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any other vessels seized for an alleged violation of the Neutrality Act, — if they are to be released by judicial authorities, then the Neutrality Act becomes a perfect farce and nullity, and, in fact, amounts to nothing. The intention of the act is, that vessels seized for violations of the neutrality law shall be held by the government till trial has been had testing the merits of the question ; then, and not till then, shall a vessel so libelled and held be released or condemned. I again assert that there is happily a common desire among all nations, including England, - for that power is now thoroughly ashamed of her past conduct, and the retrospect she is compelled to take of her unfriendliness towards us during the late war.-I say, that even England, in common with all other nations, desires that the laws of neutrality shall be
made as stringent and as binding as possible, so as to prevent, • upon the part of their subjects and people, all hostile depredations
not directed and controlled by the governments themselves. That is the desire of all nations now, and that is the tendency of their acts. We shall find hereafter that the neutrality laws of all governments and maritime powers will be strictly and thoroughly enforced; their own safety and their own interests are at stake, as the result of the conduct of Great Britain with regard to us shows, which point out unmistakably the necessity and importance of so doing.
A decision, to the extent claimed here, would open a seam in the act of 1818 (the Neutrality Act), through which whole navies of belligerents could go to sea on their errands of destruction. I repeat again, if your Honor has the power, — if there exists a statute granting that power, – if you believe that this Court has the independent and inherent power to grant this motion, — then I say our neutrality law has no spirit, no life, is a dead letter on the statute-book, and amounts to nothing. I know that your Honor will give to this case that thorough, complete, and searching examination which its nature and importance demand ; and whatever your determination may be in this case, I know well it will be the result of able, experienced, and mature judicial investigation, and a determination to do what the law, not only of nations, but our own law, requires in this respect, both as regards the government and as regards these claimants.
The counsel concluded by restating his points as given above.
REJOINDER OF MR, EVARTS.
Mr. Evarts. May it please your Honor, - I will be very brief in the remarks I am entitled to make, in reply to the learned District Attorney's closing argument. The letter of the Secretary of State is undoubtedly open to the construction suggested, on the part of any one not informed as to what passed between the owners of this vessel and the government of the United States on the subject of this prosecution. That construction would be, according to the statement of the District Attorney, that we had made some application to the government to allow, or instruct the District Attorney to allow, the bonding of this vessel in the course of these judicial proceedings. Now, we have never made any application to the government to favor, or to instruct the District Attorney to favor, the bonding of this vessel, - the subject matter of this suit. We never thought that a proper thing to do, and we certainly never thought it a necessary thing to do, because the Court has the whole control in the matter, and executive interference would be uncalled for and improper. We believe that the rules of the Court and the law completely embrace and settle this question ; and this gives me an opportunity to say, that, from the moment this prosecution was commenced, the owners and the master thought it impossible that this government could seriously intend to make it a matter of judicial inquiry. And under this belief, the owners had applied to the government to remit any further prosecution in the case, in plain view of the rights and purposes of these owners. And that, your Honor falls within exactly what is the due and proper region of executive consideration, deliberation, and control, - that is, whether the suit should go on or be discontinued. That was for the Executive to determine. But we never asked the government, by any intimation of its wishes, to affect the Court's direction and conduct of questions arising in the prosecution. And if my learned friend insists that the Secretary of State and the President are to be heard on questions touching the due administration of justice, except by argument and in methods for which the law provides, then I say he introduces an impropriety into the administration of justice which the Secretary's letter, in my judgment, does not justify him in, and
which the Judiciary of the United States will not submit to tolerate for a single moment.
Now, I will agree with my learned friend, and it is my argument, that section three of the act under which this prosecution is founded, providing a penalty for past offences, has nothing whatever to do with sections ten and eleven, which give the power to repress or take security against future infractions of neutrality, and my argument was, that there was nothing before your Honor but the consideration of the question of forfeiture for an alleged past offence, and that the substitution of a bond for the ship is sufficient property forfeiture for past offences under every law, and was so regarded by the statutes and by the courts. My learned friend would confine the Court to political and governmental action in dealing with this question ; but, if you look at the statute, your Honor will find that even political and governmental action of repression and restraint was limited to holding the vessel seized till the necessary bond was given.
