The term admiralty refers to a court or board that exercises jurisdiction over maritime affairs.
Originally formed in England during the time of Henry VIII, the agency later developed into a Board of Admiralty that was composed of five commissioners, each of whom was responsible for administering a separate area of maritime activity.
In the late colonial period, the Stamp Act (1765) mandated the use of vice-admiralty courts to try violators of the law. Angry Americans were outraged because matters before those courts were heard by royally appointed judges, not by local juries.
Present-day admiralty law deals with such shipping issues as cargo damage, wrecks, and collisions.