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THE Practice of the Admiralty Courts of this country, notwithstanding the very considerable attention which has been sometimes given to it, has been so generally neglected, that, with the exception of a few lawyers in the larger commercial cities, the whole bar make no secret of their ignorance of this branch of legal learning. Having imbibed the English notions on the subject, they have supposed the jurisdiction to be confined to a small class of cases, not worth the labor of learning a new course of proceeding. They do not seem to have adverted to that American view of the subject, which, springing out of the peculiar character of our institutions, considers the jurisdiction of that class of cases, as a most important branch of the national sovereignty, given to the General Government for the wisest purposes.
Every day gives new cause to admire the profound sagacity, the practical wisdom and forecast of our fathers, in providing for an unknown future, and a territory to be extended indefinitely, under the forms of our double government. In the judicial and commercial grants in the Constitution, that wisdom is especially apparent, at this time, when the Commercial Era, with its new means and its new discoveries, is opening before us a most conspicuous and responsible career among the nations. To me, it is quite clear, that those grants, in all the plenitude of their simple and comprehensive phraseology, convey to the General Government, only what is necessary to secure the equality and fraternity of the States, and the strength and respectability of the Union. With fifty thousand miles of coast and shore of naviga
ble waters, no one can estimate the extent of our future commerce, or the value to us, of a system of commercial law, with its course of procedure, uniform throughout the nation, and harmonious with that of the rest of the world.
The following work, is but an attempt to present the American view of the subject, in such a light as to exhibit its proper importance and to make it practically useful. If it comes up to the intention of the author, it will take a place left unoccupied by the highly useful works on Admiralty Practice, which have previously appeared. His purpose was, so to exhibit the subject, that the most inexperienced learner, as well as the riper professional student, could not fail, in reading it, to have his mind interested in the subject, and be directed to the means of settling, to his satisfaction, its general principles as well as its practical details.
He has endeavored to avoid a common error in elementary books of practice, of writing for those only who already understand the subject-leaving the beginner, to pick up by experience and observation, those rudimental principles and directions, which to him, are of the first necessity. This has led to the insertion in each portion of the work-the Jurisdiction-the Practice and the Forms-of many things which to some may seem unimportant.
In a practical matter, nothing can well supply the place of that emphasis and distinctness which come from visible illustrations. The practical forms, are for that reason, very full and various they commence with the entire proceedings in an admiralty suit, consecutively arranged, and embrace numerous and important classes of maritime cases, presented under various aspects. As precedents from actual practice, they are intended to inculcate and illustrate principles, as well as to serve for practical forms-and, it is believed, they may be read with profit, if not with interest.
In offering the work to the profession, the author makes no
apology for some obvious departures from the common standard of excellence, which professional, as well as literary criticism, may find occasion to censure. They were adopted as a part of his plan, and, in general manner and substance, the book is what he intended to make it. If it fails to give to the reader, a theoretical and practical view of "Cases of Admiralty and Maritime Jurisdiction," and of the Practice of "Courts of Admiralty, as contradistinguished from Courts of Common Law," the author has not accomplished his purpose.
In printing a new work from manuscript, verbal and typographical errors seem to be unavoidable-a few of them are noticed in the Errata, and the reader is requested to make the corrections with a pen.
New York, 1850.
E. C. B.