Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

244 U. S.

PITNEY, J., dissenting.

clause, the States are at liberty to administer their own laws in their own courts when exercising a jurisdiction concurrent with that of admiralty, and at liberty to change those laws by statute.

That the language of § 2 of Art. III of the Constitution speaks only of establishing jurisdiction, and does not prescribe the mode in which or the substantive law by which the exercise of that jurisdiction is to be governed, seems to me entirely plain; and upon this point I need only refer to the language itself, which I have quoted.

That this view is in harmony with the general purpose of the Constitution seems to me equally plain. At this late date it ought not to be necessary to repeat that the object of the framers of that instrument was to lay the foundations of a government, to set up its frame-work, and to establish merely the general principles by which it was to be animated; avoiding, as far as possible, any but the most fundamental regulations for controlling its operations, and these usually in the form of restrictions. Vanhorne v. Dorrance, 2 Dall. 304, 308; Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 1 Wheat. 304, 326.

The object was to enumerate, rather than to define, the powers granted. Gibbons v. Ogden, 9 Wheat. 1, 189, 194; Passenger Cases, 7 How. 283, 549; Lottery Case, 188 U. S. 321, 346. To delineate only the great outlines of the judicial power, leaving the details to Congress, while providing for the organization of the legislative department and the mode in which and the restrictions under which its authority should be exercised. Rhode Island v. Massachusetts, 12 Pet. 657, 721. The reason for adopting general outlines only was well expressed by Mr. Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 407: "A constitution, to contain an accurate detail of all the subdivisions of which its great powers will admit, and of all the means by which they may be carried into execution, would partake of the prolixity of a legal code, and could

[blocks in formation]

scarcely be embraced by the human mind. It would probably never be understood by the public. Its nature, therefore, requires, that only its great outlines should be marked, its important objects designated, and the minor ingredients which compose those objects be deduced from the nature of the objects themselves. That this idea was entertained by the framers of the American constitution, is not only to be inferred from the nature of the instrument, but from the language."

The adoption of any particular system of substantive law was not within the purpose of the Constitutional Convention; and the clause establishing the judicial power was ill-adapted to the purpose had it existed. So far as they intended to prescribe permanent rules of substantive or even procedural law in connection with the establishment of the judicial system, the framers employed express terms for the purpose, as appears from other provisions of Article III, including the definition of treason, the character of proof required, the limitation of the punishment, and the requirement of a jury trial for this and other crimes.

In a somewhat exhaustive examination of various sources of information, including Elliot's Debates, Farrand's Records of the Federal Convention, and The Federalist, Nos. 80-83, I have been unable to find anything even remotely suggesting that the judicial clause was designed to establish the maritime code or any other system of laws for the determination of controversies in the courts by it established, much less any suggestion that the maritime code was to constitute the rule of decision in common-law courts, either federal or state.

Certainly, there is nothing in the mere provision establishing jurisdiction in admiralty and maritime causes to have that effect, unless the jurisdiction so established was in its nature exclusive. But, in civil causes, the jurisdic

244 U. S.

PITNEY, J., dissenting.

tion was not exclusive by the law of England and of the Colonies, and it was not made an exclusive jurisdiction by the Constitution.

In discussing this point, the distinction between the instance court and the prize court of admiralty must be observed. It was held in England that the question of prize or no prize, and other questions arising out of it, were exclusively cognizable in the admiralty, because that court took jurisdiction owing to the fact of possession of a prize of war, and the controversy turned upon belligerent rights and was determinable by the law of nations, and not the particular municipal law of any country. Le Caux v. Eden (1781), Doug. 594; 99 E. R. 375, 379–385; Lindo v. Rodney, reported in a note to Le Caux v. Eden, Doug. 613; 99 E. R. 385; Smart v. Wolff (1789), 3 T. R. 323, 340, et seq.; Lord Camden v. Home (1791), 4 T. R. 382, 393 et seq. But of civil actions in personam the instance court exercised a jurisdiction concurrent with that of the courts of common law. As Lord Mansfield said in Lindo v. Rodney, Doug. 614: "A thing being done upon the high sea don't exclude the jurisdiction of the courts of common law. For seizing, stopping, or taking a ship, upon the high sea, not as prize, an action will lie; but for taking as prize, no action will lie. The nature of the question excludes; not the locality." And again, referring to the effect of certain statutes (p. 614a): "The taking a ship upon the high sea is triable at law to repair the plaintiff in damages; but a taking on the high sea as prize is not triable at law to repair the plaintiff in damages. The nature of the ground of the action-prize or no prize-not only authorizes the prize court, but excludes the common law. These statutes don't exclude the common law in any case, and they confine the Admiralty by the locality of the thing done, which is the cause of action. It must be done upon the high sea."

So, with respect to actions ex contractu, Mr. Justice

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

244 U. S.

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 principles 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

« ForrigeFortsett »