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Collection

James Cheape letters, 1808-1818

62 items

The James Cheape letters collection contains correspondence from or concerning James Cheape, a naval student at the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth, England, and midshipman on board the Caledonia, Warspite, Tigris, Express, and Belette, during the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812, and in the Algerian conflict.

The James Cheape letters contain 62 letters from or concerning James Cheape, a naval student at the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth, England, and midshipman on board the Caldonia, Warspite, Tigris, Express, and Belette during the Napoleonic Wars, the War of 1812, and in the Algerian conflict. The bulk of the collection consists of 57 letters written by James Cheape with the remaining 5 letters written by fellow sailors, reporting on Cheape’s naval career. The letters are all addressed to his parents at Wellfield, near Kinross, Scotland.

Cheape was at the Royal Naval College in Portsmouth, England, from 1808 until the spring of 1811. From 1811 to 1818, he wrote from various naval vessels, but sent a few letters from London, while on leave. He was on the ship Caldonia, May 19-June 15, 1811; on the Warspite, June 2, 1812-April 1, 1814; on the Tigris, May 14-July 7, 1814; on the Express, June-July 1816; and on the Belette, August 22, 1818.

Cheape's letters include lively accounts of life at the naval academy and as a midshipman in the Royal Navy. He discussed news of other ships and fellow officers and wrote about food, the quality of the ships (how well they sailed and how they were equipped), and the characteristics of the captain, crew, and naval officers. He described Captain Blackwood, for example, as a disciplinarian who seemed to order lashings almost daily. Particularly in the early days, Cheape was in perpetual need of new clothes and money. He enjoyed his time at school, calling it the "best place emaginable," in part because he got to eat muffins, crumpets, and eggs (November 26, 1809). He often seemed less concerned with his studies than with impressing high ranking officials and with "holyday" travel; he spent time in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, and with his uncle Charles Cheape in London. Cheape's family had connections to Admiral Philip Patton, who often loaned him money (September 17, 1808). The letters reveal the curriculum of the academy: "I study the 1 book of Euclid and learnd Latin French English Grammar Writing & Drawing...Our Yacht is in the Bason for us to practice to rig her" (September 17, 1808). In the October 15, 1808 letter, he relayed to his mother an exciting episode when the Prince of Wales (George Augustus Frederick, later King George IV) arrived at the dock with his regiment, in preparation for a voyage to Spain, "but I could hardly see him their was such a crowd."

Once out at sea, Cheape wrote interesting details about nautical life and the workings of the British Navy. Cheape's first assignment was on the ship Caldonia, which convoyed with the Druid and the Revenge. Of the Caldonia, he wrote, "she is not only the longest but the finest ship in the world[.] she carries a 138 Guns and about 900 men" (May 19, 1811). Cheape next served as a midshipman on board the HMS Warspite, which started off from Chatham to patrol the waters between England and France. They spent time off Vlissingen, Netherlands; Douarnenez, France; Basque Roads, France; and at Cawsand, Cornwall.

On June 5, 1812, Cheape reported to his father the news of a valuable prize they had captured while patrolling for American ships trading with France:

"We had the good fortune to take the richest American Schooner that has sailed from France this war. We captured her only 14 hours out of Nantz [Nantes]...we took her with Gun Boats. They fired a few rounds of Grapes at us but fortunately nobody was hurt...the Capt. Values this schooner at ₤50,000 she is laden entirely with silks and lotions and so much did her owner depend on her sailing that they made another ship take her quantity of brandy, which Bonaparte obliges them to take as part of their cargo."

