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States held that a British vessel and its master were within the provisions of the Act of December 31, 1898, prohibiting the payment to seamen of advanced wages. The Court, after referring to previous decisions in relation to the question of jurisdiction over foreign vessels, said:

The implied consent of this government to leave jurisdiction over the internal affairs of foreign merchant vessels in our harbors to the nations to which those vessels belong may be withdrawn. Indeed, the implied consent to permit them to enter our harbors may be withdrawn, and if this implied consent may be wholly withdrawn it may be extended upon such terms and conditions as the government sees fit to impose. And this legislation, as plainly as words can make it, imposes these conditions upon the shipment of sailors in our harbors, and declares that they are applicable to foreign as well as to domestic vessels.

The general principles laid down in the cases to which attention has been called are concisely summarized with citations in the following extract from the opinion of the court in the case of Ester, in which suit was brought against a Swedish steamship by a seaman to recover unpaid wages and damages for personal injury:

(1) The merchant vessels of one country visiting the ports of another for the purposes of trade subject themselves to the laws which govern the port they visit, so long as they remain. United States v. Diekelman, 92 U. S. 520, 23 L. Ed. 742; Wildenhus' Case, 120 U. S. 11, 7 Sup. Ct. 385, 30 L. Ed. 565.

(2) In the absence of treaty stipulations, the courts of admiralty have civil jurisdiction in all matters appertaining to the foreign ship while in port, and also in certain cases when the court has the vessel in its territorial jurisdiction, although the cause of action arose on the high seas, The Belgenland, 114 U. S. 355, 5 Sup. Ct. 860, 29 L. Ed. 152; Wildenhus' Case, 120 U. S. 1, 7 Sup. Ct. 385, 30 L. Ed. 565.

(3) The exercise of this civil jurisdiction, where those who are concerned are all citizens of the same foreign state and the cause of action occurred on or with regard to the ship, is not imperative, but discretionary, and the courts from motives of convenience or international comity will not take jurisdiction without the assent of the consul of the country to which the ship belongs, where the controversy involves matters arising beyond the territorial jurisdiction of this country, or relates to differences between the master and the crew, or

6 190 Fed. Rep. 218.

the crew and the shipowners. In such cases on such general principles of comity, the admiralty courts of this country will not interfere between the parties, unless there is special reason for doing so, and will require the foreign consul to be notified, and although not absolutely bound by, will always pay respect to, his wishes as to taking jurisdiction. Ex parte Newman, 14 Wall. 152, 20 L. Ed. 877; The Belgenland, 114 U. S. 355, 5 Sup. Ct. 860, 29 L. Ed. 152; Patterson v. Eudora, 190 U. S. 169, 23 Sup. Ct. 821, 47 L. Ed. 1002. (4) Where, however, special circumstances exist, such as where the voyage is ended, or the seamen have been dismissed or treated with great cruelty, the courts, in the absence of treaty stipulations, will entertain jurisdiction. The Belgenland, 114 U. S. 355, 5 Sup. Ct. 860, 29 L. Ed. 152. (5) Where treaty stipulations exist, however, with regard to the right of the consul of a foreign country to adjudge controversies arising between the master and the crew, or other matters occurring on the ship exclusively subject to the foreign law, such stipulations are the law of the land, and must be fairly and faithfully observed. The Belgenland, 114 U. S. 355, 5 Sup. Ct. 860, 29 L. Ed. 152; Widenhus’ Case, 120 U. S. 17, 7 Sup. Ct. 385, 30 L. Ed. 565. (6) Congress has power by legislation to regulate matters affecting foreign seamen and foreign vessels and foreigners generally when within the ports of this country by making their entrance subject to such conditions as Congress may seek to impose or withdrawing its consent to permit them to enter wholly, if it see fit. Patterson v. Eudora, 190 U. S. 169, 23 Sup. Ct. 821, 47 L. Ed. 1002.

With reference to the question of the jurisdiction over American merchant vessels in foreign territorial waters, it may be said that the Government of the United States in the past has asserted in behalf of its vessels the rights which, as indicated by the judicial decisions just mentioned, are accorded to foreign vessels in waters of the United States. This Government, while conceding on the one hand that when one of its vessels visits the port of another country for the purposes of trade it is amenable to the jurisdiction of that country and is subject to the laws which govern the port it visits so long as it remains, unless it is otherwise provided by treaty, has on the other hand, on a number of occasions, made clear its view that by comity matters of discipline and all things done on board which affect only the vessel or those belonging to her and do not involve the peace or dignity of the country or the tranquillity of the port, should be left by the local government to be dealt with by the authorities of the nation to which the vessel belongs, as the laws of that nation or the interests of its commerce may require."

Private vessels belonging to this country are deemed parts of its territory. They are accordingly regarded as subject to the jurisdiction of this country, on the high seas, and in foreign ports, even though they admittedly are also temporarily subject generally to the laws of such ports.

In United States v. Rodgers,” a case in which the Supreme Court sustained the jurisdiction of courts of the United States to try a person for an assault committed on a vessel belonging to a citizen of the United States while such vessel was in the Detroit River and within the limits of the Dominion of Canada, Mr. Justice Field, who delivered the opinion of the court, said:

It is true, . . . that, as a general principle, the criminal laws of a nation do not operate beyond its territorial limits, and that to give any government, or its judicial tribunals, the right to punish any act or transaction as a crime, it must have occurred within those limits. We accept this doctrine as a general rule, but there are exceptions to it as fully recognized as the doctrine itself. One of those exceptions is that offences committed upon vessels belonging to citizens of the United States, within their admiralty jurisdiction, (that is, within navigable waters,) though out of the territorial limits of the United States, may be judicially considered when the vessel and parties are brought within their territorial jurisdiction. As we have before stated, a vessel is deemed part of the territory of the country to which she belongs.

On March 4, 1915, the President approved an Act of Congress usually referred to as the “Seamen's Act.'” The general purposes of this law evidently were the improvement of the condition of seamen and the promotion of safety of life at sea.

Whatever may be the merits of this act it can undoubtedly be said to have aroused a good deal of criticism in foreign countries. The questions that have arisen in connection with its enforcement with regard to foreign vessels, to which it is applicable the same as to American vessels, may be said to fall into two classes, namely: (1) those involving treaty rights affected by certain provisions of the act, and (2) those which, while not involving legal rights, relate to international comity and established customs of nations. Provisions of the first-mentioned class are found in Sections 4 and 16 of the Act. Section 4, which provided among other things for the enforcement of certain specified rights of foreign seamen respecting their wages, and further provided that the courts of the United States should be open to such seamen for its enforcement, was inconsistent with treaty stipulations withdrawing from the jurisdiction of local authorities wages disputes between masters and members of the crews of merchant vessels. Section 16 directed the President to give notice within ninety days of the passage of the act to foreign governments of the termination of treaty stipulations providing for the arrest and imprisonment of deserting seamen from vessels of the United States abroad or from foreign vessels in American ports. Stipulations in a score of treaties were affected by the law.”

7 See Moore, Digest, II, pp. 272-362.

8 150 U. S. 249. 9.38 Stat. L. 1164.

The act was framed so that at the end of a certain period the stipulations inconsistent therewith could no longer be enforced in this country and should of course not be invoked by American Consular Officers abroad. And since practically all of these agreements did not contain provisions for partial abrogation a somewhat difficult task in adjusting conflicts between the law and the treaty provisions in question confronted the executive department of the Government except in two instances in which the treaties contained no provisions other than those affected by the law.

Statutory provisions of the second class just mentioned are found

10 Austria-Hungary, May 8, 1848, Art. IV, and July 11, 1870, Arts. XI and XII; Belgium, March 9, 1880, Arts. XI and XII; Bolivia, May 13, 1858, Art. XXXIV; China, June 15, 1858, Art. XVIII; Colombia, December 12, 1846, Art. XXXIII, and May 4, 1850, Art. III; Denmark, July 11, 1861, Arts. I and II; Great Britain, June 3, 1892; France, June 24, 1822, Art. VI, and February 23, 1853, Arts. VIII and IX; Greece, November 19, 1902, Arts. XII and XIII; Italy, May 8, 1878, Art. XIII, and February 24, 1881; Independent State of the Kongo, January 25, 1891, Art. V; Netherlands, January 19, 1839, Art. III, and May 23, 1878, Art. XII; Norway, July 4, 1827, Arts. XIII and XIV; Roumania, June 17, 1881, Arts. XI and XII; Spain, July 3, 1902, Arts. XXIII and XXIV; Sweden, June 1, 1910, Arts. XI and XII, and July 4, 1827, Arts. XIII and XIV; and Tonga, October 2, 1886, Art. X.

in Sections 4, 11, 13 and 14 of the act. Section 4 provides that seamen shall be entitled to receive on demand from the master of the vessel one-half of the wages which they have earned at every port where the vessel shall load or deliver cargo. Section 11 makes unlawful the payment of advance wages of seamen. Section 13 provides that no vessel (with certain exceptions) shall be permitted to depart from a port of the United States unless it has on board a crew not less than 75 per centum of which in each department are able to understand any order given by the officers of the vessels, nor unless a certain percentage of the crew “are of a rating not less than able seamen." Section 14 of the law contains provisions relating to “life saving appliances, their equipment and the maintaining of the same."

Briefly summarized, the important international aspects of the Act of March 4, 1915, which have been pointed out, grow out of provisions thereof that affect treaty arrangements of long standing, that apparently in a measure set aside the general rule of comity under which American courts have refused to take jurisdiction in certain controversies between masters and seamen, and that run counter to laws and customs of other countries and have the effect of nullifying contracts made outside of the jurisdiction of the United States, and of compelling foreign nations to conform to the ideas of this country in matters relating to the equipment of vessels and the treatment and qualifications of seamen, some phases of which are dealt with by the London Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea.


Some interesting questions have been raised in the courts of this country and in British courts during the war with regard to jurisdiction over vessels which have been diverted from their customary employment because of conditions brought about by the war, namely, vessels requisitioned by the governments to which they belonged and government owned vessels employed in commerce. 11

11 See The Luigi, 230 Fed. Rep. 495; The Attualita, 238 Fed. Rep. 909; The Pampa, 245 Fed. Rep. 137; The Florence H., 248 Fed. Rep. 1014; The Roseric (D. C. N. J.) decided in November, 1918; The Broadmayne (1916), L. T. Rep. 891; The Messicano, 32 L. T. Rep. 519.

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