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Browsing: Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 2


This note contained in document ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0009-0001
1. Dawson's commission has not been found. For an early example of his activity, see Dawson v. Lighter and Molasses, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 26 April 1768, discussed in No. 47, note 512. See also No. 52 (1773). His activities against American shipping in the early years of the Revolution are reported in William Bell Clark, George Washington's Navy 113–114, 125–128, 159–160 (Baton Rouge, 1960). Officers of the navy had long aided in enforcing the Acts of Trade, although the scope of their authority was sometimes questioned. See, for example, 12 Car. 2, c. 18, §1 (1660); Harper, English Navigation Laws 177–179. The Navy's success in halting trade with the enemy during the French wars led, after 1763, to expanded authorization for naval officers to seize vessels violating the Acts of Trade. 3 Geo. 3, c. 22, §4 (1763); 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §42 (1764); 5 Geo. 3, c. 45, §26 (1765); see Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 38–44, 116. The authority for their commissions was not in the statutes, however. The Privy Council presumably directed the Commissioners of the Customs to deputize naval officers. See Lord Egremont to Governor Bernard, 9 July 1763, 10 Bernard Papers 120–121, MH. Their shares of seizures were established by Order in Council, 8 July 1763, Book of Charters, Commissions, Proclamations, &c., 1628–1763, fols. 254–257, M-Ar. Probably the American Commissioners acted under the same authority after 1767. The High Court of Admiralty in that year affirmed a decision of the Massachusetts Vice Admiralty Court condemning a vessel seized by the first of these officers to present his commission in Massachusetts in 1763. The question of the power to seize had been raised in the lower court and seems to have been discussed on the argument in the High Court, although the reported opinion there dealt with other questions. Bishop v. The Freemason, Quincy, Reports 387, 389–390 (Mass. Vice Adm., 1763), affirmed sub nom. The Freemason v. Bishop, Burrell 55, 167 Eng. Rep. 469 (High Ct. Adm., 1767). See No. 50, note 6; No. 52, note 5.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/