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Law School Case Brief

Brig Amy Warwick - 67 U.S. (2 Black) 635 (1863)

Rule:

Whether the President in fulfilling his duties, as Commander in-chief, in suppressing an insurrection, meets with such armed hostile resistance, and a civil war of such alarming proportions as will compel him to accord to them the character of belligerents, is a question to be decided by him, and the United States Supreme Court must be governed by the decisions and acts of the political department of the Government to which this power was entrusted.

Facts:

After the succession of several states from the Union, the President instituted a naval blockade of the southern states. Four different vessels were captured  The first three ships sailed in waters during the blockade and claimed they were unaware of the war when they were captured as enemies' property. The fourth ship claimed it was intending to receive a permit to go to sea, but while anchored, it was taken.  The vessels' owners argued that the blockade was not legal because a war had not been declared. They further argued that in the absence of a declared war, the taking of the ships were acts of piracy. The district court pronounced a decree of condemnation, from which the claimants appealed.

Issue:

Was the decree of condemnation of the ships proper?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The United States Supreme Court affirmed the decree of condemnation, except as to a ship that contained tobacco strips that had been purchased before the Civil War broke out. The Court found that the President had a right to institute a blockade of ports in possession of persons in armed rebellion against the Government and that the vessels were bound to regard the blockades. Additionally, the property was a proper subject of capture on the sea as enemies' property.

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