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The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - 02539 (Page 11)

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The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History - 02539
The most effectual restraint is an up-right judiciary which will decide impartially between the
parties, & uniformly condemn the captor in costs. & damages, where the seizure has been made
without probable cause. If this practice be not honestly & rigidly observed, there will exist no
restraint on the captors. Their greediness for pain will be checkd by no fear of loss, &
indiscriminate captures will, consequently, be made. If the vessel shoud be adjudgd good prize,
of which before an unjust tribunal there is, in all cases, considerable probability, the profit is
theirs; if the vessel even be acquited, the loss falls entirely on the captured. The numerous
depredations consequent on such a state of things are inevitable. The loss to the neutral
merchant is immence. His voyage becomes not only unprofitable but injurious to him.
This is the state of things in the british possessions in America. Their courts of vice
admiralty, whatever may be the case, seldom acquit, & when they do, costs & damages for
detention are never awarded.
We know well that judges are appointed whose duty it is to award costs & damages for
detention, [24] instead of confiscation, in cases of vexations seizures;- but we know too the
trance by which they hold their offices, the source from which they derive their profits, & we
know their practice. We can only attribute this practice to their government; for it has been
notorious, has been of long continuance, & has never been checked. It is not to be supposed that
Judges circumstanced as are those of the courts of vice admiralty, woud dare to pursue openly &
invariably this vicious system, if it was known to be offensive to their government.
The existence of an appellate court does not remove the evil. The distance of that court,
the expenses & delays attendant on an appeal, the loss inseparable from a first condemnation tho
it be afterwards reversd, render it a very inadequate remedy even in cases of unjust
condemnation, & absolutely forbid any resort to it on a meer question of costs.
It is only by infusing a spirit of justice & respect for law into the courts of vice admiralty,
that these excessive & irritating vexations can be restraind, & the imputations to which they
subject the british government wipd away. [25] This spirit can only be inferrd by, uniformly
discountenancing & punishing those who tarnish, alike the seat of justice & the honor of their
country, by converting themselves from Judges into the meer instruments of plunder.
Until some such reform be made, the practices complaind of will continue, & must be
considerd by foreign nations, as authorized by, & proceeding from the government which
permits them.

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