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Trial of Gideon Henfield

United States Circuit Court for the Pennsylvania District, 1793
Reprinted in Wharton, State Trials 49 (1849)


Facts

In 1793, President George Washington ordered that the United States be neutral in the Napoleonic Wars going on in Europe. Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality stated that the United States government would take legal action against any American taking any part in assisting the countries at war. Gideon Henfield (defendant) was charged with seizing a French ship in violation of President Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality. Because there was no American statute prohibiting Henfield’s alleged conduct, the court instructed the jury on other areas of law.

Rule of Law

The rule of law is the black letter law upon which the court rested its decision.

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Issue

The issue section includes the dispositive legal issue in the case phrased as a question.

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Holding and Reasoning (Jay, J.)

The holding and reasoning section includes:

  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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