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Browsing: Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 2

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Editorial Note

In November 1768 Adams undertook the defense of John Hancock in what, politically, was his most important case until the Boston Massacre trials (Nos. 63, 64). Jonathan Sewall, the advocate general, had sued Hancock in Admiralty for penalties incident upon the alleged smuggling of wine from the latter's sloop Liberty. The circumstances of this prosecution and portions of Adams' defense were carried in a variety of contemporary newspapers and played a leading part in the development of colonial opposition to the British customs system and Vice Admiralty courts.
The case arose in a Boston already antagonized by the activities of the recently formed American Board of Customs Commissioners. The fate of Timothy Folger and the sloop Cornelia (No. 45), must have convinced the town, if proof were needed, that the Commissioners had no interest in the { 174 } kind of benign administration that might have permitted an accommodation between the stringencies of the Townshend Acts of 1767 and the realities of commercial life. In the forefront of mounting opposition to the Board and the Acts was Hancock, leading merchant, Boston selectman, and representative to the General Court, who must have been pleased to find that he could so easily combine his zest for politicking with pursuit of his commercial interest. His political tactics included a variety of threats, boasts, and social snubs, nicely calculated both to offend the Commissioners and to arouse the public.1
On the commercial side, Hancock's opposition was less flamboyant, but no less determined. In early April, he had found Owen Richards, one of two tidesmen sent to supervise the discharge of his brigantine Lydia, poking around in the hold of that vessel. Hancock ordered Richards forcibly brought topside, making clear that he considered the deck to be the limit of the officer's jurisdiction.2 Attempts to prosecute Hancock in the Superior Court for this incident were frustrated when Jonathan Sewall gave his opinion as attorney general that no offense had been committed and refused to put the matter in suit. The Commissioners wrote to England asking that Sewall be overruled.3 Before a reply could be received, the affair of the Liberty gave them a better opportunity to make an example of their chief tormentor.
The sloop had arrived in Boston from Madeira on 9 May; next day, Nathaniel Barnard, her master, made entry of twenty-five pipes of madeira wine, upon which the duties were paid.4 According to the later testimony of various royal officials, Hancock had boasted that he would land wine from his vessel without payment of duties, and rumors were rife that he had done so.5 The customs officers had to be satisfied with rumor until, on { 175 } 10 June, Thomas Kirk, a tidesman who at the time of the Liberty's arrival had reported nothing amiss, now made affidavit to a different story. On the night of 9 May, he testified, one Captain Marshall came aboard and, after failing to persuade Kirk to allow several casks of wine to be unloaded before the vessel's entry the next day, locked him in the steerage. Confined for about three hours, Kirk “heard a Noise as of many people upon deck at Work hoisting out Goods,” as well as “the Noise of the Tackles.” He was released when the activity ceased, but Marshall's dire threats had kept him silent; Marshall had since died, and Kirk no longer feared to come forward.6
Joseph Harrison, Collector of the port, presented Kirk's affidavit to the Commissioners. Corroboration was impossible, Kirk's fellow tidesman being variously reported as asleep or drunk during the hours in question, but the Commissioners and their solicitor determined that the affidavit was grounds for a seizure of the Liberty for violation of the statutory provisions against unloading before entry. Harrison and Benjamin Hallowell, the Comptroller, were ordered to make the seizure. To avoid the possibility that the townspeople might rescue the vessel, the Commissioners suggested that the officers obtain the assistance of H.M.S. Romney, which had arrived in the harbor on 17 May in response to the urgent pleas of the Board that it could not enforce the laws without such assistance.7
At about sunset on the 10th, with the tide near full, Harrison, Hallowell, and a number of lesser officers proceeded to Hancock's wharf, where the Liberty lay, loaded with two hundred barrels of oil and a few barrels of tar. According to a contemporary account, these goods were not cargo for another voyage, but had been put aboard for storage, there being no room in the warehouses along the wharf.8 The officers boarded the sloop, { 176 } went through the formalities of seizing her, and signaled the Romney, at anchor nearby. Two boats of marines and sailors came to the wharf and set about taking the Liberty in charge. Meanwhile a crowd, including Captain Daniel Malcom (long an enemy of the revenue) and a number of other waterfront figures known to be friendly to Hancock, had gathered. Despite assurances from the mob that there would be no interference with the seizure, and efforts to hold the vessel to the wharf, the marines cut her loose and, with the consent of Harrison and Hallowell, towed her out into the harbor, where she was moored under the guns of the Romney.9
A small riot then ensued, in the course of which Harrison and Hallowell were roughed up, windows in their houses were smashed, and the Collector's pleasure boat was burned on the Common.10 The Commissioners, fearing that they would be next, went into hiding and the next day transferred their operations to the Romney. Harrison began to negotiate with Hancock for the return of the Liberty in exchange for a bond for her value to abide the outcome of proceedings against her in the Court of Admiralty.11 Meanwhile, Boston remained in an uproar, stimulated by a series of town meetings at which fiery orations were delivered. John Adams' first connection with the case was his service upon a committee appointed by the Town to draw up instructions to its representatives.12 Hancock at length { 177 } declined to stipulate for the vessel, apparently on the theory that her continued presence in the harbor would serve to keep the Town reminded of the incident.13 After the failure of this step at conciliation, the Commissioners chose to view the situation in Boston as one of serious emergency; and, when Governor Bernard reported that he could not guarantee their personal safety in town, they took up residence at Castle William in Boston Harbor. From this retreat the North American customs were managed until mid-November, when the presence of troops and Governor Bernard's assurances finally eased the Commissioners' fears.14
While the Commissioners languished, Jonathan Sewall on 22 June filed a libel in behalf of Joseph Harrison against the Liberty and the oil and tar aboard her at the seizure.15 Although no papers in the suit have survived, the grounds were probably three: (1) landing goods before entry, as Kirk had sworn; (2) loading the oil and tar without having given bond; and (3) loading the oil and tar without having a sufferance from the Collector. For the first, the penalty was forfeiture of the vessel;16 for the { 178 } second, vessel and goods were forfeit;17 and for the third the goods alone were forfeit.18 The second and third counts would have been included to justify seizing the oil and tar and retaining it aboard the Liberty as she lay under the Romney's protection. To have brought the sloop back to the wharf for discharge would have exposed her to rescue. These counts, of course, had the additional value of further harassing Hancock by complicating the suit and by tying up his goods pending the outcome.
The identity of Hancock's counsel in this in rem proceeding is not known. He may well have been Adams, who had recently tried Timothy Folger's action against the sloop Cornelia (No. 45), in which Hancock was a witness. Adams was doubtless on hand in the summer of 1768, since he had recently moved to Boston19 and had no cases on circuit with the Superior Court in June or July. Whoever Hancock's lawyer was, he did not let the forfeiture go by default. An appearance was entered on 7 July and, after several continuances, Hancock's claim was filed on the 29th. Counsel had earlier agreed that witnesses should be examined by the Register upon interrogatories filed by the parties. On 4 August, Judge Auchmuty himself attended the examination of two witnesses, Captain Malcom and William Mackay. Auchmuty gave his decree on 17 August, declaring the Liberty forfeit, but releasing the oil and tar.20 No copy of the decree exists, but it { 179 } apparently condemned the Liberty for unlading without entry, and cleared the oil and tar as having been loaded for storage rather than shipment.21 On 6 September, the sloop was put up for sale and purchased by Harrison for the Commissioners, who proceeded to have her fitted out as a revenue cutter. In this capacity she served until July 1769, when a Rhode Island { 180 } mob seized and burned her at Newport in wrath over the enforcement activities of her commander, Captain William Reid.22
The focus now shifted to those responsible for running the wine and fomenting riot. Efforts to indict the rioters before the Suffolk Grand Jury in August were effectively forestalled when Boston returned Captain Malcom and other alleged participants as jurors.23 On 2 September the Commissioners directed their solicitor to consult with the advocate general as to prosecuting “the master of the Sloop Liberty and all persons concerned in running the cargo for treble the value of the goods run.”24 During the summer, in response to a request from the Lords of the Treasury for an opinion on a memorial submitted by the Commissioners, William DeGrey, Attorney General in England, had found that there was not only a basis for proceeding against the vessel, but that “Actions may likewise be brought against the Persons concern'd in the unshipping the Goods, and in obstructing the Seizure.”25 Emboldened or coerced by this opinion, Sewall on 29 October filed informations against Hancock and five others, including Nathaniel Barnard, master of the Liberty, and Daniel Malcom.26 { 181 } His delay had probably resulted, at least in part, from a prudent desire to wait until excitement over the arrival of the first troops in September had died down and they were in place and ready to be of assistance.27
The suits were based on a provision of the American Act of 1764 that persons “assisting or otherwise concerned” in landing goods without payment of duties should forfeit treble the value of the goods in a proceeding in the Court of Admiralty. Despite a certain vagueness in the language of the information, it is clear that Sewall brought the actions as informer. In this capacity he was entitled to a third of the proceeds, which may have been the price of his abandonment of an earlier reluctance to proceed in such an unpopular cause.28 The information against Hancock alleged that he had aided and assisted in landing one hundred pipes of Madeira wine valued at £30 sterling each, knowing that the duties had not been paid. The penalty sought was £9,000, treble the value of the wine. Judge Auchmuty set bail at £3,000 and ordered a warrant to issue for Hancock's appearance on 7 November.29 According to the patriot propaganda sheet, “A Journal of the Times,” the warrants were served on 3 November by “Mr. Arodi Thayer, marshal of the Court of Admiralty for three provinces, with a hanger at his side.” After offers of property and Massachusetts currency for bail were refused, Hancock and the others produced the amount demanded in sterling.30
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When the court sat on 7 November, the informations were read and the matter continued until the 28th.31 Thus began a lengthy trial, in which Adams served as counsel for Hancock and probably the other respondents as well. Years later in his Autobiography he said of Hancock's case: “and a painfull Drudgery I had of his cause. There were few days through the whole Winter, when I was not summoned to attend the Court of Admiralty. It seemed as if the Officers of the Crown were determined to examine the whole Town as Witnesses. Almost every day a fresh Witness was to be examined upon Interrogatories. They interrogated many of his [Hancock's] near Relations and most intimate Friends and threatened to summons his amiable and venerable Aunt, the Relict of his Uncle Thomas Hancock, who had left the greatest Part of his Fortune to him. I was thoroughly weary and disgusted with the Court, the Officers of the Crown, the Cause, and even with the tyrannical Bell that dongled me out of my House every Morning.”32
The cases were further continued from time to time until 2 January 1769.33 The trials seem to have proceeded together without objection from any party. Interrogatories had been filed on 13 December, and now the first of many witnesses for the Crown was called.34 For many weeks Auchmuty continued to examine witnesses both in court and in chambers, an Admiralty practice that, like the constant continuances and long delays, offended the common-law practitioners.35 Finally on 16 February the { 183 } respondents' witnesses were examined, and the case was set for argument on Tuesday the 21st. On that date, however, the Crown sought, and was granted, leave to examine additional witnesses “for the whole of this week,” which prompted “A Journal of the Times” to conclude that the respondents' evidence had seriously damaged Sewall's case.36
On the 24th Adams tried to impeach one Joseph Maysel, apparently a key witness for the Crown, by questioning another witness in an effort to prove that Maysel was a fugitive from justice, guilty of a “heinous crime.” The Crown opposed the line of questioning, pointing to the common-law rules that only a witness' general character for truth was admissible as oral testimony, and that a written record of conviction was necessary to establish a specific crime. Adams argued that the civil law, which he said would permit his evidence, should be followed, since this was a Court of Admiralty.37 On 1 March, Auchmuty, in an interlocutory decree, ruled that the question objected to should be withdrawn on the grounds that even under civil-law rules the evidence was inadmissible, but that in any event the common law controlled this matter in a statutory proceeding.38
As far as can be determined, no further sessions of the court were held. Sometime in March the Suffolk County Grand Jury reportedly indicted Maysel for perjury, but, according to “A Journal of the Times,” he was spirited out of the jurisdiction by the Commissioners, and the indictment was not brought to trial.39 Finally, on 25 March 1769 Sewall moved that the informations against Hancock and the other respondents be withdrawn.40 There has never been a satisfactory explanation for the Crown's action, although in the “Journal” the withdrawal was implicitly linked with the reading of Auchmuty's commission as Judge of Admiralty for the new, enlarged district centered at Boston.41 Since Sewall at the same time had been commissioned Judge of Admiralty at Halifax, it has been sug• { 184 } gested that Auchmuty and he, now assured of fixed salaries, were willing to forgo the expected profits from these actions.42 It might just as well have been that Sewall now felt himself sufficiently independent of the Customs Commissioners to withdraw actions which he had instituted only under pressure from them. Neither theory explains why the actions were not dropped when the commissions were actually received in Boston on 20 January.43 It seems more likely that the departure of Maysel and a failure of other evidence were the reasons for the withdrawal.44 It is also possible that the actions were settled in some way, although there is no evidence of such a result. Whatever the fact, the withdrawal probably coincided with the reading of Auchmuty's commission only because the opening of court for that purpose provided a convenient opportunity for Sewall's motion.
The trial of Hancock and the others was an event of major political importance in the colonies. Its very length played into the hands of the revolutionary propagandists. From November 1768 until the following summer, “A Journal of the Times,” which appeared in a variety of colonial newspapers, carried periodic accounts of the proceedings, interspersed with tart comments on the twin themes of the venality of the Customs Commissioners and the arbitrary injustice of the Court of Admiralty.45 These attacks helped to establish the Commissioners as obnoxious at the very beginning of their tenure. Their effectiveness was permanently damaged and they served until the Revolution in an atmosphere of constant hostility.46
The attack on the Admiralty Court was buttressed by a portion of Adams' draft argument in the case, which was widely circulated as part of his Instructions to the Boston Representatives of May 1769.47 These and other responses to the prosecution of revenue cases brought the Vice Admiralty courts under the disapprobation of the colonists. The jurisdiction was more and more invoked only in enforcement of the Acts of Trade, and ordinary civil maritime cases were tried in the common-law courts.48 A multitude { 185 } of revenue cases in each port served to stir up local feeling; Sewall v. Hancock helped to unite this feeling and to produce the single impulse against the courts which increased steadily until its manifestation in the Declaration of Independence.49
Recently it has been argued that the whole affair of the Liberty is proof that the Commissioners were in fact as venal, and the Admiralty Courts as arbitrary, as the colonists contended. Hancock is pictured as the innocent victim of a prosecution carried on by “customs racketeers” bent on “plunder,” who sought to obtain their evil ends in an arbitrary and oppressive mockery of a trial.50
Hancock's innocence is open to question. His reported boasts that he would defy the Commissioners and the rumors that he had done so may be dismissed as the self-serving statements of interested royal officials, but there remains the fact that the Liberty was condemned for unloading cargo before entry.51 Without court files it is difficult to evaluate that decision, but on balance it was probably justified. In the first place, the problem of proof was relatively simple. The issue was only the fact of unloading, not the complicity of Hancock or anyone else. Secondly, Kirk's deposition, which has been attacked as vague and perjured,52 was probably not the only evidence for the Crown. During the eight weeks of trial interrogatories were filed and the court examined several witnesses, presumably including Kirk. In any event, his original deposition, if believed, was persuasive ground for condemnation, regardless of the testimony of Hancock's witnesses, who had the difficult job of proving a negative.53 Even if the deposition could not be corroborated by other testimony, Kirk could have been further examined to ascertain his credibility, and character witnesses could have been called.54
To argue that Auchmuty decided the case against the weight of the { 186 } evidence is to say that he either was wrong in believing the witnesses or was influenced by prejudice. Both are possible, but the presumption is surely the other way. At least as to testimony given in his presence, only Auchmuty could weigh credibility, and there is no actual evidence of prejudice. Moreover, if the condemnation had not been supported by the evidence it is hard to believe that there would not have been some outcry. Not only was none forthcoming, but the few mentions of this phase of the case which are found support the view that the forfeiture was justified.55 A conclusion that the Liberty was justly condemned for unloading before entry does not convict Hancock of smuggling; it does indicate that wine or other goods were smuggled from the Liberty on the night of 9 May. It seems unlikely that Hancock would have been so out of touch with his affairs as not to have been involved.
If the Commissioners were reasonable in believing that Hancock was not innocent, then they were justified in proceeding against him with all the weapons they could command. They had been sent to Boston to implement a new policy of strict enforcement of the Acts of Trade. Hancock led the opposition to the new establishment, both with his political attacks and with the example of his own violation. If the law could be applied strictly to him, others would fall into line. The procedures used to gain this end were harsh, but they were neither extortion nor persecution. All were prescribed by the law which the Commissioners had sworn to uphold, and all were dictated by the position of outright defiance which Hancock had taken.
The forfeiture of the Liberty and the penalties sought in the in personam actions were not “plunder” unless that term is understood to include rewards sanctioned by law. It was common 18th-century practice to divide the proceeds of such suits, a third each to Governor, informer, and Crown. In many situations fees and forfeitures were used to encourage an element of private enterprise which helped to keep salaries low and place the cost of government on those who invoked its powers. In the area of the customs the practice was especially necessary to encourage effective enforcement in the face of firm opposition.56 This system could certainly be abused if { 187 } profit, rather than enforcement, became the sole aim of the officials involved. There was no abuse in the seizure of the Liberty, however. The cause was not a breach of some technical and previously unenforced requirement, but a violation that amounted to the very kind of smuggling which the Commissioners had been sent to root out.57
Nor were the penalties in the in personam proceedings an abuse. The statute under which they were sought had been enacted precisely because forfeitures alone were not sufficient to deter violators.58 The substantial amount asked for here was necessary to make an impression upon a man of Hancock's wealth, power, and obstinacy. Although the figure of one hundred pipes alleged to have been smuggled was doubtless chosen arbitrarily to raise the stakes, there could be no unlawful exaction, because the fines which would have been paid if Sewall had obtained a decree were based upon the quantity and value of the wine smuggled, matters of fact which the Crown had to prove at the trial. The ultimate penalty thus would not have been dictated by the allegations in the information, but would have been computed according to the offense, as authorized by statute.59
The principal result of the high ad damnum was that a high bail was levied. There is some justice to complaints on this point, as the rule at common law in England seems to have been that only the fictitious common bail was required in an action on a penal statute. The figure itself was not excessive, however. Although it might have seemed so in a criminal action, where bail was proportioned to the gravity of the offense, this was a quasicivil proceeding, in which the purpose of bail was to provide security for the amount sued for, rather than merely for the defendant's appearance. In a civil action at law the plaintiff could demand that the sheriff take security in the full amount of the ad damnum, and full bail was required in an in personam civil suit in the English High Court of Admiralty.60 The { 188 } court here was more lenient, requiring bail for only one third of the amount sought.
The procedure followed in the in personam actions was unusual and, no doubt, tended to Hancock's disadvantage, but it was not persecution invented arbitrarily by the Commissioners for political revenge or financial gain. The statute provided the choice of proceeding at common law or in Admiralty, because it was a truism that no jury could be found to convict for violation of the Acts of Trade.61 After the recent failure to indict the Liberty rioters, the Commissioners can hardly be blamed for accepting truism as truth and exercising the option to proceed in Admiralty. Since the trial was in Admiralty, it was by information, not indictment;62 it was before a judge sitting without a jury; and the whole range of civil law procedure followed in the High Court of Admiralty in England was invoked—interrogatories, irregular sessions, secret examination of witnesses, and the rest.63 Whether these procedures were “illegal” depended not on their inherent qualities but upon the power of Parliament to place violations of the statute within the Admiralty jurisdiction. There was much dispute on this point, and it is not surprising that the Commissioners upheld the parliamentary side of a constitutional question which was resolved only by the Revolution.64
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Hindsight suggests that wiser administrators than the Commissioners might have sought to gain compliance through friendship and understanding rather than in an outright confrontation which they were bound to lose. A different course could have slowed or even prevented what became a headlong rush toward American independence. The British policy in accordance with which the Commissioners acted was based upon an unrealistic appraisal of the proper role of the colonies, which the colonial constitutional arguments were intended to correct. To recognize the justice of the colonial position, however, is not to say that the actions of the Commissioners were immoral or illegal. Hancock had defied authority. As representatives of that authority they were duty-bound to react to his defiance. Their reaction was not the only possible one, but it was a proper, if ultimately ineffective, course.
The document printed below from Adams' Admiralty Book concerns only the in personam action against Hancock. It consists of a copy in Adams' hand of the information and statutes involved, followed by a draft of his argument in Hancock's behalf. In this argument Adams approached the case as presenting a problem in statutory construction. Conceding that wine had been landed from the Liberty without payment of duties, he first argued that Hancock could not be said to fall within the statutory description of one “assisting or otherwise concerned” unless his knowing complicity in the unloading could be directly proven. Sewall must have been equally aware that Hancock's liability turned on the question of his knowledge and participation. Only this could account for the flood of friends, relations, employees, and business associates who were called as Crown witnesses, doubtless to be interrogated on possible links between Hancock and the nocturnal activities of the late Captain Marshall. Sewall's decision to abandon the action may well have turned on his inability to produce evidence of this vital element in his case.
Adams' basic argument was supported by a plea that the act be strictly { 190 } construed in Hancock's favor. Presumably this meant that “assisting or otherwise concerned” should not be expanded to include any kind of constructive or circumstantial implication of Hancock in the unloading. There was, of course, a familiar canon of construction that penal acts were to be construed narrowly,65 but Adams' argument was unusual in the reasons which he assigned for calling this statute penal. Not only was there an obvious disproportion between offense and penalty, but there were two grave constitutional defects in the act: (1) Adams' “Clyent Mr. Hancock never consented to it,” through his own vote or that of his actual representative; (2) its penalties were to be recovered in Admiralty courts, which deprived Hancock of the right to trial by jury, a defect all the more grievous because comparable offenses in England were to be tried to a jury in the Exchequer.
Here, like Otis in the famous argument on writs of assistance (No. 44), Adams attacked a statute as an intrusion upon fundamental rights. Unlike Otis, Adams did not make this invasion the basis for a demand that the court repudiate the statute altogether. Bonham's Case, upon which Otis grounded his argument that “the Executive Courts must pass such Acts into disuse,” held only that a statute should be construed to avoid a result in conflict with common-law principles.66 Adams' position neatly tied his broad political and constitutional arguments in with a similar narrow theory of construction: a penal statute conflicting with basic principles should be construed in every instance in favor of the subject.
In the light of later theorizing on the question whether Otis had foreshadowed the doctrine of judicial review,67 it is interesting that Adams' argument was so much more in accord with traditional English legal theories. Perhaps he had not understood Otis to have gone beyond those theories; or, if Otis had gone farther, Adams might now have come to realize that this was not a correct statement of the law. Otis' appeal to Bonham's Case could be rationalized in a narrow view, because he was urging invalidity in the application of a statute; the statute here, if void, was void on its face, a much more drastic flaw. Whatever the force of these considerations, Adams undoubtedly felt the need to ask for relief in terms acceptable to the judge trying the case. Auchmuty could hardly be persuaded as a loyal servant of the Crown that the act was void, but he might be convinced that in the circumstances it should not be applied harshly to Hancock.68 The structure of the argument may also be explained by an intention on Adams' part to make political use of the draft—a possibility discussed more fully below.
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The remainder of the draft deals with the question of the application of the civil law. Although Auchmuty had held that common-law rules governed the questioning of an impeaching witness, that opinion was based on alternative grounds and could have been limited to the issue there raised. Adams here argued for the civil-law approach on a broader front, buttressing his position with an array of citations from the Digest and other appropriate authorities. Conviction must be on the evidence of two or more witnesses whose credibility the court must establish. If oral testimony of Maysel's criminal record was not admissible on the question of credibility, his present condition, as well as his own testimony as to his past should be taken into account. The civil law also supported Adams' previous contention that harsh laws should be construed strictly, especially in criminal cases. The draft ends with the unexpected insertion of a summary of the earlier arguments and decree on the impeachment question. In this material was the crux: If the court was to apply some common-law rules, it should apply all, including the jury. If it was to follow the civil law in matters such as interrogatories, it should not omit those civil-law rules which favored Hancock.
Adams may have delivered this argument in open court, but no direct evidence of such a dramatic event has been found, and there is reason to believe that it never occurred. As already noted, argument on the merits had been set for 21 February but was postponed until after 1 March by the Crown's call for further witnesses and the subsequent controversy over the impeachment of Maysel. In all probability Maysel's indictment and disappearance led to further postponements, so that there was no occasion to hold argument prior to the withdrawal of the actions on 25 March.69 In any event, “A Journal of the Times,” which faithfully recorded these and other stages of Hancock's trial, made no mention of an argument. If Adams had addressed the court in the eloquent and politically provocative terms of his draft, it seems likely that the “Journal” would have reported it, perhaps embellishing the account with passages supplied by Adams from his own text.
The state of the manuscript is ambiguous on this point. The draft contains textual errors of a sort suggesting that at least the portions of it dealing with the constitutional issues were copied from an earlier, rougher draft.70 At the same time, the less organized and less careful manner in which the extracts from civil-law sources were entered, the sudden insertion of the impeachment materials, and the lack of a formal conclusion on the civil-law issues indicate that this is not a final draft. If there had been an argument on the merits, the draft could be either a copy or expansion of the text from which Adams argued, or it could be an intermediate state from which he prepared a now missing final version for presentation to the court.
In view of the likelihood that there was no argument on the merits, { 192 } another explanation is called for. Adams may well have prepared an argument on the constitutional points for presentation on 21 February, and copied the first part of the present draft from it into his Admiralty Book, perhaps in expanded form. Possibly inspired by the issues raised in the impeachment argument, he doubtless added the civil-law extracts during the latter part of February or early in March. Then, “disregarding order,” he inserted the material on “the Controversy We had last Week.”—that is, the impeachment71—some time after Auchmuty's 1 March decree. His failure to complete the draft may be ascribed to the fact that at some point in March he learned that it would not be needed in court.
Whether or not the argument was ever presented, there are many indications that Adams intended his draft to serve a purpose beyond mere advocacy in court. “A Journal of the Times” twice promised a full account of Sewall v. Hancock, although none ever appeared.72 Adams had earlier turned law reporting to partisan advantage with his “Abstract” of the argument on the writs of assistance (No. 44, Document II), and he now had before him a recent example of this technique in the pamphlet attack which Henry Laurens of Charleston had launched upon the activities of the South Carolina Vice Admiralty Court.73 Adams may have intended to use his draft as the basis for a similar pamphlet, which would fulfill the “Journal's” promises, graphically demonstrating Boston's grievances and presenting the Town's legal position in its quarrel with the Customs Commissioners and the Admiralty Court.
Whether termination of the trial, the press of other business, or another reason caused Adams to leave his draft unfinished, a gap of ten pages before the next entry in the Admiralty Book (Rex v. Corbet,No. 56, tried in May and June 1769) suggests that he intended to return to it. The work that he had done did not go to waste, whatever his intentions. As previously noted, he used his arguments on the right to jury trial almost verbatim in his Instructions to the Boston Representatives in May 1769. This document was carried in the newspapers as well as in “A Journal of the Times,” and so played a political role. The passage on impeachment was similarly adapted for the “Journal.”74
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If these partisan uses of portions of the draft suggest that it was as much a political as a legal document, its content provides firm ground to support such a theory. In the first place, both Adams' use of court documents with appended comments and the general tone of his arguments indicate a desire to emulate Laurens' South Carolina pamphlet.75 More important, Adams' draft stands in its own right as skilled political writing.
The language and style of his political and constitutional arguments, which might have impressed a jury but would have been wasted on a hostile judge, suggest the intention to reach a wider audience. In fact, the portion on Magna Carta, later used in the May 1769 Instructions, shows great similarity to a passage in Adams' “Clarendon Letters” of 1766, attacking the Stamp Act.76 His juxtaposition of broad constitutional positions with a plea for strict construction gives rise to an irony more appropriate in political writing than in legal argument. To call a statute merely “penal” when it has been enacted by an improperly constituted legislature and invades a basic constitutional right is the kind of understatement which implies a more drastic conclusion: The statute is invalid and the political system which produced it must be changed. Even the civil-law argument seems calculated less for legal advantage than as a means of emphasizing the deprivation of jury trial and the unfair manipulation of the law in the Admiralty court.77 The case was to be tried on the facts; these arguments were for the world.
Adams' “Abstract” of the writs of assistance argument was the transformation of a legal argument into a political tract. His argument in Sewall v. Hancock is a much more subtle and accomplished piece of craftsmanship. Here, political theory is manipulated within a legal framework in such a way that the case is presented both at the level of the court room and at the level of the public forum in which broader constitutional issues are discussed. Whatever the purpose for which it was written, the argument deserves recognition as an unfinished contribution to the political literature of its time.
