U.S. Supreme Court
Prize Cases, 67 U.S. 2 Black 635 635 (1862)
67 U.S. (2 Black) 635
Mr. Justice GRIER.
There are certain propositions of law which must necessarily affect the ultimate decision of these
cases, and many others which it will be proper to discuss and decide before we notice the special
facts peculiar to each.
They are, 1st. Had the President a right to institute a blockade of ports in possession of persons in
armed rebellion against the Government, on the principles of international law, as known and
acknowledged among civilized States?
2d. Was the property of persons domiciled or residing within those States a proper subject of
capture on the sea as "enemies' property?"
I. Neutrals have a right to challenge the existence of a blockade
and also the authority
of the party exercising the right to institute it. They have a right to enter the ports of a friendly
nation for the purposes of trade and commerce, but are bound to recognize the rights of a
belligerent engaged in actual war, to use this mode of coercion, for the purpose of subduing the
That a blockade
actually existed, and was formally declared and notified by the
President on the 27th and 30th of April, 1861, is an admitted fact in these cases.
That the President, as the Executive Chief of the Government and Commander-in-chief of the
Army and Navy, was the proper person to make such notification has not been, and cannot be
The right of prize and capture has its origin in the "
" and is governed and adjudged
under the law of nations. To legitimate the capture of a neutral vessel or property on the high
seas, a war must exist
and the neutral must have knowledge or notice of the intention of
one of the parties belligerent to use this mode of coercion against a port, city, or territory, in
possession of the other.
Let us enquire whether, at the time this blockade was instituted, a state of war existed which