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[346] In answer to these proceedings, it was insisted that the court had not jurisdiction in cases of this class, and very able and elaborate arguments were heard, Mr. George S. Lacey, and Mr. William H. Hunt, and Mr. Roselins, all eminent members of the bar of New Orleans, appearing for the claimants, and Mr. Lamont, the Prosecuting Attorney of the court, appearing for the government. This argument occupied several days, and at the close of it the court took time for consideration. While the question remained undecided, the constitutional courts of the United States for that district were organized and opened, and all business of the kind was transferred, with the approbation of both courts, to the District Court, that being the court in which, by the law itself, questions arising under it were directed to be tried.

The question of jurisdiction was never decided, and was in effect, by subsequent events, withdrawn from consideration. It was understood, however, that Judge Peabody had great doubts of his jurisdiction, and that his doubts arose from an inclination to think that the question was governed by the same rule as that of jurisdiction in cases of prize, in which he had already decided that he had not jurisdiction. If, however, the court had originally had jurisdiction in these cases, in the absence of the Federal court, on which the jurisdiction had been expressly by the act itself conferred, he was quite of the opinion that it did not retain it after the organization and re-establishment of that court, but was thereby divested of it.

In cases of prize the court declined jurisdiction, and in cases of confiscation it doubted its jurisdiction and never exercised it.

In no other class of cases was the jurisdiction of the court ever questioned or doubted. So convincing is the argument of necessity to persons present and witnessing with their own senses its illustrations, that no one was found to doubt that the military power of the United States holding that country in military occupation, had, ex necessitate rei, the right to govern it.

All other powers being suspended by the conquest, it followed that whatever of government it should have must come from that source. That it should have government from some source, no sane man could doubt. That it could in the existing condition of things have it from any other was plainly impossible. It must, therefore, have it from that; and to have refused it would have been not merely a breach of duty, but a violation of one of the first principles and plainest dictates of humanity.

The judgments and mandates of this court were, of course, to be executed. They would be executed by the same power by which the court was constituted. To this the military and naval force at the command of the President was pledged. With this understood, nothing like resistance or a hesitation to obey was ever for a moment experienced.

When the commission of this court was first presented to the bar, the all-embracing comprehonsiveness of its jurisdiction, as to the cases and questions which it was authorized to entertain, and the omnipotence of its judgments, terminating without appeal the rights of the parties in all cases, attracted attention and remark. No serious objection was made to it, however, and soon after it went into operation, the readiness with which it was filled with business of the first magnitude, a great part of which was equally cognizable by other courts then in operation in the parish of Orleans, showed that litigants and the bar were on the whole not at all disposed to shun, but rather were disposed to seek this court, anomalous as it was in its jurisdiction and powers.

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