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They intercepted Niger off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina on 8 September, a 24-gun ship sailing with a French crew en route from Jamaica to Philadelphia, claiming to have been under the orders of Great Britain.
Nicholson had the crewmen imprisoned, perhaps not understanding his orders correctly.
She carried American artwork and industrial displays to the Paris Exposition of 1878.
She was patrolling between Chesapeake Bay and Savannah, Georgia a month later when Nicholson found his first opportunity for capturing a prize.
An attempt two days later resulted in only an additional 31 feet (9.4 m) of travel before the ship again stopped.
After a month of rebuilding the ways, Constitution finally slipped into Boston Harbor on 21 October 1797, with Captain James Sever breaking a bottle of Madeira wine on her bowsprit.
He placed a prize crew aboard Niger and brought her into Norfolk, Virginia.
Constitution sailed south again a week later to escort a merchant convoy, but her bowsprit was severely damaged in a gale and she returned to Boston for repairs.
In the meantime, Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert determined that Niger had been operating under the orders of Great Britain as claimed, and the ship and her crew were released to continue their voyage.