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The Schooner Exchange v. McFaddon

    Brief Fact Summary. Two Americans (P) laid claims of ownership and entitlements to the schooner Exchange.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. National ships of war are viewed as been exempted by consent of the power of the friendly jurisdiction whose port the ship enters.

    Facts. Two Americans (P) claimed they owned and were entitled to the schooner Exchange they seized on the high seas.  The claim which the United States Attorney (D) put forward for the prevention of the ship leaving was that, the ship which was owned by the Emperor of France had been forced to enter the port of Philadelphia due to bad weather conditions.
    At this point in time, the U.S and France were on friendly terms. The United States’ (D) request for the dismissal of ownership and release of the ship was granted by the district court. However, this judgment was reversed by the circuit court and this did not prevent the United States (D) from appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Issue. Are National ships of war viewed as been exempted by the consent of the power of the friendly jurisdiction whose port the ship enters?

    Held. (Marshall, C.J.) Yes. National ships of war are viewed as been exempted by consent of the power of the friendly jurisdiction whose port the ship enters. A nation’s jurisdiction within its sovereign territory is exclusive and absolute.
    The Exchange been a public armed ship, currently under the control and supervision of a foreign power, who at the time of the ship’s entry into the United States territory, was at peace with the United States, must be viewed as having entered the states territory under an implied promise that while in such environment, would be exempt from the jurisdiction of the country. Reversed.

    Discussion. The absolute form of sovereign immunity from judicial jurisdiction was implicated in this case. Three principles were brought forward by the court in this case; the immunity that all civilized nations allow to foreign ministers; the exemption of the person of the sovereign from arrest or imprisonment within a foreign country; and when a sovereign permits troops of a foreign prince to pass through his territory, such sovereign is understood to mean he has ceded a portion of his territorial jurisdiction.


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