Joseph Conrad Sweeney
Fordham University School of Law
Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2008
The decision by the Supreme Court in New Jersey Steam Navigation Co. v. Merchants' Bank of Boston (The Lexington) marked a turning point in American legal history. Federal courts sitting as courts of admiralty had been preoccupied with war and neutrality and the extension of maritime law to inland waters. But in the case of the Lexington the Court decided that the admiralty jurisdiction of the United States is not defined by limits found in ancient English statutes and customs. In the same case, the Court held that a marine carrier could be liable to a shipper for damage to cargo despite exculpatory clauses in the contract of carriage, anticipating the Harter Act of 1893 and the Carriage of Goods by Sea Act of 1936. With these decisions, the Court prepared the courts of the United States to serve the emerging commercial needs of a proud new democracy.
Keywords: admiralty, jurisdiction, shipping, affreightment, carrier, cargo, Lexington, Harter, Carriage of Goods by Sea
JEL Classification: K19, K39, K41
Date posted: March 12, 2008