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Murray v. Schooner Charming Betsy

United States Supreme Court
2 Cranch 64, 6 U.S. 64 (1804)


The Charming Betsy was an American ship that was sold to Jared Shattuck. Shattuck was born in the United States, but moved to St. Thomas, a Danish territory, when he was an infant. Shattuck lived in St. Thomas ever since, and took an oath of allegiance to the crown of Denmark. The Charming Betsy was captured from Shattuck by a French national. Murray, an American captain, recaptured the ship from the French and sold its cargo. Murray was acting pursuant to a law (the act) that prohibited any commerce between United States residents and those people under the protection of the United States, and the French. Murray believed that the French seizure of the ship from Shattuck was merely a cover, and that Shattuck actually sold the ship to the French in violation of the act. The consul of Denmark, which was a neutral country in the American-French conflict, claimed the ship and its cargo on the ground that Shattuck was a Danish subject. The trial court held that Murray’s seizure was illegal and ordered that the ship be returned to and damages paid to Shattuck. Murray, who was ordered to pay the damages, appealed. The court of appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Marshall, C.J.)

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