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United States Statutes at Large/Volume 3/15th Congress/1st Session/Chapter 88

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April 20, 1818.
Chap. LXXXVIII.—An Act in addition to the “Act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States,” and to repeal the acts therein mentioned.[1]

Fine of 2000 dolls. and imprisonment, for any citizen’s exercising a commission within the United States, &c. to serve a foreign state, &c.Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That if any citizen of the United States shall, within the territory or jurisdiction thereof, accept and exercise a commission to serve a foreign prince, state, colony, district, or people, in war, by land or by sea, against any prince, state, colony, district, or people, with whom the United States are at peace, the person so offending shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and shall be fined not more than two thousand dollars, and shall be imprisoned not exceeding three years. belonging to the subjects or citizens of any such prince or state, colony, district, or people, the same being at war with any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people, with whom the United States are at peace, by adding to the number of the guns of such vessel, or by changing those on board of her for guns of a larger calibre, or by the addition thereto of any equipment solely applicable to war, every person, so offending, shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, shall be fined not more than one thousand dollars and be imprisoned not more than one year.

Fine and imprisonment for any person’s setting on foot within the jurisdiction of the United States, any military expedition against a friendly power.Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That if any person shall, within the territory or jurisdiction of the United States, begin or set on foot, or provide or prepare the means for, any military expedition or enterprise, to be carried on from thence against the territory or dominions of any foreign prince of state, or of any colony, district, or people, with whom the United States are [at] peace, every person, so offending, shall be deemed guilty of a high misdemeanor, and shall be fined not exceeding three thousand dollars, and imprisoned not more than three years.

District courts to take cognisance of complaints.Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That the district courts shall take cognisance of complaints, by whomever instituted, in cases of captured made within the waters of the United States, or within a marine league of the coasts or shores thereof.

The President, or such person as he may authorize, in the cases mentioned, may employ the land or naval forces, or the militia, for the purpose of carrying the provisions of this act into effect.Sec. 8. And be it further enacted, That in every case in which a vessel shall be fitted out and armed, or attempted to be fitted out and armed, or in which the force of any vessel of war, cruiser, or other armed vessel, shall be increased or augmented, or in which any military expedition or enterprise shall be begun or set on foot, contrary to the provisions and prohibitions of this act; and in every case of the capture of a ship or vessel within the jurisdiction or protection of the United States as before defined, and in every case in which any process issuing out of any court of the United States shall be disobeyed or resisted by any person or persons having the custody of any vessel of war, cruiser, or other armed vessel of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people, or of any subjects or citizens of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people, in every such case it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, or such other person as he shall have empowered for that purpose, to employ such part of the land or naval forces of the United States, or of the militia thereof, for the purpose of taking possession of and detaining any such ship or vessel, with her prize or prizes, if any, in order to the execution of the prohibitions and penalties of this act, and to the restoring the prize or prizes in the cases in which restoration shall have been adjudged, and also for the purpose of preventing the carrying on of any such expedition or enterprise from the territories or jurisdiction of the United States against the territories or dominions of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people, with whom the United States are at peace.

The President, &c. may employ the land or naval forces, or the militia, to compel the departure of a vessel which ought not to remain, &c.
Owners, &c. of armed vessels sailing out of the United States to give bond, &c. not to commit hostilities, &c. against a friendly power.
Sec. 9. And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, or such person as he shall empower for that purpose, to employ such part of the land or naval forces of the United States, or of the militia thereof, as shall be necessary to compel any foreign ship or vessel to depart the United States in all cases in which, by the laws of nations or the treaties of the United States, they ought not to remain within the United States.

Sec. 10. And be it further enacted, That the owners or consignees of every armed ship or vessel sailing out of the ports of the United States, belonging wholly or in part to citizens thereof, shall enter into bond the United States, with sufficient sureties, prior to clearing out the same, in double the amount of the value of the vessel and cargo on board, including her armament, that the said ship or vessel shall not be employed by such owners to cruise or commit hostilities against the subjects, citizens, or property, of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people, with whom the United States are at peace.

Collectors required to detain vessels built for warlike purposes, and about to depart, when circumstances render it probable that they are intended to commit hostilities against a friendly power.Sec. 11. And be it further enacted, That the collectors of the customs be, and they are hereby, respectively, authorized and required to detain any vessel manifestly built for warlike purposes, and about to depart the United States, of which the cargo shall principally consist of arms and munitions of war, when the number of men shipped on board, or other circumstances, shall render it probable that such vessel is intended to be employed by the owner or owners to cruise or commit hostilities upon the subjects, citizens, or property, of any foreign prince or state, or of any colony, district, or people, with whom the United States are at peace, until the decision of the President be had thereon, or until the owner or owners shall give such bond and security as is required of the owners of armed ships by the preceding section of this act.

The acts of 5th June, 1794, ch. 50, of 14th June, 1797, ch. 1, of April 24, 1800, ch. 35, and of 3d March, 1817, ch. 58, repealed.Sec. 12. And be it further enacted, That the act passed on the fifth day of June, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four, entitled “An act in addition to the act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States,” continued in force, for a limited time, by the act of the second of March, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-seven, and perpetuated by the act passed on the twenty-fourth of April, one thousand eight hundred, and the act, passed on the fourteenth day of June, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-seven, entitled “An act to prevent the citizens of the United States from privateering against nations in amity with, or against the citizens of, the United States,” and the act, passed the third day of March, one thousand eight hundred and seventeen, entitled, “An act more effectually to preserve the neutral relations of the United States,” be,Proviso.
Offenders against repealed acts punished.
and the same are hereby, severally, repealed: Provided, nevertheless, That persons having heretofore offended against any of the acts aforesaid, may be prosecuted, convicted, and punished as if the same were not repealed; and no forfeiture heretofore incurred by a violation of any of the acts aforesaid shall be affected by such repeal.

Nothing in the foregoing act to prevent the punishment of treason, &c.Sec. 13. And be it further enacted, That nothing in the foregoing act shall be construed to prevent the prosecution of punishment of treason, or any piracy defined by the laws of the United States.

Approved, April 20, 1818.


  1. An act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States, April 30, 1790, ch. 9. Act of March 3, 1817, ch. 58.