1. See W. T. Baxter, The House of Hancock 260–263 (Cambridge, Mass., 1945). For one customs officer's view of the situation, see Joseph Harrison to the Marquis of Rockingham, 17 June 1768, in Watson, “Joseph Harrison and the Liberty Incident,” 20 WMQ (3d ser.) 585, 587–589 (1963).
2. See deposition of Owen Richards and Robert Jackson, 11 April 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:465, fols. 351–353; Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 119–121. Richards was to suffer more violent physical opposition to his role. See Richards v. Doble, Pleadings Book, Form VI.
3. See the Memorial of the Commissioners, 12 May 1768, enclosing the depositions of Richards and Jackson, note 2 above; the opinion of Samuel Fitch, Solicitor to the Commissioners, in favor of prosecution; and the opinion of Sewall, PRO, Treas. 1:465, fols. 348–360. Sewall's opinion, 23 April 1768, is reprinted in Dickerson, “Opinion of Attorney General Sewall of Massachusetts in the Case of the Lydia,” 4 WMQ (3d ser.) 499, 501–504 (1947). Thomas Hutchinson also questioned the wisdom of prosecution in the matter. See Hutchinson to ——, 17 April 1768, 26 Mass. Arch. 299–300. In Oct. the Commissioners again ordered Hancock's prosecution in the Superior Court, but no record of any action has been found. Minutes of the American Board of Customs Commissioners, 20 Oct. 1768, 7 Bowdoin-Temple MSS 167, MHi.
4. The duty had been levied since 1764. See note 986 below.
5. The arrival and entry of the Liberty and Hancock's boasts are described in Opinion of William DeGrey, 25 July 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:463, fol. 85, printed in Wolkins, “The Seizure of John Hancock's Sloop 'Liberty,'” 55 MHS, Procs. 239, 273 (1921–1922); Thomas Hutchinson to Richard Jackson, 16 June 1768, 26 Mass. Arch. 310–312, printed in 55 MHS, Procs. 281; Examination of Benjamin Hallowell, Treasury Chambers, 21 July 1768, American Gazette (No. 6) 449 (London, 2d edn., 1770); Testimony of Joseph Harrison, 27 June 1770, 5 Acts, Privy Council (Col.) 254; see also Baxter, Hancock 263 note.
6. Deposition of Thomas Kirk, 10 June 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:465, fol. 72; Opinion of William DeGrey, 55 MHS, Procs. 273–274. Marshall, one of Hancock's captains, died on 10 May, allegedly from overexertion in the unloading. Boston Gazette, 16 May 1768, p. 3, col. 1. See Andrew Oliver to Francis Bernard, 3 Dec. 1769, 12 Bernard Papers 164, MH; Oliver, Origin and Progress 69.
7. For the decision to seize the vessel and seek aid from the Romney, see Minutes of the Commissioners, 13 June 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:465, fol. 67; letter of Harrison and Hallowell to Commissioners, 11 June 1768, id. at fol. 88; letter of Harrison to John Powell, 13 June 1768, 3 Chalmers New England MSS 2, MH; Harrison to Rockingham, 17 June 1768, 20 WMQ 3d ser.) 589–590 (1963); Examination of Hallowell, 21 July 1768, American Gazette (No. 6) 449; Testimony of Harrison, 27 June 1770, 5 Acts, Privy Council (Col.) 255. For the requests of the Commissioners for naval support and the arrival of the Romney, see Samuel Venner (Secretary of the Board) to Thomas Bradshaw, 3 June 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:465, fol. 149; Boston Gazette, 23 May 1768, p. 3, col. 1; Wolkins, “Liberty,” 55 MHS, Procs. 239, 246 note, 248, 271–272.
8. As to the lading, see Boston News-Letter, 16 June 1768, p. 2, col. 1; Boston Evening-Post, 20 June 1768, p. 2, col. 1. Sunset was at 7:33 p.m. and high tide at 7:38 p.m. on 10 June. John Mein and John Fleeming, Register . . . 1768 18 (Boston, 1768). The accounts in note 9 below vary as to the time of the seizure according to the politics of the declarant. In question was a mistaken understanding that the limitation in the writ of assistance to daylight activities applied to seizures. 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 138 note; Boston Gazette, Supp., 23 Jan. 1769, p. 1, col. 3. Actually no writ was necessary to board, search, and seize a vessel. See 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §§4, 5 (1662); 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §6 (1696). The time was doubtless dictated in part by a delay in making the decision to seize, and in part by a desire to catch the tide. See Harrison to Powell, 13 June 1768, 3 Chalmers New England MSS 2, MH.
9. See the following accounts of the seizure: Boston News-Letter, 16 June 1768, p. 2, col. 1; Deposition of Harrison, 11 June 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:465, fol. 74; Deposition of Hallowell, 11 June 1768, id. at fol. 76; Harrison to Rockingham, 17 June 1768, 20 WMQ (3d ser.) 590 (1963); Testimony of Harrison, 27 June 1770, 5 Acts, Privy Council (Col.) 255; Affidavits accompanying Boston, “A Letter from Boston to a Gentleman in London,” American Gazette (No. 2) 97–110 (London, 2d edn., 1768). As to Malcom, see Wolkins, “Daniel Malcom and Writs of Assistance,” 58 MHS, Procs. 14–15 (1924–1925).
10. For the riot, see sources cited in note 9 above.
11. Harrison to Rockingham, 17 June 1768, 20 WMQ (3d ser.) 592 (1963); Examination of Hallowell, 21 July 1768, American Gazette (No. 6) 450; Minutes of the Commissioners and other materials, 12–14 June 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:465, fol. 67–107; Testimony of Hallowell, 26 June 1770, 5 Acts, Privy Council (Col.) 250. For the negotiations and an account of events in Boston generally, see John Gary, Joseph Warren 74–79 (Urbana, III., 1961). The flight to the Romney marked John Temple's open break with the rest of the Board. Thereafter he participated in their routine activities, but opposed them on all political matters. See Barrow, Colonial Customs 480–487. All subsequent references to “the Board” or “the Commissioners” refer to the four-man majority, exclusive of Temple.
12. PRO, Treas. 1:465, fols. 70–71, 92–93, 112–113; 16 Boston Record Commissioners, Reports 253–259 (Boston, 1886). The Instructions, of which JA claimed the authorship and which were adopted by the Town on 17 June, were first printed in the Boston Gazette, 20 June, and reprinted in 3 JA, Works 501–504. See 3 JA, Diary and Autobiography291; Gary, Joseph Warren 77–78.
13. See sources cited, note 11 above. On 15 June Hancock's warehouse was burgled and his papers “displaced.” Massachusetts Gazette, 16 June 1768, p. 1, col. 1. This may have been an effort on the part of the Commissioners to find evidence linking him with the Liberty's alleged cargo. See Dickerson, Navigation Acts 243.
14. See Commissioners to Governor Bernard, 12 June 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:465, fols. 86–87; 13 June 1768, id. at fols. 100–101; Bernard to Commissioners, 13 June 1768, id. at fol. 102; Collector and Comptroller to Commissioners, 14 June 1768, id. at fols. 106–107; Commissioners to Commodore Hood, General Gage, Col. Dalrymple, 15 June 1768, id. at fols. 108–111. The troops were requested in July; two regiments arrived in Boston at the end of Sept., and two in early November. It was not until the second week of Nov. that the Commissioners felt sufficiently sure of their safety to venture back to Boston. Commissioners to Treasury, 11 July 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:465, fol. 420; Venner to Bradshaw, 26 Nov. 1768, id. at fols. 127–138; Massachusetts Gazette, 10 Nov. 1768, p. 1, col. 3; Rowe, Letters and Diary 175–176. It is possible that they were awaiting the public reaction to the in personam suits against Hancock and the others, in which process was served on 3 November. See note 30 below.
15. Joseph Harrison Esq. v. The Sloop Liberty, 20 Barrels of Tar, 200 Barrels of Oil, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 22 June 1768. See Boston News-Letter, 23 June 1768, p. 2, col. 1. Samuel Fitch was also of counsel for the Crown, and David Lisle, solicitor to the Commissioners, assisted in the preparation for trial. Minutes of the Commissioners, 8 Aug. 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:471, fol. 7.
16. 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §8 (1663), set out in No. 48, note 210. See Opinion of William DeGrey, PRO, Treas. 1:463, fol. 87, printed in 55 MHS, Procs. 276. The violation of a statutory requirement that entry be made before unlading was the only possible basis for proceeding against the Liberty on the alleged smuggling. The statutes levying penalties for landing goods without payment of duties provided for the forfeiture of the goods alone (6 Geo. 2, c. 13, §3, made applicable by 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §5), or for pecuniary penalties against the smugglers themselves (4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §37). For proceedings under the former, see No. 47; the latter was the basis of the later in personam proceedings against Hancock; see notes 26, 582, below. A suit based on 6 Geo. 2, c. 13, was presumably impossible, the wines having been dispersed. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, presented evidentiary problems, as subsequent events demonstrated. See text at note 44 below. Moreover, under both acts proof had to be made that dutiable goods had been landed, whereas under 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §8, only the landing before entry need be shown. The statute I Eliz. 1, c. 11, §2 (1558), forbidding landing of goods except in the daylight would also have been ineffective, since it provided for seizure of goods, not vessel. See No. 49, notes 10–1314–17.
17. Vessel and goods were forfeit if either enumerated or nonenumerated goods were loaded before bond was given. 12 Car. 2, c. 18, §19 (1660); 22 & 23 Car. 2, c. 26, §11 (1670); 6 Geo. 3, c. 52, §30 (1766). Tar was enumerated and oil was not. 3 & 4 Anne, c. 10, §8 (1704); Samuel Baldwin, A Survey of the British Customs, pt. 2, p. 201 (London, 1770).
18. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §29 (1764).
19. At the end of April. Elizabeth Smith to Isaac Smith Jr., 13–18 April 1768, 1 Adams Family Correspondence 63–66.
20. See Harrison v. The Liberty, et al., Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 22 June 1768. The date and substance of the decree are known only from a contemporary newspaper report that “Wednesday the 17th the Hon. Robert Auchmuty Esq. Judge of Admiralty for this province, decreed the sloop Liberty, seized the 10th of June last, to be forfeited; but the 200 barrels oil, and six barrels tar, which were on board her when seized, were cleared.” Boston Chronicle, 22 Aug. 1768, p. 331, col. 3; Boston Post-Boy, 22 Aug. 1768, p. 1, col. 3. This result is confirmed by the order of sale, dated 31 Aug. 1768, which dealt with the vessel alone. Massachusetts Gazette, 1 Sept. 1768, p. 1, col. 2. Sewall's conduct of the cause, although successful, was not vigorous enough to suit the Commissioners. They found that he had been dragging his feet because he had been informed by Samuel Venner, their secretary, that they had criticized his conduct in the matter of the Lydia to the Treasury. This episode apparently had something to do with the delay in prosecuting Hancock in personam and may even have affected the outcome of that suit. See notes 2728, 42, below. Although Sewall remained in favor, Venner was finally suspended by the Board. See Minutes of Commissioners, 8 Aug. 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:471, fols. 7–8. Other materials are in id. at fols. 1–88, 303–312, 435–436, 492–502. See also Clark, “American Board of Customs,” 45 AHR 791 note; Dickerson, “John Hancock,” 32 MVHR 517, 532–534 (1946).
21. It has been argued that the Liberty was seized and condemned solely for having loaded oil and tar without bond or permit, a technical offense against a requirement that had not previously been enforced in Boston. The loading is said to have been made the basis for the suit, because it provided ground for condemnation more readily provable than unloading before entry, and at the same time allowed the customs officers and Governor Bernard to take the proceeds of the cargo as well as of the vessel. Dickerson, Navigation Acts 237–238. See also Lovejoy, “Rights Imply Equality: The Case against Admiralty Jurisdiction in America, 1764–1776,” 16 WMQ (3d ser.) 459, 478 (1959); Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 121–122. This view was followed in 3 JA, Diary and Autobiography 306 note. The files of the Vice Admiralty Court are lost, but secondary materials support the contrary position on several grounds: (1) There is complete unanimity in the contemporary accounts of the various royal officials concerned that Kirk's deposition of 10 June as to the unloading and the opinion of the Board's solicitor thereon provided the immediate impetus for the seizure. See materials cited in notes 7, 9, above; also, Commissioners' Minutes, 8 Aug. 1768, PRO, Treas. 1:471, fols. 7, 8; Bernard to Lord Hillsborough, 11 June 1768, 6 Bernard Papers 311, MH; Hutchinson to Richard Jackson, 16 June 1768, 55 MHS, Procs. 281. The case was presented to Attorney General DeGrey for his opinion on this basis. Opinion of William DeGrey, 25 July 1768, 55 MHS, Procs. 273–276. (2) The only accounts which mention the failure to secure bond or permit indicate that this was an alternative ground for the seizure. Boston News-Letter, 16 June 1768, p. 2, col. 1; 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 137 (The latter states expressly that the vessel was seized for false entry, and the goods for lack of a permit). (3) Dickerson's argument that the use of a writ of assistance to search the Liberty shows that her present cargo, rather than her past misdeeds, was the basis for the seizure, seems to be based on a misreading of Hutchinson's account of the question raised by the fact that the seizure was at sunset. See note 8 above. No contemporary account mentions a writ of assistance. (4) If the suit had been based only on loading without bond or permit, the oil and tar would certainly have been condemned with the vessel. The release of the goods (note 20 above) indicates that there was no violation of the bond and sufferance provisions at all. See also Hutchinson to——, ca. 3 Nov. 1768, 26 Mass. Arch. 324–325. (5) In all the furor which the Town of Boston produced in print as a result of the seizure and its aftermath, there is not a single complaint that the cause of seizure was the technical, and therefore unjust, one of loading without bond or permit. Boston's position was that the employment of the Romney, already despised for the impressment activities of her captain, brought on the riot of 10 June; this was the basis of all subsequent complaints. See Instructions to Boston Representatives, 17 June 1768, 16 Boston Record Commissioners, Reports 258; “A Letter from Boston to a Gentleman in London,” 15 June 1768, American Gazette (No. 2) 97–110; An Appeal to the World, or a Vindication of the Town of Boston 14–17 (London, 1770); Letters to the Right Honorable the Earl of Hillsborough from Governor Bernard, General Gage, and the Honorable His Majesty's Council 44 (London, 1770); Observations on Several Acts of Parliament 19 note (Boston, 1769). See also Gary, Joseph Warren 75–76. (6) One contemporary account favorable to Boston states that the seizure and condemnation of the Liberty were “for a non-entry of a part of her cargo of Madeiria wines.” “A Journal of the Times,” 3 Nov. 1768, in Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 18. An early historian of the Revolution, who had access both to documents and personal accounts in Boston, states that the seizure was for a false entry. 1 Gordon, History of Independence 231.
22. On the sale, see Massachusetts Gazette, 1 Sept. 1768, p. 1, col. 2; Boston Evening-Post, 12 Sept. 1768, p. 3, col. 1. Governor Bernard received his third on 9 Nov. 1768. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 22 June 1768. The Liberty sold for £102 15s. 1/2d; the expense of fitting her out as a cutter was £813 18s. 9d. Commissioners to Treasury, 28 July 1769, quoted in Wolkins, “Liberty,” 55 MHS, Procs. 261 note 3. Full details regarding her destruction may be found in PRO, Treas. 1:471, fols. 200–225, 289–292, 371–385. See also Boston Gazette, 24 July 1769, p. 2, col. 3; Quincy, Reports (Appendix) 456–457; Wolkins, “Liberty,” 55 MHS, Procs. 261 note. Baxter is incorrect in identifying the Liberty with the Gaspee, destroyed below Providence in June 1772. Baxter, Hancock 268. See Edward Channing, A History of the United States, 3:125 (N.Y. 1912).
23. See Bernard to Hillsborough, 9 Sept. 1768, 7 Bernard Papers 26, 27, MH. The venire for the Aug. term of the Superior Court in Suffolk County includes Daniel Malcom among the Grand Jurors from Boston. SF 101222.
24. Minutes of the Commissioners, 2 Sept. 1768, 7 Bowdoin-Temple MSS 166, MHi.
25. Opinion of William DeGrey, 55 MHS, Procs. 273–276. The memorial of the Commissioners, which with its enclosures, is found in PRO, Treas. 1:465, fols. 67–121, was carried to England by Benjamin Hallowell, who presented the case personally to the Treasury. See Examination of Benjamin Hallowell, 21 July 1768, American Gazette (No. 6) 450; Dickerson, Navigation Acts 241, 261 note; Wolkins, “Liberty,” 55 MHS, Procs. 260. DeGrey's opinion could not have reached Massachusetts in time to affect the in rem proceeding, but it was undoubtedly the basis for the in personam actions. See Hillsborough to Bernard, 13 Aug. 1768, 11 Bernard Papers 285, MH.
26. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 29 Oct. 1768. See “A Journal of the Times,” 31 Oct. 1768, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 16. The other respondents were John Matchet, William Bowes, and Lewis Gray. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 29 Oct. 1768. The citation against Barnard was not served, no doubt because he had gone to sea. Id., 21 Nov. 1768. He was lost on a voyage from Madeira in June 1769. A. Oliver to F. Bernard, 3 Dec. 1769, 12 Bernard Papers 164, MH; Boston Gazette, 17 July 1769, p. 3 col. 2. On 29 Oct. Sewall also brought actions against Malcom and three others for unloading wines from the schooner Friendship in Feb., after Malcom had unsuccessfully sought a reduction in duties from the customs. In these informations £2400 was sought from each respondent and bail was set at £800. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 29 Oct. 1768; Observations on Several Acts of Parliament 19 note (Boston, 1769); Minutes of Commissioners, 10 Oct. 1768, 7 Bowdoin-Temple MSS 167, MHi; Bernard to Shelburne, 21 March 1768, 6 Bernard Papers 289–290, MH. These suits were dismissed with Hancock's on 25 March 1769. See note 40 below. The Friendship was seized on 31 Oct. and adjudged forfeit in March. Trail v. The Friendship,Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 18 Nov. 1768; Massachusetts Gazette, 24 Nov. 1768, p. 2, col. 1.
27. So General Gage suggested. Gage to Hillsborough, 5 March 1769, quoted in Dickerson, Navigation Acts 262 note. The delay may also be related to the Sewall-Venner affair, note 20 above. Sewall had refused to reveal Venner's name to the Commissioners. Apparently with Sewall's tacit consent, Hutchinson told the Commissioners that Venner was the informant in a letter dated 29 Oct. 1768. PRO, Treas. 1:471, fol. 43; see Hutchinson to Commissioners, 3 Jan. 1769, id. at fol. 81. The delays both in the suits and in revealing Venner may have been occasioned by Sewall's reluctance to proceed until he had some kind of assurance of the Commissioners' support.
28. See 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §§37, 41, 42 (1764), quoted, text at notes 582, 1693, 1996, below. In England the Attorney General would proceed for penalties owed the Crown, but where forfeitures were divided between informer and Crown, the usual form was the qui tam action brought by the informer for himself and other parties. See 3 Blackstone, Commentaries *160, 261–262; 4 id. at *303–304. The form of the information shows that Sewall was proceeding in the latter capacity. See note 380 below. It has been suggested that retainers of £72 each paid to Sewall and Fitch in Oct. and Feb. for “sundry causes” disguise a single large fee necessary to get them to take on Hancock's case. Dickerson, Navigation Acts 263 note. The suggestion is refuted by the fact that on the docket of the Vice Admiralty Court at this period were seven forfeiture actions pending, as well as three penal suits. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., Oct. 1768—Feb. 1769. See, for example, No. 47, No. 48, No. 49. See also note 26 above.
29. The information and order are set out in text at notes 2–579–82 below.
30. “A Journal of the Times,” 3 Nov. 1768, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 18. The account of the trial which follows is largely based on this source. Political bias casts doubt on the “Journal's” treatment of events, but its dating is probably accurate and is corroborated by what little other information there is.
31. “A Journal of the Times,” 7 Nov. 1768, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 19.
32. 3 JA, Diary and Autobiography306. The sheer length of the proceeding was a source of contemporary complaint also. See note 35 below; JA's Instructions to the Boston Representatives, 14 May 1769, 3 JA Works 509. In his Autobiography JA wrongly dated the suit as beginning in 1773 and being “suspended at last only by the Battle of Lexington.” 3 JA, Diary and Autobiography305–306. He also stated that the action against Hancock was “upon a great Number of Libells for Penalties, upon Acts of Parliament, amounting to Ninety or an hundred thousand Pounds Sterling.” Id. at 306. Either JA here added a zero to the sum involved, or else he meant that Hancock had undertaken to make good any liability imposed upon the other respondents. Hancock's account with JA, beginning in March 1769 and receipted 21 Dec. 1771, contains the following statement in JA's hand, but lined out, which probably refers to his fees in this case: “The Affair in the Admiralty is omitted for the Present, Mr. Price [Deputy Register of the Vice Admiralty Court] has promised to give me the Particulars Tomorrow. I had much rather leave that to Mr. Hancocks Pleasure, but if he chooses to have me make an Account of it I will do it tomorrow.”
33. “A Journal of the Times,” 28 Nov., 5 Dec., 14 Dec., 1768, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 28–34.
34. “A Journal of the Times,” 14 Dec. 1768, 2 Jan. 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 34, 43. Further interrogatories were filed on 7 Jan. Id. at 46.
35. See the entries in “A Journal of the Times” for 5 Jan., 7 Jan., 23 Jan., 28 Jan., 30 Jan., 11 Feb. 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 44–64. Critical comments on the practice of the Admiralty Court are appended to these entries. See id. at 43 (number of witnesses); id. at 46 (Star Chamber method of interrogation and exercise of jurisdiction on land); id. at 54 (examination in chambers); id. at 56 (powers and perquisites of the judge); id. at 57 (length of trial); id. at 64 (length of trial). JA may have supplied some or all of these comments. See note 74 below.
36. “A Journal of the Times,” 17, 18, 23 Feb. 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 66–67.
37. “A Journal of the Times,” 24 Feb. 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 68, quoted, note 49126 below. The “Journal” here paraphrased a portion of JA's argument. See note 74 below.
38. “A Court of Admiralty relative to Mr. Hancock's libels, sat yesterday.—It is said the judge has given his decree upon the question mentioned in our last Journal [i.e. 24 Feb., note 37 above].” “A Journal of the Times,” 2 March 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 72. See JA's copy of the decree and comments on it, text at notes 50–57127–134 below.
39. “A Journal of the Times,” 27 March, 22 April 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 84, 92. No copy of the indictment or record of trial has been found in the Suffolk Files.
40. “The Advocate General prays leave to retract this information and says Our Sovereign Lord the King will prosecute no further hereon. Allowed.” Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 25 March 1769.
41. “A Journal of the Times,” 26 March 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 83. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 25 March 1769.
42. Lovejoy, “Rights Imply Equality,” 16 WMQ (3d ser.) 459, 481–482. See also Dickerson, Navigation Acts 245–246. These authorities also suggest that the impending recall of Bernard and the Treasury's disapproval of the activities of the Customs Commissioners led to the withdrawal. The evidence on this point is at present inadequate. The new judges were created pursuant to a statute providing for superior Admiralty courts of both original and appellate jurisdiction to sit in the colonies. 8 Geo. 3, c. 22 (1767). The salaries were fixed at £600 to be paid out of the King's share of fines and forfeitures, or from the sale of old naval stores in England if the former was insufficient. Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 133.
43. “A Journal of the Times,” 20 Jan. 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 53. News of the commissions was received in Boston on 29 Nov. 1768. Id. at 28.
44. One contemporary historian found lack of evidence to be the reason. 1 Gordon, History of Independence 240–241.
45. See notes 30–41 above.
46. See Barrow, Colonial Customs 487–511; Clark, “American Board of Customs,” 45 AHR 787–790.
47. See note 1693 below; text at note 74 below.
48. See Wroth, “The Massachusetts Vice Admiralty Court and the Federal Admiralty Jurisdiction,” 6 Am. Jour. Legal Hist. 250, 360–364, 367 (1962); p. 102–104, notes 17, 22, 24, above.
49. The Declaration spoke out against judges independent of colonial legislatures, as well as against trial without jury. For a summary of the much more detailed attacks between 1769 and 1774, see Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 142–147, 189–190.
50. Dickerson, Navigation Acts 231–246; see also Lovejoy, “Rights Imply Equality,” 16 WMQ (3d ser.) 459, 478–482.
51. See note 21 above.
53. Opinion of William DeGrey, 25 July 1768, 55 MHS, Procs. 273–276. As to the problem of weighing evidence, see Gilbert, Evidence 150, 157–158.
54. The location of the burden of proof depends on the statute, 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §45 (1764), providing that “if any ship or goods shall be seized for any cause of forfeiture, and any dispute shall arise whether the customs and duties for such goods have been paid, or the same have been lawfully imported or exported, or concerning the growth, product, or manufacture of such goods, or the place from whence such goods were brought, then and in such cases, the proof thereof shall lie upon the owner or claimer of such ship or goods.” Assuming that goods landed before entry were not “lawfully imported” within this statute, Hancock bore the burden. He thus could have failed either because his evidence was insufficient on its face, or because Kirk's testimony outweighed it.
55. JA in his argument, text following note 986 below, conceded that the wines were smuggled, although this may have been a recognition either of the principle of res judicata, or of the practical futility of rearguing this point before the same court. See also the language of his Autobiography, admittedly many years later, that “a great Uproar was raised in Boston, on Account of the Unlading in the Night of a Cargo of Wines from the Sloop Liberty from Madeira, belonging to Mr. Hancock, without paying the Customs.” 3 JA, Diary and Autobiography305–306. See also Gordon, 1 History of Independence 231, 240–241. Some of the colonial writings which might have raised an objection, but did not, are cited in note 21 above.
56. This system had been incorporated in all of the Acts of Trade from the beginning. See, for example, 12 Car. 2, c. 18, §§1, 3 (1660); 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §42 (1764). See also Hoon, English Customs 275–276, 285–289. In England it had been standard practice in a variety of situations since the 15th century. See 9 Holdsworth, History of English Law 240. One of the earliest of such statutes provided that a customs officer who embezzled duties should be liable for treble the value of the goods, with a third to the informer who sued. 3 Hen. 6, c. 3 (1424). The process was commonly followed in Massachusetts penal acts. See, for example, Act of 26 Feb. 1768, 4 A&R 983 (All penalties and forfeitures for breach of Province customs laws to be paid one-half to Province and one-half to informer).
57. See note 21 above.
58. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §37 (1764), text at note 582 below. See Barrow, Colonial Customs 323, 473–474. For use of penalties in England, see Hoon, English Customs 288–289.
59. See 2 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown, c. 26, §75. It should be noted that the sum sued for was required to be in sterling by 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §41 (1764).
60. 3 Blackstone, Commentaries *289–291, Appendix III, §5; 1 Bacon, Abridgment 209–210; 12 Geo. 1, c. 29 (1725); Francis Clerke, Praxis Curiae Admiralitatis Angliae, tit. 4 (London, 3d edn., Latin and English, 1722). (The Harvard Law School's copy of this work bears the following notation on its title page in the hand of Simon Greenleaf: “This book belonged to the late Prest. John Adams, whose autograph was stolen as above appears, after I gave it to the Law Library. S.G.” The page is cut at the top.) The Massachusetts practice has not been determined, but in the absence of statute the English procedure was presumably followed. For the English rule on bail in suits on penal statutes, see Presgrave v. ——, 1 Comyns 75, 92 Eng. Rep. 966 (K.B. 1700); St. George's Case, Yelv. 53, 80 Eng. Rep. 38 (K.B. 1604); Gilbert, Common Pleas 37. The statute embodying this rule was specifically limited to cases arising in the common-law courts at Westminster, however. 29 Eliz. 1, c. 5, §21 (1587). Even if the case law could be deemed applicable in the colonies, it would not bind the Court of Admiralty. See a proceeding under the White Pine Acts in New York in which the “Defendent” was held to bail. Wentworth v. Dean, Hough, Reports 227, 228 (N.Y. Vice Adm. 1769). The complaint about bail was thus in effect only another complaint about the latter jurisdiction. See “A Journal of the Times,” 2 March 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 72; see notes 63, 64, below.
61. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §§41–42 (1764). See Anthony Stokes, A View of the Constitution of the British Colonies in North America 360–361 (London, 1783); Barrow, Colonial Customs 322–323.
62. In England such proceedings were by information, although at common law. 4 Blackstone, Commentaries *303; Hoon, English Customs 279–280. In his opinion in the case of the Lydia, note 3 above, however, Sewall had expressed a great reluctance to proceed by information in the Superior Court, noting that this method had “seldom been used [in Massachusetts] without the consent of the Judges, except in cases where the offense has been clearly against Law and the public Good has evidently required it.” 4 WMQ (3d ser.) 504. The implication is clear that if the Commissioners had wished to proceed at common law in the Liberty case, they would have had to obtain an indictment.
63. For the English Admiralty practice, see Arthur Browne, A Compendious View of the Civil Law, 2:396–443 (London, 2d edn., 1802).
64. One basic issue was the power of Parliament to pass such legislation without colonial representation. See JA's Argument, text following note 1289 below. The colonial position, which had at first been that there should be no taxation without representation, gradually broadened after 1765 into a denial of all parliamentary power over the colonies; moreover, the remedy sought became not representation in Parliament, but colonial home rule. Needless to say, the orthodox English view was opposed to the colonial stand. Miller, Origins of the American Revolution 225–231. Equally critical was the question of the power of Parliament, however constituted, to interfere with what the colonists claimed as fundamental rights. In his argument for Hancock, JA urged that trial in Admiralty was an interference with the right of trial by jury, and others argued, if he did not, that such statutes were void. See text at notes 15–2792–104 below. The English position was that Parliament could not be controlled in this regard. No. 44, notes 32–34. There was a further problem in the effect of the statutes, 13 Ric. 2, c. 5 (1389), and 15 Ric. 2, c. 3 (1391), limiting the Admiralty jurisdiction to matters not arising “within the bodies of the counties,” which had been relied upon at common law in both England and the colonies to restrict the Admiralty courts in ordinary civil matters to things “done upon the sea.” The common-law courts used the writ of prohibition to halt Admiralty proceedings that exceeded these statutory limits. See 1 Holdsworth, History of English Law 552–559. In Massachusetts the Superior Court seems to have interfered in customs suits only when the Vice Admiralty Court acted beyond the jurisdiction given it by the Acts of Trade, indicating an understanding that the latter legislation abrogated the statutes of Richard II pro tanto. See Wroth, “The Massachusetts Vice Admiralty Court,” in George A. Billias, ed., Law and Authority in Colonial America: Selected Essays (Barre, Mass., in press). Perhaps for this reason, JA did not touch upon the issue in Hancock's case. It was raised by others in Massachusetts and elsewhere, however, implying that the ancient acts had attained the stature of fundamental law. See, for example, “A Journal of the Times,” 7 Jan. 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 46; Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 188–190; Henry Laurens, Extracts From The Proceedings Of The Court Of Vice-Admiralty In Charles-Town, South Carolina 18–19 ([Phila.], 1768), discussed further, note 73 below.
65. See No. 51, notes 8–1316–21, text at notes 33–35.
66. See Bonham's Case, 8 Co. Rep. 114, 118a, 77 Eng. Rep. 647, 652 (C.P. 1610); No. 44, notes 35–38.
67. See No. 44, note 44.
68. In making what was really a political appearance before the Governor and Council to argue for the opening of the courts during the Stamp Act crisis of 1765, Adams urged the invalidity of the Act in the strongest terms. Quincy, Reports 200–202; 2 JA, Works 158–159 note. See No. 44, note 48. See also 1 JA, Diary and Autobiography263–267.
69. See text at notes 36–44 above.
70. See, for example, text at notes 1289, 1491, 28105, below.
71. See text at note 49126 below.
72. “Journal of the Times,” 7 Jan., 26 March 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 46–47, 83–84.
73. Laurens' pamphlet, Extracts From The Proceedings Of The Court Of Vice-Admiralty In Charles-Town, South-Carolina, was first published in Philadelphia late in 1768. A portion of it entitled “General Observations on American Custom House Officers and Courts of Vice Admiralty” appeared in the Boston Gazette for 9 Jan. 1769, p. 2, cols. 1–3. An expanded version of the pamphlet, Extracts from the Proceedings of the High Court of Vice Admiralty upon Six Several Informations, published in Charleston, in Feb. 1769, may also have been available to JA. See T. R. Adams, “American Independence”, Nos. 57a–c; “A Journal of the Times,” 7 Jan. 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 46–47; Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 109–112.
74. See text at note 47 above; text and note 1693, ||text and note||49126, below. Horace Gray suggested that these passages show JA's hand in the “Journal.” Quincy, Reports (Appendix) 457. JA's comment in June 1771 that he had “not wrote one Line in a Newspaper these two Years” (2 JA, Diary and Autobiography39), has been taken to mean that he probably did not participate in the “Journal.” Arthur M. Schlesinger, Prelude to Independence 312 (N.Y., 1958). JA's statement would not have excluded his supplying both the impeachment materials and other commentary on the trial (note 35 above) to the “Journal,” however, since these accounts were published no later than May 1769. Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 82.
75. Laurens' pamphlet (note 73 above) consisted chiefly of papers from the files of the court in the seizure of his ship Ann, with comments. Compare JA's text at notes 2–579–82, 50–57127–134, below. For political similarities, compare JA's argument with Laurens' “General Observations.” JA did contemplate a report of this nature based on his notes in Rex v. Corbet, also in his Admiralty Book. See No. 56, note 24.
76. The Earl of Clarendon to William Pym, Boston Gazette, Supp., 13 Jan. 1766, in 3 JA, Works 470–472. See also 1 JA, Diary and Autobiography273–275. Compare text at notes 20–2597–102 below.
77. Compare note 55132 below. The political significance of JA's argument is discussed in Lovejoy, “Rights Imply Equality,” 16 WMQ (3d ser.) 459, 478–484 (1959).

