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United States Supreme Court

71 U.S. 555

The Hine  v.  Trevor

Error to the Supreme Court of the State of Iowa; the case, as disclosed by the record, having been in substance this:

A collision occurred between the steamboats Hine and Sunshine, on the Mississippi River, at or near St. Louis, in which the latter vessel was injured. Some months afterwards, the owners of the Sunshine caused the Hine to be seized while she was lying at Davenport, Iowa, in a proceeding under the laws of that State, to subject her to sale in satisfaction of the damages sustained by their vessel. The code of Iowa, under which this seizure was made, gives a lien against any boat found in the waters of that State, for injury to person or property by said boat, officers or crew, &c.; gives precedence in liens; authorizes the seizure and sale of the boat, without any process against the wrongdoer, whether owner or master, and saves the plaintiff all his common-law rights, but makes no provision to protect the owner of the vessel.

The owners of the Hine interposed a plea to the jurisdiction of the State court. The point being ruled against them, it was carried to the Supreme Court of the State, where the judgment of the lower court was affirmed; and by the present writ of error this court was called upon to reverse that decision.

To comprehend the argument fully, it is here well to state that Congress had, prior to the date of this proceeding, enacted—

1. In 1789, September 24th, by the Judiciary Act, that the District Court of the United States 'shall have exclusive original cognizance of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, including all seizures under the laws of impost, navigation, or trade of the United States, where the seizures are made on waters which are navigable from the sea by vessels of ten or more tons burden. . . . Saving to suitors, in all cases, the right of a common-law remedy, where the common law is competent to give it.'

2. In 1845, by statute of the 26th February of that year, 'that the District Courts of the United States shall have, possess, and exercise the same jurisdiction in matters of contract and tort, arising in, upon, or concerning steamboats and other vessels of twenty tons burden and upwards, enrolled and licensed for the coasting trade, and at the same time employed in business of commerce and navigation, between ports and places in different states and territories, upon the lakes and navigable waters connecting said lakes, as is now possessed and exercised by the said courts in cases of the like steamboats and other vessels, employed in navigation and commerce upon the high seas, or tide-waters within the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction of the United States.'

The question in the present case was, how far the jurisdiction of the District Courts of the United States, in cases of admiralty arising on our navigable inland waters, is exclusive; and how far the State courts might exercise jurisdiction concurrently.


Mr. Cook, in favor of the concurrent State jurisdiction:


I. The Judiciary Act of 1789 invests the Federal District Courts with exclusive cognizance of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, saving to suitors in all cases the right of a common-law remedy, when the common law is competent to give it. This act was amended in 1845, and extended the admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal courts to cases on the lakes and navigable waters connecting the same, but expressly saving to parties the right of a concurrent remedy which may be given by State laws.

In England the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty was confined to the ebb and flow of the tide; and this court, in the cases of The Thomas Jefferson, [1] and The Steamboat Orleans v. Phoebus, [2] followed the English decisions, confining the admiralty jurisdiction. But in 1851, in the case of The Genesee Chief, [3] it overruled these two cases, and held that the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty extended to the lakes and navigable waters of the United States. But neither in this case nor in any other case decided by this court, that we recall, was it decided that the jurisdiction of the District Courts of the United States in cases of admiralty is exclusive. The judiciary acts of Congress to which we have referred expressly save to suitors, as we have remarked, common-law remedies, and any concurrent remedies provided by State laws.

In the absence, then, of any decision by this court we may look at the action of the State courts. And in a mass of decisions, which may be referred to, we do not find one in which the jurisdiction of the State courts was denied on the ground assumed by plaintiff in this case; but, on the contrary, such jurisdiction of the State courts in this class of cases is admitted all the way through.

In Iowa, from which State the present case comes, there is the case of Miller v. Galland. [4] That case was an attachment against the steamboat Kentucky. A question of jurisdiction, on another point, was raised, and it was held that the court had jurisdiction. Numerous cases in Iowa, cited below, [5] are to the same effect.

We refer to these cases, not because they explicitly and directly decide anything on the question of jurisdiction, but only to show that if the point made by taking this writ is well taken, the Supreme Court of Iowa has been deciding a great many cases over which it had no jurisdiction.

Authorities, however, in other States support its view.

