[275 U.S. 463, 464] Messrs. Silas Blake Axtell and John W. Davis, both of New York City, for petitioners.
Mr. Roscoe H. Hupper, of New York City, for respondent.
Mr. Howard Thayer Kingsbury, of New York City, for British Embassy, amicus curiae.
Mr. Justice SANFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case presents the question whether section 10 of the Dingley Act of 1884, 1 as amended by the Seamen's Act of 19152 and the Merchant Marine Act of 1920,3 applies to the payment of advance wages to seamen on a foreign vessel in a foreign port.
The petitioners are British seamen, who shipped at Manchester, England, in May, 1922, on the Archimedes, a British vessel, for a round trip voyage to New York and return. When they signed the shipping articles they received advances on account of wages, which were cus- [275 U.S. 463, 465] tomary and sanctioned by the British law. On June 1, the vessel arrived in New York. On June 3, they applied for and received from the master further payments on account of wages which, with the advances made in England, exceeded one-half of the wages then earned and unpaid. On June 8, while still in port, they made a formal demand upon the master for one-half of the wages then earned and unpaid disregarding the advances made in England. This having been refused, they left the vessel and filed this libel in the District Court, claiming that under R. S. 4530,4 they were entitled to the full wages earned at the time of the demand, without deducting the advances made in England, since these advances were invalidated by section 10 of the Dingley Act, as amended, and should be disregarded in computing the amount of wages due. On the hearing the court dismissed the libel on the ground that the Act does not prohibit advances to seamen on foreign vessels in foreign ports, and such advances cannot be treated as invalid and disregarded when wages are demanded in this country. 10 F.(2d) 234. This was affirmed by the Circuit Court of Appeals on the opinion of the District Judge. 11 F.(2d) 1000
[275 U.S. 463, 466] To understand rightly the effect of the amendment made by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920-the controlling question in this case-it is necessary to consider first the amendment previously made by the Seamen's Act of 1915 and the decisions by this Court in reference thereto.
By section 11 of the Seamen's Act (Comp. St. 8323), section 10 of the Dingley Act was amended so as to read as follows:
It was held by this Court in Sandberg v. McDonald (1918) 248 U.S. 185, 195 , 39 S. Ct. 84, 86 (63 L. Ed. 200), that section 11 of the Seamen's Act did not render invalid the contracts of foreign seamen as to the advance payment of wages made by a foreign vessel [275 U.S. 463, 467] in a foreign country in which the law sanctioned such contract and payment; and that when they made demand in this country for the payment of half wages, the master was entitled to deduct the advances made in the foreign country. In so holding, the Court said:
On the same day, in Neilson v. Rhine Shipping Co., 248 U.S. 205 , 39 S. Ct. 89, it was likewise held, upon the same general considerations, that the Seamen's Act of 1915 did not make invalid advances that had been made to seamen by the master of an American vessel in a foreign port.
And later, in Strathearn S. S. Co. v. Dillon (1920) 252 U.S. 348, 355 , 40 S. Ct. 350, 352 (64 L. Ed. 607), in distinguishing section 4 of the Seamen's Act (Comp. St. 8322)-which in express terms declared that contracts denying seamen the right to demand half of their earned wages at ports reached in the course of a voyage, should be void, and gave seamen on foreign vessels while in American harbors the right to enforce its provisions ion the courts of the United States5-from section 11 of the Act dealing with advance wages, this Court said:
The libelants concede that under section 11 of the Seamen's Act, as interpreted by this Court in the Sandberg Case, it would have been necessary to deduct the advances that had been made in England in computing the wages due them when the demand was made in this country, but insist that the law was thereafter changed in this respect by the amendment made by the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.
By section 32 of the Merchant Marine Act, section 10 of the Dingley Act was further amended so as to make the third sentence of paragraph (a) dealing generally with advance payments, read as follows:
This amendment made no change in any other part of paragraph (a), or in paragraph (e) referring to foreign vessels, which remained in full force.
The libelants contend that in making this amendment Congress intended to meet the effect of the decisions in both the Sandberg and Neilson Cases, and to extend the [275 U.S. 463, 470] prohibition of advance wages to foreign vessels in foreign ports, as well as to American vessels in foreign ports.
We cannot sustain this contention. That this amendment expressed no intention to extend the provisions of the statute to advance payments made by foreign vessels while in foreign ports, is plain. This Court had pointed out in the Sandberg Case that such a sweeping provision was not specifically made in the statute, and that had Congress so intended, 'a few words would have stated that intention, not leaving such an important regulation to be gathered from implication.' The amendment, nevertheless, not only contained no such specific statement, but made no reference whatever to foreign vessels; left unchanged and in full force all of paragraph (e) which alone referred to foreign vessels, including the specific provision which, as held in the Sandberg Case, indicated that the prohibition of advance wages was intended to apply to foreign vessels only while in waters of the United States; made no change in the criminal provisions which strengthened the presumption that Congress intended to deal only with acts committed within the jurisdiction of the Unites States; and merely inserted the phrase 'whether made within or without the United States or territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof' in paragraph (a) which made no reference to foreign vessels. This phrase, read in the light of the context, is given full effect when applied to American vessels; and thus construed is entirely consistent with the provision in paragraph (e) relating to foreign vessels while in American waters. In short, the language of the amendment indicates no intention to extend the prohibition of the statute to advance wages paid by foreign vessels while in foreign ports. Nor can such an intention be 'gathered from implication,' or from anything in the legislative history of the amendment, in which no reference was made to foreign vessels.
The decree is affirmed.
[ Footnote 1 ] 23 Stat. 53, c. 121.
[ Footnote 2 ] 38 Stat. 1164, c. 153.
[ Footnote 3 ] 41 Stat. 988, c. 250; U. S. C. tit. 46, c. 24 (46 USCA 861-889).
[ Footnote 4 ] This section was amended by section 31 of the Merchant Marine Act ( 46 USCA 597; Comp. St. 8322), so as to read as follows: 'Every seaman on a vessel of the United States shall be entitled to receive on demand from the master ... one-half part of the balance of his wages earned and remaining unpaid at the time when such demand is made at every port where such vessel, ... shall load or deliver cargo before the voyage is ended, and all stipulations in the contract to the contrary shall be void: Provided, such a demand shall not be made before the expiration of, nor oftener than once in, five days nor more than once in the same harbor on the same entry. Any failure on the part of the master to comply with this demand shall release the seaman from his contract and he shall be entitled to full payment of wages earned. ... And provided further, that this section shall apply to seamen on foreign vessels while in harbors of the United States, and the courts of the United States shall be open to such seamen for its enforcement.'
[ Footnote 5 ] The provisions in section 4 of the Seamen's Act, which had amended R. S. 4530, were the same in these respects as in the amendment made by the Merchant Marine Act which is set forth in note 4, supra.