Page images
PDF
EPUB

national law, by the consent of all the powers. Many States had so consented, but others had not; and the adjudged cases had gone no farther than to establish the rule, that ships belonging to countries that had prohibited the trade were liable to capture and condemnation, if found engaged in it.1

A similar course of reasoning was adopted by the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Spanish and Portuguese vessels captured by American cruisers, whilst the trade was still tolerated by the laws of Spain and Portugal. It was stated by Mr. Chief Justice Marshall, in delivering the judgment of the Court, that it could hardly be denied that the slave-trade was contrary to the law of nature. That every man had a natural right to the fruits of his own labor, was generally admitted; and that no other person could rightfully deprive him of those fruits, and appropriate them against his will, seemed to be the necessary result of this admission. But, from the earliest times, war had existed, and war conferred rights in which all had acquiesced. Among the most enlightened nations of antiquity, one of these rights was, that the victor might enslave the vanquished. That which was the usage of all nations could not be pronounced repugnant to the law of nations, which was certainly to be tried by the test of general usage. That which had received the assent of all must be the law of all.

Slavery, then, had its origin in force; but as the world had agreed that it was a legitimate result of force, the state of things which was thus produced by general consent could not be pronounced unlawful.

Throughout Christendom this harsh rule had been exploded, and war was no longer considered as giving a right to enslave captives. But this triumph had not been universal. The parties to the modern law of nations do not propagate their principles by force; and Africa had not yet adopted them. Throughout the whole extent of that immense continent, so far as we know its history, it is still the law of nations that prisoners are slaves. The question then was, could those who had renounced this law be permitted to participate in its effects by purchasing the human beings who are its victims?

1 Barnwell's and Alderson's Reports, vol. iii. p. 353.

Whatever might be the answer of a moralist to this question, a jurist must search for its legal solution in those principles which are sanctioned by the usages, the national acts, and the general assent, of that portion of the world, of which he considers himself a part, and to whose law the appeal is made. If we resort to this standard as the test of international law, the question must be considered as decided in favor of the legality of the trade. Both Europe and America embarked in it; and for nearly two centuries, it was carried on without opposition, and without censure. A jurist could not say that a practice thus supported was illegal, and that those engaged in it might be punished, either personally or by deprivation of property.

In this commerce, thus sanctioned by universal assent, every nation had an equal right to engage. No principle of general law was more universally acknowledged, than the perfect equality of nations. Russia and Geneva have equal rights. It results from this equality, that no one can rightfully impose a rule on another. Each legislates for itself, but its legislation can operate on itself alone. A right, then, which was vested in all by the consent of all, could be devested only by consent; and this trade, in which all had participated, must remain lawful to those who could not be induced to relinquish it. As no nation could prescribe a rule for others, no one could make a law of nations; and this traffic remained lawful to those whose governments had not forbidden it.

If it was consistent with the law of nations, it could not in itself be piracy. It could be made so only by statute; and the obligation of the statute could not transcend the legislative power of the State which might enact it.

If the trade was neither repugnant to the law of nations, nor piratical, it was almost superfluous to say in that court that the right of bringing in for adjudication, in time of peace, even where the vessel belonged to a nation which had prohibited the trade, could not exist. The courts of justice of no country executed the penal laws of another; and the course of policy of the American government on the subject of visitation and search, would decide any case against the captors in which that right had been exercised by an American cruiser, on the vessel of a foreign nation, not violating the municipal laws of the United States. It followed that a foreign vessel engaged in the African

slave-trade, captured on the high seas in time of peace, by an American cruiser, and brought in for adjudication, would be restored to the original owners.'

II. The judicial power of every State extends to all ý 16. Extent of the civil proceedings, in rem, relating to real or personal propower as to perty within the territory. property within the

This follows, in respect to real property, as a necesterritory.

sary consequence of the rule relating to the application of the lex loci rei sita. As every thing relating to the tenure, title, and transfer of real property (immobilia) is regulated by the local law, so also the proceedings in courts of justice relating to that species of property, such as the rules of evidence and of

prescription, the forms of action and pleadings, must necessarily be governed by the same law.2

cedure as

A similar rule applies to all civil proceedings in rem, 17. Distinction be- respecting personal property (mobilia) within the terrirule of deci- tory, which must also be regulated by the local law, rule of pro- with this qualification, that foreign laws may furnish

the rule of decision in cases where they apply, whilst affecting cases in rem. the forms of process, and rules of evidence and prescription are still governed by the lex fori. Thus the lex domicilii forms the law in respect to a testament of personal property or succession ab intestato, if the will is made, or the party on whom the succession devolves resides, in a foreign country; whilst at the same time the lex fori of the State in whose tribunals the suit is pending determines the forms of process and the rules of evidence and prescription.

