In re Cooper, Petitioner
138 U.S. 404 (1891)

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U.S. Supreme Court

In re Cooper, Petitioner, 138 U.S. 404 (1891)

In re Cooper, Petitioner

No number

Argued January 27-28, 1891

Decided February 2, 1891

138 U.S. 404


This Court has jurisdiction to proceed, in respect to the District Court of the United States for the District of Alaska, by way of prohibition, under Rev.Stat. § 688, and therefore gives leave to the petition for such a writ, and the accompanying suggestion in this case.

On the 12th day of January, 1891, Mr. Joseph H. Choate presented to the Court a petition for a writ of prohibition to be directed to the judge of the District Court of the United States in and for the Territory of Alaska, and moved for leave to file the same. This petition was as follows:

"To the Honorable, the Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States:"

"Comes now, Thomas Henry Cooper, a British subject, and gives this Honorable Court to understand and be informed --"

"That whereas, by the law of nations, the municipal laws of a country have no extraterritorial force and cannot operate on foreign vessels on the high seas, and it is legally impossible, under the public law, for a foreign vessel to commit a breach of municipal law beyond the limits of the territorial jurisdiction of the lawmaking state;"

"And whereas the seizure of a foreign vessel beyond the limits of the municipal territorial jurisdiction for breach of municipal regulations is not warranted by the law of nations, and such seizure cannot give jurisdiction to the courts of the offended country, least of all where the alleged act was committed by the foreign vessel at the place of seizure beyond the municipal territorial jurisdiction;"

"And whereas, by the law of nations, a British vessel sailing on the high seas is not subject to any municipal law except that of Great Britain, and by the said law of nations a British ship so sailing on the high seas ought not to be arrested,

Page 138 U. S. 405

seized, attached or detained under color of any law of the United States;"

"And whereas, by the laws of the United States as well as by the law of nations, the district courts of the United States have not, and ought not to entertain jurisdiction or hold plea of an alleged breach upon the high seas of the municipal laws of the United States by the captain and crew of a British vessel, and can acquire no jurisdiction by a seizure of such vessel on the high seas, though she be afterwards brought by force within the territorial limits of the jurisdiction of said courts;"

"And whereas, on the ninth day of July, 1887, there was between the governments and peoples of Great Britain and the United States profound peace and friendship, which relations of peace and friendship had happily subsisted for nearly three-quarters of a century before said ninth day of July, 1887, and still endure to the great comfort and happiness of two kindred peoples;"

"And whereas, on the said ninth day of July, 1887, the schooner W. P. Sayward, a British vessel, duly registered and documented as such and having her home port at Victoria in the Province of British Columbia, Dominion of Canada, and commanded by one George R. Ferry, a British subject, as captain and master thereof, was lawfully and peaceably sailing on the high seas, to-wit: in latitude 54

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