The General Smith: Early 19th Century Baltimore and the Supreme Court's Admiralty Jurisdiction

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maritime liens, supreme court, admiralty jurisdiction, 1819, home port lien doctrine


The General Smith is a minor admiralty case that established the homeport lien doctrine, a doctrine that was overturned by federal law over a century ago. The case itself has been mostly forgotten to history, and is but a footnote even to admiralty historians. Yet the story behind the case provides fascinating insight early 19th century Baltimore as a growing hub of trade and commerce in the years immediately after the War of 1812. The story behind the case reveals to us the colorful personalities of Baltimore’s early 19th century maritime merchants and lawyers. Most importantly, it helps to uncover surprising insights into the inner workings of the Supreme Court of the United States and clandestine efforts by the Court's personalities to enlarge the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts.


Admiralty | Law | United States History

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