The United States v. the Schooner Peggy by United States Supreme Court

The United States v. the Schooner Peggy

By United States Supreme Court

  • Publication Date: 1801-12-01
  • Genre: Law

Book Synopsis

In this case the court is of opinion that the schooner Peggy is within the provisions of the treaty entered into with France, and ought to be restored. This vessel is not considered as being definitively condemned. The argument at the bar which contends that because the sentence of the circuit court is denominated a final sentence, therefore its condemnation is definitive in the sense in which that term is used in the treaty, is not deemed a correct argument. A decree or sentence may be interlocutory or final in the court which pronounces it, and receives its appellation from its determining the power of that particular court over the subject to which it applies, or being only an intermediate order subject to the future control of the same court. The last decree of an inferior court is final in relation to the power of that court, but not in relation to the property itself, unless it be acquiesced under. The terms used in the treaty seem to apply to the actual condition of the property, and to direct a restoration of that which is still in controversy between the parties. On any other construction the word definitive would be rendered useless and inoperative. Vessels are seldom if ever condemned but by a final sentence. An interlocutory order for a sale is not a condemnation. A stipulation then for the restoration of vessels not yet condemned would, on this construction, comprehend as many cases as a stipulation for the restoration of such as are not yet definitively condemned. Every condemnation is final as to the court which pronounces it, and no other difference is perceived between a condemnation and a final condemnation, than that the one terminates definitively the controversy between the parties and the other leaves that controversy still depending. In this case the sentence of condemnation was appealed from. It might have been reversed, and therefore was not such a sentence as in the contemplation of the contracting parties, on a fair and honest construction of the contract, was designated as a definitive condemnation. It has been urged that the court can take no notice of the stipulation for the restoration of property not yet definitively condemned, that the judges can only inquire whether the sentence was erroneous when delivered, and that if the judgment was correct it cannot be made otherwise by any thing subsequent to its rendition.

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