He later wrote of heading off to search for the American Frigate the John Adams, and that catching it would mean promotions for many on board (July 7, 1814). In a fascinating letter from November 13, 1813, Cheape described the favoritism and political maneuvering involved in organizing the fleet. He wrote that Lord Melville ordered a line of battleships to the "Western Islands" and wanted the Warspite to be among them. Lord Keith, however, told Captain Blackwood (of the Warspite), "that he could not possibly send him as he had orders to send another ship" and sent his friend Captain West's ship instead. Captain Blackwood then sent a "private letter to Lord Keith -- saying he wished the Warspite to have the preference before any other ship -- when showed the letter to Lord Keith he would not read it -- so I suppose they don't speak now." In another particularly interesting letter, Cheape discussed the role patronage played in granting naval appointments. After attempting unsuccessfully to be transferred to a war ship, Cheape lamented that naval appointments were becoming more competitive and more expensive: "they are paying the Lines of Battle Ships off so fast now that every body is trying to get their sons in frigates" (April 28, 1814).

Cheape mentioned conflicts with America several times, often relaying his own brief impressions of the War of 1812; he asked about his father's views of the war. In a letter from London dated June 18, 1812, he asked, "Do you think that there is any likely hood of an American war [with Britain] I am afraid there is not[.] we would have a chance of making some prize money perhaps." Later he wrote "Do you think it is true the Americans are going to make War with France[?] if so they will have no where to trade to at all...I hope we won't make peace with them before we give them a good drubbing" (February 9, 1814).

Cheape also gives personal accounts of his experiences at sea, including details on the many dangers of sea life. In one instance, a marlinspike "tumbled out of the main tops and fell on my head but fortunately not on the crown of the head or the Doctor said it would have killed me" (June 28, 1816). Cheape typically inquired about the health of his mother, brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, and commented on news he read in his father's letters.

The 5 letters not written by Cheape are from instructors and superior officers informing Cheape’s father about his son's progress. They are generally optimistic. For instance, George Cheape's friend, J. Somerville, commented that James has a good disposition for a young man (August 7, 1808). Sir John Hay reported that his son was well "after the glorious Victory at Algiers" and that he planned to recommend him for promotion (April 27, 1816).

The collection also contains a few non-correspondence items of note. A letter from London, dated December 24, 1810, contains two recipes of mixtures of salt, sugar, and vinegar, likely for medicinal use. The letter from March 20, 1811, includes an inventory of a midshipman's clothes, instruments, and books.

Collection

James Douglas papers, 1738-1850 (majority within 1738-1787)

26 volumes and 29 loose letters and documents

The James Douglas papers are comprised of letters, letter books, logbooks, account books, and official naval documents relating to the career of Sir James Douglas, a British Admiral who was active in European and Caribbean waters and participated in the 1745 Siege of Louisbourg.

The James Douglas papers are comprised of letters, letter books, logbooks, account books, and official naval documents relating to the career of Sir James Douglas. Douglas rose to the rank of admiral and was active in European and Caribbean waters, and participated in the 1745 Siege of Louisbourg. The collection contains 7 letterbooks, 10 logbooks, 1 orderly book, 7 prize and account books, 1 book of sailing instructions (with notations by Douglas), 10 letters, 17 financial and official documents, and 2 genealogical documents (for an itemized list of the collection, see Additional Descriptive Data).

The Letter Books, Logbooks, and Account Books series contains the collection's bound volumes.

The letter books are comprised of copies of over 1,000 letters and orders to and from Douglas and his fellow naval officers. The letter book from Jamaica (1738-1745) includes letters and orders from Edward Vernon, Sir Chaloner Ogle, Thomas Davers, and Commodore Charles Brown, mostly addressed to naval store keeper George Hinde, concerning repairing and outfitting ships. The 1755-1759 letter book contains observations on ship movements and encounters, and letters from him to other naval officers, largely concerning European waters. The letter books from 1775 to 1777 hold copies of letters from Douglas, written when he was commanding the naval base at Spithead during the Revolutionary War. The letters are primarily addressed to Sir Philip Stephens, Secretary of British Admiralty, regarding naval administration and military news during the war in America (August 6, 1775-May 27, 1777).

