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No. 259.




DECEMBER 18, 1860.-Reported from the Court of Claims, committed to a Committee of the

Whole House, and ordered to be printed.

To the honorable the Senate and House of Representatives of the United

States in Congress assembled :

The Court of Claims respectfully presents the following documents as the report in the case of


1. The petition of the claimant.

2. Petition to Congress and accompanying papers, referred by the Senate to the Court of Claims, transmitted to the Senate.

3. Depositions of William Cooley and Charles Horne, filed in the Court of Claims by claimant on the

30th day of October, 1858; also, depositions of William H. Wall, William Rigby, William Cooley, and Alexander Patterson, filed in the Court of Claims by claimant, March 19, 1850, transmitted to the Senate.

4. Claimant's brief,
5. Solicitor's brief.
6. Opinion of the court adverse to the claim.

By order of the Court of Claims.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the

seal of said court, at Washington, this 17th day of Decem(L. s.] ber, A. D. 1860.


Chief Clerk Court of Claims.

To the honorable the judges of the Court of Claims :

The petition of John P. Baldwin, a citizen, late of Dade county, now of Monroe, in the State of Florida, respectfully represents: That in the latter part of the year 1835 a Spanish brig, called the Gil Blas, was wrecked on the Florida beach, about 35 miles north ward of Cape Florida ; that a short time after she was sold at auction at Key West, with her cargo, as she lay on the beach, and was purchased by your petitioner; that early in the year 1836 the said brig and her cargo was set fire to and consumed by the naval officers of the government, in order to prevent the possibility of said schooner and cargo falling into the hands of the Indians, with whom the government was then at war; that the said cargo consisted of the following articles :

6 tons of lead, valued at..
5 tons of kentledge
30 water casks ....
2 chain cables.........
3 anchors.....
Hull, sails, and rigging..

$480 00 100 00

75 00 300 00

75 00 170 00

1,200 00

Your petitioner further represents that the destruction of the said brig and cargo for the public good” is fully set forth in the declaration made on the 26th of July, 1836, by Thomas Leib and George Clark, lieutenants in the United States navy, hereto annexed, and the value of the same is shown by the depositions of witnesses, taken under the order of the district judge of the Territory of Florida, to be found in the papers referred by the Senate of the United States to this court.

Your petitioner further represents that if the said property had not thus been destroyed he would have been able to save the same, and to have realized by his purchase more than the amount at which the said articles are valued, and that he was at the time saving said articles, and that by reason of the act aforesaid the said articles have become wholly lost to him.

Your petitioner states that this claim was presented to the Senate the 1st session of the 29th Congress; that an adverse report, No. 58, was made at that Congress, but the same was recommitted, and a favorable report, No. 202, made. That on the 3d of August, 1846, 11th of February, 1848, and 30th of June, 1856, the said claim was also favorably reported on by the Senate committees, and that at the present session the same was referred by resolution of the Senate to this honorable court.

Your petitioner further represents that he is the sole owner of the claim, and he prays that a bill may be reported in his favor for the amount herein stated, together with the interest due thereon.

P. PHILLIPS, Solicitor for Petitioner.

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 8th day of February, 1858.

WM. MARIM, United States Judge.


Indian Key, July 26, 1836. We, the undersigned, thinking it best for the public good, did set fire to the brig Gil Blas, that she might become covered with sand, and that all traces of her might be destroyed, to prevent the Indians ever getting from her any lead or other articles which would be of any use to them.


Master of U. S. schooner Motto. THOS. J. LEIB,

Lieutenant United States Navy.

I also certify that I was present at the burning of said brig Gil Blas, and that there was on board of said brig her chain cables and two anchors.

GEORGE CLARK, United States Navy.



The evidence shows that, in the latter part of 1835, the Spanish brig Gil Blas was wrecked off the coast of Florida ; that she was sold at auction at Key West as she lay stranded on the beach, and that the claimant became the purchaser.

That the officers of the United States, “ thinking it best for the public good, did set fire to said brig, that she might be covered with sand, and that all traces of her might be destroyed, to prevent the Indians ever getting from her lead or other articles which would be of any use to them. (See certificates, p. 4.)

This certificate was given by Lieut. Lieb—"to be forwarded to John P. Baldwin, the owner”-to Charles Howe, at the time deputy collector of the customs at Key West. (Dep. of Howe, p. 23.)

To ascertain the damage done to him, Baldwin filed his petition in the district court of the United States, praying that, for the ascertainment of what indemnity was justly due from the government,

, appraisers should be appointed.

This was done, and the return of the appraisers showed the loss to be $1,200. (p. 8.) Tho depositions of Peter Scott and William Cooley (pp. 6 and 7) accompany this report. Scott is shown to be dead, and Cooley has been examined in this case. (p. 23.)

In this latter examination he refers, for value of the different articles, to his answers to the interrogatories made by him soon after the burning of said brig.

In addition to these, we have also the deposition of Wade. S Rigby, (p. 9,) that the brig and cargo could have been brought to Key West; that the Indian hostilities would not have prevented this; aud that the burning of the brig occasioned the loss of the indestructible articles, as they were covered up by the shifting sands, and thus all trace of their locality lost.

This is also confirmed by the depositions of George Aldersdale, (p. 10,) Capt. N. L. Coste, (pp. 10, 11,) and William Rigby, (p. 19.)

The case as made by the evidence shows that the property of the petitioner was destroyed for the public good by the authorized agents

of the government, and the public treasure must make compensation. (See 2 Kent's Com., p. 339, and notes.)

It can make no difference as to the liability that the property was destroyed and not used by the government.

A vessel may be taken from the owner in time of war, when the public interest demands it; or it may be destroyed to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy. In the one case, as well as in the other, there is an individual loss, and a public use, in the constitutional sense, which entitle the party to a just compensation.


Solicitor for Petitioner. JUNE 9, 1859.



Claim for the loss of property on board of a stranded vessel in Florida,

which vessel was burnt, by order of a naval officer, to prevent such property falling into the hands of the Indians during the war with them in 1836.


First. The plaintiff claims that he was the owner of the Spanish brig Gil Blas and the property on board of her.

Second. That the brig was stranded on the eastern coast of Florida, near New River, about thirty-five miles northward of Cape Florida, from two to three hundred miles from Key West, in the fall of 1835. (Rigby's ev., Record, p. 19.)

Third. That said brig had on board when she stranded a quantity of lead, supposed to be six tons; also a quantity of kentledge; but her sails and rigging, or most of them, with some lead, were taken to Key West. (Cooley's statement, Record, p. 7.)

Fourth. That said brig was not bilged, and she could have been readily extricated from the beach, and, with her cargo, taken to Key West, and the owner could have employed the Florida wreckers to have helped him. (Rigby's statement, Record, p. 9.)

Coste says: “This one (wreck Gil Blas) could readily have been saved and brought to this port (Key West) had the wreckers have been there at the time.” (Record, p. 11.)

Fifth. “That the said brig was sold at Key West, at public outcry, in the month of December, 1835,” to plaintiff

. (Rigby's statement, Record, p. 9.)

Cooley says: “That during said year she (the brig Gil Blas) was sold at auction at Key West, by order of her captain, as she laid on the beach." (Record, p. 7.)

Sixth. Plaintiff claims to have acquired his title by purchase, at public auction, in December, 1835.

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