Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1

Document 36

United States v. Ravara

27 Fed. Cas. 713, nos. 16,122, 16,122a C.C.D.Pa. 1793, 1794

The defendant, a consul from Genoa, was indicted for a misdemeanor, in sending anonymous and threatening letters to Mr. Hammond, the British minister, Mr. Holland, a citizen of Philadelphia, and several other persons, with a view to extort money.

. . . . .

Before Wilson, and Iredell, Circuit Justices, and Peters, District Judge.

Wilson, Circuit Justice. I am of opinion, that although the constitution vests in the supreme court an original jurisdiction, in cases like the present, it does not preclude the legislature from exercising the power of vesting a concurrent jurisdiction, in such inferior courts, as might by law be established. And as the legislature has expressly declared, that the circuit court shall have "exclusive cognizance of all crimes and offences, cognizable under the authority of the United States," I think the indictment ought to be sustained.

Iredell, Circuit Justice. I do not concur in this opinion, because it appears to me, that for obvious reasons of public policy, the constitution intended to vest an exclusive jurisdiction in the supreme court, upon all questions relating to the public agents of foreign nations. Besides, the context of the judiciary article of the constitution seems fairly to justify the interpretation, that the word "original," means "exclusive," jurisdiction.

Peters, District Judge. As I agree in the opinion expressed by Judge Wilson, for the reasons which he has assigned, it is unnecessary to enter into any detail.

The motion for quashing the indictment was accordingly rejected, and the defendant pleaded not guilty; but his trial was postponed, by consent, till the next term.

. . . . .

Before Jay, Circuit Justice, and Peters, District Judge.

The Court were of opinion in the charge, that the offence was indictable, and that the defendant was not privileged from prosecution in virtue of his consular appointment. The jury, after a short consultation, pronounced the defendant guilty; but he was afterwards pardoned, on condition (as I have heard) that he surrendered his commission and exequatur.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 4, Article 3, Section 2, Clause 1, Document 36
The University of Chicago Press

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