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    The Olmstead Case - Manuscript Document. 2 pages, 8" x 13" [Philadelphia] July 28, 1809, a deposition concerning the final stages of the long and drawn-out Olmstead case, an important early American legal precedent involving individual property rights. Gideon Olmstead was one of four captured American mariners who were pressed aboard a British supply ship (the Active) bound from Jamaica to British occupied New York in 1778. During the voyage, the four mutinied and took control of the ship. While off the coast of New Jersey, a Pennsylvania armed brig, Convention, with a privateer Le Gerard, commanded by James Josiah. The pair took control of the British vessel, claiming it as a prize in the name of the State of Pennsylvania, much to the consternation of Gideon Olmstead and his compatriots, who believed the prize rightfully theirs. The legal dispute dragged on from 1778 until 1809 when Olmstead finally won a decisive legal victory securing his right to the prize. The case helped establish the role of the federal courts in protecting individual rights against the state. This document is addressed "To the honorable Richard Peters Judge of the District Court of the United States, in and for the Pennsylvania District." Peters (1744-1828) was the federal judge who oversaw the Whiskey Rebellion trials, and had already heard motions concerning this case for a number of years. This document concerns the position of James Josiah in his response to accusations that his seizure of the Active was illegal or improper. Headed : "The separate answer of James Josiah to the Libel of Gideon Olmstead, Artimus White, Aquilla Rumsdale, and David Clarke," it reads in part: "...The Respondent saving and...himself now and at all times hereafter ever benefit of exception to the errors and imperfections in the land said libel contained for answer thereunto, of to so much thereof as it materially concerns this respondent to answer, answereth and saith: That true it is, he his respondent commanded the sloop of war Le Gerard, when the British vessel called the active was captured by the Brigantine Convention in concert with the said sloop Le Gerard, and brought into the port of Philadelphia, but he denies that the said capture as illegal or improper as stated by the Libellants and this respondent cannot say, whether the said Libellants have or have not truly stated in their said Libel, the proceedings in the court of admiralty of Pennsylva. in the court of appeals and the decrees of said courts vouching the alleged condemnation & sale of the said sloop Active & her cargo, and the distribution thereof, all which being matters of record will appear on examination of the same, & this respondent begs leave to refer thereto. But with respect to any loan made of the proceeds of such sale by the marshal of the said court of admiralty to the United States, and receiving loan office certificates to the amount thereof, or of any of the said certificates having come to the hands of the owner of said sloop of war Le Grand, and of the same being subscribed to the loan opened by virtue of the Act of Congress making provision for the debt of the United States, this respondent knows nothing. And this respondent further saith, that he never received any loan office certificate or certificates for his share of the proceeds of the said sale of the Active and her cargo, and that he never received any money or other thing on account thereof, except a payment from Joseph McCulloch who was agent for the Crew said sloop of war Le Gerard, which payment to the best of his recollection and belief was made in continental money. That of the date or amount of said payment, this respondent had in memorandum in writing nor had he any recollection thereof, owing to the great length of time which has elapsed, the Smallness of the sum & the circumstance of his having received about the same time from the said Joseph McCulloch other prize monies on a different account. And this respondent also saith, that he has not in his possession any certificates...documents or evidences of debt from the proceed of said sale, but that whatever he received as his proportion thereof was immediately after the receipt of the same passed away by him at the new current value. And this respondent further saith, that he has been informed and believed, that the said Libellants or some of them and before the exhibition of the said libel assign over & transfer the whole or a part of their interest in the proceeds of the said prize sloop active in the said Libel mentioned to a certain Benedict Arnold formerly a major general in the Army of the United States. And this respondent prays, that the Libel of the said Gideon Olmstead...may be dismissed with Costs &c..." For some insightful commentary into this case, see Kenneth W. Treacy, "The Olmstead Case, 1788-1809" The Western Political Quarterly, (Vol. X, No. 3) Sept., 1957, pp. 675-691. Light creases, extremely light toning at margins, else fine.' This is significant early legal history that helped define the new Republic. Ex. Henry E. Luhrs Collection.

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    October, 2007
    25th-26th Thursday-Friday
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