The case of Germain v. The Indiana, is in Illinois. [6] There the court speaks of the difference between the decrees in State courts and in admiralty courts in this class of cases, and clearly upholds the jurisdiction of State courts. Many other cases have been decided in the same State, both before and since the decision in the case last referred to, in which the jurisdiction is recognized and impliedly admitted.

So in New York. The Richmond Turnpike Co. v. Vanderbilt, [7] in the Superior Court of New York City, was a collision in tide-water. The jurisdiction was maintained. The earlier case of Percival v. Hickey, [8] was to the same effect; and the case is an important and well-considered one. The whole question of jurisdiction of State and admiralty courts was there considered, and the jurisdiction of the State courts upheld.

If we may cite text-writers, we have the respectable authority of Mr. Angell, [9] who, after referring to authorities, says: 'We have seen that the remedy in cases of collision lies either in the courts of common law or in the admiralty court.'

So in Missouri. [10] So in Ohio. [11]

Above any authorities already cited is the case of Taylor v. Carryl, [12] in this court. It was three times argued, and the whole question of jurisdiction of State and Federal courts discussed and determined. A vessel had been seized under process of attachment issued from a State court of Pennsylvania, identical with that which issues out of the District Court of the United States sitting in admiralty. A libel was filed in the District Court of the United States for mariners' wages. It was held that where property is levied upon it is not liable to be taken by an officer acting under another jurisdiction. The admiralty jurisdiction of the Federal court, although exclusive in some subjects, is concurrent upon others. The courts of common law deal with ships or vessels as with other personal property. In cases like the one new before the court, courts of common law, we think, have concurrent jurisdiction.

II. Up to the time of The Genesee Chief, it was held by this court that courts of admiralty had jurisdiction only within the ebb and flow of the tide. Then, it follows that up to that time, State courts must have had exclusive jurisdiction over this class of cases, or there was no remedy in the law. Now, if they once had jurisdiction, there must be some law, or provision of the Constitution, which took it from them. We find none. But we do find the decision in that case asserting that the courts of admiralty have jurisdiction above such ebb and flow. But this does not oust State courts from their jurisdiction.

III. The Federal courts are of limited jurisdiction. They can only exercise the jurisdiction given by act of Congress. Now when parties go into the Federal courts, they must show by the pleadings certain facts to give the court jurisdiction; such as residence, citizenship of the different parties, or such other fact as may be prescribed by law, to affirmatively show jurisdiction in the court.

Now apply the rule to the pleadings in this case. By the act of 1845-under which alone the plaintiff in error can set up that the courts of the United States have jurisdiction-these courts have jurisdiction only in matters of contract and tort in, upon, and concerning steamboats of twenty tons burden, enrolled and licensed in the coasting trade, &c. In this case there is no averment that the steamboat was of twenty tons burden; no averment that she was enrolled and licensed for the coasting trade; and no averment that she was engaged in business of commerce and navigation upon the lakes and navigable waters, &c.; no averments, therefore, which affirmatively show jurisdiction in the District Court of the United States at all.

Mr. Grant, contra.

Mr. Justice MILLER delivered the opinion of the court.

NotesEdit

^1  10 Wheaton, 428.

^2  11 Peters, 175.

^3  12 Howard, 443.

^4  4 Green, 191.

^5  The Kentucky v. Brooks, 1 Green, 398; Newcomb v. The Clermont, 3 Id. 295; Ham v. The Hamburg, 2 Iowa, 460; Steamboat Kentucky v. Hine, 1 Green, 379; Haight & Brother v. The Henrietta, 4 Iowa, 472; The War Eagle, 9 Iowa, 374, S.C.. 14 Id. 363.

^6  11 Illinois, 535.

^7  1 Hill, 480; and see Barnes v. Cole, 21 Wendell, 188.

^8  18 Johnson, 257.

^9  Angell on the Law of Carriers, § 651.

^10  Stean boat United States v. Mayor, &c., of St. Louis, 5 Missouri, 230; Steamboat Western Belle v. Wagner, 11 Id. 30.

^11  Steamboat Clipper v. Logan, 18 Ohio, 375; Thompson v. The J. D. Morton, 2 Ohio State, 26.

^12  20 Howard, 583.

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).