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decided: May 25, 1891.



Author: Field

[ 140 U.S. Page 461]

 MR. JUSTICE FIELD, after stating the case, delivered the opinion of the court.

The Circuit Court did not refuse to discharge the petitioner upon any independent conclusion as to the validity of the legislation of Congress establishing the consular tribunal in Japan, and the trial of Americans for offences committed within the territory of that country, without the indictment of a grand jury, and without a trial by a petit jury, but placed its decision upon the long and uniform acquiescence by the executive, administrative and legislative departments of the government in the validity of the legislation. Nor did the Circuit Court consider whether the status of the petitioner as a citizen of the United States, or as an American within the meaning of the treaty with Japan, could be questioned, while he was a seaman of an American ship, under the protection of the American flag, but simply stated the view taken on that subject by the Minister to Japan, the State Department, and the President. Said the court: "During the thirty years since the statutes conferring the judicial powers on ministers and consuls, which have been referred to, were enacted, that jurisdiction has been freely exercised. Citizens of the United States have been tried for serious offences before these officers, without preliminary indictment or a common law jury, and convicted and punished. These trials have been authorized by the regulations, orders and decrees of ministers, and it

[ 140 U.S. Page 462]

     must be presumed that the regulations, orders and decrees of ministers prescribing the mode of trial have been transmitted to the Secretary of the State, and by him been laid before Congress for revision, as required by law. Unless the petitioner was not properly subject to this jurisdiction because he was not a citizen of the United States, his trial and sentence were in all respects modal, as well as substantial, regular and valid under the laws of Congress, according to the construction placed upon these statutes by the acquiescence of the executive, administrative and legislative departments of the government for this long period of time."

Under these circumstances the Circuit Court was of opinion that it ought not to adjudge that the sentence imposed upon the petitioner was utterly unwarranted and void, when the case was one in which his rights could be adequately protected by this court, and when a decision by the Circuit Court setting him at liberty, although it might be reversed, would be practically irrevocable.

The Circuit Court might have found an additional ground for not calling in question the legislation of Congress, in the uniform practice of civilized governments for centuries to provide consular tribunals in other than Christian countries, or to invest their consuls with judicial authority, which is the same thing, for the trial of their own subjects or citizens for offences committed in those countries, as well as for the settlement of civil disputes between them; and in the uniform recognition, down to the time of the formation of our government, of the fact that the establishment of such tribunals was among the most important subjects for treaty stipulations. This recognition of their importance has continued ever since, though the powers of those tribunals are now more carefully defined than formerly. Dainese v. Hale, 91 U.S. 13.

The practice of European governments to send officers to reside in foreign countries, authorized to exercise a limited jurisdiction over vessels and seamen of their country, to watch the interests of their countrymen and to assist in adjusting their disputes and protecting their commerce, goes back to a very early period, even preceding what are termed the Middle

[ 140 U.S. Page 463]

     Ages. During those ages these commercial magistrates, generally designated as consuls, possessed to some extent a representative character, sometimes discharging judicial and diplomatic functions. In other than Christian countries they were, by treaty stipulations, usually clothed with authority to hear complaints against their countrymen and to sit in judgment upon them when charged with public offences. After the rise of Islamism, and the spread of its followers over eastern Asia and other countries bordering on the Mediterranean, the exercise of this judicial authority became a matter of great concern. The intense hostility of the people of Moslem faith to all other sects, and particularly to Christians, affected all their intercourse, and all proceedings had in their tribunals. Even the rules of evidence adopted by them placed those of different faith on unequal grounds in any controversy with them. For this cause, and by reason of the barbarous and cruel punishments inflicted in those countries, and the frequent use of torture to enforce confession from parties accused, it was a matter of deep interest to Christian governments to withdraw the trial of their subjects, when charged with the commission of a public offence, from the arbitrary and despotic action of the local officials. Treaties conferring such jurisdiction upon these consuls were essential to the peaceful residence of Christians within those countries and the successful prosecution of commerce with their people.

The treaty-making power vested in our government extends to all proper subjects of negotiation with foreign governments. It can, equally with any of the former or present governments of Europe, make treaties providing for the exercise of judicial authority in other countries by its officers appointed to reside therein.

