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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Winchester, 99 U.S. 372 (1878)

United States v. Winchester

99 U.S. 372


1. The admiralty jurisdiction of the district courts of the United Staten does not extend to seizures made on land.

2. The Abandoned and Captured Property Act of March 12, 1863, 12 Stat. 820, did not repeal the Act approved July 17, 1862, id., 589, entitled "An Act to suppress insurrection, to punish treason and rebellion, to seize and confiscate the property of rebels, and for other purposes."

3. The order of the President for the seizure, under said Act of July 17, 1862, of the property of persons engaged in armed rebellion against the United States, or in aiding and abetting the rebellion, is a prerequisite to the exercise by the district court of its jurisdiction to adjudge the forfeiture and decree the condemnation of such property.

4. Cotton found on land in Mississippi was, Feb. 18, 1863, seized by the naval forces of the United Staten, without the order of the President, and delivered by an officer of the navy to the marshal of the United States for the Southern District of Illinois. A libel was filed in the district court for that district, alleging as the ground of seizure that the cotton belonged to a person in armed rebellion against the United States. The cotton was sold and a decree rendered whereby one half of the proceeds was paid into the Treasury of the United States and the other half ordered to be paid to the officer as informer, who declined to accept it, and the check therefor was deposited with the assistant treasurer at St. Louis, on whom it had been drawn. At the instance of the admiral, the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia sitting in admiralty took jurisdiction of the case, and ordered the check to be deposited with the assistant treasurer at Washington, and the money to remain in his hands subject to the further order of the court. The check was so deposited, and the court by its decree distributed the money to the captors. Held that the decrees were void, and that the owner of the cotton was entitled to recover the net proceeds of the sale of it.

The facts are stated in the opinion of the Court.

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