The Schooner Exchange v. McFaddon Supreme Court of the United States 11 U.S. 116 (1812) Facts I. The schooner Exchange was a privately owned American vessel. Two men owned the ship, one of which was John McFaddon. In December 1810, the vessel was allegedly seized on orders of the French government while sailing in French waters. II. The schooner was then named Balaou and the French outfitted the vessel with military equipment and began using the vessel as a warship. III. In 1812, Balaou was forced to make port in Pennsylvania. At this time, McFaddon made claims to his former vessel. Because the ship was now a warship for the French government, when McFaddon sued for the rights to his former property, he was suing the French government in the American court system (US Supreme Court). Questions I. Does John McFaddon have entitlement to his seized property? II. Is the schooner Balaou sovereign immune or does the District Court in the District of Pennsylvania have the jurisdiction to hear the case? Decisions After the case was dropped by the District Court for the District of Pennsylvania for libel, the case was eventually appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court agreed with the District Court and found in favor of the Exchange. The justices claimed that the Pennsylvania District Court lacked jurisdiction because the confiscation of the Exchange was legal under French law and the incident supposedly occurred in French waters. In regards to John McFaddon’s property, the US Supreme Court was unable to help him. The vessel was seized legally by another sovereign entity. Technically speaking, the French government had abided by law and was in no way libel. Principles I. The Supreme Court used the principle of sovereign immunity in determining jurisdiction in this case. It determined that since France was a sovereign entity and that the incident occurred in French waters that the United States courts could not intervene. The United States lacked territorial jurisdiction. II. This case also dealt with the issue of sovereign immunity when dealing with private ships versus public ships. Justice Marshall stated, “In all respects different is the situation of a public armed ship. She constitutes a part of the military force of her nation; acts under the immediate and direct command of the sovereign” (US Supreme Court). Since the Exchange was used as a warship by the French government it was entitled to sovereign immunity. Conclusion This case is important for two reasons; one of which is far more important, but both should be mentioned. The ruling of the Supreme Court depicts that law is not always fair in the basic sense of the word. McFaddon had his property “stolen” and by law the confiscation was completely legitimate. It is fascinating to have such a case because no matter what the court ruled, justice could not be fully achieved either for McFaddon or for the French government. This case is also extremely important because it “is the source of American foreign sovereign immunity jurisprudence” (WSG). This case set the precedent in the United States for sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court had not seen a case that dealt with the sovereign immunity of another state since its founding. There was international precedent, but The Schooner Exchange v. McFaddon was a landmark case in US legal system. Submitted Tara Krumholz, 8 October 2009 Bibliography "THE EXCHANGE V. MCFADDON, 11 U. S. 116 (1812) -- US Supreme Court Cases from Justia & Oyez." US Supreme Court Cases & Opinions from Justia & US Court Forms & Oyez. Web. 07 Oct. 2009. <http://supreme.justia.com/us/11/116/case.html>. "A Primer on Foreign Sovereign Immunity." Association of global legal multidisciplinary serv. Web. 08 Oct. 2009. <http://www.worldservicesgroup.com/publications.asp? action=article&artid=1223>. "The Schooner Exchange v. M'Faddon -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Web. 07 Oct. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Schooner_Exchange_v._M'Faddon>.