Definition of CAPTAIN or SEA CAPTAIN


mar. law. The name given to the master or
commander of a vessel. He is known in this country very generally by the
name of master. (q. v.) He is also frequently denominated patron in foreign
laws and books.

2. The captains in the navy of the United States, are officers appointed
by government. Those who are employed in the mercantile service, have not
strictly an official character. They are appointed or employed by the owners
on the vessels they command.

3. It is proposed to consider the duty of the latter. Towards the owner
of the vessel he is bound by his personal attention and care, to take all
the necessary precautions for her safety; to, proceed on the voyage in which
such vessel may be engaged, and to obey faithfully his instructions; and
by all means in his power to promote the interest of his owner. But he is
not required to violate good faith, nor employ fraud even with an enemy.
3 Cranch, 242.

4. Towards others, it is the policy of the law to hold him responsible for
all losses or damages that may happen to the goods committed to his charge;
whether they arise from negligence, ignorance, or wilful misconduct of himself
or his mariners, or any other person on board the ship. As soon, therefore,
as goods are put on board, they are in the master"s charge, and he is bound
to deliver them again in the same state in which they were shipped, and
he is answerable for all losses or damages they may sustain, unless it proceed
from au inherent defect in the article, or from some accident or misfortune
which could not be prevented.

5. It may be laid down as a general rule, that the captain is responsible
when any loss occurs in consequence of his doing what he ought not to do,
unless he was forced by the act of God,. the enemies of the United States,
or the perils of the sea.1 Marsh. Ins. 241; Pard. n. 658.

6. The rights of the captain are, to choose his crew as he is responsible
for their acts, this seems but just, but a reasonable deference to the rights
of the owner require that he should be consulted, as he, as well as the
captain, is responsible for the acts of the crew. On board, the captain
is invested with almost arbitrary power overthe crew, being responsible
for the abuse of his authority. Ab. on Sbipp.162. He may repair the ship,
and, if he is not in funds to pay the expenses of such repairs, he may borrow
money, when abroad, on the credit of his owners or of the ship. Abb. on
Sh. 127-8. In such cases, although contracting within the ordinary scope
of his owers and duties, he is generally responsible as well as the owner.
This is the established rule of the maritime law, introduced in favor of
commerce it has been recognized and adopted by the commercial nations of,
Europe, and is derived from the civil or Roman law. Abbott, Ship. 90; Story,
Ag. 11 6 to 123, 294; Paley, Ag. by Lloyd, 244; 1 Liverm. Ag. 70; Poth.
Ob. n. 82; Ersk. Inst. 3, 3, 43; Dig. 4, 9, 1; Poth. Pand. lib. 14, tit.
1; 3 Summ. R. 228. See Bell"s Com. 505, 6th ed; Bouv. Inst. Index, h. t.

Source: Bouviers Law Dictionary 1856 Edition