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the part of Parliament, to restrict them to any period, in relation to entertaining suits, when it did restrict the high court of admiralty, might well be considered, he observed, as equivalent to a declaration that their proceedings ought to remain according to the general course of the admiralty. And he thought if it was shown that the above-mentioned statute of Anne had been in fact adopted in practice by the colonial courts, before the Revolution, it would not follow that it was obligatory upon the admiralty courts, organized under the government of the Union. They derived, he said, their powers and authority from the Constitution and laws of the United States, and had no connection with, or dependence upon, the colonial or vice-admiralty courts; and as far as he knew, no statute of limitation, not absolutely addressed to a court, has ever been admitted to control its general jurisdiction over suits. He, therefore, on these grounds, thought himself authorized to adjudge, that the statute of Anne, limiting suits in admiralty, is not a bar to such suits in the courts of the United States.1
It appears singular that the Congress of the United States, in regulating suits for mariners' wages in the admiralty, should have neglected to prescribe a limitation as to the time when such suits shall be brought. And as the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction in this country is exclusively confined to the courts of the United States, a statute of limitations of a State is not applicable to the admiralty side of these courts, even if so intended. The State laws, it may be added, which prescribe a limitation for actions, are only intended to apply to actions at common law. And in no other cases can State regulations or limitations govern the Federal courts, unless they fall within the principles of universal law, which direct and limit the application of lex loci.2
33. Courts of admiralty, however, like courts of equity, will not entertain suits upon stale demands; and will, upon general principles, assume some limitations.3 Thus, in a libel for wages, where more than twelve years had elapsed between the end of the voyage and the commencement of the suit, Mr. Justice Story held such delay, unexplained, to be decisive against the libellants. "Although," he said, "there is no prescribed limits beyond which, in the exercise of admiralty jurisdiction, the courts of the United
1 Willard v. Dorr, 3 Mason, (Cir. Co.) R. 91. 2 Brown v. Jones, 2 Gallis. (Cir. Co.) R. 477. 8 Willard v. Dorr, 3 Mason, (Cir. Co.) R. 95.
States may not take cognizance of suits; yet it has been the constant habit of admiralty courts to refuse their aid in favor of old and dormant claims. Like courts of equity, they prescribe a rule to themselves, by analogy to those positively prescribed by courts of common law, beyond which, unless under special circumstances, constituting a just exception, they will not interpose. The repose of the commercial world requires this forbearance; for otherwise demands would perpetually spring up after the evidence to repel them was gone, by the death or dispersion of witnesses, or by the loss of important documents. So that lapse of time and acquiescence of parties constitute material ingredients in every claim, which is sought to be enforced through the instrumentality of tribunals of justice. When there are no positive bars, presumptions are often indulged which are equally fatal to a recovery.1 According to the exposition of the law upon this subject, at a more late period, courts of admiralty, like courts of equity, govern themselves in the maintenance of suits by the analogies of the common-law limitations; and are not inclined, unless under very strong circumstances, to depart from those limitations. But, independently of any statutable limitations, courts of admiralty will not entertain stale demands.2
2 Per Story, J., in case of Brig Sarah, 2 Sumn. (Cir. Co.) R. 212. See also Pitman v. Hooper, 3 Id. 286; [Jay v. Allen, Sprague, 163.]
CLAIMS IN FAVOR OF THE STATE AND OF THE UNITED STATES.
34. THE maxim nullum tempus occurrit regi is a very ancient maxim of the common law, and is treated of both by Bracton1 and Britton. It is also laid down by Sir Robert Brook, in his "Reading" upon the statute of limitations of Hen. VIII., that the king is not bound by that statute. And it may be laid down, says Mr. Justice Story, as a safe proposition, that no statute of limitations has been held to apply to actions brought by the crown, unless there has been an express provision including it. As elsewhere stated, where a statute is general, and thereby any prerogative, right, title, or interest is divested or taken from the king, the king is not bound, unless the statute is made by express words to extend to him.5 And accordingly it was ruled in the case of Magdalen College," that the king has a prerogative, quod nullum tempus occurrit regi, and therefore the general acts of limitation, or of plenarty, shall not extend to him. The same virtual exception, it seems, prevails in Scotland, for the king is expressly mentioned in the Scottish act of prescription of 1617.7
35. By the statute of 21 James I. c. 5, it was enacted that a quiet and uninterrupted enjoyment for sixty years before the passing of the act, of any estate derived originally from the crown, should bar the crown from any right or suit to recover such estate, under pretence of any defect in the grant and title. This established the rights of such as could then prove sixty years' possession. The effect of this act grew less every day, and in order to preserve the principle of it, a new law became necessary, which was the occasion of the statute, 9 Geo. III. c. 16. The latter
1 Bracton, lib. 2, c. 5.
2 Britton, De Droit Le Roy, c. 18, c. 29.
Brook's Reading, 67.
4 United States v. Hoar, 2 Mason, (Cir. Co.) R. 312.
5 Bac. Abr. Prerogative, E. 5.
6 11 Co. 68, 74 b; s. c. 1 Roll. R. 151.
