until May 10 that the British government, replying to Burrill & Sons' previous application for information, telegraphed that orders had been given not to treat sulphur for the present as contraband of war. And by telegram of that date it was further stated that the Spanish government states that 'decree already issued cannot be altered,' but that, as 'temporary measure,' naval departments have been ordered not to treat sulphur as contraband of war, 'but they lay stress on the fact that the measure is temporary only.'
Moreover, it does not appear when such orders were actually given, nor that they had been transmitted to war vessels which had sailed, under the directions of the proclamation of April 23, before such alleged orders were given. It was not until May 31 that the Spanish minister stated, in a note to the English ambassador at Madrid, that the treatment by Spain of sulphur as contraband of war would be temporarily suspended, and that the order which had been given to that effect would not be revoked without due notice. It does not appear that any formal agreement was ever made between Spain and Italy, or any other government, that the proclamation of April 23, declaring sulphur contraband of war, was withdrawn. And it is mere matter of conjecture whether, if the Styria had sailed, even as late as May 10, with sulphur on board, and had been arrested by a Spanish war vessel which had not received orders countermanding the proclamation, the sulphur would not have been confiscated by a Spanish prize court. In any event, there was the liability of such an arrest and of the incident delay to both vessel and cargo.
Without protracting the discussion, we are of the opinion that the master was justified in landing and storing the cargo that had become contraband by reason of the outbreak of the war between Spain and the United States, and by the Spanish proclamation of April 23; that, having acted reasonably with due regard to the interest of all concerned in so doing, it was not made his duty, by the facts brought to his notice, to reship the sulphur on the Styria and further delay his voyage. [186 U.S. 24]The sulphur was subsequently, in pursuance signing of the peace protocol between the signing of the peace protocol betweenthe United States and Spain, forwarded on the steamship Abbazia, belonging to the owners of the Styria, to the port of New York. Several questions arose in the courts below, under the terms of that agreement, and chiefly having reference to the measure of damages in case that the vessel was held liable. But as, for the reasons given, we hold that the vessel was not liable, those questions do not call for our consideration.
The decrees of the District
Court and of the Circuit Court of Appeals, sustaining the libels of the
respective libellants, are hereby reversed; the decrees of the Circuit
Court of Appeals reversing the decrees of the District Court, dismissing
the respective cross libels, are hereby affirmed, and the causes are remanded
to the District Court with directions to take further proceedings in conformity
with the opinion of this court.