p. 2084C

No. 872.


11 TEXAS REPORTS, pp. 718-754.

Hemphill, Ch. J.

The question of the proper mode of defining the interior boundary of the ten coast leagues has been discussed with earnestness and ability and we will proceed with all possible brevity to express our views on that subject.
The fourth article of the national Colonization Law of the 18th of August, 1824, declares, that there cannot be colonized any lands comprehended within twenty leagues of the limits of any foreign nation, nor within ten leagues of the coast, without the previous approbation of the Supreme Executive Power. The seventh article of the state Colonization Law is to the effect, that the government shall take care that within twenty leagues bordering on the limits of the United States, of the North, and ten littoral leagues upon the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, within the limits of the state, no other settlements shall be made than such as shall meet the approbation of the Executive of the Union, &c., &c. In the translation of this article of the state law, as published by Stephen F. Austin, in 1829, the expression is ten leagues, in a straight line from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. But there is nothing in the original, corresponding to "straight line," in the English ; and ten littoral leagues upon the coast of the Mexican Gulf, is the literal translation of the terms used in the original.
In the first place, then, what is the coast, from which the ten leagues are to be measured ? What was and is generally understood by the term coast ? The counsel of the appellee has defined the coast or sea-shore to be the contact of the main-land with the main sea, where no bay intervenes, and with the latter, wherever it exists. This we believe to be substantially correct. The term coast undoubtedly suggests to the mind the place of meeting between the main-land and the water of the sea, where no bay intervenes ; but it does not so readily suggest also the shores of the bays. It is rather by a process of reasoning than suggestion, that it is made to comprehend the shores of the ocean, and of the bays, as one unbroken line. But whether the laws on the subject should have been construed to include, or otherwise, the shores of the bays, as a part of the coast, can scarcely be regarded as now an open question. The Governor of the State, in 1826, decided that they should be included ; and the contracts of colonization require the projection of the ten leagues into the interior to be, not from the coast proper of the Gulf, but from the mouths of rivers, all of which constituting boundaries emptying into bays ; and whether

p. 2085

their mouths be in the heads or lower down in the bays, made no difference with the authorities. The Executive, in his opinion, directed the measurement to be from the shore of the main-land, leaving thus the sea and the lagunas, having communication with it, since, according to his view, they should be considered as parts of one whole.


No. 873.C


1 NEWB. ADM., REP. 241.
District Court of the United States.District of Missouri.In Admiralty.



The next matter of inquiry will be, is there anything in the laws of the United States, previous to the act of 1838, which requires a boat employed only in ferrying across a river, at a place wholly within the limits of a state, to obtain a license for such employment ? A person will be greatly aided in the investigation, by bearing in mind the constitutional power of Congress. For if words or phrases in an act, will bear a construction which is in accordance with the constitutional power of the legislature, and one which is opposed to that power, we are bound to believe, that the legislature intended that construction which is in accordance with their power. The title of the act, which is the principal one on this subject (18th Feb. 1793), is “An act for enrolling and licensing ships or vessels to be employed in the coasting trade and fisheries, and for regulating the same.” The form of the license, given in the act itself, is “license is hereby granted for the said —— called the said ——, to be employed in carrying on the coasting trade.” The act provides for the forfeiture of any ship or vessel, found trading between, &c., laden with foreign goods ; and for the payment of custom duties, if laden with certain goods, &c., not being registered or licensed for carrying on the coasting trade. The coast is the shore. “To coast” is to navigate along the shore. The “coasting trade,” is the trade along the shore. It cannot with any propriety be applied to ferrying across a river ; and never, I think, has been so applied. Neither the phrase “coasting trade,” nor the word “coasting,” nor “trade,” could with any propriety, be applied to a ferry across a river.



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