From 1798 to 1800, conflict began to mount between the United States and France. In response, Congress passed a number of statutes permitting American naval action against France on the high seas. A 1798 act allowed for the recapture of U.S.-owned vessels from the French and for the vessels’ return to their former owners upon payment of a salvage value of one-eighth the full value. Later, a 1799 act stated that if the ships were recaptured from the enemy more than 96 hours later, owners were entitled to one-half of the full value. On April 21, 1799, Captain Tingy (plaintiff), the commander of the ship Ganges recaptured the Eliza, which belonged to John Bas (defendant) and had been captured by a French vessel on March 31, 1799. After returning the ship to Bas, Tingy brought an action for the salvage value, arguing that he was entitled to one-half of the full value, as provided by the 1799 act, while Bas argued Tingy was only entitled to one-eighth the value, as provided by the 1798 act. The circuit court ruled that Tingy was entitled to half the value. Bas appealed.