The Paquete Habana

Appeals from decrees of the District Court of Florida, condemning two fishing vessels and their cargoes as prize of war. Each vessel was a fishing smack, running in & out Havana, under Spanish Flag, owned by Spanish subject of Cuban birth, commanded by a subject of Spain. Cargo consisted of fresh fish. Until stopped by the blockading squadron, it had no knowledge of war or any blockade. They had no arms, no munitions, and made no resistance at the time of capture. After referring that fishing vessels have been excepted from the effects of hostilities, and freedom of fishing has been allowed in the wars of 1521 UK v France, US v Mexico 1848, Crimean War 1854, Japan v China 1894, the court stated:

(700) …International law is part of our law and must be ascertained and administered by the courts of justice of appropriate jurisdiction … for this purpose, where there is no treaty and no controlling executive or legislative Act or judicial decision, resort must be had to the customs and usages of civilized nations and as evidence of these, to the works of the jurists and commentators who by years of labour, research and experience have made themselves peculiarly well acquainted with the subject of which they treat. Such works are resorted to by judicial tribunals nor for the speculations of their authors concerning with the law ought to be, but for trustworthy evidence of what the law really is.