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0004-0002

Author: Adams, John
Author: Sewall, Jonathan
Author: Auchmuty, Robert Jr.
DateRange: 1768-10 - 1769-03

Adams' Copy of the Information and Draft of His Argument1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, October 1768–March 1769
Jonathan Sewal vs. John Hancock
Prov. &c.2 Before the Honorable Robert Auchmuty Esqr.
Be it remembered, that on the 29 day of October in the Ninth Year of the Reign of his Majesty George the Third, Jonathan Sewall Esqr. Advocate General for the said Lord the King, in his proper Person comes and as well on behalf of the said Lord the King, as of the Governor of this Province,3 gives the said Court to understand and be informed, that on the ninth day of May last, a certain Sloop called the Liberty, arrived at the Port of Boston in said Province, from the Islands of Madeira, having on Board, one hundred and twenty seven Pipes of Wine of the Growth of the Madeira's; of which said Sloop, one Nathaniel Barnard was then Master, and that in the Night Time of the same day the said Nathaniel Barnard with Intent to defraud the said Lord the King of his lawfull Customs, did unlawfully and clandestinely unship and land on shore in Boston aforesaid one hundred of the aforesaid Pipes of Wine4 of the Value of Thirty Pounds Sterling Money of Great Britain, each Pipe, the Duties thereon not having been first paid, or secured to be paid, agreable to Law. And that John Hancock of Boston aforesaid Esqr. was then and there willfully and unlawfully aiding and assisting in unshipping and landing the same one hundred Pipes of Wine, he the said John Hancock, at the same Time well knowing, that the Duties thereon were not paid or secured and that the unshipping and landing the same, as aforesaid, was with Intent to defraud the said Lord the King as aforesaid, and contrary to { 195 } Law; against the Peace of the said Lord the King and the Form of the Statute in such Case made and provided, whereby and by Force of the same Statute, the said John has forfeited Treble the value of the said Goods, so unshipped and landed as aforesaid, amounting in the whole to the Sum of Nine Thousand Pounds Sterling Money of Great Britain, to be divided, paid and applied in manner following, that is to say, after deducting the Charges of Prosecution, one Third Part thereof to be paid into the Hands of the Collector of his Majesty's Customs for the said Port of Boston, for the Use of his Majesty, his Heirs and Successors, one Third Part to the Governor of said Province, and the other Third Part to him that informs for the same.
Whereupon as this is a matter properly within the Jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said Advocate General prays the Advisement of the said Court in the Premisses, and that the said John Hancock may be attached and held to answer to this Information, and may by a Decree of this honourable Court be adjudged to pay the aforesaid Sum of Nine Thousand Pounds to be applied to the uses aforesaid.
[signed] Jon. Sewall Advocate for the King
Octr. 29, 1768. Filed and allowed and ordered that the Register of this Court or his Deputy issue out a Warrant for the Marshall of this Court or his Deputy to arrest the Body of the said John Hancock and him keep in safe Custody so that he have him at a Court of Vice Admiralty to be holden at Boston on the Seventh day of November next at Nine of Clock before noon and that he take Bail for Three Thousand Pounds Sterling money of G. Britain.
[signed] Robert Auchmuty Judge &c.
Upon what Statute is this Libel founded? Is it on 4 G. 3, C. 15, §37.5 Be it enacted, &c. “if any Goods or Merchandizes whatsoever, liable to the Payment of Duties in any British Colony or Plantation in America, by this or any other Act of Parliament shall be loaden on Board any Ship or Vessel outward bound, or shall be unshipped or landed from any ship or Vessell inward bound, before the respective Duties due thereon are paid, agreable to Law; or if any prohibited Goods whatsoever shall be imported into, or exported out of, any of the said Colonies or Plantations contrary to the true Intent and meaning of this or any other Act of Parliament; every Person who shall be assisting, or otherwise concerned, Either in the Loading outwards, or in the Unshipping or landing Inwards, such Goods, or to whose Hands the same shall knowingly come after the Loading or unshipping there• { 196 } of, shall for each and every offence forfeit treble the Value of such Goods, to be estimated and computed according to the best Price that each respective Commodity bears at the Place where such offence was committed; and all the Boats, Horses, Cattle, and other Carriages whatsoever, made Use of, in the Loading, Landing, removing, Carriage or Conveyance of any of the aforesaid Goods, shall also be forfeited and lost, and [shall and] may be seized and prosecuted, by any officer of his Majestys Customs, as hereinafter mentioned.”6
There is a Clause similar, in most respects to this in 8. Ann, C. 7, §17.7 “And for preventing the Frauds, which may be practised in unshipping to be landed any Pepper, Raisins, Mace, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmegs, Snuff, or any other Sort of Goods whatsoever, subject to the Payment of Duties without paying the same as also to hinder the Importation of any Sort of prohibited Goods into Great Britain, Be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, that if any Pepper, Raisins, Mace, Cinnamon, Cloves, Nutmegs, Snuff, or any other Sort of Goods whatsoever, liable to the Payment of Duties, shall be unshipped, with Intention to be laid on Land (customs and other Duties, not being first paid or secured) or if any prohibited Goods whatsoever, shall be imported into any Part of Great Britain, then not only the said uncustomed and prohibited Goods, shall be forfeited and lost, but also the Persons who shall be assisting, or otherwise concerned in the unshipping the said prohibited and uncustomed Goods, or to whose Hands the same shall knowingly come, after the unshipping thereof, shall forfeit Treble the value thereof, together with the Vessells and Boats, and all the Horses, and other Cattle and Carriages whatsoever, made use of in the Landing, removing, Carriage, or Conveyance of any of the aforesaid Goods,” &c.8
Madeira Wines are Goods and Merchandises, liable to the Payment of Duties in this British Colony or Plantation.9 Admitting it { 197 } proved that a Quantity of such Wines were unshipped and landed, from the sloop Liberty inward bound, before the Duties due upon it, were paid, agreable to Law. What shall be the Construction of the Words “assisting or otherwise concerned,” in the Unshipping or Landing inwards. The Labourers, the Porters, and Sailors, who manage the Tacles and with their own Hands, hoist out the Pipes, are no doubt, concerned, and the Master who oversees and gives orders, is no doubt assisting. But is the owner Either concerned or assisting in it, if he does not know of it. He may be asleep in his Bed, and not so much as know or dream that any Body is unshipping and landing his Wines. Is he then concerned or assisting? Can it be proved that Captain Barnard was concerned? Can it be proved that Captn. Marshall was? What then? Can it be proved that Captn. Marshall asked Leave of Mr. Hancock? Can it be proved that Mr. Hancock knew of this Frolick? If he neither consented to it, nor knew of it, how can he be lyable to the Penalty?10
I must beg the Indulgence of the Court, while I consider the Character of this Act of Parliament. There is a great Variety in the Characters of Laws as well as Men. A benign and beneficial Law is to receive a liberal and benign Construction. A rigorous and severe Law is to receive a strict and severe Construction. And the more penal it is the more severe must the Construction of it be, and the more tenderly must it be carried into Execution. It will not be impertinent therefore to shew in some Detail the Circumstances, that render this Law the most rigid and severe, or in other Words the most poenal of almost any Law in the whole British Pandect.
The Degree of severity in any Poenal Law is to be determined only { 198 } by the Proportion between the Crime and the Punishment. Treason is justly punished with death because it is an attempt to overthrow the whole Frame of the Government, and the Government can never be overturned without the slaughter of many Hundreds of Lives and the Ruin of many Thousands of Fortunes. If a Man will murder his Fellow subject it seems but equall that he should loose his own Life. But in this Case what is the Crime? Landing a few Casks of Wine. Admitting the Crown to have the clearest Right to the Duties it is but unjustly taking away a small sum of Money from the Crown, and one would think that the forfeiture of £100 would be an equal Punishment for withholding £100 in Duties.11 But surely the Forfeiture of an whole Cargo of Wines worth Ten Thousand Pounds, for withholding one hundred Pounds in Duties would be a great Disproportion between the Crime and Punishment. To carry it one step further, and subject the ship, as well as Cargo to Confiscation, but above all to subject the Master to £1000,12 and every Person concerned to a forfeiture of threble value, is such a stretch of security as renders this Act more Penal, than any Statute vs. Rape, Robbery, Murder or Treason.
But among the Groupe of Hardships which attend this Statute, the first that ought always to be mentioned, and that ought never to be forgotten is
1. That it was made without our Consent. My Clyent Mr. Hancock never consented to it. He never voted for it himself, and he never voted for any Man to make such a Law for him. In this Respect therefore the greatest Consolation of an Englishman, suffering under any Law, is torn from him, I mean the Reflection, that it is a Law of his own Making, a Law that he sees the Necessity of for the Public. Indeed the Consent of the subject to all Laws, is so clearly necessary that no Man has yet been found hardy enough to deny it. And The Patrons of these Acts allow that Consent is necessary, they only contend for a Consent by Construction, by Interpretation, a virtual Consent.13 But this is { 199 } only deluding Men with Shadows instead of Substances. Construction has made Treasons where the Law has made none. Constructions, in short and arbitrary Distinctions, made in short only for so many by Words,14 so many Cries to deceive a Mob have always been the Instruments of arbitrary Power, the means of lulling and ensnaring Men into their own Servitude. For whenever we leave Principles and clear positive Laws, and wander after Constructions, one Construction or Consequence is piled up upon another untill we get at an immense distance from Fact and Truth and Nature, lost in the wild Regions of Imagination and Possibility, where arbitrary Power sitts upon her brazen Throne and governs with an iron Scepter. It is an Hardship therefore, scarcely to be endured that such a poenal Statute should be made to govern a Man and his Property, without his actual Consent and only upon such a wild Chimaera as a virtual and constructive Consent.
But there are greater Proofs of the Severity of this statute, yet behind.
2. The Legislative Authority by which it was made is not only grievous, but the Executive Courts15 by which it is to be carried into Effect is another. In the 41st section of this Act 4 G. 3, c. 15.16 we find that “All the Forfeitures and Penalties inflicted by this or any other Act [or Acts] of Parliament, relating to the Trade and Revenues of the said British Colonies or Plantations in America, which shall be incurred there, shall and may be prosecuted, sued for, and recovered, in any Court of Record,17 or in any Court of Admiralty, in the said Colonies or Plantations where such offence shall be committed, or in any Court of Vice Admiralty, which may or shall be appointed over all America, (which Court of Admiralty or Vice Admiralty, are hereby respectively authorized and required to proceed, hear, and determine { 200 } the same), at the Election of the Informer or Prosecutor.” Thus, these extraordinary Penalties and Forfeitures, are to be heard and try'd,—how? Not by a Jury, not by the Law of the Land, [but] by the civil Law and a Single Judge. Unlike the ancient Barons who unâ Voce responderunt, Nolumus Leges Angliae mutari,18 The Barons of modern Times have answered that they are willing, that the Laws of England should be changed, at least with Regard to all America, in the most tender Point, the most fundamental Principle. And this Hardship is the more severe as we see in the same Page of the Statute and the very preceeding section §40, “That all Penalties and Forfeitures, herein before mentioned, which shall be incurred in Great Britain, shall [and may] be prosecuted, sued for and recovered in any of his Majestys Courts of Record in Westminster or in the Court of Exchequer in Scotland respectively.”19
Here is the Contrast that stares us in the Face! The Parliament in one Clause guarding the People of the Realm, and securing to them the Benefit of a Tryal by the Law of the Land, and by the next Clause, depriving all Americans of that Priviledge. What shall we say to this Distinction? Is there not in this Clause, a Brand of Infamy, of Degradation, and Disgrace, fixed upon every American? Is he not degraded below the Rank of an Englishman? Is it not directly, a Repeal of Magna Charta, as far as America is concerned. It is not att all surprising that the Tryals of Forfeiture and Penalties are confined to the Courts of Record at Westminster, in England. The Wonder only is that they are not confined to Courts of common Law here.
The People of England are attached to Magna Charta.20 By the 29th Chapter of that Statute, “Nullus liber Homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, aut disseisietur de libero tenemento [suo], vel libertatibus, vel liberis Consuetudinibus [suis], aut utlagetur, aut exuletur, aut aliquo modo destruatur, nec super eum ibimus nec super eum mittemus, nisi per { 201 } legale Indicium Parium Suorum vel per Legem Terrae.”21 This 29, Chap, of Magna Charta, has for many Centuries been esteemed by Englishmen, as one of the noblest Monuments, one of the firmest Bulwarks of their Liberties—and We know very well the Feelings and Reflections of Englishmen whenever this Chapter has been infringed upon even in Parliament. One Proof of them has been given us by Lord Coke, in his Exposition of this Chapter.22 2. Inst. 51. “Against this ancient and fundamental Law, and in the Face thereof I find an Act of Parliament made, that as well Justices of Assize as Justices of Peace without any finding or presentment of 12 Men, upon a bare Information for the King before them made, should have full Power and Authority by their Discretions,” &c.23
Lord Coke after mentioning the Repeal of this Statute and the Fate of Empson and Dudley, concludes with a Reflection, which if properly attended to might be sufficient even to make a Parliament tremble.24 “The ill success of this Statute and the fearfull End of these 2 oppressors, should deter others from committing the like, and should admonish Parliaments, that instead of this ordinary and precious Tryal Per Legem Terrae, they bring not in absolute and partial Tryals by Discretion.”25
{ 202 }
These are the Reflections of an Englishman, upon a Statute which gave to Justices of Assize, and Peace, the Tryal of Penalties and Forfeitures, which by the 29. C[hapter] of Magna Charta ought to be tryed by Jury. The Statute 4 G. 3. takes from Mr. Hancock this precious Tryal Per Legem Terrae, and gives it to a single Judge.26 However respectable the Judge may be, it is however an Hardship and severity, which distinguishes my Clyent from the rest of Englishmen, and renders this Statute, extremely poenal.27
I have mentioned this Particular, not merely to shew the Hardship { 203 } of this Statute and Prosecution, and that my Client is therefore in a favourable Case,28 but for another Purpose, vizt. to shew the Nature of the Evidence, that is required in this Case. We are here to be tryed by a Court of civil not of common Law, we are therefore to be tryed by the Rules of Evidence that we find in the civil Law, not by those that We find in the common Law. We are to be tryed, both Fact and Law is to be tryed by a single Judge, not by a Jury. We therefore claim it as a Right, that Witnesses not Presumptions nor Circumstances are to be the Evidence.
We are to enquire what is the Evidence required by the civil Law, <in Criminal Cases> in order to convict a Person of a Crime and to Subject him to a Penalty. New Inst. civil Law. Page 316.29 2. “The Number of Witnesses ought to be two at the least to make a full Proof, and these must be free from all Exceptions, Either as to their Persons or their Depositions. For the Testimony of a single Witness is of no Validity, tho the Person is of a great Character,” &c.30 “For one Witness may mistake or lie, and be corrupted, and yet be consistent with himself, and so remain undiscovered; whereas two or three Witnesses may more easily be found in a Conspiracy by a prudent Judge if they are separately examined; and tho many Criminals would escape and many might loose their Right for Want of two Witnesses, yet it would be a lesser Evil than to trust so much Power to the Mistakes or Malice of one Person.”
Dig. Lib. 22. Tit. 5. §12. De numero Testium. “Ubi numerus testium non adjicitur, etiam duo sufficient. Pluralis enim elocutio duorum numero contenta est.”31
Codicis Lib. 4. Tit. 20. §9, §1. “Simili modo sanximus, ut unius testimonium nemo Iudicum, in quacunque causa facile patiatur ad• { 204 } mitti. Et nunc manifeste sanximus, ut unius omnino testis responsio non audiatur, etiamsi praeclarae Curiae honore prefulgeat.”32 Vide Note 32. “Unus testis, nullus testis. Unius Testimonium non admittitur. Vox Unius, Vox nullius est.”33 In this Respect the civil Law conforms to the divine Law. Deut. 19. 15. “One Witness shall not rise up against a Man for any Iniquity, or for any Sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the Mouth of two Witnesses, or 3, shall the matter be established.”34
But in Hancock's Case, if there were 2 or ten such Witnesses as Mezle,35 they would not amount to Proof sufficient for Condemnation. Because there are against him, the strongest legal Exceptions, 1. His Condition. New Inst. civ. Law. 315. “Indigent Persons and Beggars ought to be suspected, because they are easily corrupted.”36 Dig. 22. 5. 3. “Testium Fides diligenter examinanda est: Ideoque in Persona eorum exploranda, erunt in primis, Conditio, cujusque; utrum quis decurio an Plebeius sit; et an honestae et inculpatae vitae, an vero notatus quis, et reprehensibilis. An locuples vel egens sit ut lucri causa quid facile admittat: vel an inimicus ei sit, adversus quem testimonium fert; vel amicus ei sit, pro quo testimonium dat:” &c.37 Vide Note 22. “In Testibus hac sunt inquiranda, Conditio, Vita, Facultates, Inimicitiae, vel amicitiae, suspicio denique &c.”38
Calv. Lex. Testes.“Callistratus, testium Fidem, Conditionem, Vitam anteactum, Fortunam, Aestimationem, atque dignitatem diligenter exquirendam esse praecipit.”39
{ 205 }
Fortescue De Laudibus Legum. C. 31. page 38. “It will not always happen that they [i.e. perjured witnesses] are or can be known by the Party, Defendant in the Cause, in order to call in Question their Life and Conversation, that as Persons of a profligate Character, they might be cross examined; upon which account their Evidence might be set aside.”40
The general Character of this Witness cant be known. We can have no Citation to the Mountains of Switzerland, or the Fens of Holland or the Plains of Cape Francois,41 for Witnesses to his general Character for Truth. We ought to know therefore all that can be known of his History from his own Mouth. Life and Conversation, Fides, Vitam anteactam, inculpatae et honestae Vitae are Expressions, that denote more than a general Character for Truth or falshood.
The civil Law seems to lean to the side of Mercy, as much as the common Law. Wood Inst. 310. “In Criminal Cases the Proofs ought to be as clear as the Sun at Noon day:”42
Domat. V. 1. Page 13. Preliminary Book. Tit. 1. Sect. 2. N. 15.43 “The Laws which restrain our natural Liberty, such as those that forbid any Thing that is not in itself unlawfull or which derogate in any other manner from the general Law, the Laws which inflict Punishments for Crimes and offences, or Penalties in civil matters; those which prescribe certain Formalities; the Laws which appear to have any Hardship in them” &c.44 “are to be interpreted in such a manner, as not to be applied beyond what is clearly expressed in the Law,” &c.45 “We ought to give to such Laws all the Temperament of Equity and Humanity, that they are capable of.” Notae: “Interpretatione Legum Poenae molliendae sunt, potius quam asperendae. In Poenalibus Causis benignius interpretandum est. In levioribus Causis proniores at Lenitatem Judices esse debent, in gravioribus Poenis, Severitatem Legum, cum aliquo temperamento benignitatio subsequi.”46
{ 206 }
Codicis. Lib. 4. Tit. 19. §.25. De Judiciis criminalibus. “Sciant cuncti accusatores eam se rem deferre in publicam notionem debere quae munita sit idoneis Testibus, vel instructa apertissimis documentis vel indiciis ad probationem indubitatis et luce clarioribus expedita.”47 Vide Notes also.48
But disregarding order, for the present let me record the Controversy We had last Week, Concerning the Rules of Law which were to govern this Case.49 The Court of Admiralty is originally a Civil Law Court. Jurisdiction of a Crime, is given to it in this Case by Act of Parliament. The Question is whether it is to proceed by the civil Law? If it is, We have a Right to examine the Witnesses whole past Life, and his Character at large. A Son cannot be examined against the Father nor the Father against the Son, and other Relations are disqualified to be Witnesses. All Persons under Twenty are disqualified, under 20 years of age I mean, from being Witnesses. Servants and dependants { 207 } are not to be Witnesses. Nay. Mr. Fitch says we must adopt the Method of Torture, among the rest.
On the Contrary I argue, that if We are to be governed by the Rules of the common Law We ought to adopt it as a whole and summon a Jury and be tryed by Magna Charta. Every Examination of Witnesses ought to be in open Court, in Presence of the Parties, Face to Face. And there ought to be regular Adjournments from one Time to another.
What other Hypothesis shall we assume? Shall We say that We are to be governed by some Rules of the common Law and some Rules of the civil Law, that the Judge at his Discretion shall choose out of each system such Rules as please him, and discard the rest. If so Misera Servitus est. Examinations of witnesses upon Interrogatories, are only by the Civil Law. Interrogatories are unknown at common Law, and Englishmen and common Lawyers have an aversion to them if not an Abhorrence of them. Shall We suffer under the odious Rules of the civil Law, and receive no advantage from the beneficial Rules of it? This, instead of favouring the Accused, would be favouring the Accuser, which is against the Maxims of both Laws.
Interlocutory Decree50
Advocate General vs. John Hancock, Esqr.
The Substance of the Point before the Court, is, whether a Witness shall be examined to charge another Witness in the Cause with a particular infamous Crime.
It is urged by the Advocates offering the first mentioned Witness, first, that this is a civil Law Court, and secondly, by that Law such Evidence is admissible. To the last Point several authorities were cited, but the principal one from the Digest 22. 5. 2. 3.51
{ 208 }
To which it was answered by the Advocates on the other side that this is not a civil Law Court in such Cases as the present. And that the Authorities produced were not to be understood in the Sense contended for by the Respondents Advocates. In support of the last, the Notes under the aforesaid 3 Law in the Digest were read and relyed on.52 It was also urged, that admitting the civil Law to be as contended for, the argument would prove too much, because it would exclude relations in certain Degrees, intimate Friends, Persons under the age of Fourteen &c. from testifying.
I take the Sense of the Authority first mentioned, to be no more than a general description of what are good objections against persons being admitted to their Oaths as Witnesses without describing the mode whereby such disqualifications are to be ascertained. If said Authority is not so construed, it certainly clashes with the notes, which clearly relate not to the Admission of Witnesses, but the Credit or Refutation of their Evidence. The reason why proof by record ought to be exhibited against a Witness, when charged with a Crime, appears clear from the Question put in the Note, under D. 22. Tit. 3. “Quis enim, si sufficiat accusasse, innocens fiet?”53 Such a reading reconciles the Text and comment in the Digest to each other, and the former to Reason. I am therefore of opinion the motion is not well supported, even by the Rules of the civil Law. In addition to which, when I consider the process now in question, is founded on an Act of parliament, originally intended to be guided by the Rules of the common Law,54 that the Practice of the Court has ever been to hear and determine similar cases, according to those rules, the manifest and great inconveniences which must accrue, by the Admission of such { 209 } evidence, I am clearly of opinion, the Question put is improper, and therefore Decree the same to be withdrawn.55