The collection contains logbooks for the following ships:
  • Tilbury, 1741-1742 (kept by Thomas Lempriere)
  • Vigilant, 1745-1747
  • Anson, 1755
  • Bedford, 1755-1759
  • Alcide, 1757
  • Dublin, 1760
  • SterlingCastle, 1760-1762
  • Cruzer, 1770 (kept by Midshipman James Douglas, Jr.)
  • Cerberus, 1770 (kept by Midshipman James Douglas, Jr.)

Topics of note include: an account of the British attack against the Spanish at Cartagena (Tilbury logbook, 1740-1741); the British capture of Dominica and Martinique, and the Siege of Havana, while Douglas was commander and chief of the Leeward Island Station (1760-1762 logbook); and a logbook for a captured French ship (1760-1761). The logbook of a French ship captured in the West Indies (December 16, 1761-May 1, 1762) contains sketches on the insides of the front and back covers. Depicted are fish and sea creatures; crude portraits of men and women, dressed in finery; silhouettes of faces; and drawings of two stately homes.

Account books constitute four volumes:
  • Ledger of Douglas' private accounts (1770-1771).
  • Two notebooks accounting for prizes taken by British ships in 1759 and 1762.
  • A sederunt book of the trustees, relating to the settlement of Douglas' estate, created sometime after his death in 1787.

Also of note is a printed copy of Sailing and Fighting Instructions, heavily annotated by Douglas.

The Correspondence and Documents series contains 29 letters and documents, including: 8 letters concerning naval matters; 4 letters concerning Douglas' will, estate, and genealogy; Douglas' marriage agreement; 7 signed naval promotions on vellum; Douglas' appointment as baronet (1786); 3 memorials and petitions; 2 essays; 1 speech; 1 receipt; 1 legal disposition; and two genealogical items. Genealogy records include a family tree of Douglas' ancestor Douglas of Friarshaw (d. 1388) and a facsimile of the genealogical chart of Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane's ancestors going back to the 13th century.

Collection

Neil family papers, 1774-1872

143 items

The Neil family papers consist of letters and documents primarily relating to the Neil family of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and their business as merchants of linen, tea, and other goods.

The Neil family papers comprise 87 letters, 26 receipts, 17 financial records, 9 legal documents, 3 printed items, and 2 speeches, spanning 1774-1872. Early correspondence and records document trading and business activities, especially between William Neil and George Andrews. In particular, letters and bills of lading provide much detail on prices, quantities, and types of items purchased by the Neils and other local merchants (including Quaker merchant Abraham Barker). Several additional letters refer to health problems suffered by Margaret Neil, for which she was repeatedly bled (June 8, 1802).

A series of 1814 letters, written by Andrews to William Neil, concerns the War of 1812, including the merchants' preparations for attacks by the British and the effects of war on the market (August 6, 1814: "Business I believe is dull every where…. I am afraid to purchase Goods."). Also present are letters concerning a settlement for losses suffered by the Neils when the schooner John was captured by the British in 1815. A letter of March 28, 1831, recounts the circumstances of the capture and the case for restitution. Approximately five letters and documents dating to 1825, the year of William Neil's death, relate to his estate and the dispersal of his property.

Approximately 30 letters postdate 1830, most of which are the incoming correspondence of Thomas Neil. These primarily concern family news from various relatives, health issues, and details of business transactions. A letter to Maria Neil from her young granddaughter mentions "Emily has been working in the factory but is now going to school" (December 14, 1848). In an unusual and witty letter to Thomas Neil, a 20-year old named "Dorothy" requested his help in finding a husband and provided a humorous description of the man she wanted to find, including his height, the characteristics of his nose, and her preference that he oppose slavery (April 2, 1849).

The collection also includes 21 items relating to the ship Judah Touro and its journey from Boston to Portsmouth in January and February, 1861. These are receipts, records of payments, and several partial inventories.

The Maps series contains one map, entitled Plan of the town of Belfast from actual survey.