We do not understand that any question is made by counsel as to its power in this respect. His objection is to the legislation by which such treaties are carried out, contending that, so far as crimes of a felonious character are concerned, the same protection and guarantee against an undue accusation or an unfair trial, secured by the Constitution to citizens of the United States at home, should be enjoyed by them abroad.

[ 140 U.S. Page 464]

     In none of the laws which have been passed by Congress to give effect to treaties of the kind has there been any attempt to require indictment by a grand jury before one can be called upon to answer for a public offence of that grade committed in those countries, or to secure a jury on the trial of the offence. Yet the laws on that subject have been passed without objection to their constitutionality. Indeed, objection on that ground was never raised in any quarter, so far as we are informed, until a recent period.

It is now, however, earnestly pressed by counsel for the petitioner, but we do not think it tenable. By the Constitution a government is ordained and established "for the United States of America," and not for countries outside of their limits. The guarantees it affords against accusation of capital or infamous crimes, except by indictment or presentment by a grand jury, and for an impartial trial by a jury when thus accused, apply only to citizens and others within the United States, or who are brought there for trial for alleged offences committed elsewhere, and not to residents or temporary sojourners abroad. Cook v. United States, 138 U.S. 157, 181.The Constitution can have no operation in another country.When, therefore, the representatives or officers of our government are permitted to exercise authority of any kind in another country, it must be on such conditions as the two countries may agree, the laws of neither one being obligatory upon the other. The deck of a private American vessel, it is true, is considered for many purposes constructively as territory of the United States, yet persons on board of such vessels, whether officers, sailors, or passengers, cannot invoke the protection of the provisions referred to until brought within the actual territorial boundaries of the United States. And, besides, their enforcement abroad in numerous places, where it would be highly important to have consuls invested with judicial authority, would be impracticable from the impossibility of obtaining a competent grand or petit jury. The requirement of such a body to accuse and to try an offender would, in a majority of cases, cause an abandonment of all prosecution. The framers of the Constitution, who were fully

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     aware of the necessity of having judicial authority exercised by our consuls in non-Christian countries, if commercial intercourse was to be had with their people, never could have supposed that all the guarantees in the administration of the law upon criminals at home were to be transferred to such consular establishments, and applied before an American who had committed a felony there could be accused and tried. They must have known that such a requirement would defeat the main purpose of investing the consul with judicial authority. While, therefore, in one aspect the American accused of crime committed in those countries is deprived of the guarantees of the Constitution against unjust accusation and a partial trial, yet in another aspect he is the gainer, in being withdrawn from the procedure of their tribunals, often arbitrary and oppressive, and sometimes accompanied with extreme cruelty and torture. Letter of Mr. Cushing to Mr. Calhoun of September 29, 1844, accompanying President's message communicating abstract of treaty with China, Senate Doc. 58, 28th Cong. 2d Sess.; Letter on Judicial Exterritorial Rights by Secretary Frelinghuysen to Chairman of Senate Committee on Foreign Relations of April 29, 1882, Senate Doc. 89, 47th Cong. 1st Sess.; Phillimore on Int. Law, vol. 2, part 7; Halleck on Int. Law, c. 41.

We turn now to the treaties between Japan and the United States.

The treaty of June 17, 1857, executed by the consul general of the United States and the governors of Simoda, is the one which first conceded to the American consul in Japan authority to try Americans committing offences in that country. Article IV of that treaty is as follows:

"ART. IV. Americans committing offences in Japan shall be tried by the American consul general or consul, and shall be punished according to American laws. Japanese committing offences against Americans shall be tried by the Japanese authorities and punished according to Japanese laws." 11 Stat. 723.

The treaty with Japan of July 29, 1858, in some particulars changes the phraseology of the concession of judicial authority

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     to the American consul in Japan, but, as we shall see subsequently, without revocation of the concession itself. Its sixth article is as follows:

"ART. VI. Americans committing offences against Japanese shall be tried in American consular courts and when guilty shall be punished according to American law. Japanese committing offences against Americans shall be tried by the Japanese authorities and punished according to Japanese law. The consular courts shall be open to Japanese creditors, to enable them to recover their just claims against American citizens and the Japanese courts shall ...

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