[signed] Robt. Auchmuty Judge &c.
Obsirve, The Expressions. The Substance of a Point. A Point has not Parts, therefore is indivisible, therefore to talk of the substance of it, is not the neatest or most elegant. But to omit Criticism, let me make a few Observations upon the <Reasoning> substance of the Decree.
1. The Advocates for the Crown, did not argue that our Argument would exclude Relations, Friends, Persons under 14. &c. But the Advocates for the Respondent, insisted that all those Rules of the civil Law ought to be adopted, because they were beneficial to the subject the Respondent. We had no difficulty at all in Admitting the Consequence as far as it is here mentioned. So far from it that we desired it, because Mr. Hancock's Relations, Friends, and many Persons under age have been examined in this Case. It is true Mr. Fitch did argue that our Principle would justify the Introduction of Torture and this he thought was proving too much, and this was well observed by Mr. Fitch and was the best argument I have heard in the Case.56
2. The Judge has totally mistaken the “Sense” of the Authority, for instead of being a Description of Objections against Persons being admitted to their Oaths it is wholly confined to those who are already sworn. It is Testium Fides examinanda est,57 not Personarum Fides, and as a Witness in English implies the Competency of the Person, so { 210 } Testis in Latin implies the same, and a Person cannot be Testis, untill he is admitted, to tell what he knows, i.e. to give Evidence.58
1. In JA's hand, in his Admiralty Book, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184. Apparently a copy from an earlier state now lost. See text at note 70 above. Portions of the MS were printed in Quincy, Reports (Appendix) 457–463, and 2 JA, Works 215. For the dating of the MS, see text following note 70 above.
2. An abbreviated form for the usual caption, probably “Province of Massachusetts Bay / Court of Vice Admiralty.”
3. The usual form of the qui tam information used to prosecute these divided forfeitures. See notes 28, 56, 62, above. The name derives from the full Latin phrase, “qui tam pro Domino Rege quam pro seipso” (who [sues] as well for our Lord the King as for himself). See 2 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown, c. 26, §17. Sewall omitted the usual last phrase “for himself,” but it is clear from the form of the information as a whole that he was suing as informer. See form used in New York, Hough, Reports 272–274.
4. According to testimony, note 5 above, twenty-five pipes were entered at the Custom House. It is not known whether the two additional pipes alleged here are the correct figure or represent counsel's margin for error.
5. The American Act of 1764, 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §37. Quotation marks supplied.
6. That is, in a court of law or of Admiralty, the proceeds to be divided equally among the Crown, the governor of the province in which the case was tried, and the informer. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §§41, 42.
7. 8 Anne, c. 7, §17 (1709). Quotation marks supplied.
8. The remainder of the section provides that half of the penalties and forfeitures levied go to the Crown and the other half to the informer, “to be recovered by bill, plaint, or information, wherein no essoin, protection, or wager of law shall be allowed.” The latter clause, which in other similar acts had been held to limit the jurisdiction to the common law, and the seeming limitation on the face of the act to imports into England, indicate that this statute could not have been the basis of the action. See Chalmers, Opinions 500.
9. A duty of £7 per tun was levied on Madeira wine by the American Act of 1764, 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §1; Knollenberg, Origin of the American Revolution 176–177. According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary (Springfield, Mass., 1949), a tun was equal to two pipes, or about 250 gallons.
10. This represents the general common-law rule on the liability of a principal for the misdemeanor of an agent, at least in the absence of the principal's negligence. See William L. Clark and William L. Marshall, Law of Crimes §8.12 (Chicago, 6th edn., M. F. Wingersky, 1958). As to Captains Barnard and Marshall, see text at notes 4–6 above. In Attorney General v. Woodmass, Bunbury 247, 145 Eng. Rep. 662 (Exch. 1727), an information on 8 Anne, c. 7, §17, note 784 above, “for being assisting or otherwise concerned in unshipping five hundred gallons of brandy,” some of the brandy “run” was ultimately “carried to the defendant's house; but it did not appear the defendant was present either at the time of running or removing the goods to his house; but he afterwards paid the cobblemen for running these goods.” The court held that “this was a being concerned within the statute, if the jury were of opinion that the defendant employed the persons to run the goods on his account, and paid them for that purpose.” Verdict for the Crown. See also Attorney General v. Flower, Bunbury 227, 145 Eng. Rep. 656 (Exch. 1726); Attorney General v. Lake, Bunbury 277, 145 Eng. Rep. 673 (Exch. 1729). William Bunbury's Reports of Cases in the Court of Exchequer was first published at London in 1755. 1 Sweet and Maxwell, Legal Bibliography 322.
11. The duties on 100 pipes, or 50 tuns, would have been £350. See note 986 above.
12. Thus in MS. The penalty on a master permitting dutiable goods to be loaded aboard his vessel for unlawful entry in the Plantations was actually £100. 6 Geo. 2, c.13, §7 (1733), made applicable by 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §7 (1764). It would seem that the master would also be liable under the broader provisions of 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §37, note 582 above. Sewall did proceed against the master of the Liberty. See note 26 above.
13. The doctrine of virtual representation, by which a member of Parliament was held to represent the interests of the Empire as a whole, rather than those of his constituents, was used by the English to justify their own system of limited franchise and rotten boroughs, as well as colonial nonrepresentation. See Miller, Origins of the American Revolution 212–215.
14. Thus in MS. Compare 2 JA, Works 215 note. The garbled text here suggests that JA was copying from notes or an earlier draft.
15. That is, the courts of justice, which “execute” the laws, as distinguished from legislative “courts,” such as the General Court, which make them. See No. 44, note 2072.
16. American Act of 1764, 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §41. Opening quotation mark supplied. The text following, through note 27104, was used by JA with some revision in his “Instructions of the Town of Boston to their Representatives,” 15 May 1769, 3 JA, Works 508–509, 16 Boston Record Commissioners, Reports 285–289, abbreviated in “A Journal of the Times,” 14 May 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 99. The MS, in JA's hand, is in the Boston Public Library. The instructions were published in full in the Boston Gazette, 15 May 1769, p. 1, cols. 1–3. See text at notes 47, 74, above. Important variations between the text of the argument and that of the “Instructions” are noted below, but a detailed comparison must await publication of the “Instructions” in Series III of The Adams Papers. ||Digital edition: “Instructions,” 15 May 1769, now available in Papers of John Adams, volume 1.||
17. In quoting the statute in his “Instructions”JA omitted all clauses dealing with the concurrent jurisdiction at common law.
18. Translated in JA's “Instructions” as “who answered with one voice, 'We will not that the laws of England be changed.'” This famous line is the reply of the barons to the request of the bishops that they be permitted to follow the canon law by certifying children born before marriage as legitimate. Statute of Merton, 20 Hen. 3, c. 9 (1234). The phrase appears in slightly different form in the text of the statute itself, but JA followed Coke's rendition of Bracton's version. 2 Coke, Institutes *98. See 2 Holdsworth, History of English Law 218. In Coke's text, the active voice of the infinitive “mutare” (to change) is used. JA's probably inadvertent use of the passive, “mutari,” is carried over into his translation, changing the barons' denial of a request for legislation into a legislative principle.
19. American Act of 1764, 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §40.
20. This and the preceding three sentences were omitted in the “Instructions,” and the two paragraphs were telescoped into a single sentence, “Is it not with respect to us a Repeal of the 29th Chapter of Magna Charta?” 3 JA, Works 509.
21. Translated by JA in his “Instructions,” 15 May 1769, as “No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised of his freehold or liberties or free customs or outlawed or exiled or any otherwise destroyed, nor will we pass upon him nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his peers or the law of the land.” 3 JA, Works 509. The text is that of Magna Carta, 9 Hen. 3, c. 29 (1225), quoted from the version given by 2 Coke, Institutes *45. Quotation marks and omitted words supplied. It is this text, approved by Henry III at his majority, rather than that granted by John at Runnymede in 1215, which actually has the force of law today. See Plucknett, Concise History 23. The differences between the two documents are slight, however, and are not material in this section. See William S. McKechnie, Magna Carta 181–183, 436, 445–446 (Glasgow, 1905). For changes in translation brought about by modern scholarship, see id. at 436–448; 1 Holdsworth, History of English Law 59–63.
22. This and the preceding sentence are rendered in the “Instructions” as “Englishmen are inviolably attached to the important right expressed in this clause, which for many centuries has been the noblest monument and firmest bulwark of their liberties. One proof of this attachment, given us by a great sage of the law, we think proper to mention, not for your information, but as the best expression of the sense of your constituents.” 3 JA, Works 509.
23. 2 Coke, Institutes * 51. Quotation marks supplied. Coke's sentence continues, “to heare and determine all offenses, and contempts committed, or done by any person, or persons against the forme, ordinance, and effect of any statute made, and not repealed, &c.” The Act, 11 Hen. 7, c. 3 (1494), excepted treason, murder, and felony from its provisions. See 4 Coke, Institutes *40–41. In his “Instructions”JA quoted Coke as saying “by their discretions to hear and try men for penalties and forfeitures.” 3 JA, Works 509.
24. In the “Instructions” the last phrase is “to discourage such attacks upon fundamental principles.” 3 JA, Works 509.
25. 2 Coke, Institutes *51. 11 Hen. 7, c. 3, was repealed by 1 Hen. 8, c. 6 (1509), which, according to Coke, recited that under the earlier act, “it was manifestly known, that many sinister, and crafty, feigned and forged informations, had been pursued against divers of the kings subjects to their great damage, and wrongful vexation.” 2 Coke, Institutes *51. This is a reference to the doings of Sir Richard Empson and Edmund Dudley, councilors of Henry VII employed in the collection of taxes and forfeitures due the Crown, who were purported to have abused the power of proceeding by information under 11 Hen. 7, c. 3. On the accession of Henry VIII they were thrown into the Tower, accused of various oppressive tactics; while there, they were charged with and convicted of having compassed the death of the new king, and were executed on these grounds in 1510. 1 Howell, State Trials 283–288; see DNB under both names. JA used this episode in his Clarendon Letters of 1766, attacking the use of the Admiralty courts in the Stamp Act. See note 76 above.
26. Coke does not deal with the problem under the clause “Iudicium Parium suorum,” or judgment of peers, the traditional source of the right to jury trial. He seems to view that clause merely as a confirmation of the nobility's right to a trial by their peers. 2 Coke, Institutes *48–50. Instead, his “reflections” are a gloss on the clause “per Legem Terrae,” to which he gives the meaning “due process of law.” His criticism of 11 Hen. 7, c. 3, seems to be based more on the fact that no indictment was required, than on the absence of a trial jury. id. at 50–51; but see 4 Coke, Institutes *41. Modern scholars are agreed that in granting a trial by judgment of peers, Magna Carta granted not the modern trial by jury but rather the right to trial in a court of peers instead of in the King's court. There is disagreement as to whether “the law of the land” means due process, or simply the usual medieval modes of trial—battle, ordeal, and compurgation. See 1 Holdsworth, History of English Law 59–63; 2 id. at 214–215. Whatever the correct interpretation, Parliament does not seem to have regarded summary trial as a deprivation of due process. No general measure was ever enacted again, but by the middle of the 18th century certain customs violations and at least 200 other specific offenses against statutory regulation, punishable corporally or by fines ranging up to £500, were to be tried by one or more justices of the peace sitting without a jury. Frankfurter and Corcoran, “Petty Federal Offenses and the Constitutional Guaranty of Trial by Jury,” 39 Harv. L. Rev. 917, 922–934 (1926); Hoon, English Customs 277, 280. A similar range of offenses was within the jurisdiction of Massachusetts justices, but there was a theoretical right to a jury through an appeal procedure much hedged in with restrictive security requirements. 39 Harv. L. Rev. 938–942. Moreover, in England the proceeding by information, rather than indictment, was a common one for many misdemeanors even when trial was to a jury. See note 62 above.
27. In the “Instructions” the preceding paragraph is summed up in the sentence, “Such are the feelings and reflections of an Englishman upon a statute not unlike the statute now under consideration, and upon courts and judges not unlike the courts and judges of admiralty in America.” 3 JA, Works 509.
28. This may be another garbled passage showing that JA copied from notes. See text at note 70 above. Or it could mean that Hancock's “Case” was to be considered “favourable” in the sense that the hardships were extenuating circumstances which entitled him to favorable consideration. See OED.
29. Wood, New Institute of the Civil Law 316. Quotation marks supplied.
30. JA has here omitted the following passage: “unless he swears of his own Fact, and where there are other Circumstances to concur or corroborate, or unless he is a publick Officer; as a Notary, &c. deposing by Vertue of his Office. This is founded upon very good reason.” Wood, New Institute of the Civil Law 316.
31. Justinian, Digest, bk. 22, tit. 5, §12. Quotation marks supplied. For translation see 5 Scott, Civil Law 235: “Where the number of witnesses is not specified by law, two are sufficient, for the term 'several' is embraced in the number two.”
32. Justinian, Codex, bk. 4, tit. 20, §9, §1. Quotation marks supplied. See 13 Scott, Civil Law 37: “In like manner, we have ordered that no judge shall in any case readily accept the testimony of only one witness; and now We plainly order that the evidence of only one witness shall not be taken, even though he should be distinguished by senatorial rank.”
33. The edition used by JA has not been found. For this passage, see 2 Corpus Juris Civilis 176, note 18 (Antwerp, 1726).
34. Deuteronomy 19:15. Quotation marks supplied. The reference appears at the page in Wood's New Institute, cited in note 26106 above.
35. As to Mezle, or Maysel, see text at notes 37–39 above.
37. Justinian, Digest, bk. 22, tit. 5, §3. Quotation marks supplied. See 5 Scott, Civil Law 232–233:
“The integrity of witnesses should be carefully investigated, and in consideration of their personal characteristics, attention should be, in the first place, paid to their rank; as to whether the witness is a Decurion or a plebeian; whether his life is honorable and without blame, or whether he has been branded with infamy and is liable to censure; whether he is rich or poor, lest he may readily swear falsely for the purpose of gain; whether he is an enemy to him against whom he testifies, or whether he is a friend to him in whose favor he gives his evidence.” The concluding sentence of the above translation, which was omitted by JA, is, in the Latin, “Nam si careat suspicione testimonium, vel propter personam, a qua fertur, quod honesta sit: vel propter causam, quod neque lucri neque gratiae, neque inimicitiae causa sit: admittendus est.”
38. See 1 Corpus Juris Civilis 436 note 38 (Antwerp, 1726).
39. Johannes Calvinus, Lexicon Juridicum Juris Caesarei Simul et Canonici 905, tit. “Testis,” (Cologne, 1622). Quotation marks supplied. The editors' translation: “Callistratus decreed that the good faith, condition, previous life, lot, reputation, and rank of witnesses should be diligently inquired of.”
40. Sir John Fortescue, De Laudibus Legum Angliae 38 (London, 1741). Quotation marks supplied. Fortescue was actually pointing to this as a defect in civil-law procedure. His De Laudibus, written about 1468, and first published in the 16th century, was intended to demonstrate the great superiority of the English to the Roman law. See 2 Holdsworth, History of English Law 569–570.
41. Maysel was evidently of European origin. See note 49126 below.
42. Wood, New Institute of the Civil Law 310. Quotation marks supplied.
43. Jean Domat, The Civil Law In Its Natural Order, 1:13–14 (London, transl. Strahan, 1722). Quotation marks supplied.
44. JA here omitted “those which permit Disinheriting and others the like.”
45. JA here omitted: “to any consequences to which the Laws do not extend. And on the contrary . . .”
46. The preceding three sentences are in a note at the end of the passage from Domat, cited, note 43120 above. They are quoted from the following sections of Justinian, Digest: bk. 48, tit. 19, §42; bk. 50, tit. 17, §155(2); bk. 48, tit. 19, §11. See 11 Scott, Civil Law 124: “By the interpretation of the laws, penalties should rather be mitigated than increased in severity.” Id. at 312: “In penal cases, the most benevolent construction should be adopted.” Id. at 115: “It is clear that in cases of minor importance, judges should be inclined to lenity; and where heavier penalties are involved, while they must comply with the stern requirements of the laws, they should temper them with some degree of indulgence.”
47. Justinian, Codex, bk. 4, tit. 19, §25. See 13 Scott, Civil Law 36: “All accusers are hereby notified that they cannot bring a criminal charge for anything which has been established by reliable witnesses; or clearly proved by documentary evidence; or shown to be true by undoubted testimony clearer than light.” A better translation of the first clause might be “charge unless a thing has been established.” This section is cited in the margin of the passage in Wood's New Institute, cited, note 42119 above.
48. The notes in 2 Corpus Juris Civilis 175, notes 24–26 (Antwerp, 1726), reiterate the sense of the text quoted at note 47124 above.
49. According to “A Journal of the Times,” on 24 Feb. “The advocates for Mr. Hancock, offered evidence to prove that a witness, who had been before examined for the proponent, was a fugitive from his native country, to avoid the punishment due to a very heinous crime. The advocates for the crown objected to this evidence as improper, urging that by common law, nothing could be proved against a witness but his general character for falsehood. The advocates for the respondent replied, that the Court of Admiralty proceeded according to the civil law, whereby a witnesses whole life and conversation ought to be examined. And they insisted upon knowing by what law their client was to be tried.” Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 68. The passage continues with a close paraphrase of the text here, adding a few phrases from JA's earlier notes on the civil law. The English common-law rule at this time was basically that asserted by the Crown. A witness' general moral character and character for truth were admissible to impeach, but evidence of specific misconduct could be admitted only in the form of a record of criminal conviction. See Wood, Institute of the Laws of England 597; 2 Bacon, Abridgment 288, 296; Gilbert, Evidence 157–158. The distinction was doubtless due to the fact that those guilty of felony and other crimes involving falsehood were altogether excluded as witnesses. Id. at 142–145.
50. Probably given on 1 March 1769. See note 38 above.
51. Though partly overwritten, this refers to bk. 22, tit. 5, §§2, 3. For §2, see 5 Scott, Civil Law 232: “The rank, the integrity, the manners and the gravity of witnesses must be taken into consideration, and therefore those who make contradictory statements, or who hesitate while giving their evidence, should not be heard.” “Manners” (Latin “mores”) might be better translated as “morals.” The first part of §3 appears in text at note 37114 above. The section goes on to provide that the judge should determine credibility; that all available kinds of proof should be investigated; that the judge should examine the witnesses if possible, allowing them their costs; and that witnesses should not be summoned from afar unless it is the custom of the region. The passage most relevant here would seem to be the following:
“It is proved by the Lex Julian relating to violence, that those shall not be permitted to give testimony against a defendant who has [i.e. have] been freed by him or his father; or who have not yet arrived at puberty, or anyone who has been condemned for a public crime, and has not been restored to his former condition, or who is in chains, or in prison, or has hired himself out to fight with wild beasts; or any woman who openly prostitutes herself, or has already done so; or anyone who has been sentenced or convicted of having received money for giving or witholding testimony.” Id. at 233–234.
52. For the notes, see 1 Corpus Juris Civilis 436–437 (Antwerp, 1726). See note 53130 below.
53. 1 Corpus Juris Civilis 437 note 1, a note to the latter part of Justinian, Digest, bk. 22, tit. 5, §3. Editors' translation: “Who, however, will be found innocent, if it be sufficient to have been accused?” The preceding sentence is, in translation, “In the refutation of a witness, it is not enough that he be accused of a crime; it is necessary that he be convicted.” See also, 1 Corpus Juris Civilis 436, note 73, an annotation to the passage quoted in note 51128 above concerning those who are in chains or in prison, which states that such persons are not rejected as witnesses unless they have been convicted, seemingly because chains and prison alone are not a sign of infamy.
54. Compare “A Journal of the Times,” 24 Feb. 1769: “If therefore the court is to adopt the common law, because the jurisdiction was created by Act of Parliament; it ought to adopt it as a system.” Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 68.
55. For a somewhat similar argument, see Stokes, Constitution of the British Colonies 361. In “A Journal of the Times,” 2 March 1769, Auchmuty's point that the evidence would be inadmissible even under the civil law was not mentioned and the decision was said to have turned upon “the usage of the court, and the inconveniencies that would attend the introduction of the rules of the civil law, in cases of this nature.” The writer asked upon what usage this unique case could be based, and went on to point out that the court had not been deterred by inconvenience in using interrogatories, in sitting without regular adjournments, in issuing compulsory citations to witnesses, and in ordering arrest and high bail for immediate appearance. After noting that only the judge's discretion determined which law would apply, the account continued, “It is reported that the advocates for Mr. Hancock, had no solicitude about the question they put to the witness, but they thought that if the court would proceed by such rules of the civil law as pleased the officers of the revenue, they had a right to such rules of the same law, as made in favour of Mr. Hancock.”Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 72.
56. This point was turned to good account in the entry in “A Journal of the Times,” note 55132 above. As a consequence of the judge's discretion to determine the applicable law, “if a case should happen that should require it, or if the C[ommissio]n[e]rs should give their mandate to the court, supposing them hereafter to get a judge fit for the purpose, why might he not gently put parties or witnesses to the torture, and extend them on the rack? Donec eorum rumpuntur nervi, et venae in sanguinis fluenta prorumpunt.” Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 72.
57. That is, in the passage in the Digest in text at note 37114 above.
58. Both the abrupt termination of his argument at this point without a formal conclusion and the state of the manuscript suggest that JA intended to continue this paper.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0005-0001