Collection

Thomas J. Chew family papers, 1797-1875 (majority within 1802-1857)

777 items (1.75 linear feet)

The Thomas J. Chew papers mainly consist of ingoing and outgoing correspondence of Thomas J. Chew and his wife, Abby Hortense Hallam, in the early 1800s. A significant amount of the collection was written during the War of 1812, and many of the letters relate to Chew's duties as purser of several ships of the United States Navy and in the Navy Yards of Boston and New York. Other personal letters, official documents, and account books are also included in the collection.

The bulk of the collection is the Correspondence series (716 items), which contains the personal and Navy-related correspondence of Thomas J. Chew and other members of his family and together spans the years 1797 to 1875. The Thomas J. Chew family papers also include documents (9 items), financial records and receipts (40 items), account books (3 items), and miscellaneous items (7 items).

Early letters in the collection include an account by Joseph Chew of various branches of the Chew family, including a short history of the different Chew families emigrating from Virginia, accounts of his nieces and nephews (of whom Thomas J. Chew is one), and a mention of the marriage of his sister, who "died last year [and] has left children whose names I do not know;" these included future President Zachary Taylor. A group of letters from 1802 between Thomas J. Chew and Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith discuss Chew's future in the Navy after his return from the West Indies.

Much of the pre-War of 1812 correspondence of Thomas J. Chew consists of autograph copies of Chew's outgoing letters as well as incoming letters regarding his official duties as purser of the John Adams; a main correspondent during this period was Thomas Turner. A letter from Turner at the Navy Department Accountant's Office, dated June 7, 1809, outlined changes to the Naval Regulations, as well as reminding the recipient that "the most minute compliance with all the regulations…will be required." Other letters addressed to Turner regarded payment for sailors onboard the John Adams and the settlement of the ship's accounts.

Thomas J. Chew received another commission as purser from the Navy Department, signed by Paul Hamilton and dated April 29, 1812, and joined the crew of the Constitution almost immediately thereafter (May 20, 1812), serving under Isaac Hull. Most of the letters of late 1812 dealt with issues related to Chew's duties as purser and include copies made by Chew of letters to various clerks and officials within the Navy Department. One of the few more personal items from this period was a letter from Isaac Hull to Chew, dated November 1, 1812. Chew spent the winter between 1812 and 1813 at the Navy Yard in Boston, where he nonetheless kept a consistent professional correspondence as purser in the Yard (February 10, 1813; [April] 1813).

Chew's wife, Abby Hallam, related her esteem for Captains James Lawrence and Isaac Hull in a June 1, 1813, letter to Thomas, anticipating his imminent departure that had, in fact, taken place one day prior. Chew's brief time as a prisoner of the British in Halifax after the capture of the Chesapeake in 1813 is represented by two letters from John Mitchell, one regarding the funeral of Captain James Lawrence and the other regarding his own return to the United States alongside other officers of the Chesapeake (June 7 and 12, 1813). A copy of a letter to William Jones, Secretary of the Navy, informing him of Chew's return to Boston is accompanied by a letter acknowledging its receipt (June 24 and July 5, 1813).

Several letters in the collection concerned the ongoing difficulty regarding the distribution of disputed prize money for the capture of the Volunteer and Liverpool Hero in early 1813. Chew, as purser of the Chesapeake, did not wish to distribute prize money disputed between Captain Samuel Evans and Commodore Stephen Decatur "until it is settled to whom it belongs" (July 16, 1813), noting also that he would obey the ruling of the district court when doing so (July 23, 1813). By September of that year, Chew was prepared to pay an allotted amount of prize money to Decatur, though the matter was addressed again in a draft of April 10, 1819, in which Chew defended his conduct.

The Chews corresponded often with and about high-ranking officers in the Navy. A letter from John H. Elton, dated May 16, 1814, inquired as to the well-being of Abby Hallam and paraphrased Oliver Hazard Perry, stating that the men of the Superior "have seen the foe but they are not ours, neither could we meet them." Likewise, a letter from Charles W. Greene, dated May 16, 1814, discussed various personalities in the Navy including the fact that Commodore Decatur "says Evans is crazy." On June 9, 1814, Isaac Chauncey gave Chew orders to "immediately report to Captain Trenchard [as] the Purser of the Madison--you will also receive the Crew of the Oneida and act as her Purser until further orders." Other letters from prominent figures in the United States Navy include a personal note from Isaac Hull from December 30, 1814.

