The early maritime cases of the Supreme Court dealt with many of the most pressing issues facing the new republic: regulating international trade; neutrality in a world at war; the force and effect of international law; the nature of citizenship; privateering and piracy; and aspects of the international slave trade. Many of these cases originated in Baltimore because the litigants or owners were from Maryland. These cases have received surprisingly little attention or analysis in modern legal and historical works, although many of the cases are still “good law” today.
One area the seminar will consider is prize-taking at sea, and how privateering differed from piracy. During the early republic, in time of war, enemy ships and their cargoes might be lawfully be captured as prizes of war. Prizes were seized not only by the navies of warring nations but also by privateers, privately-owned vessels licensed to capture merchant ships. Once captured, ships were sailed into a friendly port where an admiralty court, exercising prize jurisdiction, determined if the capture was “good prize.” During the age of fighting sail (1750-1850), private fortunes were made and lost at sea, but only as regulated by the federal courts on land. The docket of the U.S. district court of Maryland included hundreds of prizes cases, many of which were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. International law, and not the laws or precedents of any one country, constituted the governing rule of law.
The seminar will consider this and other all-but-forgotten chapters of American law and the “law of nations.” In addition to understanding the key legal principles, the seminar will pay attention to the judges, lawyers, and parties involved, including such figures as Chief Justice John Marshall, Justice Joseph Story, William Pinkney, Robert Goodloe Harper, David Hoffman, and others.
Students will be assigned one of the early Supreme Court decisions and be responsible for an oral presentation and a case study research paper. They will be encouraged to locate and use primary sources (including contemporary treatises and court records found in the Baltimore and Maryland and National Archives, and on digital data bases). Their attention will be directed toward the legal documentation involved in the case’s resolution (the dockets, transcripts, depositions, exhibits and working papers, etc.). Each student will be called upon to puts their decision in its social, economic and political context.
Students may use their papers in satisfaction of the Law School’s Advanced Writing Requirement.
The Instructors are Frederick C. Leiner, an attorney and maritime historian, Dr. Edward Papenfuse, former Archivist of the State of Maryland, and Professor Emeritus Garrett Power, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law.
|This course is not currently scheduled.|