United States v. Bevans
16 U.S. 336

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Bevans, 16 U.S. 3 Wheat. 336 336 (1818)

United States v. Bevans

16 U.S. (3 Wheat.) 336

Syllabus

Admitting that the third article of the Constitution of the United States, which declares that "the judicial power shall extend to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction," vests in the United States exclusive jurisdiction of all such cases, and that a murder committed in the waters of a state where the tide ebbs and flows is a case of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction, Congress has not, in the eighth section of the Act of 1790, ch. 9, "for the punishment of certain offenses against the United States," so exercised this power as to confer on the courts of the United States jurisdiction over such murder.

Quaere whether courts of common law have concurrent jurisdiction with the admiralty over murder committed in bays, &c., which are enclosed parts of the sea?

Congress having, in the eighth section of the Act of 1790, ch. 9, provided for the punishment of murder, &c., committed "upon the high seas or in any river, haven, basin, or bay out of the jurisdiction of any particular state," it is not the offense committed but the bay, &c. in which it is committed that must be out of the jurisdiction of the state.

The grant to the United States in the Constitution of all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction does not extend to a cession of the waters in which those cases may arise or of general jurisdiction over the same. Congress may pass all laws which a necessary for giving the most complete effect to the exercise of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction granted to the government of the union, but the general jurisdiction over the place, subject to this grant, adheres to the territory as a portion of territory not yet given away, and the residuary powers of legislation still remain in the state.

Congress have power to provide for the, punishment of offenses committed by perms serving on board a ship of war of the United States, wherever that ship may lie. But Congress have not exercised that power in the case of a ship lying in the waters of the United States; the words "within any fort, arsenal, dockyard, magazine, or in any other place or district of country under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States," in the third section of the Act of 1790, ch. 9, not extending to a ship of war, but only to objects in their nature fixed and territorial.

Page 16 U. S. 337

The defendant, William Bevans, was indicted for murder in the Circuit Court for the District of Massachusetts. The indictment was founded on the 8th section of the Act of Congress of 30 April, 1790, ch. 9. and was tried upon the plea of not guilty. At the trial it appeared in evidence that the offense charged in the indictment, was committed by the prisoner on the sixth day of November, 1816, on board the United States ship of war Independence, rated a ship of the line of seventy-four guns, then in commission, and in the actual service of the United States, under the command of Commodore Bainbridge. At the same time, William Bevans was a marine duly enlisted, and in the service of the United States, and was acting as sentry regularly posted on board of said ship, and Peter Leinstrum (the deceased, named in the indictment) was at the same time duly enlisted and in

Page 16 U. S. 338

the service of the United States as cook's mate on board of said ship. The said ship was at the same time lying at anchor in the main channel of Boston harbors in waters of a sufficient depth at all times of tide for ships of the largest class and burden, and to which there is at all times a free and unobstructed passage to the open sea or ocean. The nearest land at low water mark to the position where the ship then lay, on various sides is as follows, viz., the end of the long wharf so called in the Town of Boston, bearing southwest by south, half south at the distance of half a mile; the western point of William's Island, bearing north by west, at the distance between one quarter and one-third of a mile; the navy yard of the United States at Charlestown, bearing northwest half-west, at the distance of three quarters of a mile, and Dorchester point so called, bearing south southeast, at the distance of two miles and one quarter, and the nearest point of governor's Island so called (ceded to the United States), bearing southeast half-east, at the distance of one mile and three quarters. To and beyond the position or place thus described, the civil and criminal processes of the courts of the State of Massachusetts, have hitherto constantly been served and obeyed. The prisoner was first apprehended for the offense in the District of Massachusetts.

The jury found a verdict that the prisoner, William Bevans, was guilty of the offense as charged in the indictment.

Upon the foregoing statement of facts, which was

Page 16 U. S. 339

stated and made under the direction of the court, the prisoner, by his counsel, after verdict, moved for a new trial, upon which motion two questions occurred, which also occurred at the trial of the prisoner. 1. Whether, upon the foregoing statement of facts, the offense charged in the indictment, and committed on board the said ship as aforesaid, was within the jurisdiction of the State of Massachusetts, or of any court thereof. 2. Whether the offense charged in the indictment, and committed on board the said ship as aforesaid, was within the jurisdiction or cognizance of the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts. Upon which questions the judges of the said circuit court were at the trial, and upon the motion for a new trial, opposed in opinion, and thereupon, upon the request of the district attorney of the United States, the same questions were ordered by the said court to be certified under the seal of the court to the Supreme Court to be finally decided.

Page 16 U. S. 386

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