Post-war correspondence in the collection includes many items addressed to Thomas J. Chew and his wife; these items are mostly of a personal nature, interspersed with correspondence related to Thomas's ongoing duties as purser of the Washington. Letters were written by both Thomas and Abby in this period; hers spoke of home and family while his recounted his experiences on the Washington, including travel to the Mediterranean from June 1816-July 1818. In one letter, Thomas wrote about "the government and the people [being] much occupied at home with the transactions out here. The former have much to do, in my humble opinion, to secure to us the high character we acquired during the short war" and expressed his hope that "[his son] Lawrence will not be inclined to become a Navy officer" (May 9, 1818). Abby discussed the growth of their children, including the sickly Lawrence and a child who died in infancy (May 19, 1816). A letter of January 9, 1821, provided an account of another child's early death: "[God] has call'd home our dear babe, lent only for a season…her life has been a short one, but she has suffered much yet…& now she lies cold & inanimate corpse." Personal correspondence between husband and wife becomes much scarcer in the collection after this date. A letter from Thomas to the Reverend William Bull of Lebanon, Connecticut, related the news of the death of Lawrence and asked Edward to share the news with his wife, Eliza (October 26, 1829).

Thomas's other post-war correspondents included various naval officers involved in his duties as purser, as well as others whose letters were of a more personal nature. The latter include M. C. Attwood, who wrote a letter recounting the USS Cyane's travels through the West Indies and the Caribbean (December 27, 1822) and for whose estate Chew eventually became responsible (September 27, 1823), working closely with Richard Ringgoth of Chestertown, Maryland. Chew's correspondence in 1829 includes many letters from Amos Kendall of the U.S. Treasury department's Auditor's Office discussing Chew's work as purser through 1832. Letters of March 9 and March 29, 1832, discussed the reconciliation of Chew's outstanding accounts as of his retirement at that time.

The collection contains many personal letters addressed to Abby Hallam (later Chew), particularly regarding her daughters. Often signing her letters "Hortensia," she corresponded with both friends and family. Frequent correspondents included Lucretia M. Woodbridge of New London, Connecticut, and Mary Perkins in the early 1810s and a cousin Jacob in 1818. In various letters from the early 1830s, Abby recounted to her daughter Mary, who was staying with Edward and Eliza Bull in Lebanon, Connecticut, the progress of her sisters in school. Other family letters in this period were written between Abby and her children, amongst the children, and to the Bull family. A letter from George Lewis to Thomas Chew, dated December 18, 1843, asked "sanction to my addresses to [Mary Hallam Chew]…no gentleman should address a lady, or make any other attempt to gain her affection, unless assured of her parents approval." The pair were engaged soon thereafter (January 15, 1844), and a letter from A. Lewis, likely George Lewis's sister-in-law Adelaide Lewis, offered assistance to Mary in making plans for her wedding (March 7, 1844).

The focus of the correspondence gradually shifts toward Thomas and Abby's daughters, who wrote to their parents, to their aunt Eliza Bull, and to one another. Abigail, who often signed herself Hortense, and Mary shared vibrant personal correspondence beginning in 1840, including a letter from Abby who offered some helpful advice as Mary began to maintain a household of her own: "I want to know how your nurse & cook come along, don't err in my way & give them too much liberty--require them to do their duty I believe is the secret" (May 1, 1846). Mary's friend Josie wrote on July 28, 1846 to give condolences to Mary upon the death of her father. Other Chew family members represented in the collection include George R. Lewis, Thomas J. Chew's future son-in-law, and Chew's daughters and granddaughters. Also included are scattered letters relating to Harry W. Nelson, Jr., who married a great-granddaughter of Thomas J. Chew; these include a stern reprimand from a godfather dated April 13, 1853, and several undated items.