7 Kames's Principles of Law of Scot. 347.
statute extends the time of limitation to the case of the king himself, who is thereby disabled from making title (except to liberties and franchises) beyond the space of sixty years, to be reckoned backwards from the time of commencing any suit to recovery of the thing in question. After this statute, therefore, a possession of sixty years will bar even the king, though the established maxim is, that time will not run against him. But the statute of 9 Geo. III. it has been held, though it bars a suit of the king after sixty years, does not give a title.1
36. It is sometimes asserted, that the reason of the above maxim is, that the king is always busied for the public good; and, therefore, has not leisure to assert his right within the time limited to subjects.2 The true reason it has been thought, however, is the great public policy of preserving the public rights, revenues, and property from injury and loss by the negligence of public officers.3 And the prerogative right of the king in relation to acts of limitation in England, is, in fact, nothing more than a reservation or exception, introduced for the public benefit, and is equally applicable to all governments. But independently of any doctrine founded on the notion of prerogative, statutes of limitation should be applied according to the rules for the construction of statutes generally. Where the government is not expressly, or by necessary implication included, it ought to be clear, from the nature of mischiefs to be redressed, or the language used, that the government itself was in the contemplation of the legislature, before a court of law would be authorized to put such an interpretation upon any statute. And upon this ground it was held by Mr. Justice Story, that the general words of a statute ought not to include the government, or affect its rights, unless that construction be clear and indisputable upon the text of the act.5
37. In this country the doctrine is clearly well settled, that no laches is to be imputed to the government, and against it no time runs so as to bar its rights. And it has been considered, that in
1 Goodtitle v. Parker, 11 East, 488.
3 Per Mr. Justice, in United States v. Hoar, sup. * Ibid.
2 1 Black. Com. 247.
5 Per Mr. Justice Story, in United States v. Hoar, sup. [And this rule applies as well to personal actions against a surety on an official bond, as to entries on land and similar cases, unless the State be expressly named, and her rights thereby waived. McKeehan v. Com. 3 Barr, (Penn.) 151. But see contra, State v. Pratte, 8 Mis. 286.]
• Inhabitants of Stoughton v. Baker, 4 Mass. R. 528; Weatherhead v. Bledsoe, 2
all representative governments, where the people do not and cannot legally act in a body, where their power is delegated to others, and of necessity to be exercised by them, if exercised at all, the reason for this doctrine is, at least, equally cogent here, as in England.1 In an action on the case in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, against the defendant, as one of the managers of a lottery, for selling tickets contrary to the provisions of the act for that purpose, by reason whereof the amount of the tickets sold by him had been lost, the defendant pleaded not guilty at any time within six years, to which there was a demurrer and joinder. Woodworth, J., who delivered the opinion of the court, considered that when the people of the State succeeded to the rights of the king of Great Britain, and became an independent government, the principle of nullum tempus, &c. became incorporated into the jurisprudence of the State; that, on the ground of expediency and public convenience, it was a necessary principle; and that it was important to preserve it as an attribute of sovereignty; and that it was evident that the legislature acted under the conviction that the rights of the people could not be barred, unless by statute, nor even then, unless they were particularly named.2 In a case in Massachusetts, before Chief Justice Parsons, one of the questions arose on an ancient grant, which was under implied limitation. The grant was made in 1634. It was contended that the defendant having been so long possessed of the estate, the State had no right to interfere, and could not now secure the benefit of the limitation by any legal remedy. The chief justice observed, that "the limitation is not extinguished by any inattention or neglect in compelling the owner to comply with it, for no laches is to be imputed to the government, and against it no time runs so as to bar its rights." 3
Overt. (Tenn.) R. 352; Harlock v. Jackson, 1 Const. (S. C.) R. 125; Nimmo's Executor v. Commonwealth, 4 Hen. & Munf. (Virg.) 53; [United States v. Williams, 5 McLean, 133; State v. Flemming, 19 Mis. (4 Bennett,) 667; Iverson v. Dubose, 27 Ala. 418; Joselyn v. Stone, 28 Miss. (6 Cush.) 758; Troutman v. May, 33 Penn. St. 445 ; Cary v. Whitney, 48 Me. 516.]
1 People v. Gilbert, 18 Johns. (N. Y.) 228.
2 People v. Gilbert, 18 Johns. 228.
8 Inhabitants of Stoughton v. Baker, 4 Mass. R. 526. See also Bagley v. Wallace, 16 Serg. & Rawle, (Penn.) R. 245; Commonwealth v. Miltenberger, 7 Watts, (Penn.) R. 450; Parkes v. The State, 7 Missou. R. 1; State v. Ringold, 2 Har. & Johns. (Md.) R. 87; Hall v. Glittening, 2 Id. 112; Madison Co. v. Bartlett, Bre. (Ill.) R. App. 30; Miller (Lessee of) v. Lindsay, 1 M'Lean, (Cir. Co.) R. 33; Parmilee v. McNutt, 1 Smedes & Mar. R. 179 (High Co. of Errors, Miss.); Henlock v. Jackson, 1 Tr. Con. (S. C.) R. 135. By the Revised Statutes of New York, the same limitations of actions