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    PATTERSON v. EUDORA, 190 U.S. 169 (1903)

    U.S. Supreme Court

    PATTERSON v. EUDORA, 190 U.S. 169 (1903)

    190 U.S. 169

    B. M. PATTERSON, Edward Jansen, Sven Freeman, et al., Appts.,
    v.
    BARK EUDORA, whereof Alfred E. Dickson is Master.
    No. 278.

    Argued May 1, 1903.
    Decided June 1, 1903.

    [190 U.S. 169, 170]   On December 21, 1898 (30 Stat. at L. 755, 763, chap. 28, U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, pp. 3071, 3080), Congress passed an act entitled 'N Act to Amend the Laws Relating to American Seamen, for the Protection of Such Seamen, and to Promote Commerce.' The material portion thereof is found in 24, which amends 10 of chapter 121 of the Laws of 1884, so as to read:

    The appellants were seamen on board the British bark Eudora, and filed this libel for wages in the district court of the United States for the eastern district of Pennsylvania. By an agreed statement of facts it appears that on January 22, 1900, they shipped on board such bark to serve as seamen for and during a voyage from Portland, Maine, to Rio and other points, not to exceed twelve months, the final port of discharge to be in the United States or Canada, with pay at the rate of one shilling for forty-five days and twenty dollars per month thereafter. At the time of shipment twenty dollars was paid on account of each of them, and with their consent, to the shipping agent through whom they were employed. On the completion of the voyage, they, having performed their duties as seamen, demanded wages for the full term of service, ignoring the payment made, at their instance, to the shipping agent. The advanced payment and contract of shipment were not contrary to, or prohibited by, the laws of Great Britain. It was contended, however, that they were prohibited by the act of Congress, above quoted, and that such act was applicable. The district court entered a decree dismissing the libel. 110 Fed. 430. On appeal to the circuit court of appeals for the third circuit, that court certified the following questions to this court:

    Mr. Joseph Hill Brinton for appellants.

    Assistant Attorney General Beck for the United States.

    Messrs. Horace L. Cheyney and John F. Lewis for appellee.

    Statement by Mr. Justice Brewer:

    Mr. Justice Brewer delivered the opinion of the court:

    Applying the ordinary rules of construction, it does not seem to us doubtful that the act of Congress, if within its power, is applicable in this case. The act makes it unlawful to pay any seaman wages in advance, makes such payment a misdemeanor, and in terms provides that such payment shall not absolve the vessel or its master or owner for full payment of wages after the same shall have been actually earned. And further, it declares that the section making these provisions shall apply as well to foreign vessels as to vessels of the United States, provided that treaties in force between the United States and foreign nations do not conflict. It is true that the title of the act of 1898 is 'An Act to Amend the Laws Relating to American Seamen,' but it has been held that the title is no part of a statute, and cannot be used to set at naught its obvious meaning. The extent to which it can be used is thus stated by Chief Justice Marshall in United States v. Fisher, 2 Cranch, 358, 386, 2 L. ed. 304, 313:

    See also Yazoo & M. Valley R. Co. v. Thomas, 132 U.S. 174, 188 , 33 S. L. ed. 302, 307, 10 Sup. Ct. Rep. 68; United States v. Oregon & C. R. Co. 164 U.S. 526, 541 , 41 S. L. ed. 541, 545, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 165; Price v. Forrest, 173 U.S. 410, 427 , 43 S. L. ed. 749, 755, 19 Sup. Ct. Rep. 434; Endlich, Interpretation of Statutes, 58, 59. When, as here, the statute declares, in plain words, its intent in reference to a prepayment of seamen's wages, and follows that declaration with a further statement that the rule thus announced shall apply to foreign vessels as well as to vessels of the United States, it would do violence to language to say that it was not applicable to a foreign vessel.

