Imágenes de páginas

Opinion of the Court.

was held to be no part of the judicial power within the third article of the Constitution. And in the case of Prigg v. Pennsylvania, 16 Pet. 539, it was said that, as to the authority conferred on state magistrates to arrest fugitive slaves and deliver them to their owners, under the act of February 12, 1793, while a difference of opinion existed, and might still exist upon this point in different states, whether state magistrates were bound to act under it, no doubt was entertained by this court that state magistrates might, if they chose, exercise the authority, unless prohibited by state legislation. See also Moore v. Illinois, 14 How. 13; In re Kaine, 14 How. 103.

[ocr errors]

We think the power of justices of the peace to arrest deserting seamen and deliver them on board their vessel is not within the definition of the "judicial power" as defined by the Constitution, and may be lawfully conferred upon state officers. That the authority is a most convenient one to entrust to such officers cannot be denied, as seamen frequently leave their vessels in small places, where there are no Federal judicial officers, and where a justice of the peace may usually be found, with authority to issue warrants under the state laws.

2. The question whether sections 4598 and 4599 conflict with the Thirteenth Amendment, forbidding slavery and involuntary servitude, depends upon the construction to be given to the term "involuntary servitude." Does the epithet "involuntary" attach to the word "servitude" continuously, and make illegal any service which becomes involuntary at any time during its existence; or does it attach only at the inception of the servitude, and characterize it as unlawful because unlawfully entered into? If the former be the true construction, then no one, not even a soldier, sailor or apprentice, can surrender his liberty, even for a day; and the soldier may desert his regiment upon the eve of battle, or the sailor abandon his ship at any intermediate port or landing, or even in a storm at sea, provided only he can find means of escaping to another vessel. If the latter, then an individual may, for a valuable consideration, contract for the surrender of his personal liberty for a definite time and for a recognized purpose, and subordinate his going and coming to the will of

[ocr errors]

Opinion of the Court.

another during the continuance of the contract; not that all such contracts would be lawful, but that a servitude whichwas knowingly and willingly entered into could not be termed involuntary. Thus, if one should agree, for a yearly wage, to serve another in a particular capacity during his life, and never to leave his estate without his consent, the contract might not be enforceable for the want of a legal remedy, or might be void upon grounds of public policy, but the servitude could not be properly termed involuntary. Such agreements for a limited personal servitude at one time were very common in England, and by statute of June 17, 1823, 4 Geo. IV, c. 34, § 3, it was enacted that if any servant in husbandry, or any artificer, calico printer, handicraftsman, miner, collier, keelman, pitman, glassman, potter, laborer or other person, should contract to serve another for a definite time, and should desert such service during the term of the contract, he was made liable to a criminal punishment. The breach of a contract for personal service has not, however, been recognized in this country as involving a liability to criminal punishment, except in the cases of soldiers, sailors and possibly some others, nor would public opinion tolerate a statute to that effect.

But we are also of opinion that, even if the contract of a seaman could be considered within the letter of the Thirteenth Amendment, it is not, within its spirit, a case of involuntaryservitude. The law is perfectly well settled that the first ten amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, were not intended to lay down any novel principles of government, but simply to embody certain guaranties and immunities which we had inherited from our English an.cestors, and which had from time immemorial been subject to certain well-recognized exceptions arising from the necessities of the case. In incorporating these principles into the fundamental law there was no intention of disregarding the exceptions, which continued to be recognized as if they had been formally expressed. Thus, the freedom of speech and of the press (art. 1) does not permit the publication of libels, blasphemous or indecent articles, or other publications injurious to public morals or private reputation; the right of the people

Opinion of the Court.

to keep and bear arms (art. 2) is not infringed by laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons; the provision that no person shall be twice put in jeopardy (art. 5) does not prevent a second trial, if upon the first trial the jury failed to agree, or if the verdict was set aside upon the defendant's motion, United States v. Ball, 163 U. S. 662, 672; nor does the provision of the same article that no one shall be a witness against himself impair his obligation to testify, if a prosecution against him be barred by the lapse of time, a pardon or by statutory enactment. Brown v. Walker, 161 U. S. 591, and cases cited. Nor does the provision that an accused person shall be confronted with the witnesses against him prevent the admission of dying declarations, or the depositions of witnesses who have died since the former trial.

