The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article III, Section 2, Clause 1: “The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority; -- … to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction….” This clause has to do with the jurisdiction of courts of law over cases concerning ships or the sea and other navigable waters.
“Because maritime and admiralty cases relate to problems lying outside the normal jurisdiction of a state, this provision gives litigants the RIGHT to have their case heard in a federal court” (W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, p. 600).
Skousen also provided the following quote from Alexander Hamilton: “The judiciary authority of the Union ought to extend … to all [cases] which originate on the high seas, and are of admiralty or maritime jurisdiction…. Maritime causes … so generally depend on the laws of nations and so commonly affect the rights of foreigners that they fall within the considerations which are relative to the public peace” (The Making of America, p. 600).
“In England, a long-established separate system of courts, beginning with Edward III, dealt with maritime and admiralty issues. According to Sir William Blackstone in Commentaries on the Laws of England, these courts had jurisdiction `to determine all maritime injuries, arising upon the seas, or in parts out of the reach of the common law.” During the Revolution, state prize courts often violated international law by condemning prizes belonging to sister states, or nations that were neutral or even allies of the United States. Consequently, after Independence, both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution gave the national government exclusive admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. In Philadelphia, the only debate among the Framers of the Constitution was whether to lodge admiralty questions in a separate court or, as they finally decided, in the federal judiciary. There was unanimity, even among the Anti-Federalists, that this power should be national” (David F. Forte in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, p. 247).