That act extends the power of the court to all cases of salvage or damage, though arising within the body of a county; to questions of title in causes for possession; to cases of damages, bottomry, and wages; to suits for supplies furnished to foreign ships; and to the claims of mortgagees when the ship or her proceeds are under the control of the court. The so-called admiralty court act of 1854, the elaborate merchant shipping act of the same year, and especially and notably the admiralty court act of 1861, "to extend the jurisdiction and improve the practice" of the court, have increased very materially its power, and bear strong testimony to its usefulness in all matters of a maritime character. - The criminal jurisdiction of the English admiralty was anciently very extensive, and included all crimes and injuries committed on the high seas, and the general government of the navy. In later times, however, this branch of its jurisdiction was withdrawn. Cases arising in the public ships of the realm were transferred to naval courts martial by acts of Charles H. and George II.; and cases arising on ships of commerce or in foreign ports were assigned to certain commissioners and courts created by acts of 28 Henry VIII., 39 and 46 George III., and 4 and 5 William IV., in which tribunals the acts provide that the lord high admiral, or as now the judge of the admiralty, shall be included; and by the operation of still more recent statutes the criminal jurisdiction of the court is almost entirely annulled.

Apart from the general, or as it is called the instance side of the court, it has exercised very important functions in time of war as a court of prize. This court is called into being by the special warrants of the crown at the outbreak of each war, and takes cognizance of all seizures of prizes and their condemnation, and all other matters relating to capture. (See Prize.) - In France admiralty courts existed prior to the revolution of 1790, and there as in England derived their authority from a lord high admiral. Their jurisdiction was even more extensive than that of the English courts, and included all questions of prize, salvage, bottomry, charter parties, average, wages of seamen, fisheries, and the building, fitting, manning, and sale of ships; and also all crimes or misdemeanors committed on the high seas, except those connected with the navy. These courts were abolished in 1791, and their functions distributed to other tribunals. All commercial questions were assigned to the tribunals of commerce, matters of prizes to a special court called the council of prizes, and the criminal jurisdiction was transferred partly to courts of assize and partly to the correctional police. - In Ireland there also exists, unless very recent changes have been made, a high court of admiralty which is independent of that of England, and has a jurisdiction of the same character and quite as extensive.

Such a court also existed in Scotland until it was abolished by statute of 1 William IV., ch. 09. Its jurisdiction on the instance side was transferred to other courts. Its authority in cases of prize and capture had been already, by 6 George IV., ch. 120, vested in the high court of admiralty of Enirland. - The American admi-ralty exists under the clause of the constitution which declares that the judicial power shall extend to "all causes of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction," and the statute vesting that power, which gives to the district courts exclusive original cognizance of all civil causes of that description. The interpretation of this clause of the constitution has brought out conflicting opinions as to its proper meaning. For upon the principles and rules of construction which are familiarly applied in determining what is the law of the United States in civil or criminal or equity cases, in the absence of specific legislation, the question fairly arises whether the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction contemplated by the constitution was the jurisdiction as it existed in England when the colonies declared their independence, or as it existed in the colonial courts at the time of the revolution, or as it was exercised by the states when the constitution was adopted; whether it was not rather that characteristic and proper jurisdiction of the English admiralty before it was taken away from it by prohibitions or encroachments; or whether finally the clause was not, in a still more liberal spirit, designed to embrace all causes relating to shipping and maritime commerce which, in the broadest sense and within the traditional functions of admiralty courts of full powers, are regarded as maritime and admiralty cases.

Though no very definite test by which the extent of the jurisdiction is to be determined has been laid down, yet it is certain that the American jurisdiction does not depend absolutely on any of the criteria suggested by the propositions just recited, and that the clear tendency at least of our decisions is to extend the authority of the court over its ancient domain, without confining it within limits prescribed by any particular historical precedent. Our greatest judges, and eminently Marshall and Story, have construed the constitutional grant with the utmost liberality, and with the purpose of embracing within its scope the largest powers; and especially within the last 20 years the disposition of the supreme court has been to regard all causes of which foreign admiralty courts have usually and characteristically taken cognizance, and which are historically known as admiralty and maritime causes, as being cases within the constitutional provision. - The first statute which drew upon the constitutional grant, and first actually vested its power in our courts, was the act of 1789, by which "exclusive original jurisdiction of civil causes of maritime and admiralty jurisdiction " was assigned to the district courts.

This statute, it will be observed, repeats the language of the constitution, and therefore gives no aid to the definition of the power. But the extent of it has been illustrated by a multitude of adjudicated cases, and from these the general character and range of the authority can be easily gathered. The jurisdiction can be most conveniently considered under two aspects: first, as it is determined by the subject matter; and second, as it is determined by the locality. Upon what is probably the right ground of construction, the first of these is the proper criterion; for, as has already been intimated, the reason of the thing depends probably only upon the consideration whether the subject is of a maritime character or not. The early contests which arose in England upon the competency of the admiralty to interfere within the bodies of counties or other land lines have, however, fixed the criterion of locality so firmly that it has been constantly appealed to here; but it has been found singularly embarrassing in this country from the fact that so much of our commerce is carried on on great inland seas, and on great rivers which are navigable through the whole extent of our territory.