Admiralty “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “admiralty” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (6th edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and Webster’s Dictionary (1828):

 

 

(Ballantine’s)

 

The law of the sea and the practice pertaining thereto.

Courts with jurisdiction in admiralty cases.

 

(Bouvier’s)

 

  1. The name of a jurisdiction which takes cognizance of suits or actions which arise in consequence of acts done upon or relating to the sea; or, in other words, of all transactions and proceedings relative to commerce and navigation, and to damages or injuries upon the sea [2 Gall. R. 468]. In the great maritime nations of Europe, the term “admiralty jurisdiction,” is, uniformly applied to courts exercising jurisdiction over maritime contracts and concerns. It is as familiarly known among the jurists of Scotland, France, Holland, and Spain, as of England, and applied to their own courts, possessing substantially the same jurisdiction as the English Admiralty had in the reign of Edward III [Ibid., and the authorities there cited; and see, also, Bac. Ab. Court of Admiralty; Merl. Repert. h.t. Encyclopedie, h.t.; 1 Dall. 323].
  2. The Constitution of the United States has delegated to the courts of the national government cognizance “of all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;” and the act of September 24, 1789, ch. 20 s. 9, has given the district court “cognizance of all civil causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction,” including seizures under laws of imposts, navigation or trade of the United States, where the seizures are made on waters navigable from the sea, by vessels of ten or more tons burden, within their respective districts, as well as upon the high seas.
  3. It is not within the plan of this work to enlarge upon this subject. The reader is referred to the article Courts of the United States, where he will find all which has been thought necessary to say upon it as been the subject [Vide, generally, Dunlap’s Adm. Practice; Bett’s Adm. Practice; 1 Kent’s Com. 353 to 380; Serg. Const. Law, Index, h.t.; 2 Gall. R. 398 to 476; 2 Chit. P. 508; Bac. Ab. Courts of Admiralty; 6 Vin. Ab. 505; Dane’s Ab. Index b.t.; 12 Bro. Civ. And Adm. Law; Wheat. Dig. 1; 1 Story L. U.S. 56, 60; 2 ld. 905, 3 Id. 1564, 1696; 4 Sharsw. cont. of Story’s L.U.S. 2262; Clerke’s Praxis; Collectanea Maritima; 1 U.S. Dig. tit. Admiralty Courts, XIII].

 

(Black’s)

A court exercising jurisdiction over maritime cases, both civil and criminal, and marine affairs, commerce and navigation, controversies arising out of acts done upon or relating to the sea, and over questions of prize. Also the system of jurisprudence relating to and growing out of the jurisdiction and practice of the admiralty courts.

In English law, the executive department of state which presides over the naval forces of the kingdom. The normal head is the lord high admiral, but in practice the functions of the great office are discharged by several commissioners, of whom one is the chief, and is called the “First Lord.” He is assisted by other lords and by various secretaries. Also the court of the admiral. The building where the lords of admiralty transact business.

In American law, a tribunal exercising jurisdiction over all maritime contracts, torts, injuries, or offenses [2 Pars. Mar. Law, 508; New England Marine Ins. Co. v. Dunham, 11 Wall. 1, 23, 20 L. Ed. 90; De Lovio v. Boit, 2 Gall. 398, Fed. Cas. No. 3,776; The Belfast v. Boon, 7 Wall. 624, 19 L. Ed. 266; Ex parte Easton, 95 U.S. 68, 72, 24 L. Ed. 373].

 

(Webster’s)

AD’MIRALTY, n. In Great Britain, the office of Lord High Admiral. This office is discharged by one person, or by Commissioners, called Lords of the Admiralty; usually seven in number.

  • The admiralty court, or court of admiralty, is the supreme court for the trial of maritime causes, held before the Lord High Admiral, or Lords of the admiralty.

  • In general, a court of admiralty is a court for the trial of causes arising on the high seas, as prize causes and the like. In the United States, there is no admiralty court, distinct from others; but the district courts, established in the several states by Congress, are invested with admiralty powers.

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