The correspondence series also contains several items addressed and authored by Mary Norton of Hopkinton, New Hampshire, beginning in the mid-1820s; by 1829, she was a resident of Boston. The collection includes an August 10, 1829 letter from Moses Story, who proposed that Mary "consider [her]self a candidate for my companion in life." Her relationship to the Chew family is unclear.

The series also includes 54 undated items, mostly comprised of personal correspondence, with a significant portion being between Abby and Thomas. One letter from Abby to Thomas foresaw the loss of one of their children: "From every appearance the agony will soon be past with our dear little infant." Much of the correspondence also came from Eliza Bull, addressed to various members of the Chew family. A letter addressed to Abby from a niece, Frances, described the arrival of a baby, Cecilia, and included a poem dedicated to the occasion. Also included are several letters addressed to Harriet Lewis, recently widowed and receiving letters primarily from her sister, Jennette Richards.

The Documents series (9 items) includes several items related to Thomas J. Chew's time in the Navy, including his time as a prisoner of the British, his involvement in Decatur v. Chew, and his resignation from the Navy. Two legal documents are included as well as an inventory for the Protection Fire Insurance Company and a partially-signed petition.

Many of the items in the Financial Records and Receipts series (40 total items) were addressed specifically to Thomas J. Chew, and the series includes receipts for various purchases in New York and Boston. These items span the years 1806-1847, with several items that date to the War of 1812. Several receipts regarded payment for James Lawrence Chew's tuition at the Classical School of New Jersey in the 1820s. A note from Samuel Phillips asked Thomas J. Chew to pay his share of the prize money for the capture of the Plattsburgh to Mrs. Jane Phillips. This was accompanied by a receipt roll, housed with other oversized manuscript items, which listed the distribution of the prize money for the capture of that ship. A pay roll for the officers of the Peacock is also housed in the small oversize area. This series also includes three stock certificates, all pertaining to stock held by Mary F. Hallam.

The Account Books series contains three items: one small account book housed in a red leather wallet and two bound volumes. The first contains various personal records for 1814, and the bound volumes contain records kept by Thomas J. Chew in his capacities as purser for the Washington, treasurer for St. Anne's Church in Brooklyn, and in an unknown capacity for the United States Naval Fraternal Association. One of the bound volumes contains Sunday Accounts for the Navy Department dealing with balances due and paid to various personnel.

The Miscellaneous series (7 items) includes two dated personal items as well as poetry, essays, and a partial family tree.

Collection

United States Revenue Cutter Service and Merchant Marine collection, 1780-1802

12 items

This collection is made up of correspondence and financial records related to vessels of the United States Revenue Cutter Service, United States Navy, and United States Merchant Marine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

This collection is made up of correspondence and financial records related to vessels active in the United States Revenue Cutter Service, United States Navy, and United States Merchant Marine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The materials relate to crews' wages, ships' cargoes and expenses, cutter construction, privateering, and other subjects. See the Detailed Box and Folder Listing for more information about each item.

The donor has collected, arranged, transcribed, and annotated each document and has written a well-researched collection description.

Collection

Vice-Admiralty Court of Gibraltar privateer document, 1760

47 pages (1 volume)

This 47-page manuscript, dated March 1760, is a series of certified copies of legal documentation from the British Vice-Admiralty Court of Gibraltar, relating to the ship Immacolata Concezione & St. Ignazio di Loyola, commanded by Roman citizen Lorenzo Ghiglino. The ship was captured by the British privateer St. Albans (Captain Edward Vernon) in October 1759 off the coast of Cadiz, Spain. The Immacolata... was brought to Gibraltar where the ship and its cargo were condemned as prizes. This manuscript provides a detailed account of the complex legal and commercial practices during the Seven Years' War. It outlines Ghiglino's earlier encounter with New York privateers in 1757 during his initial voyage to Cap Français, Saint Domingue, his acquittal in the New York Vice-Admiralty Court in 1758, efforts to secure sugar and coffee cargo in Saint Domingue in 1759, his re-capture near Cadiz by Edward Vernon, and legal arguments about prize law. The manuscript is on loose sheets, connected by stab sewing near the top edge.