    But the main contention is that the statute is beyond the power of Congress to enact, especially as applicable to foreign vessels. It is urged that it invades the liberty of contract which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Federal Constitution, and reference is made to Allgeyer v. Louisiana, 165 U.S. 578, 589 , 41 S. L. ed. 832, 835, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 427, 431, in which we said:

    Further, that even if the contract be one subject to restraint under the police power, that power is vested in the states, and not in the general government, and any restraint, if exercised at all, can only be exercised by the state in which the contract is entered into; that the only jurisdiction possessed by Congress in respect to such matters is by virtue of its power to regulate commerce, interstate and foreign; that the regulation of commerce does not carry with it the power of controlling contracts [190 U.S. 169, 174]   of employment by those engaged in such service, any more than it includes the power to regulate contracts for service on interstate railroads, or for the manufacture of goods which may be intended for interstate or foreign commerce; and, finally, that the validity of a contract is to be determined by the law of the place of performance, and not by that of the place of the contract; that the contract in this case was one entered into in the United States, to be performed on board a British vessel, which is undoubtedly British territory, and therefore its validity is to be determined by British law, and that, as conceded in the question, sustains its validity.

    We are unable to yield our assent to this contention. That there is, generally speaking, a liberty of contract which is protected by the 14th Amendment, may be conceded; yet such liberty does not extend to all contracts. As said in Frisbie v. United States, 157 U.S. 160, 165 , 39 S. L. ed. 657, 659, 15 Sup. Ct. Rep. 586, 588:

    And that the contract of a sailor for his services is subject to some restrictions was settled in Robertson v. Baldwin, 165 U.S. 275 , 41 L. ed. 715, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 326, in which 4598 and 4599, Rev. Stat. (U. S. Comp. Stat. 1901, pp. 3115, 3116), in so far as they require seamen to carry out the contracts contained in their shipping articles, were held not to be in conflict with the 13th Amendment, and in which a deprivation of personal [190 U.S. 169, 175]   liberty not warranted in respect to other employees was sustained as to sailors. We quote the following from the opinion (p. 282, L. ed. p. 718, Sup. Ct. Rep. p. 329):

    If the necessities of the public justify the enforcement of a sailor's contract by exceptional means, justice requires that the rights of the sailor be in like manner protected. The story of the wrongs done to sailors in the larger ports, not merely of this nation, but of the world, is an oft-told tale, and many have been the efforts to protect them against such wrongs. One of the most common means of doing these wrongs is the advancement of wages. Bad men lure them into haunts of vice, advance a little money to continue their dissipation, and, having thus acquired a partial control, and by liquor dulled their faculties, place them on board the vessel just ready to sail and most ready to return the advances. When once on shipboard, and the ship at sea, the sailor is powerless and no relief is availing. It was in order to stop this evil, to protect the sailor, and not to restrict him of his liberty, that this statute was passed. And, while in some cases it may operate harshly, no one can doubt that the best interests of seamen as a class are preserved by such legislation.

    Neither do we think there is in it any trespass on the rights [190 U.S. 169, 176]   of the states. No question is before us as to the applicability of the statute to contracts of sailors for services wholly within the state. We need not determine whether one who contracts to serve on a steamboat between New York and Albany, or between any two places within the limits of a state, can avail himself of the privileges of this legislation, for the services contracted for in this case were to be performed beyond the limits of any single state, and in an ocean voyage. Contracts with sailors for their services are, as we have seen, exceptional in their character, and may be subjected to special restrictions for the purpose of securing the full and safe carrying on of commerce on the water. Being so subject, whenever the contract is for employment in commerce, not wholly within the state, legislation enforcing such restrictions comes within the domain of Congress, which is charged with the duty of protecting foreign and interstate commerce.

