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U.S. Supreme Court

Strathearn Steamship Co., Ltd. v. Dillon, 252 U.S. 348 (1920)

Strathearn Steamship Co., Ltd. v. Dillon

No. 373

Argued December 9, 1919

Decided March 29, 1920

252 U.S. 348


Section 4 of the Seamen's Act of March 4, 1916, c. 153, 38 Stat. 1164, amending Rev.Stats. § 4530, provides that every seaman on a vessel of the United States shall be entitled to receive on demand from the master one-half of the wages which he shall then have earned at every port where such vessel, after the voyage has been commenced, shall load or deliver cargo before the voyage is ended; that all stipulations in the contract to the contrary shall be void; that such demand shall not be made before the expiration of or oftener than 5 days; that the master's failure to comply shall release the seaman from his contract and entitle him to full payment of wages earned, and (by a proviso) that the section shall apply to seamen on foreign vessels while in harbors of the United States, and that the courts of the United States shall be open to such seamen for its enforcement.


(1) The proviso makes it clear that the benefits of the section are for foreign seamen on foreign vessels as well as American seamen on such vessels, since otherwise the grant of access to federal courts -- a right already enjoyed by American seamen -- would have been superfluous. P. 252 U. S. 353. Sandberg v. McDonald, 248 U. S. 185, distinguished.

(2) The title of the act does not justify a different construction. P. 252 U. S. 354.

(3) The section is constitutional as applied to the case of a foreign seaman who shipped abroad on a foreign vessel under a contract withholding payment of wages until the end of the voyage and where demand was made before that time, it being within the authority of Congress thus to condition the right of foreign vessels to enter and use the ports of the United States. P. 252 U. S. 355. Patterson v. Bark Eudora, 190 U. S. 169.

(4) The wages in respect of which demand may be made are not limited to those earned in a port of the United States, nor does the section intend that demand made in such a port shall be deferred five days from the arrival of the vessel there. P. 252 U. S. 356.

256 F.6d 1 affirmed. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 252 U. S. 349

The case is stated in the opinion. chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 252 U. S. 351

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