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salvage, 1803, prize law, jurisdiction, embezzlement, memorial, slaves


In March 1803, French ship Le Blaireau ran into Spanish ship of war St. Julien in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, severely damaging the Blaireau such that her captain and crew abandoned ship and boarded the St. Julien, with the exception of seaman Thomas Toole. The next day, British ship The Firm found and temporarily repaired the Blaireau, and helped Toole bring her into port in Baltimore, which was The Firm’s destination. The case addressed the question of awarding salvage; specifically, to whom should there be salvage, and in what amounts? It also raised questions about jurisdiction and the rules for awarding salvage to slaves; and twenty-four years after the Supreme Court’s decision, the Blaireau resurfaces in a fascinating memorial to the Senate. This paper explores those topics.


Admiralty | Law | United States History