United States v. Schooner Peggy

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United States v. Schooner Peggy
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued December 14, December 17, 1801
Decided December 21, 1801
Full case name The United States of America v. The Schooner Peggy'
Citations 5 U.S. 103 (more)
2 L. Ed. 49; 1801 U.S. LEXIS 118; 1 Cranch 103
Prior history on Writ of Error to the Circuit Court of Connecticut
Subsequent history Lower court's judgment set aside, ship ordered returned to owners
A ruling that a ship be condemned is not a "final sentence" under the treaty of 21 December 1801 until all appeals are completed.
Court membership
Chief Justice
John Marshall
Associate Justices
William Cushing · William Paterson
Samuel Chase · Bushrod Washington
Alfred Moore
Case opinions
Majority Marshall, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
Treaty between the United States and France of 21 December 1801.

United States v. Schooner Peggy, 5 U.S. 103 (1801), was a United States Supreme Court case. It was one of a series of cases resolving disputes over ships captured during the undeclared war between the United States and France from 1798 to 1800. The vessel was ordered returned to France.

Background of the case[edit]

From 1798 to 1800 the United States and France were engaged in many hostile Naval engagements.[1] According to the law at the time an enemy vessel could be captured during time of war and then subject to seizure, a legal process through which the vessel was determined to be property of the capturing party.[2] At the conclusion of the undeclared war with France a treaty was ratified that stated in part:

The treaty was thus retroactive to all vessels that had been captured but for which their seizure was not yet final.[3]

David Jewett was authorized as commander of the Trumbull to capture any vessel sailing under the flag of France. On April 24, 1800, it came upon the French schooner Peggy and captured it. The Peggy was returned to Connecticut where the local courts ruled her a prize of war in September 1800. The owners of the Peggy appealed to the Supreme Court for her return.[3]

The decision[edit]

The court ruled that the treaty was applicable as law and should apply retroactively to all seized vessels whose sentence was not yet final. Since the seizure of the vessel was on appeal to the Supreme Court at the time the treaty was ratified, the seizure was not final.[3] The vessel was ordered to be returned to France.

The case continues to be one in a long line of sometimes inconsistent precedents in civil retroactivity analysis.[4]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ United States Department of State. "The XYZ Affair and the Quasi-War with France, 1798-1800". Timeline of U.S. Diplomatic History. Archived from the original on February 28, 2010. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  2. ^ International Institute of International Law (1913). Manual of the Laws of Naval War. Oxford: International Institute of International Law. 
  3. ^ a b c United States v. Schooner Peggy, 5 U.S. 103 (1801).
  4. ^ Bassett, Debra Lyn (2001). "In the Wake of Schooner Peggy: Deconstructing Legislative Retroactivity Analysis". University of Cincinnati Law Review. 69 (453). SSRN 1030651Freely accessible. 

External links[edit]