Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Prize Definition:

Property taken at sea from an enemy.

Related Terms: Prize Court, Court of Admiralty, Prize Law

Also, prize of war.

Wheaton writes under the heading Rights of War as Between Enemies - Capture and Destruction of Prizes:

"The object of belligerents is to enfeeble and overcome the enemy; and among the means resorted to in naval war in order to attain this object is the destruction or seizure of enemy vessels and the confiscation of enemy goods found on them....

(A)ll enemy men-of-war and other public vessels of the enemy are liable to attack, seizure or destruction, and merchant ships, including yachts, to capture, by the belligerent warships either on the high seas or in the ports and waters of either belligerent, but not in neutral ... ports and waters."

From 93 C.J.S. §27:

"In admiralty law, the term prize is used to signify any goods, the subject of marine capture; property taken at sea from an enemy, jure belli; a technical term expressing a legal capture; maritime capture effected by maritime force only, ships and cargoes taken by ships. Recaptures are emphatically cases of prize."

In Bas v Tingy, Justice Chase of the United Supreme Court defined a prize as "capture in a state of war". Years before, the same court wrote, in Miller v The Resolution:

"Prize is generally used as a technical term to express a legal capture."


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