This 47-page manuscript, dated March 1760, is a series of certified copies of legal documentation from the British Vice-Admiralty Court of Gibraltar, relating to the ship Immacolata Concezione & St. Ignazio di Loyola, commanded by Roman citizen Lorenzo Ghiglino. The ship was captured by the British privateer St. Albans (Captain Edward Vernon) in October 1759 off the coast of Cadiz, Spain. The Immacolata... was brought to Gibraltar where the ship and its cargo were condemned as prizes. This manuscript provides a detailed account of the complex legal and commercial practices during the Seven Years' War. It outlines Ghiglino's earlier encounter with New York privateers in 1757 during his initial voyage to Cap Français, Saint Domingue, his acquittal in the New York Vice-Admiralty Court in 1758, efforts to secure sugar and coffee cargo in Saint Domingue in 1759, his re-capture near Cadiz by Edward Vernon, and legal arguments about prize law. The manuscript is on loose sheets, connected by stab sewing near the top edge.

This manuscript includes formal copies of depositions, Vice-Admiralty Court sentences or decrees, petitions and memorials, orders, letters, passports, declarations, bills of sale, certificates, accounts and invoices, bills of lading and health, interrogations, monitions, claims, allegations and their answers.

These documents provide a record of Lorenzo Ghiglino's Atlantic mercantile practices. They include commentary on the cargo being shipped aboard the Immacolata Concezione and speculation about the financial reasoning that would explain the goods. For example, Lorenzo Ghiglino's answers to Vernon's allegations against him in Gibraltar explained that his initial transatlantic voyage in 1757 "wore a very promising aspect[,] European goods being greatly wanted at Cape François & American produce vastly cheap at that Port by reason of the circumstances of the war with Great Britain which rendered it extremely hazardous for the French to transport their American produce to Europe." However, Judge Lewis Morris's opinion delivered on October 13, 1758, in the New York Vice-Admiralty court questioned the logic. He noted that the Spanish merchant backing Ghiglino's venture, Don Francisco Xavier de los Rios, gave "orders to purchase great quantities of Indigo" despite his presumed knowledge that "it is highly penal for the Subjects of any neutral state to export indigo from Cape Francois & that it is necessary that every Vessel shou'd duly appear to be a French bottom before she can export Indigo from the Cape..." Morris therefore decided it was more likely that de los Rios was covering for French merchants attempting to sell French goods in the West Indies, illustrating the complex business practices occurring during the international conflict.

Documentation of Ghiglino's voyage back to Europe in 1759 details the ongoing impact of the war on business. Mercantile constraints imposed by the British prohibited Ghiglino from loading a cargo in New York to sell in Spain and Italy, which forced him to travel to Spanish and French colonies in the West Indies to purchase goods. For the first leg of his trip to Monte Christi, he requested permission "to man the ship with French Prisoners which will save him a great expence in the article of wages." The copy of "The Governor of Monte Christi's Certificate" verified that Ghiglino was unable to secure cargo in the city over the course of a month and a half, as merchants refused to bring sugar to market there "on account of there being many English Privateers on this Coast who daily commit acts of Piracy on the Spanish Vessels trading in this commodity." Ghiglino instead travelled to Cap Français, and his purchases of sugar and coffee are documented, listing amounts and costs, as well as unsuccessful attempts by planters to secure freight for their goods to Europe. Claims by several other crew members and passengers illustrate the smaller scale trading happening aboard merchant ships.

