Prizes of War.

The power of Congress with respect to prizes is plenary; no one can have any interest in prizes captured except by permission of Congress.1745 Nevertheless, since international law is a part of our law, the Court will administer it so long as it has not been modified by treaty or by legislative or executive action. Thus, during the Civil War, the Court found that the Confiscation Act of 1861, and the Supplementary Act of 1863, which, in authorizing the condemnation of vessels, made provision for the protection of interests of loyal citizens, merely created a municipal forfeiture and did not override or displace the law of prize. It decided, therefore, that when a vessel was liable to condemnation under either law, the government was at liberty to proceed under the most stringent rules of international law, with the result that the citizen would be deprived of the benefit of the protective provisions of the statute.1746 Similarly, when Cuban ports were blockaded during the Spanish-American War, the Court held, over the vigorous dissent of three of its members, that the rule of international law exempting unarmed fishing vessels from capture was applicable in the absence of any treaty provision, or other public act of the government in relation to the subject.1747

Footnotes

1745
The Siren, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 389 (1871). [Back to text]
1746
The Hampton, 72 U.S. (5 Wall.) 372, 376 (1867). [Back to text]
1747
The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 700, 711 (1900). [Back to text]