    Finally, while it has often been stated that the law of the place of performance determines the validity of a contract (London Assur. Co. v. Companhia de Moagens do Barreiro, 167 U.S. 149, 160 , 42 S. L. ed. 113, 120, 17 Sup. Ct. Rep. 785), yet that doctrine does not control this case. It may be remarked, in passing, that it does not appear that the contract of shipment or the advance payment were made on board the vessel. On the contrary, the stipulated fact is that the 'seamen were engaged in the presence of the British vice consul at the port of New York.' The wrongful acts were, therefore, done on the territory and within the jurisdiction of the United States. It is undoubtedly true that, for some purposes, a foreign ship is to be treated as foreign territory. As said by Mr. Justice Blackburn, in Queen v. Anderson, L. R. 1 C. C. 161, 'A ship which bears a nation's flag is to be treated as a part of the territory of that nation. A ship is a kind of floating island.' Yet when a foreign merchant vessel comes into our ports, like a foreign citizen coming into our territory, it subjects itself to the jurisdiction of this country. In The Exchange v. M'Faddon, 7 Cranch, 116, 136, 146, 3 L. ed. 287, 293, 297, this court held that a public armed vessel in the service of a sovereign at peace with the United States is not within the ordinary jurisdiction of our tribunals while within a port of the United [190 U.S. 169, 177]   States. In the opinion, by Chief Justice Marshall, it was said that 'the jurisdiction of the nation within its own territory is necessarily exclusive and absolute. It is susceptible of no limitation not imposed by itself. Any restriction upon it deriving validity from an external source would imply a diminution of its sovereignty to the extent of the restriction, and an investment of that sovereignty to the same extent in that power which could impose such restriction. All exceptions, therefore, to the full and complete power of a nation within its own territories must be traced up to the consent of the nation itself. They can flow from no other legitimate source. This consent may be either express or implied. In the latter case, it is less determinate, exposed more to the uncertainties of construction; but, if understood, not less obligatory.' And, again, after holding it 'to be a principle of public law that national ships of war, entering the port of a friendly power, open for their reception, are to be considered as exempted, by the consent of that power, from its jurisdiction,' he added: 'Without doubt, the sovereign of the place is capable of destroying this implication. He may claim and exercise jurisdiction, either by employing force, or by subjecting such vessels to the ordinary tribunals.'

    Again, in Wildenhus's Case, 120 U.S. 1 , sub nom. Mali v. Hudson County Common Jail Keeper, 30 L. ed. 565, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 385, in which the jurisdiction of a state court over one charged with murder, committed on board a foreign merchant vessel in a harbor of the state, was sustained, it was said by Mr. Chief Justice Waite (pp. 11, 12, L. ed. p. 567, Sup. Ct. Rep. p. 387):

    It follows from these decisions that it is within the power of Congress to prescribe the penal provisions of 10, and no one within the jurisdiction of the United States can escape liability for a violation of those provisions on the plea that he is a foreign citizen or an officer of a foreign merchant vessel. It also follows that it is a duty of the courts of the United States to give full force and effect to such provisions. It is not pretended that this government can control the action of foreign tribunals. In any case presented to them, they will be guided by their own views of the law and its scope and effect; but the courts of the United States are bound to accept this legislation, and enforce it whenever its provisions are violated. The implied consent of this government to leave jurisdiction over the internal affairs of foreign merchant vessels in our harbors to the nations to which those vessels belong may be withdrawn. Indeed, the implied consent to permit them to enter our harbors may be withdrawn, and if this implied consent may be wholly withdrawn, it may be extended upon such terms and conditions as the government sees fit to impose. And this legislation, as plainly as words can make it, imposes these conditions upon the shipment of sailors in our harbors, and declares that they are applicable to foreign, as well as to domestic, vessels. Congress has thus prescribed conditions which attend the entrance of foreign vessels into our ports, and those conditions the courts are not at liberty to dispense with. The interests of our own shipping require this. It is well said by [190 U.S. 169, 179]   counsel for the government in the brief which he was given leave to file:

    We are of the opinion that it is within the power of Congress to protect all sailors shipping in our ports on vessels engaged in foreign or interstate commerce, whether they belong to citizens of this country or of a foreign nation; and that our courts are bound to enforce those provisions in respect to foreign, equally with domestic, vessels.

    The questions, therefore, certified by the Court of Appeals, will each be answered in the affirmative.

    Mr. Justice Harlan concurred in the judgment.

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