« PreviousContinue »
States in their respective districts, pursuant to the powers vested in them by the constitution and laws of Congress.
In prize cases, an appeal lies in England from the courts of admiralty to commissioners of appeal, who are composed principally of the privy council, commissioned under the great seal for that purpose— and in the United States, an appeal lies from the district court to the circuit court in which the district is included, and thence to the Supreme Court of the United States, jurisdiction By the law of nations, the jurisdiction of marine' TOurts^f time captures is vested in the courts of the captor, the captor. and ^e exercise Gf guc;h jurisdiction has been often
made the subject of treaty stipulation.
In 1794, in contravention to the established law of nations, the French government decreed that French consuls and vice-consuls in neutral territory should have jurisdiction in cases of prize brought into ports where they were stationed.
This jurisdiction was not allowed by the court of admiralty in England; and in the case of a British prize taken into Bergen, and sold under a decree of condemnation by the French consul there, Lord Stowell said: "It is, for the first time in the world, that in the year 1799 an attempt is made to impose upon the court a sentence of a tribunal not existing in the belligerent country, but of a person pretending to be authorized within the dominions of a neutral territory. It has been the constant usage that the tribunals of the law of nations in these matters shall exercise their functions within the belligerent country, and before the present war no sentence of this kind has ever been produced, in the annals of mankind, and it is produced by one nation only in this war."1
Although by the law of nations, decisions in cases But junsdioof maritime capture made in neutral countries are exercise! wholly without validity, yet it is well settled by £hinefn\S the inveterate practice of all nations (against what portLord Stowell deemed the correct principle), that adjudications may be made in the court of the belligerent captor, while the prize is not in the port of his own country, but in the port of some neutral state.2
A decree or sentence of condemnation by a prize Decree of «mcourt of competent jurisdiction, is now universally requisite to held to be requisite to effect a complete transfer of SJTM^ of maritime prizes from the original owner to the cap- property, tor, 1iit not being thought fit," to use the words of Lord Stowell, "that property of this nature should be converted without the sentence of a competent court.8
This doctrine has been recognized and acted upon by the Supreme Court of the United States4
But although a condemnation by a lawful prize Decree final court is final, as to the transfer of the property, yet, parties,11 but as between the .respective governments, it may be ^ reopened, and reparation demanded where injustice has been done. This was done by the mixed commission appointed pursuant to the provisions of the treaty of 1795 between the United States and Great Britain; and although at first the British commis
1 The Flad Oyen, 1 Rob., 1 et seq., 141, 142, and notes; Kluber, Droit des Gens, Part II., Tit. ii., §§ 295, 296. 'The Henrick and Maria, 4 Rob., 43, 63. • 4 Rob., 55. 4 Wheat. Elements, I., 91.
sioners objected to reconsider cases that had been decided by the English court of admiralty, their objection was overruled, and indemnity was granted in cases in which there had been a final condemnation.
The same rule was adopted between Denmark and the United States, and also between. France and the United States; in each instance indemnity having been awarded to United States claimants for unjust condemnations of American property. By this salutary doctrine thus fully established, an additional guarantee is furnished to neutral commerce, that while conducted in innocence and good faith, it shall not suffer from the proceedings of belligerents.1
Letter of Lord In 1794, Sir William Scott and Sir John Nieholl, SiWohiTnd &t the solicitation of Mr. Jay, then the American JoWay° minister at the court of St. James, prepared a statement of the general principles of proceeding in prize causes in the British courts of admiralty, and of the measures proper to be taken when a ship and cargo are brought in as prize within their jurisdiction. The paper is a valuable one, and, though general in its character, "as far as it goes," says Judge Story, "affords a satisfactory and luminous view of the subject." It will be found entire in the appendix. noteTinWh"8 ^ mucn more elaborate and detailed statement ton's Reports, of the subject subsequently appeared in two notes, originally published as appendices to the first and second volumes of Wheaton's Admiralty Keports.
'Manning's Law of Nations, 384.
These valuable notes were prepared by Judge Story, and present a prominent instance among the many which distinguished his professional life, of the unparalleled devotion of that eminent judge to the cause of enlightened jurisprudence, as well as the lavish prodigality with which he placed at the disposal of others the inexhaustible stores of his own learning. It was his design that these notes, as well as others in the same reports, should be regarded as the work of the learned reporter; for (as he modestly writes, in a private memorandum book found among his papers after his decease) "I know full well there is nothing in any of them which he could not have prepared, with a very little exertion of his own diligence and learning." And the fact of his authorship of certain specified notes is only preserved in this private memorandum, "lest," as he writes, "the fact should transpire, and it should be supposed that he (Mr. Wheaton) is under obligation to me for notes which are his own."
Whoever now undertakes to prepare a summary of the practice and proceedings in admiralty, in the exercise of prize jurisdiction, must be largely indebted to these notes of Judge Story. Indeed, it would be almost presumptuous to expect to add any thing to the information contained in them; and the humble purpose of this chapter will be, so to methodize and arrange that information, as may, perhaps, present it in a form by which it may be more readily appreciated, and at the same time be of easier reference to the student and practitioner.
As preliminary to a review of the practice and ^e iuri8di°its extent, proceedings of prize courts, it is essential to con
ch&rfictor &nd ■
Decviliarities. sider the character, extent, and peculiarity of the prize jurisdiction of courts of admiralty.
The prize jurisdiction of a court of admiralty, is that which authorizes it to take cognizance of captures made on the sea, jure belli; of captures in foreign ports and harbors; of captures made by naval forces on land, of surrenders to naval forces, either solely or by joint operation with land forces, and this without regard to the character of the property captured—whether ships, goods, or mere chosen in action', of captures made in rivers, ports, and harbors of the enemy's country; and to moneys or property paid or received as ransom or commutation on a capitulation to naval forces, whether alone or jointly with land forces, for the purpose of determining whether the property captured or surrendered, is or is not lawful prize of war—to the end, that if determined to be not lawful prize, restitution may be decreed, unconditionally or upon terms; and if it be determined that it is lawful prize, condemnation and sale may be decreed, followed by a decree of distribution of its proceeds, pursuant to the law which regulates such distribution.1
As necessary incidents to the prize jurisdiction, thus stated in the most general terms, courts of admiralty are vested with exclusive and plenary powers and authority over all subjects connected with captures, being considered in law as the con
1 The Two Friends, 1 Rob., 271; Lindo vs. Rodney, Doug.. 613, n.; W. B. vs. Lattimer, 4 Dall., April 1; Le Caux vs. Eden, Dong., 608; The ships taken at Genoa, 4 Rob., 338; 2 Wheaton, appendix.