Editorial Note

While the affair of John Hancock's Liberty (No. 46) drew public attention, a steady flow of other cases of illicit importation kept merchants, customs officers, and lawyers busy. On 6 September 1768, Joseph Dowse, surveyor and searcher of the customs for the port of Salem and Marblehead, seized thirty-three hogsheads and four tierces of molasses which had allegedly been landed in Gloucester without entry or payment of duties.1 Although another seizure which Dowse had made on Cape Ann was rescued at about this time by the inhabitants, he managed to retain control of the molasses. Jonathan Sewall filed an information against it for him in the Court of Admiralty on 26 October, with claimants cited to appear on 7 November.2
Since Adams was to appear in court for Hancock on the latter date,3 it is probable that he was of counsel for David Plumer of Gloucester, who claimed the molasses. In any event, Adams' minutes, printed below, show that when the case came on to trial, probably some time in December, Plumer sought to establish that the molasses had been imported, duty-paid, in August on his schooner Earl of Gloucester. Unfortunately, this vessel, after earlier evading the officers, had been seized on 22 October for the illicit importation of forty hogsheads of molasses on the same August voyage. An in rent proceeding was begun against her on 6 December.4
{ 211 }
The Commissioners also sought to impose penalties upon the individuals responsible for the alleged smuggling. At the end of December, Sewall filed in personam actions against seven men, including Plumer and Moses Bray, master of the Earl of Gloucester. On 3 February 1769 the citations were returned not served.5 It is possible that the respondents entered into a settlement whereby they agreed to withdraw their opposition in the forfeiture proceedings in exchange for an undertaking not to press the penal actions. Whatever the reason, the molasses, condemned earlier, was ordered sold on 2 March; on 18 April the Earl of Gloucester was adjudged forfeit, no claim having been entered for her.6
If Plumer did not voluntarily withdraw his claim for the molasses, there were other reasons why his defense might have failed. Adams' minutes indicate that Plumer produced witnesses to establish an identity between the molasses in suit and certain molasses covered by a cocket certifying legal entry on payment of duty, which had been signed by John Fisher, Collector at Salem. At the end of September, however, Fisher had been suspended by the Commissioners of the Customs on a number of charges, { 212 } including that of crediting merchants with more duties than they had actually paid.7 The court thus may well have found the cocket fraudulent, or may not have accepted the evidence of Plumer's witnesses.
1. The duties, of a penny a gallon on all molasses imported except from the island of Dominica, were imposed by 6 Geo. 3, c. 52, §4 (1766). Forfeiture, as provided by 6 Geo. 2, c. 13, §3 (1733), was the penalty for landing without entry and payment of duties, because §12 of the 1766 Act had incorporated prior statutes. As to Dowse, see Quincy, Reports (Appendix) 428.
2. Dowse v. 33 Hogsheads and 4 Tierces of Molasses, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 26 Oct. 1768; Massachusetts Gazette, 27 Oct. 1768, p. 1, col. 3. The rescue, “at Squam” in Gloucester occurred at midnight on 11 September. In Nov. the Commissioners offered a reward of £50 for the culprits, which was supported by a proclamation of Governor Bernard. Id., 10 Nov. 1768, p. 1, col. 1. Dowse was still searching for these or other goods at Squam in the middle of October. Quincy, Reports (Appendix) 428 note. See also Dowse v. Nineteen Casks of Molasses, No. 49.
3. No. 46, note 31.
4. Grason v. The Earl of Gloucester, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 6 Dec. 1768; Massachusetts Gazette, 8 Dec. 1768, p. 2, col. 2; “A Journal of the Times,” 24 Oct. 1768, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 10. Commissioners' General Letter, 14 Oct. 1768, Salem Custom House Record Book, 1763–1772, p. 254, MSaE. The Earl of Gloucester was informed against by her former master, Samuel Fellows, who apparently had a grievance against the owners. Minutes of the Commissioners, 30 March 1769, 7 Bowdoin-Temple MSS 173, MHi; “A Journal of the Times,” 16 Dec. 1768, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 36. See R. Reeve to Salem Customs Officers, 28 Jan. 1769, Salem Record Book, 1763–1772, p. 262. By way of reward, Fellows was given a position aboard a customs vessel and was soon in trouble. In May he led several men to rescue a member of his crew from a Salem deputy sheriff, firing on the officer in the process. Commodore Hood turned him over to the civil authorities, and at Ipswich Superior Court in June he was fined £10 and ordered to give £50 bond to keep the peace for two years. “A Journal of the Times,” 20 May, 3 June, 2 July 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 100–101, 105–106, 113–114; Massachusetts Gazette, 25 May 1769, p. 1, cols. 1–2; Boston News-Letter, 1 June 1769, p. 1, col. 2; Min. Bk. 85, SCJ Essex, June 1769; SCJ Rec. 1769, fol. 71; SF 131768.
5. Advocate General v. David Plummer, Moses Bray, Daniel Plummer, Peter Clowning, Daniel Trew, Joseph Eveleth, and Thomas Corbin, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 3 Feb. 1769; “A Journal of the Times,” 28 Dec. 1768, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 40. The Commissioners had asked the Salem customs officers for these names in a letter of 13 Sept. 1768. Salem Record Book, 1763–1772, p. 237.
6. For the molasses, see Notice of Sale, Massachusetts Gazette, 2 March 1769, p. 1, col. 3. The sale was set for 16 March. Only thirty hogsheads are included in the order, but it is not clear whether this was a typographical error, or whether in fact only thirty were condemned. Governor Bernard was paid his share of the proceeds on 8 June. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 26 Oct. 1768. The Earl of Gloucester was first condemned along with her lading of a hogshead of rum, 1000 feet of white pine boards, and 3000 shingles, on 15 March 1769, and sale was set for 21 March. Grason v. The Earl of Gloucester, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 6 Dec. 1768; Massachusetts Gazette, 16 March 1769, p. 1, col. 3. Perhaps because the buyer failed to pay, or else for some technical error in the proceedings, the vessel was then seized again on 10 April and declared forfeit on 18 April, this time with a cargo of 488 planks and 13,000 shingles. No order of sale or distribution of proceeds has been found. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 10 April 1769; Massachusetts Gazette, 13 April 1769, p. 1, col. 2.
7. Fisher had been appointed in 1765 at the behest of John Temple, then Surveyor General of the Customs. His case was sent to the Treasury in London, who reversed the Commissioners and ordered them to reinstate him in Aug. 1769. Full documentation of the matter appears in PRO, Treas. 1:465, fols. 285–328, 389–391; 1:471, fol. 438. See also Quincy, Reports (Appendix) 451; Barrow, Colonial Customs 483–487. As to cockets, see note 512 below.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0005-0002

Author: Adams, John
Author: Sewall, Jonathan
DateRange: 1768-10 - 1769-03

Adams' Copy of the Libel and Report of the Trial1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, October 1768-March 1769
Dowse vs. Thirty Three Hdds. Molosses
Be it remembered that on the 26 October 1768 Joseph Dowse of Salem in the County of Essex Esqr., Surveyor and Searcher for the Port of Salem and Marblehead in said Province, who prosecutes as well &c.2 comes and gives the Court to be informed that on the Sixth day of September last at Glocester in the Port aforesaid, he Seized as forfeited, one Third to the King &c.3 Thirty Three Hogsheads and four Tierces of Molasses, for that the same, on the same day was illegally imported, in some Ship or Vessell to the said Informant unknown, from foreign Parts, and was illegally unshipped and landed on Shore in Glouster aforesaid, no Report or Entry thereof having been first made and the Same being customable Goods and the Dutys thereon not having been first paid; against the Form of the Statute in that Case made and provided;4 whereby the Same Molasses is become forfeit to the Uses aforesaid. Whereupon as this is a matter properly within the Jurisdiction of this honorable Court, the said Joseph Dowse prays the Advisement of the Court in the Premisses, and that the same may by proper Process from this Court, be taken into Custody of the { 213 } Marshall of the same Court and by Decree be adjudged and decreed to remain forfeit to the Uses aforesaid.
[signed] Jona. Sewall Advo. for said Dowse &c.
David Plumer of Glocester in the County of Essex Merchant produces a Cockett from the Custom House in Salem 20 Aug. 1768 signed by Fisher Collector Mascarene Comptroller and John Turner Jr. Navall officer, for Thirty Three Casks of foreign Molasses, 3089 Gallons imported from St. Eustatia in the Earl of Glocester, duties paid by Moses Bray, now on board the Schooner Olive Branch Wm. Low Master, bound for Boston.5
And said Plumer proves by Witnesses that the Molasses now libelled against is the Same, that is mentioned in the above cockett.
1. In JA's hand, in his Admiralty Book, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184.
2. Omitted in MS is the remainder of the usual form of words in the qui tam information, “on behalf of the said Lord the King and of the Governor of this Province, as for himself.” See No. 46, note 380.
3. The omitted language is presumably “One Third to the Governor of said Province, and one Third to him that informs and sues for the same,” the statutory scheme of distribution. See 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §42 (1764), applicable here. See also No. 46, note 56.
4. See note 1 above.
5. A cocket was a document required for intercolonial shipment of goods, showing their quantity and quality, shipper, consignee, and where and when duties had been paid. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §29 (1764); 5 Geo. 3, c. 45, §25 (1765). Auchmuty had ruled in Dawson v. Lighter and Molasses (May 1768) that a cocket was not needed for shipments from port to port within a colony, but the Commissioners had asked for a ruling from the Treasury in London. The opinion of the attorney general upholding Auchmuty was not given until 8 Sept. See sources cited in Dickerson, Navigation Acts 214–215; Oaks v. Dawson, SF 101809. As to Fisher, see note 7 above. John Mascarene had been appointed comptroller of the port of Salem and Marblehead in Aug. 1764. See Quincy, Reports (Appendix) 434, 450–451. As to the Naval Officer, see No. 45, note 34.

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Editorial Note

The documents that follow tell all that is known about this forfeiture proceeding in Admiralty. The basis of the suit was apparently the same statutory prohibition against unloading cargo before entry upon which John Hancock's Liberty had been condemned.1 The parties were cited to appear on 7 November, the date on which the in personam actions against Hancock and others involved in the Liberty affair began. Adams was thus certainly in court to make the brief minute of Otis' argument printed here as Document IV, and may also have been of counsel for Solomon Davis, the owner. The Minute Book entry (Document III) does not report the outcome, but presumably the Triton was acquitted, since no notice of sale was published in the Boston newspapers, and the Minute Book does not indicate a distribution of the proceeds of condemnation.
1. 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §8 (1663), set out in note 210 below. As to the Liberty, see No. 46, note 16.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0006-0002

Date: 1768-10-24

“A Journal of the Times”1

24 October 1768
This day the brig Tryton, owned by Mr. D——s, a merchant of this town,2 was seized by order of the Board of Customs, on supposition it is said, that she had some time ago been employed in an illicit trade; and that they may oblige the owner to prove where and how she has been employed.—This seizure exhibits another instance of the generosity of the Commissioners, and their friendly disposition towards trade, in as much as it is said, that they have not now any more cause of suspicion than they had four months past; during which time she has remained in port undisturbed till the owner had spent £.100 sterling in repairs, and had taken a freight for Hull, the insurance of which has been some time past wrote for by the several freighters.3
1. Printed in Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 9, from the New York Journal, 10 Nov. 1768.
2. Solomon Davis.
3. The italicized portion was omitted in the Boston Evening-Post publication of the item. Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 9 note.

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Date: 1768-10-27

Minutes of the Customs Commissioners' Proceedings1

27 October 1768
Read a Letter of the 25 Instant from the Collector and Comptroller of Boston. Ordered that the Solicitor do attend the Advocate General, and give him Instructions for prosecuting the Brigantine Tryton formerly called The Popet for Breach of the Acts of Trade.
1. 7 Bowdoin-Temple MSS 169, MHi.

