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United States Supreme Court

66 U.S. 522

Steamer St. Lawrence

Appeal from the Circuit Court of the United States for the southern district of New York.

William H. Meyer and Edwin R. Wilcox filed their libel in the District Court against the steamer St. Lawrence, her engine, tackle, apparel, &c., for supplies to the value of $2,500, payment of which had been demanded and refused. The libellants averred that the St. Lawrence had been in the port of New York ever since the supplies were furnished, and they had a lien on her by the law of the State. (Rev. St., Title viii, Ch. 8.) Lewis H. Meyer and Edward Stucken made claim as owners, and answered to the libel that the supplies were furnished on the credit of John Graham, and not of the vessel; that the libellants settled and accounted for them with Graham, took his notes for the amount agreed on, and discharged the vessel; that the respondents are bona fide purchasers of the vessel, in good faith, without notice of the libellants' claim.

The evidence taken in the cause showed that the supplies were furnished, the amount and value being ascertained to the satisfaction of the claimants' proctor. It was proved also that John Graham was the owner of the vessel at the time, and that he gave his notes for the amount of the libellants' claim, but it was expressly stipulated between him and the libellants that their lien against the vessel should not be discharged or released unless the notes were paid. The notes were afterwards surrendered. The claimants purchased the vessel after all these transactions, and there is no proof that they had any notice of the libellants' claim against her.

The District Court decreed in favor of the libellants, the decree was affirmed by the Circuit Court, and the claimants appealed.

Mr. Lane, of New York, for the claimants, argued that this contract was not within the admiralty jurisdiction, and cited The General Smith, (4 Wheaton, 438;) Pratt vs. Reed, (19 How., 359;) Maguire vs. Can, (21 How., 248;) The John Jay, (17 How., 400;) 2 Brown Civ. Law, 116.

The rule of the Supreme Court does not give jurisdiction. The power to make rules is in the act of Congress, 5 Stat. at Large, 518, but does not authorize the opening of the court to a suitor or shutting it on him.

If there was a lien, it was waived by taking notes on time for the amount of the supply. Innocent purchasers for value could not be affected as with a lien upon the vessel while the claim of the libellant was in that condition. The Bark Shusan, (2 Story, 468;) The Brig Chester, (1 Sumner, 86;) The Schooner Action, (Alcott, 288;) Ramsey vs. Allegre, (12 Wheaton, 613.)

Mr. Williams, of New York, for the libellants. This contract is in its nature a maritime contract. 2 Brown, Civil and Maritime Law, 75; Conkling's Admiralty, 52; 1 Kent, 379; 3 Kent, 168; Jacobs and Sea Laws; Life of Sir Leoline Jenkins, vol. I, 16; The Favorite, (2 C. Robinson, 226;) The General Smith, (4 W eaton, 438;) Ramsey vs. Allegre, (12 Wheaton, 611;) Andrews vs. Wall, (3 How., 568;) Peyroux vs. Howard, (7 Pet., 324.)

The Federal courts have jurisdiction in all cases of maritime contracts, and will give to the libellants the relief they are entitled to. The local law giving a lien upon the vessel, this court will enforce that lien. Conkling, 57; New Orleans vs. Phoebus, (11 How., 184;) Roach vs. Chapman, (22 How., 132;) Benedict's Admiralty, 11; 5 Cranch, 61; 1 Pet., 328; The Pacific, (1 Blatchford, 585.)The rule of court does not affect the right of the libellants. The jurisdiction is not derived from the rule. It might be in conflict with the right to sue in this particular form, if the change had taken place before the suit was commenced. But it was made afterwards, and is prospective.

Mr. Chief Justice TANEY.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).