Слике страница
[ocr errors]

bor together, in the construction of the great fabric of public law, by which alone can be secured the peace and happiness of nations; if it shall hasten the dawning of that auspicious day, when shall arise the glorious spectacle of the triumph of reason and principle, over power and interest

“When Sovereign law, the world's collected will,

O'er thrones and globes elate,
Sits empress-crowning good, repressing ill:
Smit by her sacred frown,
The fiend discretion, like a vapor, sinks,
And e'en the all-dazzling crown
Hides his faint rays, and at her bidding, shrinks."




States and

JUDICIAL tribunals, constituted for the purpose Prize jurisdic

tion exclusiveof passing upon questions of maritime capture, ly vested in though different in different countries, are in all country of ad

miralty. nations distinct from the ordinary municipal tribunals.

They are commissioned to decide in accordance with the law of nations and the conventional obligations of treaties; and therefore in the proceedings adopted for their administration of the law, and in the rules of evidence by which they are guided, they bear no analogy to the ordinary municipal or common law tribunals.

In the United States and Great Britain, the In United exclusive jurisdiction of maritime captures is vest- Great Britaip . ed in courts of admiralty, which in the exercise of this power are usually denominated prize courts.

Courts of admiralty were originally established in England, in the reign of Edward III., and their powers were limited and defined by Richard II., who first conferred the title of admiral of England on a subject, by patent granted to the Earl of Arundel and Surrey. In Great Britain, this court is held by the lord high admiral, or by his deputy, who is called judge of the court of admiralty.

In the United States, this court is held by the several judges of the district court of the United

exclusive in

the captor.

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 purposeand 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 mari. the courts of time captures is vested in the courts of the captor,

and the exercise of such 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


[ocr errors]

tion may be


the annals of mankind, and it is produced by one
nation only in this war.

Although by the law of nations, decisions in cases But jurisdio-
of maritime capture made in neutral countries are exercised
wholly without validity, yet it is well settled by is in a neutral
the inveterate practice of all nations (against what port.
Lord Stowell deemed the correct principle), that
adjudications may be made in the court of the bel- .
ligerent captor, while the prize is not in the port of
his own country, but in the port of some neutral

[ocr errors]


of .

A decree or sentence of condemnation by a prize Decree of concourt of competent jurisdiction, is now universally requisite to held to be requisite to effect a complete transfer of complete maritime prizes from the original owner to the cap- property. tor, “it 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.

This doctrine has been recognized and acted upon by the Supreme Court of the United States.*

But although a condemnation by a lawful prize Decree final court is final, as to the transfer of the property, yet, parties, but as between the respective governments, it may be not betwoen reopened, and reparation demanded where injustice ments. 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

· The Flad Oyen, 1 Rob., 1 et seq., 141, 142, and notes; Kluber,
Droit des Gens, Part II., Tit. ii., 88 295, 296.

? The Henrick and Mariu, 4 Rob., 43, 63.
: 4 Rob., 55. • Wheat. Elements, I., 91.

between the

the govern

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

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 condemna. tion.

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.

Letter of Lord Stowell and Sir John Nicholl to John Jay.

In 1794, Sir William Scott and Sir John Nicholl, at the solicitation of Mr. Jay, then the American 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 lumi nous view of the subject.” It will be found entire

in the appendix. Judge Story's A much 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 Reports.

notes in Whea.

Manning's Law of Nations, 384.

« ПретходнаНастави »