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Date: 1768-10-29

Vice Admiralty Court Minute Book Entry1

29 October 1768
Wm. Sheaffe, Esqr.,2 Dy. Collector &c. vs. Brigt. Triton. Sewal3
Cited to appear 7 Novr.
His Honor the Judge gave his Decree as on file.
1. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 29 Oct. 1768.
2. As to Sheaffe, see No. 45, note 637.
3. That is, Jonathan Sewall, who filed the information as Advocate General.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0006-0005

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1768-11

Adams' Minutes of the Argument1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, November 1768
Sol. Davis's. Triton.
Otis. 15. C. 2, c7, §. 8.2
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185.
2. 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §8 (1663). The pertinent portion of the section provides:
“(2) and no ship or vessel coming to any such land, island, plantation, colony, territory or place [i.e. royal colonies in Asia, Africa, or America, except Tangier. 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §6], shall lade or unlade any goods or commodities whatsoever, until the master or commander of such ship or vessel shall first have made known to the governor of such land, island, plantation, colony, territory or place, or such other person or officer as shall be by him thereunto authorized and appointed, the arrival of the said ship or vessel, with her name, and the name and surname of her master or commander, and have shewn to him that she is an English-built ship, or made good by producing such certificate, as abovesaid [i.e. that required by 12 Car. 2, c. 18, §10 (1660)], that she is a ship or vessel bona fide belonging to England, Wales, or the town of Berwick, and navigated with an English master, and three fourth parts of the mariners at least Englishmen, and have delivered to such governor or other person or officer a true and perfect inventory or invoice of her lading, together with the place or places in which the said goods were laden or taken into the said ship or vessel; (3) under the pain of loss of the ship or vessel, with all her guns, ammunition, tackle, furniture and apparel, and of all such goods of the growth, production or manufacture of Europe, as were not bona fide laden and taken in England, Wales, or the town of Berwick, to be recovered and divided in manner aforesaid” (i.e. in “any of his Majesty's courts” in the colony, one third to the Crown, one third to the Governor, and one third to the informer. 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §6).

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Editorial Note

September 1768 was a busy month for Joseph Dowse. On the night of 6 September, in which he seized the goods involved in Dowse v. Thirty-three Hogsheads of Molasses, No. 47, nineteen additional casks were allegedly landed in Salem from the schooner Neptune, which had entered on 19 August. Dowse seized them on the 7th. In November the Commissioners of the Customs asked their solicitor to consult with Jonathan Sewall about filing a libel against the Neptune and her contraband in the name of Rowland Savage, “Land waiter, Weigher and Gauger at Salem,” who had apparently seized the vessel.1 No action was taken against the Neptune, { 216 } perhaps because of legal doubts as to Savage's authority to seize. On 6 December, Sewall filed an information in Dowse's behalf against the molasses alone.2
On 14 December no claimant appeared and the molasses was decreed forfeit.3 Adams, who was then spending most of his time in the Admiralty Court as counsel in Sewall v. Hancock, No. 46, apparently contemplated making a claim in behalf of the consignee of the molasses. His notes, printed below, show that he had made a study of the statutes requiring an officer's warrant for goods to be landed, which, the information alleged, had not been obtained. He probably intended to argue that these Acts did not apply in an in rem proceeding against the goods, since they provided only for monetary fines against those involved in the landing or for the forfeiture of any small craft used. The decision not to file a claim may have been based on a desire to avoid exposure to an in personam action for these or the much more serious penalties imposed for entry without payment of duties, which were the basis of the suit against Hancock.4
1. Minutes of the Commissioners, 18 Nov. 1768, 7 Bowdoin-Temple MSS 169, MHi. See Commissioners' letter, 9 Sept. 1768, ordering seizure of molasses. Salem Custom House Record Book, 1763–1772, p. 238, MSaE. According to the notice of monition, note 2 below, the seizure was on 7 September. Dowse was informed of the entry by Thomas Rowe, tidesman. Popular displeasure at this led to a riot on 8 Sept. in which Rowe was injured. See Commissioners to Salem Customs Officers, 13 Sept. 1768, 2 Feb. 1769, Salem Record Book, 1763–1772, p. 237, 264.
2. Joseph Dowse v. 19 Casks of Molasses, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 6 Dec. 1768. See the notice of monition in Massachusetts Gazette, 8 Dec. 1768, p. 2, col. 2. For the statutes involved, see notes 8–204–16 below. Savage had been appointed by the American Commissioners of Customs on 30 March 1768. Salem Record Book, 1763–1772, p. 61. The question of the power of such officers to seize remained open until it was apparently decided in the negative in July 1769. No. 50. There may have been doubt previously, however, in view of the decision in Folger v. The Cornelia, No. 45, against the power of an appointee of the surveyor general.
3. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 6 Dec. 1768. See Notice of Sale, dated 3 Jan. 1769, for sale on 11 Jan. 1769. Boston News-Letter, Postscript, p. 2, col. 1. Governor Bernard received his third of the proceeds on 9 June 1769. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 6 Dec. 1768.
4. No. 46, note 28 and text at note 83. The Commissioners sought those responsible, apparently in contemplation of such suits. See Commissioners to Salem Customs Officers, 13 Sept. 1768, 26 Nov. 1768, Salem Record Book, 1763–1772, p. 237, 258.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0007-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1768-11

Adams' Copy of the Information and Statutes Involved1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, December 1768
Josh. Dowse Esq. vs 19 Casks of Molasses. Gardiners.2
For that the same Molasses on 19 Aug. last, was imported and brought into the Port of Salem and Marblehead, from the Island of Guadaloupe, in a certain Schooner called the Neptune, Phillip Saun• { 217 } ders Master, and in the Night Time between the 6. and 7. days of September last, the said 19 Casks of Molasses were fraudulently and clandestinely landed from on board the said Schooner, and put on Shore in Salem aforesaid, with Intent to defraud the said Lord the King of his customary Duties thereon; neither the said Master nor any other Person having first duly entered and paid the legal Duties for the same, and without having first duly entered and paid the legal Duties for the same,3 and without having first obtained a Warrant from a proper officer, for the landing the same against the Form of the statutes in such Case made and provided,4 whereby the same is become forfeited as aforesaid.
13. 14. C. 2, C. 11, §. 7.5 Be it enacted that [if] any Wharfinger, or his servant, shall take up or land, &c. or suffer to be waterborn &c. any prohibited Goods &c.6 without the Presence of some officer, &c. or at Hours and Times, not appointed by Law (1. Eliz.)7 &c. he shall forfeit 100£.—and if any Goods or Merchandizes shall be taken in from the shore &c., into any Bark, Hoy, Lighter &c.8 without a Warrant, and the Presence of an officer, the Bark &c. shall be forfeited and the Master, Boatswain, Mariner9 &c. consenting shall forfeit the value of the Goods.
1. Elisabeth. C. 11, §. 2.10 Not lawfull for any Person to lade or put off or from any Wharf, Key, or other Place on the Land &c. or to take up, discharge and lay on Land, out of any Lighter, Ship, Crayer or Vessell any Goods, Wares or Merchandises &c.11 but only in the Day light, i.e. from March to Sept., between Sun setting and Sun rising, { 218 } &c.12 and in some open Place that shall be appointable,13 upon Pain of Forfeiture of all such Goods &c.
7. 8. W. 3, C. 22, §.6.14 For the more effectual preventing of Frauds and regulating abuses in the Plantation Trade, be it enacted that all Ships coming into or going out of, any of the said Plantations and lading or unlading any Goods or Commodities, whether Ships of War or Merchant Ships and the Masters and Commanders thereof and their Ladings, shall be subject and liable to the same Rules, Visitations, Searches, Penalties and forfeitures, as to the Entering, lading, or discharging their respective Ships and Lading, as Ships and their ladings and the Commanders and Masters of Ships, are subject and liable unto in this Kingdom, by 14 Car. 2d. &c.15 and the officers shall have the same Powers and be subject to the same Regulations, as officers in England by that act.16
1. In JA's hand, in his Admiralty Book, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184.
2. Presumably “Gardiner” was consignee and potential claimant of the molasses. Possibly Joshua Gardiner, a considerable merchant in Boston and a commercial partner of John Hancock. See No. 45, note 233.
3. Thus in MS. Either a copying error on JA's part, or an example of extreme nicety in pleading.
4. For the statutes requiring the duties and entry, see No. 47, note 1; No. 46, note 16. A warrant was required by 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §7 (1662), made applicable in the colonies by 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §6 (1696), which are set out in the text immediately following.
5. 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §7 (1662). Pertinent omissions are supplied in footnotes.
6. The statute also included goods “whereof any custom, subsidy or other duties are due and payable unto the King's majesty.” 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §7.
7. That is, 1 Eliz. 1, c. 11, §2 (1558), set out immediately following in the text, which establishes times and places for the loading and unloading of cargo. The reference in 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §7, is actually to an exception made in the Act of Elizabeth for the town of Hull.
8. “To be carried aboard any ship or vessel outward bound for the parts beyond the seas, or laden or taken in from or out of any ship or vessel coming in and arriving from foreign parts,” 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §7.
9. “The master, purser, boatswain, or other mariner of any ship inward bound.” 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §7.
10. 1 Eliz. 1, c. 11, §2 (1558). Pertinent omissions are supplied in footnotes.
11. “Whatsoever . . . to be brought from any the parts beyond the sea.” 1 Eliz. 1, c. 11, §2.
12. “And from the last of September until the first of March, between the hours of seven in the morning and four at the afternoon.” 1 Eliz. 1, c. 11, §2.
13. That is, an “open place, key or wharf,” designated by the Crown within London or certain other named ports, or at any such place in any other port in which there had been a customs officer resident for the preceding ten years. 1 Eliz. 1, c. 11, §2. By 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §14 (1662), the Crown was given the power to establish the limits of all ports and appoint landing places within them.
14. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §6 (1696). Paraphrased with insignificant omissions.
15. That is, 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11 (1662).
16. The sections of both statutes regarding the powers of officers are set out in No. 44, at notes 40–4592–97.

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Editorial Note

In this forfeiture proceeding, as in Folger v. The Cornelia, No. 45, Adams argued in favor of the power of an inferior officer of the customs to seize a vessel. In this case, however, he was defending the interests of an officer appointed by the Commissioners of Customs. On 12 May 1769 Jonathan Sewall had filed a libel against the brigantine Union in behalf of John Butler, tide surveyor in the port of Salem, who had earlier seized the vessel at Marblehead. Claimants were cited to appear on 22 May, at which time an exception attacking Butler's authority was evidently filed, and the case continued for argument.1
{ 219 }
On 22 June the Commissioners directed their solicitor “to engage Mr. Adams and Mr. Quincy to assist the Advocate General in supporting the Libel” against the Union. This action is doubtless accounted for by the fact that, from 24 June to 12 July, Sew all was on a trip to Halifax, the seat of his new jurisdiction as Judge of Admiralty.2 The trial was probably held during Sewall's absence, because Adams' minutes, printed below, do not mention the Advocate General and indicate that Adams himself argued the case for Butler. James Otis appeared for the claimants.
Butler had been commissioned by the American Commissioners of Customs without warrant from the Treasury. By statute, only the Commissioners themselves, “officers of his majesty's customs for the time being,” or others appointed by Crown or Treasury, could make a valid seizure.3 Adams argued first that Butler was de jure an “officer of his majesty's customs” because the American Commissioners had by statute and commission all the powers of their English counterparts to appoint such officers. His second point was that, by statute, exercise of office made Butler a de facto “officer” regardless of his commission. Despite these arguments, the libel was dismissed, presumably on the theory that the seizure was void because Butler lacked authority.4
Although the statutes and other instruments involved are ambiguous, there are reasonable grounds for such a result. The statute establishing the colonial customs system had provided that “officers of the customs” should be appointed by the Treasury and the Commissioners.5 It had long been the rule for the English Commissioners to make such appointments only upon warrant from the Treasury, a practice which the patent of the American { 220 } Commissioners confirmed.6 It was thus sound construction to hold that the “officers of his majesty's customs” empowered to make seizures were only those officers appointed upon warrant.7 If this view were adopted, the portion of the Commissioners' patent cited by Adams which gave their lesser employees power to enter vessels and premises “to Search and Survey” and do all other necessary acts “agreable to the Laws and Statutes relating to the said Revenues,”8 would be expressly limited by the statutory provisions to powers other than that of making seizure. Insofar as Butler's commission gave him such a power, it would thus be void.
The question of Butler's statutory de facto authority was controlled by the holding in Folger v. The Cornelia that the statutes in question created only a presumption, which could be rebutted by evidence of lack of authority. The principles of that case, which had concerned an officer friendly to local mercantile interests, thus seem to have been applied evenhandedly where the officer was loyal to the Crown.9
1. Butler v. The Union, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 12 May 1769; Massachusetts Gazette, 18 May 1769, p. 1, col. 3. The Union was seized for an alleged unloading of molasses before entry on a former voyage in March 1768. On learning of the seizure the Commissioners directed that she be libeled in Butler's name and that prosecutions be commenced against her master, Edward Hales, and one John Gary, for aiding in the unloading contrary to 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §37, the act under which Hancock was prosecuted. See No. 46, notes 5–682–83; Commissioners to Salem Customs Officers, 5 May 1769, Salem Custom House Record Book, 1763–1772, p. 285, MSaE. Butler, appointed “Customs Officer” in March 1768, had immediately made himself so disliked that the customs boat in his charge was burned by a mob. In spite, or perhaps because, of this he was appointed Tide Surveyor of the Port in Aug. 1768, with the function of inspecting cargoes. He served in this capacity until at least Jan. 1775. See id. at 63–64, 227–234, 241–242; note 17 below. See also Salem Custom House Letter Book Outwards, 1772–1775, 9 Jan. 1775, Office of the U.S. Collector of Customs, Boston, Mass.
2. Minutes of the Commissioners, 22 June 1769, 7 Bowdoin-Temple MSS 180, MHi. It is not clear whether the reference was to Samuel or Josiah Quincy Jr. Sewall voyaged to Halifax and back aboard the Rose, the vessel involved in Rex v. Corbet, No. 56, which at this time was engaged in removing a portion of the British garrison from Boston. Boston News-Letter, 22 June 1769, p. 2, col. 1; Massachusetts Gazette, 13 July 1769, p. 1, col. 2. See “A Journal of the Times,” 25, 29 June 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 112–113.
3. See notes 211, 312, below.
4. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 12 May 1769. Dismissal suggests a disposition on such a preliminary question. See Folger v. The Cornelia, No. 45, Doc. III, where the information was dismissed in a case similar to that here. Likewise, in Dawson v. The Dolphin, No. 51, Doc. II, the libel was dismissed on the ground that it did not state a cause of action. Compare Dawson v. Lighter and Molasses, cited in No. 47, note 512, where the decree upheld the libel as to part of the seizure and adjudged the remainder not forfeit.
5. See text at note 413 below.
6. See note 615 below. In colonial appointments the English Commissioners had followed the system used in England, whereby they in practice recommended candidates for principal positions within their jurisdiction, but made the actual appointments only upon Treasury warrant. Hoon, English Customs 195–198. Failure to remedy this lack of control over appointments was a major error in the creation of the American Board which led to much of its later difficulty. Clark, “The American Board of Customs,” 45 AHR 777, 795–797. The one major exception to this practice was the commissioning of naval personnel as customs officers. See Hoon, English Customs 272. In a case in the Massachusetts Vice Admiralty Court in 1763, with Auchmuty as Advocate General, counsel for the claimants of a vessel seized by an officer of the navy had argued that the statute's conjunction of Treasury and Commissioners required a warrant. Nevertheless, the vessel was condemned. Bishop v. The Freemason, Quincy, Reports 387 (Mass. Vice Adm., 1763). On appeal in the High Court of Admiralty, it seems to have been argued that there was a standing order from the Treasury authorizing such commissions. The condemnation was affirmed without comment on this point. The Freemason v. Bishop, Burrell 55, 167 Eng. Rep. 469 (High Ct. Adm., 1767). See No. 51, note 1; No. 52, note 5.
7. This was the English interpretation. Hoon, English Customs 195. Apparently, however, the need for securing seizures sometimes caused the rule to be overlooked in practice. Id. at 198, 271–272.
8. See note 716 below.
9. No. 45, Doc. III. In Nov. 1772 Butler was allowed to join in the successful prosecution of a vessel which he had seized under the direction of the Collector. Commissioners to Salem Customs Officers, 30 Nov., 14 Dec. 1772, Salem Letter Book Inwards, 1772–1775. The authority to seize in this case was undoubtedly the Collector's.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0008-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1769-07

Adams' Notes and Minutes of the Trial1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, July 1769
Butler vs. Brigg Union.
14. Car. 2d, c. 11, §.15. Seizures confined to Officers of his Majestys Customs, for the Time being.2
{ 221 }
7. & 8. W. 3, c. 22, §. 6. Officers in America the same Power.3§.n. Treasury, and Commissioners may constitute such and so many officers of the Customs in any Port &c., when and as often as to them shall seem needfull.4
7. G. 3. American Commissioners vested with such Powers as are now exercised by Commissioners in England by Laws in being. May be put under the Management and direction of Commissioners. Expressly any 3 of em to have the same Powers with Commissioners in England.5
Commission. 2d. page. All the Powers expressly given that were exercised by the Commissioners in England, and particularly to constitute Inferiour officers in any Ports.6 4. page. Other Officers, Power to enter Houses, and ships, and do all Things agreeable to Law.7
{ 222 }
Butlers Commission. Full Power to search and seize.8 6. G. 1, c. 21, §.25. 11. G. 1, c. 30, §.22. Evidence of Officers Authority as of a Fact.9
Mr. Otis. Common Practice, for the principal Officers of the Port to seize, not for the Inferiour Officers to seize.
King cant erect new Courts. They must be established by Act of Parliament. Therefore if the Powers in the Commission exceed the Act, they are void.
Q. whether within the Acts, Butler can seize. By the Act of C[harles]10 he is not appointed by his Majesty, nor an officer of the Customs. He is merely a preventive officer.
Commissioners Commission. Inferiour Officers. No Warrant from the Treasurer. No Authority without.
Is he constituted by the Treasury and Customs in England.
No such officer has ever done ay11 one Thing about the Custom[s].
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. The material to note 18 below is on a separate page.
2. 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §15 (1662), set out in No. 45, note 268.
3. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §6 (1696), set out in No. 44, notes 42–2594–97.
4. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §11 (1696), set out inNo. 45, note 1452.
5. 7 Geo. 3, c. 41 (1767), the act creating the American Board of Customs Commissioners, set out in No. 45, note 341.
6. Commission of the American Board, 12 Sept. 1767, Book of Commissions, 1677–1774, fols. 83–92, at 84–85, M-Ar.:
“And we do hereby give and grant unto you our said Commissioners during our pleasure as aforesaid or to any three or more of you full power and authority to cause to be duly observed and executed within the Limits of this your Commission [i.e. the geographical limits] all and singular the Laws and Statutes and all and every the powers, directions and Clauses in them or any of them contained touching or concerning the Collecting, Levying, receiving or Securing any of the said Duties hereby committed to your charge, and to do or cause to be done all other matters and things whatsoever touching or relating to the Revenues and Trade of the British Colonies in America within the Limits aforesaid as were before the passing of the said Act [i.e. 7 Geo. 3, c. 41] Exercised by the Commissioners of the Customs in England by virtue of any Act or Acts of Parliament in force at the time of the passing thereof. And we do hereby further impower and authorize you our said Commissioners or any three or more of you from time to time to Constitute and appoint by any writing under your hands and Seals or under the hands and seals of any three or more of you Inferior officers in all and singular the ports within the Limits of this your Commission (other than such officers as are or may be Constituted by Letters Patent of us our Heirs and Successors) according to such warrants as you shall from time to time receive from the Commissioners of our Treasury or our High Treasurer for the time being, and at such salaries as by the said Warrants shall be directed, and them from time to time to suspend, remove and displace as to you our said Commissioners or any three or more of you shall be thought necessary and expedient to our service in the premises.”
JA's page references, here and at note 716 below, are to a form of the Commission printed—apparently at Boston—from this record. A copy is in MBAt: Tracts, A–24. See also No. 45, note 341.
7. Commission, fols. 86–87:
“We have further given and Granted, and by these presents do give and Grant unto you our said Commissioners or any three or more of you, and to all and every the Collectors, Deputy Collectors, Ministers, Servants and other officers serving and attending in all and every the ports or other places within the limits of this your Commission aforesaid,” power “as well by night as by day to enter and go on Board any Ship, Boat or other Vessel . . . to Search and Survey and the persons therein being strictly to Examine touching or concerning the premises, and also in the daytime to enter and go into any House, Warehouse, Shop, Cellar and other place where any Goods, Wares or Merchandizes lye concealed or are suspected to lye concealed whereof the Customs and other Duties have not been or shall not be duly paid . . . and the said House, Warehouse, Shop, Cellar and other place to Search and Survey, and all and every the Trunks, Chests, Boxes and packs then and there found to break open and to do all and every other the matters and things which shall be found necessary for our service in such Cases and agreable to the Laws and Statutes relating to the said Revenues.”
8. Butler's commission as Tide Surveyor, dated 22 Aug. 1768, was in a standard form conveying powers to enter ships and, with a writ of assistance, buildings, to search for prohibited goods, “and the same to seize to his Majesty's use.” Salem Record Book, 1763–1772, p. 67. See also his instructions, 23 Aug. 1768, which deal with his authority to board vessels and “rummage” cargo, but contain no express power to seize. Id. at 68. There is no notation that this Commission was sworn, although it is clear (note 1 above) that Butler acted as Tide Surveyor. No objection on this point seems to have been made at the trial. If it had been, Butler might have been held to have seized under his earlier commission as “Customs Officer,” which conveyed the same powers. Id. at 63–64.
9. The correct citations are 6 Geo. 1, c. 21, §24 (1719), and 11 Geo. 1, c. 30, §32 (1724). These statutes provided that in trial upon forfeitures, penalties, and other matters relating to the customs, proof of the actual exercise of office at the time in controversy was sufficient to create a rebuttable presumption that the officer was authorized. They are set out in No. 45, notes 1048, 1149. See also id., text at note 975.
10. That is, 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §15, note 211 above.
11. Thus in MS. Perhaps JA started to write “any thing.” This sentence is in a thicker ink and appears more hurriedly written.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0009-0001

