« AnteriorContinuar »
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
244 U. S.
Blackstone says, 3 Black. Com. 107: “It is no uncommon thing for a plaintiff to feign that a contract, really made at sea, was made at the royal exchange, or other inland place, in order to draw the cognizance of the suit from the courts of admiralty to those of Westminster Hall.” The concurrent jurisdiction of the courts of common law was affirmed by Dr. Browne, the first edition of whose work was published in 1797-1799. 2 Browne's Civ. & Adm. Law (Ist Am. ed.), 112, 115.
The declaration of Mr. Justice Nelson, speaking for this court in New Jersey Steam Navigation Co. v. Merchants' Bank, 6 How. 344, 390, that the lodging by the Constitution of the entire admiralty power in the federal judiciary, and the ninth section of the Judiciary Act, with its saving of common-law remedies, left the concurrent power of the courts of common law and of admiralty where it stood at common law, was not a chance remark. It has been so ruled in many other cases, to which I shall refer hereafter. The principles and history of the common law were well known to the framers of the Constitution and the members of the First Congress; it was from that system that their terminology was derived; and the provisions of the Constitution and contemporaneous legislation must be interpreted accordingly.
The statement that there is no common law of the United States (Wheaton v. Peters, 8 Pet. 591, 658; Smith v. Alabama, 124 U. S. 465, 478) is true only in the sense that the Constitution neither of its own force imposed, nor authorized Congress to impose, the common law or any other general body of laws upon the several States for the regulation of their internal affairs. As was pointed out in Smith v. Alabama (p. 478), “There is, however, one clear exception to the statement that there is no national common law. The interpretation of the Constitution of the United States is necessarily influenced by the fact that its provisions are framed in the language of the Eng
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
lish common law, and are to be read in the light of its history."
As was well expressed by Shiras, District Judge, in Murray v. Chicago & N. W. Ry. Co., 62 Fed. Rep. 24, 31: “From them (citations of the decisions of this court] it appears, beyond question, that the Constitution, the Judiciary Act of 1789, and all subsequent statutes upon the same subject are based upon the general principles of the common law, and that, to a large extent, the legislative and judicial action of the government would be without support and without meaning if they cannot be interpreted in the light of the common law. When the Constitution was adopted, it was not the design of the framers thereof to create any new systems of general law, nor to supplant those already in existence. At that time there were in existence and in force in the Colonies or States, and among the people thereof, the law of nations, the law admiralty and maritime, the common law, including commercial law, and the system of equity. Upon these foundations the Constitution was erected. The problem sought to be solved was not whether the Constitution should create or enact a law of nations, of admiralty, of equity, or the like, but rather how should the executive, legislative, and judicial powers and duties based upon these systems, and necessary for the proper development and enforcement thereof, be apportioned between the national and state governments.”
And it is not to be supposed that the framers of the Constitution, familiar with the institutions and the prin.ciples of the common law, by which the admiralty jurisdiction was allowed on sufferance, and with a degree of jealousy born of the fact that the courts of admiralty were not courts of record, that they followed the practice of the civil law, allowed no trial by jury, and administered an exotic system of laws (3 Black. Com. 69, 86, 87, 106-108) -it is not to be supposed, I say, that the framers of the
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
Constitution, in granting judicial power over cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, along with like power over all cases in law and equity arising under the laws of the United States, intended to exclude common-law courts, state or national, from any part of their concurrent jurisdiction in cases of maritime origin, or to deprive them of the judicial power, theretofore existing, to decide such cases according to the rules of the common law.
It is matter of familiar history that one of the chief weaknesses of the Confederation was in the absence of a judicial establishment possessed, of general authority. Except that the Continental Congress, as an incident of the war power, was authorized to establish rules respecting captures and the disposition of prizes of war and to appoint courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high sea, and for determining appeals in cases of capture, and except that. the Congress itself, through commissioners, was to exercise jurisdiction in disputes between the States and in controversies respecting conflicting land grants of different States, there was no provision in the Articles of Confederation for establishing a judicial system under the authority of the general government.
