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sels, as are usual in treaties, may exempt private ships from the jurisdiction of the place, it may safely be asserted, that the whole reasoning upon which such exemption has been implied in other cases, applies with full force to the exemption of ships of war in this.

“ It is impossible to conceive,” says Vattel, " that a prince who sends an ambassador or any other minister, can have any intention of subjecting him to the authority of a foreign power; and this consideration furnishes an additional argument, which completely establishes the independency of a public minister. If it cannot be reasonably presumed, that his sovereign means to subject him to the authority of the prince to whom he is sent; the latter, in receiving the minister, consents to admit him on the footing of independency; and thus, there exists between the two princes a tacit convention, which gives a new force to the natural obligation."

Equally impossible is it to conceive, whatever may be the construction as to private ships, that a prince who stipulates a passage for his troops, or an asylum for his ships of war in distress, should mean to subject his army or his navy to the jurisdiction of a foreign sovereign. And if this can not be presumed, the sovereign of the port must be considered as having conceded the privilege, to the extent in which it must have been understood to be asked.

To the court, it appears, that where, without treaty, the ports of a nation are open to the private and public ships of a friendly power, whose subjects have also liberty, without special license, to enter the country for business or amusement, a clear distinction is to be drawn between the rights accorded to private individuals or trading vessels, and those accorded to public armed ships which constitute a part of the military force of the nation.

The preceding reasoning, has maintained the propositions that all exemptions from territorial jurisdiction, must be derived from the consent of the sovereign of the territory; that this consent may be implied or expressed; and that, when implied, its extent must be regulated by the nature of the case and the views under which the parties requiring and conceding it, must be supposed to act.

When private individuals of one nation spread themselves through another, as business or caprice may direct, mingling indiscriminately with the inhabitants of that other, or when merchant vessels enter for the purposes of trade, it would be obviously inconvenient and dangerous to society, and would subject the laws to continual infraction, and the government to degradation, if such individuals or merchants did not owe temporary and local allegiance, and were not amenable to the jurisdiction of the country. Nor can the foreign sovereign have any motive for wishing such exemption. His subjects thus passing into foreign countries, are not employed by him, nor are they engaged in national pursuits. Consequently, there are powerful motives for not exempting persons of this description from the jurisdiction of the country in which they are found, and no one motive for requiring it. The implied license, therefore, under which they enter, can never be construed to grant such exemption. But in all respects different, is the situation of a public armed ship. She constitutes a part of the military force of her nation; acts under the immediate and direct command of the sovereign; is employed by him in national objects. He has many and powerful motives for preventing those objects from being defeated by the interference of a foreign state. Such interference can not take place, without affecting his power and his dignity. The implied license, therefore, under which such vessel enters a friendly port, may reasonably be construed, and it seems to the court, ought to be construed, as containing an exemption from the jurisdiction of the sovereign, within whose territory she claims the rites of hospitality.

Upon these principles, by the unanimous consent of nations, a foreigner is amenable to the laws of the place; but certainly, in practice, nations have not yet asserted their jurisdiction over the public armed ships of a foreign sovereign entering a port open for their reception.

Bynkershoek, a jurist of great reputation, has indeed maintained, that the property of a foreign sovereign is not distinguishable by any legal exemption from the property of an ordinary individual, and has quoted several cases, in which courts have exercised jurisdiction over causes in which a foreign sovereign was made a party defendant.

Without indicating any opinion on this question, it may safely be affirmed, that there is a manifest distinction between the private property of the person who happens to be a prince, and that military force which supports the sovereign power, and maintains the dignity and independence of a nation. A prince, by acquiring private property in a foreign country, may possibly be considered as subjecting that property to the territorial jurisdiction; he may be considered as so far laying down the prince, and assuming the character of a private individual; but this he can not be presumed to do, with respect to any portion of that armed force, which upholds his crown, and the nation he is intrusted to govern.


The only applicable case cited by Bynkershoek, is that of the Spanish ships of war, seized in Flushing, for a debt due from the King of Spain. In that case, the states generally interposed; and there is reason to believe, from the manner in which the transaction is stated, that either by the interference of government, or the decision of the court, the vessels were released. This case of the Spanish vessels is, it is believed, the only case furnished by the history of the world, of an attempt made by an individual to assert a claim against a foreign prince, by seizing the armed vessels of the nation. That this proceeding was at once arrested by the government, in a nation which appears to have asserted the power of proceeding in the same manner against the private property of the prince, would seem to furnish no feeble argument in support of the universality of the opinion in favor of the exemption claimed for ships of

The distinction made in our own laws between public and private ships, would appear to proceed from the same opinion.

It seems, then, to the court, to be a principle of public law, that national ships of war, entering the port of a friendly power, open for their reception, are to be considered as exempted by the consent of that power from its jurisdiction.

