Admiralty law: seizure and forfeiture
By Jim Welch
I would like to bring up a most important point regarding the application of Admiralty Law against the American people.
An example is the below case. Others occur on a daily basis throughout the United States with every seizure of property without the property owner being charged in any crime. Rather they "charge" the property with the crime and seize the property.
Here is the point. The application of Admiralty Law against the People was one of the main causes of the Revolutionary War. The Founders were adamant in their opposition to this practice and there was never any provision for this oppression allowed in the Constitution.
Rather, just the opposite is evidenced by three documents. The Declaration of Independence was actually the third Declaration issued by the Founders. The Declaration of Independence culminated the frustrations of the Colonies because Great Britian ignored the pleas to correct the injustices listed in the 2 earlier Declarations. AND BOTH LISTED THE APPLICATION OF ADMIRALTY LAW AGAINST THE PEOPLE AS A GRIEVANCE!
The first Declaration was the, "DECLARATION AND RESOLVES OF THE FIRST
CONTINENTAL CONGRESS," October 14,1774.
I wish to underscore the significance of placing this grievance in the FIRST paragraph of this declaration of grievances. In the FIRST paragraph, our Founding Fathers stated:
"Whereas, since the close of the last war, the British parliament, claiming a power, of right, to bind the people of America by statutes in all cases whatsoever, hath, in some acts, expressly imposed taxes on them, and in others, under various pretences, but in fact for the purpose of raising a revenue, hath imposed rates and duties payable in these colonies, established a board, with unconstitutional powers, and extended the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty, not only for collecting the said duties , but for the trial of causes merely arising within the
body of a county."
NOTES: The "last war" they are referring to is the "French and Indian War." Please notice the Founder's objection to the extension of Courts of Admiralty. These Courts were to operate on the high seas, and to serve as collectors for duties on imported goods or fees associated with ships as well as administering the "Prize Courts" (the seizure of property). These courts, however, were not supposed to be applied on land against the people. On land, the People were to be served by "Common Law." They were never supposed to be used "for the trial of causes merely arising within the body of a county."
Great Britian ignored the first declaration, and so the following year, the Founders went on to again bring up this grievance in the second declaration issued on July 6, 1775. This Declaration is known as, "THE DECLARATION OF THE CAUSES AND NECESSITY OF TAKING UP ARMS."
In this declaration the Founders state:
"These devoted colonies were judged to be in such a state, as to present victories without bloodshed, and all the easy emoluments of statuteable plunder." (MY NOTE: Please understand the preceeding sentence. Today is a carbon copy repeat of this philosphy of government)
"The uninterrupted tenor of their peaceable and respectful behaviour from the beginning of colonization, their dutiful, zealous, and useful services during the war, though so recently and amply acknowledged in the most honourable manner by his majesty, by the late king, and by parliament, could not save them from the meditated innovations.
Parliament was influenced to adopt the pernicious project, and assuming a new power over them, have in the course of eleven years, given such decisive specimens of the spirit and consequences attending this power, as to leave no doubt concerning the effects of acquiescence under it.
They have undertaken to give and grant our money without our consent, though we have ever exercised an exclusive right to dispose of our own property; statutes have been passed for extending the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty and vice-admiralty beyond their ancient limits; for depriving us of the accustomed and inestimable priviledge of trial by jury, in cases affecting both life and property; for suspending the legislature of one of the colonies; for interdicting all commerce to the capital of another; and for altering fundamentally the form of
government established by charter, and secured by acts of its own legislature solemnly confirmed by the crown; for exempting the 'murderers' of colonists from legal trial, and in effect, from punishment; for erecting in a neighbouring province, acquired by the joint arms of Great-Britain and America, a despotism dangerous to our very existence; and for quartering soldiers upon the colonists in time of profound peace. It has also been resolved in parliament, that colonists charged with committing certain offences shall be transported to England to be tried. But why should we enumerate our injuries in detail? By one statute it is declared, that parliament can of right make laws to bind us in all cases what so ever. What is to defend us against so enormous so unlimited a power?"
Please once again notice the position in their list of grievances where the Founders place this policy of "...extending the jurisdiction of courts of admiralty ...." They placed this grievance BEFORE objecting to not having a trial by jury, BEFORE the suspension of one of the legislatures of one of the Colonies (equal to suspending the legislature of one of our States), BEFORE their complaint of the central government (Great Britain) changing the very system of our government, and even BEFORE complaining that the central government was "...exempting the 'murderers' of colonists from legal trial...!"
Indeed, the Founders strenously objected to applying Admiralty Law against the people! The third proof is found in the Constitution itself, in the Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment guarantees, "The Right of the People to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; ...."
And the 5th Amendment states, "No person shall...be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of Law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation."
Just what kind of Law does the Constitution refer to, when it speaks of the
people being subjected to?
The 7th Amendment gives that answer.
It says, "In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed 20 dollars, the Right of trial by jury shall be preserved; and no fact, tried by a jury shall be reexamined in any Court of the United States than according to the rules of the Common Law."
Please note it does not leave any wiggle room. The Law we are to be subjected to in any controversy exceeding 20 dollars is the Common Law! NOT ADMIRALTY LAW!
And, YES!, this abridgement of our Liberties is as serious today as it was in 1775!