The result was that not only private parties, in cases arising out of the laws of the Congress, but the United States themselves, were obliged to resort to the courts of the States for the enforcement of their rights. Many cases of this character are reported, some even antedating the Confederation. Respublica v. Sweers (1779), 1 Dall. 41; Respublica v. Powell (1780), 1 Dall. 47; Respublica v. De Longchamps (1784), 1 Dall. 111. Even treason was punished in state courts and under state laws. See cases of Molder, Malin, Carlisle and Roberts (1778), 1 Dall. 33-39.
Before the Revolution, courts of admiralty jurisdiction were a part of the judicial systems of the several Colonies.
Waring v. Clarke, 5 How. 441, 454–456; Benedict on Admiralty, 88 118–165. Upon the outbreak of the War questions of prize law became acute, and the colonial Congress, by resolutions of November 25, 1775, passed in the exercise of the war power (3 Dall. 54, 80) made appropriate recommendations for the treatment of prizes of war, but remitted the jurisdiction over such questions to the courts of the several Colonies, reserving to itself only appellate authority. This system continued until the year 1780 (after the submission of the Articles of Confederation, but before their final ratification), when the Congress established a court for the hearing of appeals from the state courts of admiralty in cases of capture. The opinions of this court are reported in 2 Dall. 1-42, and numerous cases decided without opinion, as well as some of those decided by committees of the Congress prior to the establishment of the court, are referred to in the late Bancroft Davis' “Federal Courts Before the Constitution,” 131 U. S., Appendix, xix-xlix. The weak point of this system was the want of power in the central government to enforce the judgment of the appellate tribunal when it chanced to reverse the decree of a state court. There were some curious cases of conflicting jurisdiction, illustrated by Doane v. Penhallow (1787), 1 Dall. 218, 221; Penhallow v. Doane (1795), 3 Dall. 54, 79, 86; and United States v. Peters (1809), 5 Cranch, 115, 135, 137.
It was under the influence of numerous experiences of the inefficiency of a general government unendowed with judicial authority that the Constitutional Convention assembled in the year 1787. The fundamental need, to which the Convention addressed itself in framing the judiciary article, was to set up a judicial power covering all subjects of national concern. There was no greater need to establish jurisdiction over admiralty and maritime causes than over controversies arising under the Constitution and laws of the Union. There was no purpose to
PITNEY, J., dissenting.
establish a system of substantive law in any of the several classes of cases included within the grant of judicial power. The language employed makes it plain that, with the few express exceptions already noted (treason, etc.), the rules of decision were to be sought elsewhere. The entire absence of a purpose to establish a maritime code is manifest not only from the omission of any reference to the laws of Oleron, the laws of Wisbuy, or any other of the maritime codes recognized by the nations of Europe, but further from the fact that the Colonies differed among themselves as to maritime law and admiralty practice, and that their system in general differed from that which was administered in England. The evident purpose, in this as in the other classes of controversy, was that the courts of admiralty should administer justice according to the previous course and practice of such courts in the Colonies, just as the courts of common-law and equity jurisdiction were to proceed according to the several systems of substantive law appropriate to courts of their respective kinds; subject, of course, to the power of Congress to change the rules of law respecting matters lying within its appropriate sphere of action.
Undoubtedly the framers of the Constitution were advised of the ancient controversy in England between the common-law courts and the courts of admiralty respecting the extent of the jurisdiction of the latter. They were aware of the dual function of the admiralty courts as courts of instance and as prize courts, and of the established rule that in civil causes the jurisdiction of the instance court was concurrent with that of the courts of common law. They must have known that, whatever question had existed as to the territorial limits of the jurisdiction of the admiralty, it never had been questioned that in suits for mariners' wages and suits upon policies of marine insurance, and in other actions ex contractu having a maritime character, and also in actions of tort