that before such confiscation or canceling the person of the debtor shall be seized; or that the debt cannot be confiscated or canceled while the debtor is in the enemy's country. If there be legal authority to confiscate, that suffices.
Is there legal authority in this case? Has the Government of the United States, at war with the holders of these claims, the right to confiscate them?
Vattel, in defining what is to be considered as enemies" property liable to confiscation, says:
Among the things belonging to the enemy are likewise incorporeal things-all his rights, claims, and debts. a
The expression is of the most comprehensive character-"all his right, claims, and debts," embracing, beyond possible question, the claims or debts we have now under consideration. We shall search in vain for any special recognition of the right to confiscate that peculiar species of claim, seeing that neither common law nor international law recognizes the existence of human slavery or provides rules for its treatment during war. We can be governed, therefore, only by the general rule as to confiscation of claims or debts. But that is explicit and all- sufficient.
Chief Justice Marshall, in delivering the opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of "Amity Brown vs. the United States," said:
The right of the sovereign to confiscate debts being precisely the same with the right to confiscate other property found within the country, the operation of a declaration of war on debts and on other property found within this country must be the same. b
Justice Story, though dissenting from the opinion of the court in this case, concurs in the above principle. These are his words:
I take upon me to say that no jurist of reputation can be found who has denied the right of confiscation of enemies" debts. c
There are no exceptions to this rule which apply to the case we are considering. It is true that by the modern and milder interpretation of the law of nations there are certain relaxations as to the power of confiscating the rights, claims, or debts of an enemy. For example, in the case of rights granted by a third party, to whom it is not a matter of indifference in whose hands they are vested. d Nor is it any longer the law, though it used to be, that sums of money due by neutral nations to our enemy can be confiscated as other property. e Nor are the debts of alien enemies contracted in the country during peace to be deemed confiscate solely in virtue of a declaration of war. f But none of these exceptions, nor any others recognized by the law of nations, have reference to the present case, in which the question regards debts due to the enemy by the inhabitants of our own country. Such debts are, beyond all controversy, liable to confiscation.
It is to be conceded that the precise case, as it here presents itself, may be regarded as sui generis. A parallel case cannot probably be found in all history; a case in which during a civil war a question touching the confiscation and canceling of certain claims or debts due by one portion of the inhabitants of an insurrectionary district
a Vattel, Book III, Sec.77.
b Amity Brown vs. The United States, 3 Curtis, p.48.
c Case cited, 3 Curtis, p.61
d Vattel, Book III, Sec.77.
e 1 Chitty's Commercial Law, p.423; 1 Chitty's Law of Nations, pp.82-86.
f Amity Brown vs. The United States, 3 Curtis, p.46.