Any person may become an owner of a ship in the same way as of any other chattel, unless some peculiar means or process is required by law. It is undoubtedly true, that ships are always
(j) Russel v. The Asa. R. Swift, 1 Newb. Adm. 558.
(k) The General Smith, 4 Wheat 438; The Bark Chusan, 2 Story, 455,462; The Robert Fulton, 1 Paine, 620, 626; The Calisto, Daveis, 29, 33.
(l) See The Richard Busteed, Sprague, 449.
(m) Davis v. Child, Daveis, 71. See also The Sophie, 1 W. Rob. 368.
(n) The Amstel, Blatchf. & H. Adm. 215; The Bark Joseph Cunard, Olcott, or almost always sold by a written instrument. But we cannot admit that this usage, however ancient, general, or reasonable, has the force of law. And we apprehend that the Registration Acts of this country only deny the privileges of an American ship to a vessel transferred without writing or not registered, leaving the question of the validity of the sale for all other purposes, to be determined by the common law, or the law-merchant. (t) But the act of 1850, ch. 27, (u) provides, that "no bill of sale, mortgage, hypothecation, or other conveyance of any vessel, or part of any vessel of the United States, shall be valid against any person, other than the grantor or mortgagor, his heirs and devisees, and persons having actual notice thereof; unless said bill of sale, mortgage, hypothecation, or conveyance, be recorded in the office of the collector of the customs, where such vessel is registered or enrolled." Possibly questions may be raised as to the construction of this statute, (v) or even as to its constitutionality. (w)
Adm. 120; M'Dermott v. The S. G. Owens, 1 Wallace, C. C. 370; Cox v. Murray, Abbott, Adm. 340.
(o) Gurney v. Crockett, Abbott, Adm. 490.
(p) Bradley v. Bolles, Abbott, Adm. 569.
(q) The Bark Joseph Cunard, Olcott, Adm. 120.
(r) The Gustavia, Blatchf. & H. Adm. 189.
(s) The Alexander, 1 W. Rob. 346.
We are however disposed to hold it as now established, and as limiting the effect of a sale of a vessel, without * writing or registry to the seller, his heirs and devisees, and persons having actual notice of the sale; but leaving such a conveyance valid as to them. (x) And a transfer by operation of law is not avoided by any of our registry acts.
(t) Weston v. Penniman, 1 Mason, 317; The Oriole, Sprague, 31; Taggard v. Loring, 16 Mass. 336, 340; Bixby v. Franklin Ins. Co. 8 Pick. 86; Weaver v. The S. G. Owens, 1 Wallace, C. C. 359; Barnes v. Taylor, 31 Me. 329; Mitchell v. Taylor, 32 id. 434; Leonard v. Huntington, 15 Johns. 298.
(u) 9 U. S. Stats, at Large, 440.
(v) The question naturally arises at what custom-house transfers are to he recorded. In Potter v. Irish, 10 Gray, 416, the court held, that it is necessary to record the conveyance at the custom-house where the vessel is at the time registered; but this has been controverted by Mr. Justice Clifford, in the case of Blanchard v. The Martha Washington, 1 Clifford, 463. This case holds that all conveyances must be recorded at the home port of the vessel. In this view Mr. Justice Clifford is sustained by the S. C. of the U.S. in White's Bank v. Smith, 7 Wallace, 646. The act of 1850 does not apply to charterparties. Hill v. The Golden Gate, 1 Newb. Adm. 308; or to the lien of a material man on a vessel, Marsh v. Brig Minnie, U. S. D. C, S. Car. 6 Am. Law Reg. 238. And it applies only to vessels which are registered, licensed, or enrolled. Veazie v. Somerby, 5 Allen, 280.
(w) The act has been held to be constitutional in the Brig Martha Washington, U. S. C. C. Maine, 25 Law Reporter, 22. All State statutes requiring mortgages of vessels to be made in certain places, would therefore be considered as nugatory. See Sinnot v. Davenport, 22 How. 227.
(x) Cape Fear Steamboat Co. v. Conner, 3 Rich. 335.