Editorial Note

On 14 October 1772 George Dawson, an officer of the royal navy, who since at least 1768 had been commissioned to assist in the enforcement of the Acts of Trade off the New England coast, seized the sloop Dolphin and her cargo at Holmes Hole, Martha's Vineyard.1 The cause of the seizure was a defect in the vessel's papers. She had been built and registered in Marshfield, Massachusetts, in 1759, but in the meantime had been sold to new owners in that port. Unfortunately the requirement of the Act of 1696 that the transfer be endorsed on the register was overlooked. The Dolphin was thus in technical violation of a provision of the statute which had not previously been enforced. Samuel Fitch, now the Advocate General, brought a libel against vessel and cargo in Dawson's behalf on 4 November.2
The parties had been cited to appear on 11 November, but the argument was probably had early in February 1773. In the interim, vessel and { 224 } goods were released on stipulation to the owners.3 When the case came on, Adams, making his first known appearance in a forfeiture proceeding since 1769,4 was of counsel for the claimants. Fitch argued for Dawson. Adams' notes (Document I) set forth the statutory provisions upon which the case turned, as well as several authorities on the question of statutory construction.5 The opinion and decree of the court (Document II) show that Judge Auchmuty resolved the case into three issues: (1) If there were a violation, did the provision of the Act making an improperly registered vessel liable to forfeiture “as any foreign ship” bring into play the section dealing with foreign vessels, under which cargo too was forfeit, or was the penalty forfeiture of the vessel only?6 (2) Was this a penal statute which must thus be construed strictly? (3) Did the penalty of forfeiture, which clearly attached for failure to obtain the new registration required in the event of change of name or sale to new owners in a different port, apply to a sale to new owners in the same port?7
Auchmuty decided all three questions in favor of the claimants in a detailed and lengthy piece of statutory construction. His opinion on the first two points is relatively clear. On the last question, which was conclusive in the case, his language is somewhat muddy, but he seems to have found two bases for the result: (1) That no penalty attached for violation of the home-port sale provisions, whatever the nature of the sale. (2) That if, as Fitch argued, these provisions only covered the sale of a part interest in the vessel, then no provision of the Act covered the case of the Dolphin, which was a sale of the entire vessel within the home port. On whatever ground, on 2 March, Auchmuty decreed that the libel be dismissed as a matter of law. He found probable cause for the seizure, however, which meant that the claimants were required to pay their own costs.8
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.
2. Massachusetts Gazette, 5 Nov. 1772, p. 3, col. 2. For the statute, see note 715 below. As to previous enforcement, see note 26 below. Fitch had been appointed Advocate General on 4 March 1770 to replace Sewall, who had finally resigned his post to undertake his new duties as Judge of Admiralty at Halifax. See “Boyle's Journal of Occurrences in Boston, 1759–1778,” 84 NEHGR 263 (1930).
3. See note 1738 below. The trial has been dated on two grounds: (1) The use of a stipulation suggests a delay in the proceedings, which usually followed the filing of the libel by a week or less. Since Dawson was a naval officer, delay may have been necessitated by his other duties. (2) Auchmuty's decree which might have been expected to follow trial by a week or so was given on 2 March 1773, and would have been given “some days sooner,” except for a petition for rehearing. See text following note 1940 below.
4. He had participated in the trial of an Admiralty appeal in Feb. 1772. See p. 104 above.
5. In the Adams Papers there is an undated MS in JA's hand entitled “Construction of Statutes,” which contains extracts from many of the authorities cited by JA at notes 8–1316–21 below. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. In all probability these notes were made in preparation for this case.
6. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §§2, 18 (1696), notes 210, 412, below.
7. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §21, note 715 below.
8. The finding also barred any action against the seizing officer. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §46 (1764). These advantages had long been given to English customs officers under statutes which presumably were not applicable in the colonies. See 19 Geo. 2, c. 34, §16 (1746), discussed in No. 44, note 1062. It is usually held that the Act of 1764 marked the introduction of this privilege in the colonies. See Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 50–51; Dickerson, Navigation Acts 179–184; Knollenberg, Origin of the American Revolution 179. As this case shows, the provision did not throw the entire cost of litigation upon the claimant. The purpose was to alter the familiar practice whereby the losing party bore the entire cost of suit. See 4 Holdsworth, History of English Law 536–538.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0009-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1773-02

Adams' Notes of Statutes and Authorities1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, February 1773
George Dawson Esqr. vs. The Sloop Dolphin, Walson, Lothrop and others owners.
This Vessell was seized merely for the omission of an Indorsement upon her Register.
7. & 8. W. 3d, c. 22. An Act for preventing Frauds and regulating Abuses in the Plantation Trade.
§.2: Be it enacted, that after 25th March 1698— “No Goods or Merchandises, shall be imported into or exported out of, any Colony or Plantation, to his Majesty in Asia, Africa, or America, belonging, or in his Possession, or which may hereafter belong unto, or be in the Possession of his Majesty, his Heirs or Successors, or shall be laden in, or carryed from any one Port or Place in the said Colonies or Plantations, to any other Port or Place in the same, the Kingdom of England, Dominion of Wales, or Town of Berwick upon Tweed, in any Ship or Bottom but what is, or shall be of the built of England, or of the Built of Ireland or the said Colonies or Plantations, and wholly owned by the People thereof, or any of them, and navigated with the Masters, and three fourths of the Mariners of the said Places only” (except Prize ships &c. and foreign ships employed for 3 years to bring in naval Stores) “Under Pain of Forfeiture of Ship and Goods” 1/3 to the King, 1/3 to the Governor, 1/3 to the Informer.2
§.17. “For the more effectual Prevention of Frauds which may be used to elude the Intention of this Act by colouring Foreign Ships under English Names;” be it further enacted, &c. that, “No Ship, or Vessell, shall be deemed or pass, as a Ship of the Built of England, Ireland, Wales, Berwick, Guernsey, Jersey, or any of his Majestys Plantations in America so as to be qualified to Trade to, from, or in, any of the said Plantations untill the Person, or Persons, claiming Property in such Ship or Vessell shall register the same as follows, that is to say, if the Ship, at the Time of such Register doth belong to { 226 } any Port in England, Ireland, Wales, or to the Town of Berwick upon Tweed, then Proof shall be made upon oath of one or more of the owners of such Ship or Vessell, before the Collector, and Comptroller, of his Majestys Customs in such Port; or if at the Time of such Register, the Ship belong to any of his Majestys Plantations in America, or to the Islands of Guernsey or Jersey, then the like Proof to be made before the Governor, together with the Principal officer of his Majesty's Revenue residing on such Plantation or Island” &c.
Form of the oath.3
§.18. “Which Oath, being attested by the Governor or Custom officer, respectively who administered the same, under their Hands and Seals, shall after having been registered by them, be delivered to the Master of the Ship for the Security of her Navigation, a Duplicate of which Register shall be immediately transmitted to the Commissioners of Customs in the Port of London, in order to be entered in a general Register to be there kept for this Purpose, with Penalty upon any Ship or Vessell trading to, from, or in any of his Majesty's Plantations in America” &c. “and not having made Proof of her Built and Property, as is here directed that she shall be liable, and she is hereby made liable, to such Prosecution and Forfeiture, as any foreign ship” (except Prizes &c.) “would for trading with those Plantations by this Law be liable to.”4
Prize ships to be registered &c.5 Fisher Boats, Hoys &c. Lighters &c. not to be registered.6
§. 21. “That No Ships Name registered shall be afterwards changed, without registering such Ship de Novo, which is hereby required to be done, upon any Transfer of Property to another Port, and delivering up the former Certificate to be cancelled, under the same Penalties, { 227 } and in the like Method, as is herein before directed; and that in Case there be any alteration of Property in the same Port, by the Sale of one or more Shares in any Ship after registering thereof, such Sale shall always be acknowledged by Indorsement on the Certificate of the Register before two Witnesses, in order to prove that the entire Property in such Ship remains to some of the Subjects of England, if any dispute arises concerning the same.”7
Rules of Construction. Woods Inst. 8.8—3. Rep. 7.b.9—4. Inst. { 228 } 330.10—4 Bac. Abr. 652.11 1 Blackst. Com. 87. 88.12—1. Inst. 11.b.13
1. In JA's hand, in his Admiralty Book, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184. For the dating, see note 3 above.
2. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §2 (1696). Quotation marks supplied. Italics are JA's. The last clause of the section is “and the other third part to the person who shall inform and sue for the same, by bill, plaint or information, in any of his Majesty's courts of record at Westminster, or in any court in his Majesty's plantations, where such offense shall be committed.”
3. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §17 (1696). Quotation marks supplied. Italics are JA's. The section concludes,
“which oath the said governors and officers of the customs respectively are hereby authorized to administer in the tenor following, viz. “JURAT” A.B. That the ship [name] of [port] whereof [master's name] is at present master, being a [kind of built] Of [burthen] tuns, was built at [place, where] in the year [time when] and that [owners name] of [] and [] of, &c. are at present owners thereof; and that no foreigner, directly or indirectly, hath any share, or part, or interest therein.”
As to the administration of this provision, see Bernard and Lotte Bailyn, Massachusetts Shipping 1697–1714 1–12 (Cambridge, Mass., 1959).
4. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §18 (1696). Quotation marks supplied. Italics are JA's.
5. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §19 (1696), providing that ships condemned as prize in the High Court of Admiralty in England are to be specially registered, with oath made as to their capture and condemnation, rather than their building.
6. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §20 (1696), providing that such craft need not be registered if they are used only for river or coastwise navigation.
7. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §21 (1696). Quotation marks supplied. Italics are JA's.
8. This reference is ambiguous, since rules of statutory construction appear on page 8 of both Thomas Wood, An Institute of the Laws of England (London, 9th edn., 1763), and of Thomas Wood, A New Institute of the Imperial or Civil Law (London, 1704). While it is possible that JA used the latter work because of the civil-law nature of the court of Admiralty (See No. 46, note 49126), the rules in the former are more directly concerned with the interpretation of acts of Parliament, the problem here; moreover, the authorities cited in notes 917, 1018, and 1321, below, appear in the first cited work, which is also quoted in JA's other notes on construction. See note 5 above. Following are pertinent passages from Wood, Institute of the Laws of England 13–14:
“The Preamble or Rehearsal of a Statute is to be taken for Truth; therefore good Arguments and Proofs may be drawn from the Preamble or Rehearsal. . . .
“A Sentence, which begins and ends with specifying Persons and Things of an inferior Rank ought not to be extended by General Words to those that are Superior; as by these general Words, (viz.) And no other Person or Act whatsoever, &c. shall not include superior Persons or Things that were not particularly expressed.
“Statutes must be interpreted by reasonable Construction, according to the Meaning of the Legislators.
“It is natural to construe one part of a Statute by another.
“They may be construed according to Equity; especially where They give Remedy for Wrong; or are for Expedition of Justice, or to prevent Delays; for Law-makers cannot comprehend all Cases. . . .
“A Penal Statute regularly ought to be construed strictly. But it may be construed beneficially; for what is out of the Mischief, is out of the Meaning of a Law, though it is within the Letter. [The preceding two sentences appear in JA's notes on construction, note 5 above.] And on the contrary, what is within the same Mischief, shall be within the same Remedy, tho' it be out of the Letter of the Law. . . .
“It [a Statute] must be construed that no innocent Man may by a literal Construction receive [i.e. sustain] Damages.
“Statutes made to prevent and suppress Fraud ought to have a favourable Interpretation. . . .
“Custom or Usage is a good Interpreter of a Law.”
9. Heydon's Case, 3 Co. Rep. 7a, 7b, 76 Eng. Rep. 637, 638 (Exch. 1584), held that a copyhold estate was an estate for life within the meaning of 31 Hen. 8, c. 13 (1540), a statute intended to prevent religious orders from avoiding dissolution by making new leases of lands when estates were already in being in those lands.
“[F]or the sure and true Interpretation of all Statutes in general (be they penal or beneficial, restrictive or enlarging of the Com. Law,) four things are to be discerned and considered.
“1. What was the Common Law before the making of the Act.
“2. What was the Mischief and Defect for which the Common Law did not provide.
“3. What Remedy the Parliament hath resolved and appointed to cure the Disease of the Commonwealth.
“And 4. The true Reason and Remedy; and then the Office of all the Judges is always to make such Construction as shall suppress the Mischief, and advance the Remedy, and to suppress subtil Inventions and Evasions for Continuance of the Mischief, and pro privato commodo, and to add Force and Life to the Cure and Remedy, according to the true Intent of the Makers of the Act, pro bono publico.”
10. 4 Coke, Institutes 330:
“Every Statute ought to be expounded according t/o the intent of them that made it, where the words thereof are doubtful and incertain, and according to the rehearsal of the Statute; and there [i.e. in Year Book, 4 Edw. 4, fols. 4, 12] a general statute is construed particularly, upon consideration had of the cause of making of the Act, and of the rehearsal of all the parts of the Act. To conclude this point with a general rule allowed by all laws in construction of statutes, Quamvis lex generaliter loquitur, restringenda tamen est, ut cessante ratione et ipsa cesset: cum enim ratio sit anima vigorque ipsius legis, non videtur legislator id sensisse quod ratione careat etiamsi verborum generalitas prima facie aliter suadeat.”
11. 4 Bacon, Abridgment 652 contains several authorities to the effect that despite the rule of strict construction, the intent of the legislature must be observed. Compare note 3413 below. There follows a series of “other rules” to be followed in statutory construction which are more favorable to JA's case. For example,
“Acts of Parliament are to be so construed, that no Man, who is innocent or free from Injury or Wrong, be punished or endamaged.
“No Statute shall be interpreted so as to be inconvenient, or against Reason.”
In JA's notes on construction, note 5 above, appears the following extract from 4 Bacon, Abridgment 651:
“4. Bac. Abr. 651. 9. Penal Acts of Parliament are to be strictly construed. The Rules of the Common Law will not suffer the general Words of a Statute to be restrained, to the Prejudice of him upon whom a Penalty is to be inflicted: But there are a Multitude of Cases, where such general Words shall be restrained in his favour.”
12. 1 Blackstone, Commentaries *87–88, part of a discourse on “the rules to be observed with regard to the construction of statutes.” In JA's notes on construction, note 5 above, appear abstracts of the following passages:
“1. . . . Let us instance again in the same restraining statute of the 13 Eliz. [i.e. 13 Eliz. 1, c. 10]. By the common law ecclesiastical corporations might let as long leases as they thought proper: the mischief was, that they let long and unreasonable leases, to the impoverishment of their successors: the remedy applied by the statute was by making void all leases by ecclesiastical bodies for longer terms than three lives or twenty one years. Now in the construction of this statute it is held, that leases, though for a longer term, if made by a bishop, are not void during the bishop's life; or, if made by a dean and chapter, they are not void during the life of the dean: for the act was made for the benefit and protection of the successor. The mischief is therefore sufficiently suppressed by vacating them after the death of the grantors; but the leases, during their lives, being not within the mischief, are not within the remedy. . . .
“3. Penal statutes must be construed strictly. Thus the statute 1 Edw. VI. c. 12. having enacted that those who are convicted of stealing horses should not have the benefit of clergy, the judges conceived that this did not extend to him that should steal but one horse, and therefore procured a new act for that purpose in the following year. And, to come nearer our own times, by the statute 14 Geo. II, c. 6, stealing sheep, or other cattle, was made felony without benefit of clergy. But these general words, 'or other cattle,' being looked upon as much too loose to create a capital offence, the act was held to extend to nothing but mere sheep. And therefore in the next sessions, it was found necessary to make another statute, 15 Geo. II, c. 34. extending the former to bulls, cows, oxen, steers, bullocks, heifers, calves, and lambs, by name.”
13. Coke, Littleton 11b:
“From statutes his arguments and proofs are drawn, 1. From the rehersal or preamble of the statute. 2. By the body of the Law diversly interpreted. Sometime by other parts of the same statute, which is benedicta expositio & ex visceribus causae. Sometime by reason of the Common Law. But ever the general words are to be intended of a lawful Act, and such interpretation must ever be made of all statutes, that the innocent or he in whom there is no default may not be damnified.”

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0009-0003

Author: Auchmuty, Robert Jr.
Date: 1773-03-02

Auchmuty's Opinion and Decree1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, 2 March 1773
George Dawson Esqr. vs. Sloop Dolphin and Cargoe.
This Libel is bottomed on the Act of the 7. & 8. Will. 3 Cap. 22. Those parts therefore of the Act, which relates to the present case must be thoroughly considered.
The facts either proved, or granted, by the Advocates on both sides are, that said sloop was built at Marshfield in this province by inhabitants of the same, and by them owned. In the Year 1759 was duly registered, afterwards by the original was sold to the present owners and claimants, who are inhabitants of the same port with her former owners, that she has been always navigated with three fourths, at least, of english subjects, and that her original name has never been changed. But that on the transferr to the present owners, there was neither a new register taken out, nor any indorsement on the certificate of the old one, and that said Vessell and Cargo being inward bound were seized by said Dawson at a place called Holmes's hole within the port of Boston.
The Advocate General insisted, that a vessel and cargo under the abovementioned circumstances are forfeited by force of the said Statute. Because all vessels, together with their Cargoes, trading to or from the plantations, which are not qualified as the Act directs, are thereby declared forfeit. That the words used in the seventeenth section thereof “deemed or pass” signify adjudged or decreed, and therefore taken in that sense, must relate to a Court and not to Custom Officers.2 That this Act ought not to be considered as a penal one, because the forfeiture therein given is not annexed to any crime, for which the Actor is to suffer corporally, but only to a neglect. And therefore, the rules urged by the gentlemen on the other side touching the construction of penal Statutes, are not applicable to the present case. That the importance of this Act, resulting from its great public { 230 } utility ought to draw such a construction, as will operate very Severely against Claimants. That the last clause in the Act relates only to a partial transfer of a vessel, the words being “and that in case of any alteration of property in the same port, by the sale of one or more Shares in any ship after registering thereof, such sale shall always be acknowledged by indorsement on the certificate of the register before two witnesses” &c.3 That by using those words “one or more Shares,” it is evident only a partial transfer was intended. That this last clause must be taken as part of the general plan of the Act, and therefore must be construed as connected with and relative to the penal parts of it. That the Statute does not say a subject shall forfeit his vessell for not registering her but that she shall not be qualified to trade, and therefore if she does without being registered, she ought, to all intents and purposes, be adjudged a foreign vessell, and so the Cargo condemnable as much as if seized on board a trading vessel actually belonging to foreigners.4
By the Gentlemen on the other side, it was urged, that as indorsements on the Certificate of the register were not practiced till of late nor even required at the Custom houses, it would be against equity now to mark such instances with the utmost severity.5 That, as there is not the least Shade of proof, or even a suggestion of fraud, in this case, it is not within the mischief intended to be remedied by the Statute.6 That the words “deemed or pass” ought not to be construed adjudged or decreed, but more properly are to be understood only as directory to Officers of the customs in the entering and clearing of vessels. That penal Statutes ought not constructively to be extended, because such a practice is against the well known and established rules of law, and in Support of which they produced several good authorities.7 That as no fraud was either committed or designed in this case, the Statute ought not to be construed Strictly against them, even if it was not penal.8 But that the same is penal and therefore a fortiori { 231 } it cannot. That the last clause in the Act has no penalty annexed to it, nor can that clause consistent with the Authorities mentioned be made by construction to relate to the preceeding parts of the Statute mentioning penalties. But if at all it must be confined to the forfeiture expressed in the eighteenth section,9 which extends only to the vessell. These were the principal matters mentioned and relied on by the gentlemen on both sides; some of which do not appear to me to deserve much notice in the present case.
In determining this cause first great care must be taken in making a true distinction between such parts of the Act, as relate entirely to vessels the property of foreigners, and those which only respect english built and owned vessels, tho' not registered pursuant to the directions of the Act. Because on a supposition, that the vessel now libelled against is forfeit a question will Arise, whether the Cargo is also, which question entirely rests on that distinction.
Secondly, whether this Act is to be considered as penal. Because, the rules of construing such Acts, are variant from those which relate to, and govern Acts which are not. And lastly, what is the legal construction of the words contained in the last clause of said Act.
In the second section of the Act Ship and goods are both declared forfeited.10 But then it must be recollected, that the whole of that section entirely relates to foreign built vessels, owned by foreigners and navigated by such. Indeed that section contains nothing more than a repetition of the capital act of navigation, the 12. Car. 2. excepting some additional prohibition touching the plantations.11 In this section there is not any mention of vessels really english built, owned by english Subjects or navigated by such: therefore such cannot be the objects of that clause not being therein mentioned. But the contrary will evidently appear by considering those subsequent parts of the same act, wherein notice is particularly taken and directions given how they shall be qualified, under a certain, and in part, a different penalty. I can not therefore conceive how, consistent with propriety or justice, the said second section, guarded by the forfeiture of ship and Cargo, and calculated for a certain express purpose can relate or be extended to a distinct detach'd part of the same Act, clearly made to regulate cases totally different and under a different forfeiture. Compare the { 232 } abovementioned section with the Eighteenth, and not only the difference in point of forfeiture but the reason of it, I apprehend, will appear obvious. In the second section the Act goes entirely on the supposition, that the vessel so trading is owned by foreigners of foreign built, and not navigated by three fourths english. Doubtless if such a practice was permitted, it would have a direct tendency to enrich foreigners and prevent the increase of English shipping and seamen; therefore in such instances both vessel and cargo are declared forfeit. But in the eighteenth section, the Legislators have no such foreign vessel in view, having already made provision for such, but are guarding against certain mischiefs which might arise among their own Subjects. As the dangers and loss to goverment, where the vessell is really of english built, owned and navigated by english subjects, though not registered pursuant to the Act, can not be so great as in the Case of foreign vessels trading in the plantations, so neither ought the penalty to be. The greater the injury done to a State or an individual, the higher the punishment ought to Arrise. This I take to be one of the two great reasons for varying the penalties in the aforementioned clauses. There is also another very obvious one for the parliament's not annexing the same penalty to the two sections. For had they done it, in some instances very great loss, and in others, total ruin might thereby have fallen upon innocent subjects; a consequence which that Legislature have always Studiously avoided, and where from the necessity of using general expressions, such an instance has come within the express letter of an Act, the common law Judges have in conformity to the designs and desires of parliament ruled it not to be within the meaning of it.12 This rule however is not perhaps to be taken as unlimited, but only applicable where such an exemption may safely be made, and the Act remain in its full intended force. The case alluded to is plainly that of freighters. The wisdom or justice of parliament ought never to be so impeached, as to suppose that, for the omission of an Owner, the innocent freighter who could not, in the nature of things, be privy to it, should suffer perhaps to his total ruin. Such a doctrine if once established, I imagine, would be very destructive to trade and Commerce, and therefore instead of promoting the Public interest, would have a quite contrary effect. And in Addition to what has been observed, I may safely assert, there never was, and I hope never will be found among the english law rules of construing Statutes, that a Judge shall extract the penalty from the first part of a law, calculated for one express evident purpose only, and annex it to another part of the { 233 } same Act, which relates entirely to a different case and governed by different reasons; especially, when in such other part, a penalty is given in an as express terms as that Contained in the first part, though not so great. Granting an english vessel and Cargo to be seized which came within the express provision of the Eighteenth Section, and surely thats as strong a case as the present, could a Judge make an addition to that Part of the Act by condemning both vessel and Cargo, when the Act itself declares only the former liable to forfeitures. On the whole, I am clear in opinion, on supposition the vessel now libelled by law ought to remain forfeit, her Cargo ought not.
In order to determine whether an Act is penal within the sense of the Law, it must first be enquired, whether the Common law is thereby altered, and Secondly, whether there is any penalty expressly annexed to such Act, either pecuniary or corporal. To conclude all Acts not penal, except such as inflict the latter, is contradicting rules too well established to be even called in question. Nor will it do to suppose that the general utility of an Act can exempt it from being Classed among penal Statutes; because such a conclusion proves too much. All public Statutes are made to supply some omission, or correct some defect in the common law, and in their nature must be founded in, and designed for the public Good; therefore as the law has not yet pointed out to what degree of public good such Acts must attain to prevent their being construed as penal ones, they must all remain so, which come under the first mentioned rules, or more. To affirm the latter, in direct contradiction to the many law Authorities, proving the contrary, is what I neither dare or wish to do. When a severe corporal punishment is enacted, the Argument drawn from importance and public utility, seems to me, will be stronger, for such Acts are made to prevent the most atrocious crimes, and therefore those Statutes may justly be said to be of the greatest importance and utility to the community. This doctrine however has never prevailed, nor never can untill the well known and established rules of law are entirely altered.13 And it is equally clear, from all the books treating on this Subject, that very many Acts, to the breach of which there is not any corporal punishment fix'd, but only a fine or forfeiture, have { 234 } always been esteemed penal, and received constructions applicable to such Statutes. To enumerate instances of this kind to convince Lawyers would be a misspence of time.14 On a due and thorough consideration of this point, I am of opinion, that the Act in question is and must be, notwithstanding its general importance, which undoubtedly is very great, and ought in every part to be punctually complied with, determined penal, and liable to the rules of construction relative to such Acts.
My next business is to endeavour to disclose the true meaning of the last words in the Statute,15 on which this Case rests.
I have already attempted to shew a distinction between those parts of the Act which relate to foreigners, and those which appertain to English Subjects, not conforming to the express requisites of the Statute. I shall now also attempt to shew a difference between cases coming under the last paragraph of said Statute, supposing this to be one of that class for the present, and such as are within the words immediately preceeding said paragraph. Whenever an Act is introductory of new rules for the regulation of commerce, ordaining what shall be done by the subject, and the manner of doing it, namely under oath, establishing a certain penalty for the neglect thereof, and then immediately goes on to regulate cases under other and different circumstances, without mentioning any penalty or oath, it must be supposed, that the Legislators did not conceive the latter instances of such importance as the former: otherwise they would have guarded the one as strongly as the other. On no other principle can the different modes pointed out by the Act be accounted for. This is exactly the present case. The Act very clearly orders a register de novo on a vessel's name being changed. Also on any transfer of property to another port, under, as I construe it, the forfeiture of the vessel. Then follows the last clause Vizt. “And that in case of any alteration of property in the same port, by the sale of one or more shares &c. such sale shall always be acknowledged by indorsement on the certificate of the register” &c. Is it possible, on due consideration of these two clauses to suppose, that the Parliament conceived there was in both cases a like necessity of a new register, supposing the words “one or more shares” include an entire transfer, and yet in the one, command it expressly, and in the other, which immediately follows, order a different mode. Or can it be imagined, that by guarding the first part, which they have ma• { 235 } terially differed from the last, with a certain penalty, they thereby intended the penalty should be extended by implication to the last; especially since its beyond all doubt, that the sanction of an Oath is required by the first and omitted in the last. It's natural to conclude, had not the intention of the law makers been to have discriminated between the cases, they would have inserted those words about transfering one or more Shares in the same port before the penalty; and thereby have brought the three cases under the same predicament. By admitting the indorsement before two witnesses to be one complete mode of evidence to prove the property english, and that not under the sanction of an Oath, the Strongest bond of society, it is evident they did not think there was equal danger in such cases of evading the Act, as in the others. This, I think, must be the reason why they omitted, in the last part of the Statute, that strong requisite and the penalty. In my Opinion it is equally justifiable to condemn, where an entire transfer is made in the same port (tho' the words share or shares only extended to a partial Sale) because there was not a new register taken out, under colour of promoting the main Scope and purpose of the Act, as to extend a penalty clearly designed for certain cases, and expressly annexed thereto, to others, apparently in the contemplation of the Legislators, of much less consequence; and whereto they did not think proper, in express terms at least, to fix any. This would not be construing an Act in conformity to any rules of law, but in fact, giving a decree in addition to an Act. Such a power would be subversive of the authority of parliament, and of all Acts.16 For by the same reason that a Judge could add to, he might diminish from any act, so that it would be in his power to mould them ad libitum. If the words, “any one or more Shares,” are taken as relative to and meaning a partial transfer, then the true sense of them is, that when the fact is known to the officers of the Customs, they shall have power to refuse entering or Clearing till the indorsement is made. And where it is done and produced, it shall amount, prima facie, to satisfactory evidence of the property's being wholly english; and thereby put an end to disputes about it, and prevent great delays in business. From this view of the words, the reason why the Compilers of the Act, did neither extend the penalty or require a new register in such partial transfers, is evident. First, there is not in such instances equal danger of the { 236 } Act's being evaded, with impunity, as where a vessel is wholy transfer'd to another Port or where her name is changed. And secondly, because considering the vast numbers of transfers of quarters eighths sixteenths and other small proportions or shares of vessels, it would be laying a heavy burthen on trade, not only of the pecuniary, but troublesome kind, to require in every such instance a new register. This construction, tho' not clear of all doubts, is much the most natural and easy, it being vastly more consistent with the other parts of the Act, than the one last contended for by the Advocate General.
I will now particularly consider that Gentleman's construction of this last part of the Act, and see how well his own doctrine will serve his purpose. He very Strenuously and repeatedly urged, that the words “any one or more Shares”, therein used, manifestly pointed out the meaning of Parliament. That thereby, I take his own words, “it is evident to any one, who has the least Idea of the force of english words, only a partial transfer was intended, and not an entire and complete one.” So far I incline to his Opinion. But in the Close of his Argument, he as strongly contended, that this very last part of the Act must be taken as part of the general System intended to be formed by the Act, must be connected with, and relate to the penal parts of it; and therefore as this vessel was not qualified to trade, that part of the Act, which gives the forfeiture of both vessel and Cargo, must be applied to this last part; And consequently, in the present case both are forfeited. This reasoning can not be right, because by his own doctrine the words, “any one or more Shares” mean no more than a partial transfer, which is not pretended in the present case, but the Contrary has been by him all along acknowledged, Vizt. an entire Sale of the said vessel. So that supposing his first argument right, the present case, beyond all possibility of doubt, is casus omissus. And it is equally certain granting it to be such, that it is not in any Judge's power to remedy that inconvenience, any more than to make a new law.
Upon the whole, as I can not find any Law by which either vessel or cargo ought to be condemned, I adjudge and decree, that the said libel be dismissed, and it is accordingly hereby dismissed, saving the right to both parties of appeal. I do not decree a restitution of said Sloop and cargo, because the same have been already delivered to the Claimant, by virtue of a writ of delivery they first having duly stipulated for the value thereof agreable to the practice of the Court.17
{ 237 }
I also certify, that as the Seizing officer could not possibly know whether the transfer was in the same port, or who were the real Owners, there was a probable cause for making said Seizure.18 As to the costs, I decree each party to pay his own.
[signed] Robert Auchmuty Comr. &c.19
The above decree would have been given some days sooner, had there not been an application for another argument which application is now waived.
[signed] Robt. Auchmuty Comr. &c.
1. NN: Samuel Adams Papers. Copy attested in the hand of Ezekiel Price, Deputy Register of the Court of Vice Admiralty.
2. See text following note 210 above. The argument seems to be that the court is required to find that an unregistered vessel is not a vessel belonging to the colonies or England.
3. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §21, note 715 above.
4. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §§2, 18, notes 210, 412, above.
5. This position is confirmed by a public notice from the Commissioners dated 12 Dec. 1772, reciting that there had been great neglect on the part of ship owners in complying with the provisions of 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §21 (note 715 above), requiring new registers or endorsements, and warning that ships failing to comply in the future “will be liable to the same Prosecutions and Penalties as if such Vessels were owned entirely by Foreigners.” Massachusetts Gazette, 7 Jan. 1773, p. 4, col. 1.
6. See authorities cited, notes 816, 917, 1220, above. Compare the preamble of the pertinent sections, text following note 210 above.
7. See authorities cited, notes 816, 1120, above.
8. See authorities cited, notes 816, 1119, 1321, above.
9. See text at note 412 above.
10. See text at note 210 above.
11. 12 Car. 2, c. 18, §1 (1660). The only differences with 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §2 (1696) are the provisions in the latter barring foreign ships in the intercolonial trade and making exceptions for foreign prizes and mast ships. See text at note 210 above.
12. See authorities cited, notes 816, 1119, 1321, above.
13. There is authority for the proposition that penal statutes tending to the public good, at least where the offense is a felony or heinous crime, should be freely construed, in 4 Bacon, Abridgment 652, the same page in which JA's authority, note 1119 above, appears. To the contrary, however, see the cases cited by Blackstone, note 1220 above. See also a passage extracted by JA in his notes on construction, note 5 above, from Wood, Institute of the Laws of England 561: “Penal Statutes shall not be extended by Equity: The Words may be construed beneficially, according to the Intent of the Legislators; but things out of the Words shall not be taken by Equity.”
14. See, for example, 4 Bacon, Abridgment 651, note 1119 above; 1 Blackstone, Commentaries *87–88, note 1220 above.
15. 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §21, note 715 above.
16. The argument is somewhat cloudy, but Auchmuty seems to refer to his position below, that the case of an entire sale within a port is not covered by the statute, and to say that extending to one section penalties clearly affixed to another would be a vice equal to extending a statute to cover a case which the legislature had omitted. See note 816 above.
17. Delivery of vessel and goods on stipulation for their value was a familiar Admiralty practice which was used in the Massachusetts court in revenue cases. See 2 Browne, Civil Law 411–412; Harrison v. The Chance, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 10 March 1769. It was presumably this practice, rather than the statutory “Writ of Delivery” permitted in the Exchequer where goods were perishable or the informer delayed his suit, that was followed here. See 13 & 14 Car. 2, c. 11, §30 (1662).
18. See note 8 above.
19. That is, “Commissary Deputy and Surrogate of the Court of Vice Admiralty of Boston in the Province of Massachusetts Bay.” See No. 54, note 4.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0010-0001