The court records also speak to the financial imperatives motivating privateers. The copy of the New York Vice-Admiralty Court's 1758 sentence reveals the reason why the privateers who captured the Immacolata Concezione never pursued their appeal of the case in England. The merchants tasked with selling the perishable cargo, instead of holding the sums as dictated, "distributed the money arising from the Sales or a part of it among the owners or partys interested in the Privateers concern'd in the Capture. Being thus possess'd of all the proceeds of the Cargoe.... no wonder the Libellants were contented to drop the prosecution of their appeal & that they afterwards opppos'd the Genoese Captain acquiring his freight & gratification money." Later in 1759, Edward Vernon's rejection of Ghiglino's petition for additional time to secure advice from England addresses his financial concerns. Vernon noted the "considerable expense in guarding & preserving the said Vessel & Cargoe which have been exposed especially at this Season of the year to great accident and damages." Additionally, he acknowledged that the sugar cargo was "perishable especially as being on board an old Ship," and had already depreciated some twenty per cent in value.

This manuscript provides insight into maritime law, particularly through the allegations made by British privateer Edward Vernon at the Vice-Admiralty Court of Gibraltar and Ghiglino's answers. Arguments concerned issues like the ownership of vessels and cargoes, the possession of French papers, neutral rights to trade with French colonies, and the law of nations. The types of material in the document, including copies of passports, financial receipts, petitions and memorials, and more, illustrate merchants' understanding of the importance of good documentation to meet legal disputes.

The appeals process is also discussed in the records. The New York privateers claimed to have appealed the 1758 decision, causing Joseph Ghiglino to travel to England to defend the case. Upon arrival, finding no appeal lodged, he entreated the help of Secretary of State William Pitt. A copy of Pitt's June 10, 1758, letter to New York Governor James de Lancey pressing to have the case moved forward is included. While attending to the case in Gibraltar, Lorenzo Ghiglino petitioned for additional time to secure advice from England, suggesting the difficulties of international maritime disputes, and the file closes with the note that he will be appealing the condemnation of his ship and cargo to the Lords Commissioners of Appeals in England, which necessitated his receiving a full copy of his records.

Collection

William Griffiths & Company ledger book, 1805-1810

49 pages (1 volume)

This ledger contains two sections of recordkeeping by the mercantile firms Griffiths & Bruce and William Griffiths & Company. The first, totaling 38 pages, contains the accounts of Vice Admiral of the White James Richard Dacres, commander-in-chief of the Jamaica Station, with merchants Griffiths & Bruce and William Griffiths & Co. The transactions include payments and expenses for goods, labor, ships, and slaves from January 1805 to June 1810. The second section (11 pages) contains two lists of prize and neutral vessels captured and brought to the Jamaica Station in 1807 and 1808.

This ledger contains two sections of recordkeeping for the mercantile firms Griffiths & Bruce and William Griffiths & Company. The first, totaling 38 pages, contains the accounts of Vice Admiral of the White James Richard Dacres, commander-in-chief of the Jamaica Station, with merchants Griffiths & Bruce. The transactions include payments and expenses for goods, labor, ships, and slaves from January 1805 to June 1810.

The second section (11 pages) contains two separate lists of prize and neutral vessels captured and brought to the Jamaica Station in 1807 and 1808. A "List of Vessels Pending under Appeal & Vessels whose Sales cannot be closed (10 June 1807) in Griffith's and Bruce's Books" includes ships' names, statuses, values, and "Remarks & corrections to the 20 June 1808." The second list, titled "Neutral Vessels detained by the Squadron on the Jamaica Station under the Command of Vice Admiral James Richard Dacres for which William Griffiths & Co. were Agents commencing the 1st Day of January 1807, under appeal or given up," includes the following information about each prize, when applicable:

  • "No. on Admiralty List"
  • "Captured Vessels: Rig, Name, Master"
  • "Capturing Vessels: Name, Commander"
  • "Date Sentence: Month, Year"
  • "Proceeds Paid into Court: £, s, d"
  • "Expenses disallowed by Court 'till final sentence: £, s, d"
  • "Remarks & correction to the 22nd June 1808"