Though the distribution of the personal effects of an to personal intestate is to be made according to the law of the place

where the deceased was domiciled, it does not therefore follow that the distribution is in all cases to be made by the tribunals of that place to the exclusion of those of the country where the property is situate. Whether the tribunal of the State where the property lies is to decree distribution, or to remit the property abroad, is a matter of judicial discretion to be exercised

Succession

property ab intestato.

1 Wheaton's Rep. vol. x. p. 66. The Antelope. 2 Vide suprà, $ 3, p. 116.

[ocr errors]

according to the circumstances. It is the duty of every government to protect its own citizens in the recovery of their debts and other just claims; and in the case of a solvent estate it would be an unreasonable and useless comity to send the funds abroad, and the resident creditor after them. But if the estate be insol. vent, it ought not to be sequestered for the exclusive benefit of the subjects of the State where it lies. In all civilized countries, foreigners in such a case, are entitled to prove their debts and share in the distribution.1

Though the forms, in which a testament of personal Foreign

perty, made in a foreign country, is to be executed, carried into are regulated by the local law, such a testament cannot effect in be carried into effect in the State where the property country. lies, until, in the language of the law of England, probate has been obtained in the proper tribunal of such State, or, in the language of the civilians, it has been homologated, or registered, in such tribunal.2

So, also, a foreign executor, constituted such by the will of the testator, cannot exercise his authority in another State without taking out letters of administration in the proper local court. Nor can the administrator of a succession ab intestato, appointed Ex officio under the laws of a foreign State, interfere with the personal property in another State belonging to the succession, without having his authority confirmed by the local tribunal.

!

in rem.

The judgment or sentence of a foreign tribunal of

18. Concompetent jurisdiction proceeding in rem, such as the clusiveness sentences of Prize Courts under the law of nations, or sentences Admiralty and Exchequer, or other revenue courts, under the municipal law, are conclusive as to the proprietary interest in, and title to, the thing in question, wherever the same comes incidentally in controversy in another State.

Whatever doubts may exist as to the conclusiveness of foreign sentences in respect of facts collaterally involved in the judg. ment, the peace of the civilized world, and the general security

Kent's Comment. on American Law, 5th ed. vol. ii. pp. 431, 432, and the cases there cited.

2 Wheaton's Rep. vol. xï. p. 169, Armstrong v. Lear. Code Civil, liv. iii. tit. 2, art. 1000.

Transfer

and convenience of commerce, obviously require that full and complete effect should be given to such sentences, wherever the title to the specific property, which has been once determined in a competent tribunal, is again drawn in question in any other court or country.

How far a bankruptcy declared under the laws of one of property under fo- country will affect the real and personal property of reign bank- the bankrupt situate in another State, is a question of rupt proceedings. which the usage of nations, and the opinions of civi. lians, furnish no satisfactory solution. Even as between coördinate States, belonging to the same common empire, it has been doubted how far the assignment under the bankrupt laws of one country will operate a transfer of property in another. In respect to real property, which generally has some indelible characteristics impressed upon it by the local law, these difficulties are enhanced in those cases where the lex loci rei sitæ requires some formal act to be done by the bankrupt, or his attorney, specially constituted, in the place where the property lies, in order to consummate the transfer. In those countries where the theory of the English bankrupt system, that the assignment transfers all the property of the bankrupt, wherever situate, is admitted in practice, the local tribunals would probably be ancillary to the execution of the assignment by compelling the bankrupt, or his attorney, to execute such formal acts as are required by the local laws to complete the conveyance. ?

The practice of the English Court of Chancery, in assuming jurisdiction incidentally of questions affecting the title to lands in the British colonies, in the exercise of its jurisdiction in personam, where the party resides in England, and thus compelling him, indirectly, to give effect to its decrees as to real property situate out of its local jurisdiction, seems very questionable on principle, unless where it is restrained to the case of a party who has fraudulently obtained an undue advantage over other creditors by judicial proceedings instituted without personal notice to the defendant.

But whatever effect may, in general, be attributed to the • assignment in bankruptcy as to property situate in another State,

1 See Lord Eldon’s Observations in Selkrig v. Davies, Rose's Cases in Bankruptcy, vol. ii. p. 311. Vesey's Rep. vol. ix. p. 77, Banfield v. Solomon.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »