Jeremy Esperon

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1812, privateer, prize law, transfer of property, trade, Baltimore, Rossie, Merrimack, merchant


A key prong of American strategy during the War of 1812 was to enlist the aid of privateers – private actors licensed by the government to use force against the enemy. Among the ships American privateers seized during the war pursuant to this strategy was the Merrimack, an American-owned vessel returning from Liverpool, England to Baltimore, Maryland carrying on board a cargo of British goods. Her seizure led to the Supreme Court case The Merrimack, 12 U.S. 317 (1814), a seemingly banal case that in fact is a cautionary tale for merchants of one belligerent nation seeking to structure transactions with the merchants of another. The Merrimack tells the story of what happens to goods shipped by merchants of one nation to those of another when those goods are not consigned directly to the merchants who requested their purchase but to intermediaries acting on the shippers’ behalf, raising a question as to whether, at the time of shipment, property in the goods had remained in the shippers or transferred to the purchasers.


Admiralty | Law | United States History