Where a steamboat was built at Louisville, in Kentucky, and the
persons who furnished the boilers and engines libeled the vessel in
admiralty in the District Court of the United States for the
Eastern District of Louisiana, that court had no jurisdiction of
A contract for building a ship, or supplying engines, timber
&c., is not a maritime contract. This Court so decided in
61 U. S. 20
How. 400, and now reaffirms that decision.
The state law of Kentucky, which creates a lien in such a case,
cannot confer jurisdiction on the courts of the United States, and
the preceding decisions of this Court do not justify an inference
to the contrary.
The steamer Capitol
was libeled in the District Court
of the United States for the Eastern District of Louisiana by Roach
& Long, residing at Louisville, in Kentucky. The libel was
filed under the general admiralty law and the law of the State of
Kentucky for $2,347.48, part of the price of the engine and boilers
of the steamer Capitol,
furnished at Louisville. The
district court sustained the claim, but the circuit
Page 63 U. S. 130
court reversed the decree and dismissed the libel for want of
jurisdiction. The libellants appealed to this Court.
Page 63 U. S. 131
MR. JUSTICE GRIER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The libellants claim to have a lien on the steamboat
for a balance due them for machinery furnished in
her construction. The boat was built at Louisville, Kentucky, and
the libellants furnished the boilers and engines. Payments were
made as the work progressed, and bills of exchange taken for the
balance due after the vessel was completed. These were not paid.
The boat left the port and the state,
Page 63 U. S. 132
and was afterwards sold, and became the property of the
Among other things, the claimants pleaded to the jurisdiction of
the court. This plea was sustained by the circuit court.
A contract for building a ship or supplying engines, timber, or
other materials for her construction, is clearly not a maritime
Any former dicta
or decisions which seemed to favor a
contrary doctrine were overruled by this Court in the case of
People's Ferry Co. v.
20 How. 400
It is said here that the law of Kentucky creates a lien in favor
of the libellants, and that, as this case originated before the
adoption of our rule, which took effect on the first of May, 1859,
it may, upon the principles recognized by this Court in
7 Pet. 343, be enforced in the admiralty. But
to quote the language of the court in Orleans v.
11 How. 184
"that decision does not authorize any such conclusion. In that
case, the repairs of the vessel, for which the state laws created a
lien, were made at New Orleans, on tidewaters. The contract was
treated as a maritime contract, and the lien under the state laws
was enforced in admiralty, upon the ground that the court, under
such circumstances, had jurisdiction of the contract as maritime,
and then the lien, being attached to it, might be enforced
according to the mode of administering remedies in the admiralty.
The local laws can never confer jurisdiction on the courts of the
It is clear, therefore, that the judgment of the circuit
court dismissing the libel for want of jurisdiction must be
affirmed without noticing other questions raised by the