I hear no answer to the statement that section three is wholly one of forfeiture for past offences, -- a property and pecuniary punishment for past offences, — just as there is a similar section providing that a vessel violating the revenue law shall be forfeited
a and the persons engaged in the illegal act be subject to fine and imprisonment. It would be just as reasonable to contend that a party indicted under that section and liable to fine and imprisonment, ought not to be admitted to bail under the general law, lest he repeat his offence as to oppose the bonding of this vessel under the general rule, lest she should in the future offend against the neutrality laws. The kind of argument is precisely the same, and it can find no place, except through a confusion of ideas in a court of justice.
My clients do not introduce here the subject of their loyalty or their merit in connection with the original plan and design of the Meteor. The subject was introduced by the District Attorney, and in whatever I said on that point I but simply strove to put the matter right before your Honor.
Judge Betts took the papers in the case, reserving his decision, which he said he would render in as short a time as possible.
DECISION OF THE COURT, FRIDAY, MARCH 23.
BETTS, J. On the 22d day of January, 1866, the United States Attorney for this district filed in this Court a libel of information against the above-named vessel, charging that the said vessel had been fitted out to commit hostilities against the government of Spain, in violation of the Neutrality Act of Congress of 1818. On the succeeding day the attorney filed an amended libel of information, in the same cause, charging and detailing the misdemeanors imputed to the said ship specifically and minutely. On the filing of the original libel there was issued out of the clerk's office of this Court, under the seal of the Court, addressed to the marshal of the district, a monition and warrant of attachment, returnable in Court on the 13th of February next thereafter, on which day the said process was duly returned in Court, served by the marshal. On the 14th day of March inst., counsel for the claimants of the said vessel made application, by a summary and non-enumerated motion to the Court, for an order to appoint appraisers in the above cause, to appraise the said ship; and upon the filing of a bond or stipulation for the amount of such appraised value, to deliver possession of the vessel to the said claimants. On looking at the papers on file, the summary motion now pressed to hearing by the claimants appears under the circumstances of the case, according to the strict rules of practice, to be premature in point of order, exceptive allegations having been previously taken by the United States Attorney to the competency of the claimants to intervene in this matter. But the counsel for the claimants, urging the immediate hearing of his special motion, and the United States Attorney waiving all objection to such immediate hearing, the parties proceeded to discuss the questions raised on the application made by the claimants to have appraisers appointed to value the steamship and to have her restored to the claimants on bail, according to the usual course of procedure in courts of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction in seizure cases. The cause was presented to the Court in maintenance of the propositions of law insisted upon by the counsel for the claimants, as recognized or established by statutory law, and the standing rules and adjudications of the Courts of the United States, with great force and efficiency, and I perceive no ground to question at this day that it
is within the ordinary usage of the United States Courts authorized and sanctioned by statutory enactments and by the standing rules of the several Courts of the United States in the exercise of their several functions, in banco, or by the judges separately out of Court, to bail personal property seized under processes in rem, issued out of Courts of civil and admiralty jurisdiction, and deliver the res into the possession of the proper claimant, on security approved by the judicial authority having cognizance of the subject matter. The powers inherent in the civil and admiralty court of England were originally of like extent, though in modern times they have fallen into disuse, probably under the overshadowing influence of the courts of common law. (2 Browne's Civil and Adm. Law, 435.)
It seems to me, then, that the sole question of difficulty in principle subsisting in this case is, whether the Court is bound by positive law, or a settled course of practice and usage, established by authority of the judiciary, equivalent in force to a direct enactment of Congress, to deliver the ship to the claimants on bail, or whether the delivery on bail is subject to the judicial discretion of the Court. I feel persuaded that by a sound construction the regulations in this behalf, prescribed by the Supreme Court of the United States or by the Circuit or District Court within this district, do not declare a rule binding on the Court, and that all the doctrines adopted by those Courts on that branch of practice have been carried into execution on the understanding that the power to bail property held under seizure in a court of civil and admiralty jurisdiction, in an action of tort, or one of contract where opposition is made thereto, is also a trust, and that its exercise lies exclusively within the judicial discretion of the Court. (Dunlap Adm. Pr., 2d ed. 181; The Brig Struggle, 1 Gal. 476; The George, 2 Gal. 249; Lane v. Townsend, Ware, 2d ed. 289.)
The act of March 3, 1847 (9 U. S. Stats. at Large, 181), entitled “ An act for the reduction of the costs and expenses of proceedings in admiralty against ships and vessels,” was cited by the counsel for the claimants as imposing on the Court the imperative duty of delivering up the vessel on bail. But the Court is of opinion that that statute is by its express terms limited in its operation to cases in admiralty in which the libellant seeks to