Without doubt, the sovereign of the place is capable of destroying this implication. He may claim and exercise jurisdiction, either by employing force, or by subjecting such vessels to the ordinary tribunals. But until such power be exerted in a manner not to be misunderstood, the sovereign cannot be considered as having imparted to the ordinary tribunals a jurisdiction, which it would be a breach of faith to exercise. Those general statutory provisions, therefore, which are descriptive of the ordinary jurisdiction of the judicial tribunals, which give an individual whose property has been wrested from him, a right to claim that property in the courts of the country in which it is found, ought not, in the opinion of this court, to be so construed, as to give them jurisdiction in a case in which the sovereign power has impliedly consented to waive its jurisdiction.

The arguments in favor of this opinion, which have been drawn from the general inability of the judicial power to enforce its decisions in cases of this description, from the consideration, that the sovereign power of the nation is alone competent to avenge wrongs committed by a sovereign, that the questions to which such wrongs give birth, are rather questions of policy than of law, that they are for diplomatic, rather than legal discussion, are of great weight, and merit serious attention. But the argument has already been drawn to a length, which forbids a particular examination of these points.

The principles which have been stated, will now be applied to the case at bar.

In the present state of the evidence and proceedings, the Exchange must be considered as a vessel, which was the property of the libellants, whose claim is repelled by the fact, that she is now a national armed vessel, commissioned by, and in the service of the Emperor of France. The evidence of this fact is not controverted. But it is contended, that it constitutes no bar to an inquiry into the validity of the title, by which the emperor holds this vessel. Every person, it is alleged, who is entitled to property brought within the jurisdiction of our courts, has a right to assert his title in those courts, unless there be some law taking his case out of the general rule. It is, therefore, said to be the right, and if it be the right, it is the duty of the court, to inquire whether this title has been extinguished by an act, the validity of which is recognized by national or municipal law.

If the preceding reasoning be correct, the Exchange, being a public armed ship, in the service of a foreign sovereign, with whom the government of the United States is at peace, and having entered an American port, open for her reception, on the terms on which ships of war are generally permitted to enter the ports of a friendly power, must be considered as having come into the American territory, under an implied promise, that while necessarily within it, and demeaning herself in a friendly manner, she should be exempt from the jurisdiction of the country.



Court of Claims of the United States

(Decided May 4, 1908)

PEELLE, Ch. J., delivered the opinion of the court:

This action is founded on a claim for the use and damage for the detention of the steamship San Juan, owned by Spanish subjects, captured in the port of Santiago, Cuba, during the war with Spain, July, 1898. The seizure was by the Army, and no question of prize is involved.

But for the averment in the petition that the vessel herein was taken possession of by the United States “as private property and without any claim of title by reason of capture, or confiscation, or forfeiture," and used for lawful governmental purposes, the question of the liability of the United States might perhaps have been determined under rules 37 and 92 before either party had incurred expense in the taking of testimony.

This case is ruled by that of Hijo v. The United States (194 U. S. R., 315, 320), unless excepted therefrom by reason of the relation of the United States to Cuba. That case, like the one here, was for the capture, use, and damage for detention of a vessel, owned by Spanish subjects, in the port of Ponce, P. R., at the time of the capture and surrender of that port and city in July, 1898, to the naval and military forces of the United States.

There, as here, the vessel was used or detained by the military forces under the orders of the Quartermaster's Department of the Army until April, 1899, when the vessel, as here, was returned to the owners on condition that ail claims for use or damage for detention should be waived, which was done.

In each case the vessel captured was owned by Spanish subjects, and the capture, use, and detention of the vessel occurred during the war with Spain, which war, says the court in the case cited, “ did not in law cease until the ratification in April, 1899, of the treaty of peace.”

In that case the contention was that the claim arose out of an implied contract, and that an action could be maintained thereon under section 1 of the act of March 3, 1887, commonly known as the Tucker Act. (24 Stat. L., 505.) But in response to that contention the court, by Mr. Justice Harlan, said:

The present suit finds no sanction in the above act, even if the plaintiff were not a foreign corporation. Its claim is not founded on the Constitution of the United States, or on any act of Congress, or on any regulation of an Executive Department. Nor can it be said to be founded on contract, express or implied. There is no element of contract in the case, for nothing was done by the United States, nor anything said by any of its officers, from which could be implied an agreement or obligation to pay for the use of the plaintiff's vessel. According to the established principles of public law, the owners of the vessel, being Spanish subjects, were to be deemed enemies, although not directly connected with military operations. The vessel was therefore to be deemed enemy's property. It was seized as property of that kind, for purposes of war, and not for any purposes of gain.

The seizure, which occurred while the war was flagrant, was an act of war, occurring within the limits of military operations. The

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