McFaddon (plaintiff) and another plaintiff brought suit against The Schooner Exchange (defendant), a ship, claiming they had rightful ownership of the ship and that it had been wrongfully seized from them by an individual acting on behalf of France. No one represented The Schooner Exchange, but the United States government intervened and claimed that the United States was at peace with France, that the ship had become the public property of France, that bad weather had forced the ship into the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania harbor, and that it had been forced to remain there by the process of the court. The U.S. government stated that even if the ship had first been wrongfully seized from the plaintiffs, title to it had since passed lawfully to France. The district court dismissed the case, but the court of appeals reversed. The United States government appealed to the United States Supreme Court.