Oetjen v. Central Leather Co.
246 U.S. 297 (1918)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Oetjen v. Central Leather Co., 246 U.S. 297 (1918)

Oetjen v. Central Leather Company

No. 268, 269

Argued January 3, 4, 1918

Decided March 11, 1918

246 U.S. 297

Syllabus

The court notices judicially that the government of the United States recognized the government of Carranza as the de facto government of the Republic of Mexico on October 19, 1915, and as the de jure government on August 31, 1917.

Semble, that the Hague Conventions, in view of their terms and international character, do not apply to a civil war, and that the regulations

Page 246 U. S. 298

annexed to the Convention of 1907 do not forbid such a military seizure and sale of private property as is involved in this case.

The conduct of our foreign relations is committed by the Constitution to the executive and legislative -- the political -- departments of the government, and the propriety of what may be done in the exercise of this political power is not subject to judicial inquiry or decision.

Who is the sovereign de jure or de facto of a foreign territory is a political question the determination of which by the political departments of the government conclusively binds the judges.

When a government which originates in revolution or revolt is recognized by the political department of our government as the de jure government of the country in which it is established, such recognition is retroactive in effect, and validates all the actions and conduct of the government so recognized from the commencement of its existence.

Every sovereign state is bound to respect the independence of every other sovereign state, and the courts of one country will not sit in judgment on the acts of the government of another done within its own territory. Redress of grievances by reason of such acts must be obtained through the means open to be availed of by sovereign powers as between themselves.

The principle that the conduct of one independent government cannot be successfully questioned in the courts of another is as applicable to a case involving the title to property brought within the custody of a court as to claims for damages based upon acts done in a foreign country, for it rests at last upon the highest considerations of international comity and expediency.

In January, 1914, General Francisco Villa, while conducting independent operations as a duly commissioned military commander of the Carranza government, which had then made much progress in its revolution in Mexico, levied a military contribution, and, in enforcing it, seized and sold some hides then owned and possessed by a citizen of Mexico. Held that the act could not be reexamined and modified by a New Jersey court in replevin.

87 N.J.L. 552, 704, affirmed.

This cases are stated in the opinion.

Page 246 U. S. 299

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