The prohibition of slavery, in the Thirteenth Amendment, is well known to have been adopted with reference to a state of affairs which had existed in certain States of the Union since the foundation of the government, while the addition of the words "involuntary servitude" were said in the Slaughterhouse cases, 16 Wall. 36, to have been intended to cover the system of Mexican peonage and the Chinese coolie trade, the practical operation of which might have been a revival of the institution of slavery under a different and less offensive name. It is clear, however, that the amendment was not intended to introduce any novel doctrine with respect to certain descriptions of service which have always been treated as exceptional; such as military and naval enlistments, or to disturb the right of parents and guardians to the custody of their minor children or wards. The amendment, however, makes no distinction between a public and a private service. To say that persons engaged in a public service are not within the amendment is to admit that there are exceptions to its general language, and the further question is at once presented, where shall the line be drawn? We know of no better answer to make than to say that services which have from time immemorial been treated as exceptional shall not be regarded as within its purview.

From the earliest historical period the contract of the sailor

Opinion of the Court.

has been treated as an exceptional one, and involving, to a certain extent, the surrender of his personal liberty during the life of the contract. Indeed, the business of navigation could scarcely be carried on without some guaranty, beyond the ordinary civil remedies upon contract, that the sailor will not desert the ship at a critical moment, or leave her at some place where seamen are impossible to be obtained as Molloy forcibly expresses it, "to rot in her neglected brine." Such desertion might involve a long delay of the vessel while the master is seeking another crew, an abandonment of the voyage, and, in some cases, the safety of the ship itself. Hence, the laws of nearly all maritime nations have made provision for securing the personal attendance of the crew on board, and for their criminal punishment for desertion, or absence without leave during the life of the shipping articles.

Even by the maritime law of the ancient Rhodians, which is supposed to antedate the birth of Christ by about 900 years, according to Pardessus, (Lois Maritimes, vol. 1, page 250,) if the master or the sailors absented themselves by night, and the vessel were lost or damaged, they were bound to respond in the amount of the loss.

In the compilation of maritime laws, known as the Consulate of the Sea, it was also provided that a sailor should not go ashore without permission, upon the penalty of being obliged to pay any damage occasioned by his absence, and, in default of his being able to respond, of being thrust in prison until he had paid all such damage. Chapters 121, 124; 2 Pardessus, 146, 147, 148.

A like provision is found in the Rules of Oleron, promulgated in the reign of Henry III, by which, Art. V, the seamen were forbidden to leave the ship without the master's consent. "If they do and by that means she happens to be lost or damnified, they shall be answerable for the damage." 1 Pet. Ad'my, xi. A similar prohibition is found in article seventeen of the laws of Wisbuy. 1 Pet. Ad. lxxiii.

The laws of the towns belonging to the Hanseatic League, first enacted and promulgated in 1597, were still more explicit and severe. No seaman might go ashore without the consent

Opinion of the Court.

of the master or other officer, and if he remained longer than the time allowed, was condemned to pay a fine or suffer an imprisonment (Arts. 22 and 23); and by article forty if a seaman went ashore without leave, and the ship happened to receive any damage, "he shall be kept in prison upon bread and water for one year," and if any seaman died or perished for the want of the assistance of the absent seaman, the latter was subject to corporal punishment; and, by article fortythree, "if an officer or seaman quits a ship and conceals himself; if afterwards he is apprehended, he shall be delivered up to justice to be punished; he shall be stigmatized in the face with the first letter of the name of the town to which he belongs." 1 Pet. Ad. cii.

By the Marine Ordinance of Louis XIV, which was in existence at the time the Constitution was adopted (Title Third, Art. III), "if a seaman leaves a master without a discharge in writing before the voyage is begun, he may be taken up and imprisoned wherever he can be found, and compelled to restore what he has received, and serve out the time for which he had engaged himself for nothing; and if he leaves the ship after the voyage is begun, he may be punished corporally." Art. V: "After the ship is laded, the seamen shall not go ashore without leave from the master, under pain of five livres for the first fault; and may be punished corporally if they commit a second."

The present commercial code of France, however, makes no express provision upon the subject; but by the general mercantile law of Germany, Art. 532, "the master can cause any seaman, who, after having been engaged, neglects to enter upon or continue to do his duties, to be forcibly compelled to perform the same."

By the Dutch code, Art. 402, "the master, or his representative, can call in the public force against those who refuse to come on board, who absent themselves from the ship without leave, and refuse to perform to the end of the service for which they were engaged."

Nearly all of the ancient commercial codes either make provision for payment of damages by seamen who absent

« AnteriorContinuar »