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The Constitution of the United States (Article I., section 3) provides, that the judicial power shall extend to “ all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.”

The general Judiciary Act passed September 24th, 1789, enacts, that the district courts of the United States “ shall have original, exclusive jurisdiction of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction."

In civil causes, therefore, the grant of jurisdiction, under the Constitution and by the Judiciary Act of 1789, is substantially identical, in terms, certainly, and possibly also in meaning and extent.

Knowing then the significance and meaning of the terms, it would seem that the student of admiralty law ought not to encounter any great difficulty in ascertaining, with precision, the nature, limit, and extent of admiralty jurisdiction, as thus and thereby conferred upon the United States district courts, under their present organization.

Nevertheless, various theories, opinions, and decisions by learned jurists and distinguished magistrates have been entertained ; and are still adhered to, which have occasioned much embarrassment, if not conflict in practice; thereby preventing a conclusive settlement of



• some principles of law, which ought permanently and uniformly to govern and regulate both the rules of procedure and extent of admiralty jurisdiction of the district courts in the several States.

This want of uniformity (which has probably arisen from the great number of judges who administer the admiralty law in so many different States) has ever been an occasion for regret: and many have lamented

: that cases of sufficient importance have not been carried to the Supreme Court, so as to demand a definitive determination, by that high tribunal, of certain questionable points of practice of long-standing. Ultimately these points, however postponed, must be solemnly settled by that court or by further congressional legislation.

A just interpretation of the terms “admiralty and maritime jurisdiction” involves an inquiry, which is necessarily historical, critical and practical. If these qualifying terms “ admiralty and maritime” are really synonymous, when used as prefixes to designate one kind of jurisdiction in admiralty proceedings, then the whole discussion may be narrowed down to simply giving an accurate definition of those words; and so need not be extended beyond such definition. The very definition itself will have accomplished the work of philology and

and precludes all necessity of further historical illustration or practical reference to precedents; so that the legitimate limit of admiralty jurisdiction will thus be made apparent to the judicial mind. Still, for want of such clear and precise definition, already have these terms, since 1789, been a subject of much seemingly needless discussion, misapplication, and misinterpretation.




Those who deem the terms synonyms, at once adopt. the further corollary, that “ admiralty” and “ maritime,” as used in the Constitution and General Judiciary Act of 1789, are indeed convertible terms; that admiralty courts are ex vi termini maritime courts, that maritime jurisdiction is necessarily admiralty jurisdiction; and vice versa.

But, since, in written opinions and legal decisions, this has neither been readily assented to nor universally accepted as the true exposition of these terms, some practical aid may be afforded to the student and general reader, by a succinct survey and glance at the history and modes of procedure of the admiralty and vice-admiralty courts of England, and in its various dependencies in North America and the East and West Indies; covering a period from the time of their original appearance and organization, down to the time of the American Revolution at least, if not quite down to the time of adopting the Constitution of the United States of America in 1789.

The long struggle in England between the commonlaw judges on the one side, and those civilians on the other, whose life and labors were confined to the admiralty courts (though that struggle extended over two centuries with not a little discourtesy and a great deal of acerbity), may possess considerable interest for the student of history; but it has entirely ceased to be useful in expounding the general principles, which underlie and should regulate the course of proceeding and adjudication in the courts of admiralty.

Suffice it to say, that selfishness on the one hand and jealousy on the other continued to keep alive and intensify the controversy much beyond the occasion for



it; and altogether after the real cause for it had been withdrawn by the direct interposition of Parliament.

While prohibitions, unchecked by the restraining acts of the 13th and 15th of Richard II. were issued by the common-law judges of Westminster, the conduct of these judges greatly annoyed those civilians who favored an unrestricted admiralty jurisdiction.

Formerly, the judges of the common-law courts were unsalaried officers; and, as their compensation depended upon the number of suits of which they judicially took cognizance, selfishness alone might account for occasional interference, by prohibition within the domain of the admiralty tribunals. And hence it was that the common-law lawyers, led off by the great Coke, in their persistent encroachments upon the admiralty, and in their equally unscrupulous attempts to extend the common-law jurisdiction, materially contributed not only to prolong, but to embitter the controversy between themselves and the civilians. Instead, therefore, of settling, all such efforts tended to unsettle the jurisdictional limits of admiralty; whatever was done to render the boundaries of the admiralty court certain, only had the effect to make them really more uncertain.

From the year 1272 to the year 1660, all attempted legislation by the English Parliament proved to be vain and nugatory; and the whole series of ordinances, articles, agreements, answers, and resolutions, complaints, remonstrances, and inquisitions, whether by expert seamén, high admirals, privy councils, judges, the administration of kings, lords or commons of England, were measurably futile and abortive; accomplishing temporarily but little and permanently less ; settling nothing, unsettling everything; so that in a candid



review of all these various and multiform attempts, there seem to be, in the retrospect, only the “acts and ordinances of the Republican Government of England” in 1648, which are really worthy of being rescued from oblivion, as containing abiding views and solid principles of admiralty jurisprudence, which may be deemed by jurists to be intrinsically operative and valuable; yet, upon the Restoration in England, these even were summarily abrogated.

The ordinance of Hastings was a restraining act, framed in 1272, for the purpose of restricting “ divers lords” and “their stewards or bailiffs ” from holding “any plea, if it concerned merchants or mariners.”

In 1376, the Queensborough Inquisition was taken by “eighteen expert seamen," before William Nevil, Admiral of the North ; Philip Courteney, Admiral of the West; and the Lord Latimer, Warden of the Cinque Ports. This document contained twenty-seven articles, under three different heads, and related to

I. Offenses against the king and kingdom.

II. Offenses against the public good of the kingdom ; and

III. Offenses against the admiral, the navy, and discipline of the sea.

In 1575 it was alleged that there was an agreement between the judges of the King's Bench and the Court of Admiralty,“ for the more quiet and certain execution of admiral jurisdiction.” But this agreement was “not

” observed as it ought to be,” as the Lord High Admiral complained. What are called the articuli admiralitatis drawn up by Dr. Dun, Judge of Admiralty, make this wrong manifest. By the seventh specification of these articles, there are enumerated “certain grievances'

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