Editorial Note

The Jenny, owned by Elisha Doane, long one of Adams' clients, was stopped inward bound to Boston on 3 March 1773 by George Dawson, the naval officer involved in the case of the Dolphin, No. 51. Finding that she had goods aboard of European origin that had not been shipped in Great Britain as required by statute, Dawson seized her and had her brought into port. On 24 March, Samuel Fitch, the Advocate General, filed a libel in the Court of Vice Admiralty against vessel and cargo. Doane claimed the Jenny and at least a portion of the goods seized, and argument was had on the case sometime in April. John Adams and Sampson Salter Blowers were of counsel for Doane; Fitch and James Otis argued for Dawson.1
{ 238 }
As Adams' minutes, printed below, indicate, Blowers opened the case for Doane, presumably because under the Acts of Trade the claimant had the burden of proof as to the origin of the goods.2 Two statutes were involved. Under the Staple Act of 1663 if goods “of the growth, production, or manufacture of Europe,” were “imported” into the colonies without having been loaded in England, vessel and goods were forfeit.3 A provision of the American Act of 1764 tightened enforcement of this regulation by permitting the seizure at sea of any goods found aboard a vessel “arriving from any part of Europe,” for which there were no papers showing that the goods had been taken aboard at a British port.4
In 1767 the High Court of Admiralty had upheld a decision of the Massachusetts Vice Admiralty Court that a vessel which had been seized in Boston Harbor when still three miles from port had “imported” goods within the meaning of the 1663 Act.5 The facts in the Jenny's case were apparently within this decision because the question does not seem to have been raised at the trial. In order to avoid forfeiture of the vessel, Blowers and Adams thus had to show that none of her cargo was of European “growth, production, or manufacture” ; if this was impossible, then at least all goods of non-European origin might be kept from condemnation, if it could be proved that the Jenny had cleared from a non-European port.
Blowers attempted to meet this burden by introducing evidence to the effect that the cargo had been loaded at Tangier. This fact, if established, would at least save non-European goods, and might allow an inference that the entire cargo, having been loaded in Africa, was of African origin. The evidence consisted of the testimony of several witnesses, probably members of the crew; the certificates of one Meshod Meguiers, apparently English Vice Consul at Tangier, that the goods had been loaded there; and the master's manifest, presumably also to the same effect.
Otis and Fitch seemed to have no direct evidence in rebuttal, but launched a telling counterattack both on the credibility of Blowers' evidence and on the inferences which he hoped to draw from it. The witnesses were all connected with Doane, and their testimony was full of inconsistencies; the certificates were incomplete, inconsistent, and of doubtful probative value; the manifest was rendered doubtful by evidence that Doane had tampered with it, and by one witness who indicated that the harbor of Tangier did not have adequate facilities for taking on cargo. In addition, much of the cargo was patently European in origin. In all likelihood the Jenny had actually cleared from Gibraltar, across the straits from Tangier.
Adams must have closed the case for Doane, but he has left us no record of his arguments. Whatever they were, they failed to convince the court completely. On 12 May the Jenny and at least part of her cargo, { 239 } consisting of raisins, wine, cotton and silk stockings, and several pieces of silk, were ordered to be sold. Since not all of the goods mentioned in Fitch's argument appear in the notice of sale, it is possible that the court found some items to have been non-European, both in origin and point of shipment.6 In any event, the sale on 20 May produced an adequate return for Dawson's efforts. The court's receipt book shows that his half of the proceeds amounted to £773 16s. 11 1/2d.7
1. Massachusetts Gazette, 25 March 1773, p. 3, col. 1. Doane, a wealthy Cape Cod shipowner, was to be Adams' client in the case of the Lusanna, No. 51, note 1. That the Jenny was inward bound may be inferred from the award of pilotage to Dawson on her condemnation as well as from the size of his share in her proceeds. See note 7 below. In a letter of 22 April 1773 to Arthur Lee, Samuel Adams remarked that “Otis yesterday was engaged in a cause in the admiralty on the side of Dawson, commander of one of the king's cutters.” Adams reported that the tories considered this a victory, but he wondered how they could “boast of the acquisition of one, whom they themselves have been ready to expose as distracted.” Harry A. Cushing, ed., The Writings of Samuel Adams, 3:36–37 (N.Y., 1907). Otis, who had been intermittently confined and released, was at this point in a decline. 11 Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates 281–284.
2. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §45 (1764), set out in No. 46, note 54.
3. 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §6, note 29 below.
4. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §30, note 310 below.
5. Bishop v. The Freemason, Quincy, Reports 387 (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. 51, note 1.
6. Massachusetts Gazette, 13 May 1773, p. 3, col. 1. A literal interpretation of 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §30, note 104 below, would have allowed condemnation of all goods not shipped in England, even though properly shipped outside Europe, if the vessel made a European stop prior to landfall in the colonies. Fitch's argument, text at note 1724 below, suggests a looser construction, however. It is possible that some of the Jenny's cargo may not have been claimed, and may have been sold separately under an order of 14 April 1773, for the sale of a small quantity of lemons and olives, and 1409 “raw hides” also seized by Dawson, for “illegal importation.” Massachusetts Gazette, 16 April 1773, p. 2, col. 3.
7. Receipts from Seizures of Ships, 2 July 1773, MBAt:Price Papers. Dawson also received £43 for “Pilotage, Information money and cash paid Mr. Otis.” Ibid. “Information money” may have covered either Fitch's fees or a payment to an informer. Dawson was entitled to a half, rather than a third, because the seizure was “at sea,” which was defined to include seizures “in or upon any river . . . not actually made on shore.” The Governor was thus not entitled to a share. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §42 (1764); 5 Geo. 3, c. 45, §26 (1765).

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0010-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1773-04

Adams' Minutes of the Argument1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, April 1773
Captn. Dawson. vs. Jenny.
Blowers. Libel, claim, 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §.6.2
Hillman, and Cato.
Certificates. Goods claimed, taken in at Tangier.
{ 240 }
Captn. Brace. Hides cured in the Hair with salt.
Brooke and Guthrie. Fez, Morocco.
Downes's Manifest.
Mr. Otis. Reads Libel, Claim, and Answer. 15 C[ar.] 2, c. 7, §. 6.
4. G. 3, c. 15. page 291. No Vessell shall be cleard out in England unless the whole Cargo was shipped in <England> Great Britain.3
Onus on the Claimant.4 No attempt to prove the Goods grown in Affrica.
Bishop [Burnet?] said he always presumed a [Priest?] to be a Rogue untill the contrary is proved.5 Doane has been catched. And therefore must be presumed to be a Smuggler, untill he proves himself a fair Trader.
This Vessell as curious a Voyage as St. Paul made to Rome.6
Pieces of Silks.
Mr. Hallowell tasted one Quarter Cask, it has the Taste of Malaga Wines, not so sweet as some Malaga.7
{ 241 }
Jona. Wild8 would blush at mentioning the Supposition, that C[aptain] Dawson procurd these silks to carry about to take in a fair Trader.
It appears on Record that a Number of Packages were thrown over. Negatur.
French Chart. Shews that C[aptain] Brace was mistaken in many things.
500 Cattle, an over load for the Ark. [ . . . ] to an Horse.9
Ballances the Testimonies of Mathews, Hillman and Cato.
Harrison and Hallowell, about Downes's Manifest.
Major Doane required the Master to swear differently from what he first intended.10 A strong mark of fraud.
The Conversation between Major Doane and Mr. Waterhouse and Hallowell, can by no means help them for it appears clear the Major did not follow his Advice.
As to the Conculs Papers produced, tho I am willing to allow them authentick, yet they can prove nothing for every Body knows those Certificates can be obtained when askd for.
Advocate General.
The Cause rest[s] on two distinct points, the first is on the 15 Car 2d.11 That the Goods on board her were not of the Growth &c. of Europe.
The other is that this Vessell came from some parts of Europe, and has produced no Cocket or Clearance.12
The Burthen of proof on the Claimants.
Remarks on the Statutes.
1. The Act of Charles, of the utmost national Service.13
{ 242 }
Captn. McNeal. No Harbour at Tangier, no shelter since the Pier blown up. An open Bay.14
The Act. 4. G. 3. whole Cargo must be relanded and reshipped. p. 291.
No Proof that any one Article, the Produce of Africa. Only consequential.
Certificate from Mr. Meshod Meguiers.
Salt not exported from Africa.
Oyl. 26 Boxes. Figgs, Capers &c.
Honey. Matts. Silks never exported from Africa.15
Our Witnesses, their Connection with the Claimant.
Cato talks of a Xebec 3 Masts. Hillman a Schooner, with 2 Masts.
Cato believes 'em to be Spaniards. Cato's 200 could not be Hillmans 200 therefore 400.
Mathews 900. 1st. did not know.16
Unwillingness and forgetfulness of Hillman. At a Loss as to Time how long, &c. when the Mate died &c.
Pampouses, shipd in Europe, tho produced in Africa must be shipped in England by the statute 4. G.17
The Wine.
Doane and his V[ice] Consul dont agree. D. says not shippd, Consul that they were at Tangier.
The only unerring Guide is Truth.
Masters Manifest. From Tangier, should have been from Gibralter.
1. In hands of JA and Sampson Salter Blowers. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. See notes 1017, 1320 below.
2. The Staple Act of 1663, 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §6: “[N]o commodity of the growth, production or manufacture of Europe, shall be imported into any land, island, plantation, colony, territory or place to his Majesty belonging, or which shall hereafter belong unto or be in the possession of his Majesty, his heirs and successors, in Asia, Africa, or America (Tangier only excepted,) but what shall be bona fide, and without fraud, laden and shipped in England, Wales, or the town of Berwick upon Tweed, and in English built shipping, or which were bona fide bought before the first day of October one thousand six hundred sixty and two, and had such certificate thereof as is directed in one act passed in the last sessions of this present parliament intituled, An Act for preventing frauds, and regulating abuses in his Majesty's customs; and whereof the master and three fourths of the mariners at least are English, and which shall be carried directly thence to the said lands, islands, plantations, colonies, territories or places, and from no other place or places whatsoever; any law, statute or usage to the contrary notwithstanding,” under penalty of forfeiture of ship and goods, one third to the Crown, one third to the Governor of the colony, and one third to the informer. Salt for the New England and Newfoundland fisheries, Madeira and Azores wines, and certain Scottish and Irish commodities were excepted. Id. §7. As to Tangier, see note 1421 below. For the construction of “imported,” see text at note 5 above.
3. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §30 (1764), after reciting that British vessels had been carrying whole cargoes of goods shipped in Europe direct to the colonies under a clearance covering a few articles shipped in Britain, provided that no
“ship or vessel shall, upon any pretence whatsoever, be cleared outwards from any port of this kingdom, for any land, island, plantation, colony, territory, or place, to his Majesty belonging, or which shall hereafter belong unto or be in the possession or under the dominion of his Majesty, his heirs, or successors, in America, unless the whole and entire cargo of such ship or vessel shall be bona fide, and without fraud, laden and shipped in this kingdom; and any officer of his Majesty's customs is hereby impowered to stop any British ship or vessel arriving from any part of Europe, which shall be discovered within two leagues of the shore of any of the said British colonies or plantations in America, and to seize and take from thence, as forfeited, any goods (except as hereinafter mentioned) for which the master or other person taking the charge of such ship or vessel shall not produce a cocket or clearance from the collector or proper officer of his Majesty's customs, certifying that the said goods were laden on board the said ship or vessel in some port of Great Britain.”Id.
Salt, wines of the Madeiras and Azores, and certain Irish commodities were excepted from the last provision. §31.
4. See text at note 2 above.
5. The allusion has not been identified, but the remark undoubtedly should be attributed to Gilbert Burnet (1643–1715), Bishop of Salisbury and ecclesiastical prime mover of the Revolution of 1688, whose best known work is his History of His Own Times (London, 1723–1734). DNB.
6. A reference to Paul's voyage from Judaea to make his appeal to Caesar at Rome, in the course of which he was driven all over the Mediterranean by contrary winds and shipwrecked at Malta before attaining his goal. Acts 27–28.
7. Malaga wines are Spanish, and thus not within the exception in the statutes, notes 29, 310, above. The taster was probably Robert Hallowell, commissioned Comptroller of the Port of Boston in 1770, when his brother Benjamin, who held that office since 1764, was made a Customs Commissioner in place of John Temple. Jones, Loyalists of Mass. 158–160.
8. The archrogue of the 18th century and hero of Henry Fielding's ironic novel, The Life of Mr. Jonathan Wild (London, 1743).
9. The reference is unclear, but it apparently is a reflection on the testimony of Hillman, Cato, and Mathews, who seem to have described a loading operation at Tangier, perhaps involving live cattle. See text at note 1623 below.
10. This sentence and the following text through note 2013 are in Blowers' hand. JA was apparently called away during the argument. The point here seems to be that Doane had required the master to submit an altered manifest on entry at Boston. For another example of Doane's casual attitude toward shipping documents, see No. 58, note 27. Compare id., note 17167.
11. 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §6, note 29 above.
12. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §30, note 310 above.
13. Probably the beginning of an argument for a construction of the Act favoring the Crown. Compare Fitch's argument in Dawson v. The Dolphin, No. 51, text following note 1623, and text at note 234. The remainder of the minutes are in JA's hand, suggesting that some of the argument may have been lost in the process of his resumption of note-taking.
14. Tangier was a British possession from 1662 until 1684. In the latter year the English abandoned it, blowing up the mole and fortifications which they had constructed. Commercial relations were maintained, however, primarily as a source of provisions for Gibraltar. Louis Sauveur de Chenier, The Present State of the Empire of Morocco, 1:20–21, 2:202, 355–356 (London, 1788).
15. One 18th-century account states that among the goods shipped at Tangier were “oils, gums, wax, elephants-teeth, . . . raw hides and wool.” 2 Chenier, Present State of the Empire of Morocco 356. The reading “pampouses” has been adopted on the supposition that the goods in question were slippers made of undressed cowhide. See OED: “pampootie,” “papoosh, or papouche.” The word might also be “pamponses,” perhaps a form of “pompon” or “pompion,” a kind of melon said to grow in the Indies, Java, and India. OED. Melons were a product of the Mediterranean. See John M. Baker, A View of the Commerce of the Mediterranean 100 (Washington, 1819). Some variety of the fruit might have been shipped to Boston in dried form, perhaps as gourds.
16. See text and note 916 above.
17. See note 6 above.

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Editorial Note

On 25 March 1774, aroused at the presumption which Boston had earlier displayed in dumping the East India Company's tea into the harbor, Parliament passed the Boston Port Act. This was the first of a series of harsh measures known as the Coercive, or Intolerable, Acts, which were designed to bring Massachusetts to heel. Instead they stirred an immediate storm of resistance, which produced that final colonial union necessary to make the fight for independence a reality.1 Adams' minutes of the arguments in a case arising in the first days of the Port Act's operation, which are printed below, are hardly prophetic of these later developments.
The Act, which was to remain in force until the Town had paid for the tea and made good other damage incurred through its rebelliousness, provided that after 1 June 1774 no goods other than food or fuel shipped coastwise could be loaded or unloaded in Boston Harbor, except by vessels which were there on or before that date. Even these ships were to depart by 14 June. Other vessels found moored or hovering in the Harbor, or within a league of it, could be seized as forfeit if they did not depart within six hours after being warned by a naval or customs officer. Violations of the Act were to be prosecuted in the same manner as offenses against the Acts of Trade, which meant at common law or in Admiralty at the option of the prosecutor.2
All that is known of the case which Adams minuted has been deduced from his notes. Some time in April 1774, one Ross, master of a vessel of unknown name, sailed from an unknown port bound for New York with a cargo which included indigo and wrought plate. When about 1500 miles from Boston, the vessel was seriously damaged, presumably through stress of weather. Finding his condition such that he could not make New York, Ross put into Boston although he had heard “in his Passage” that the port was closed. The date of his arrival cannot be calculated with any certainty; the best guess is that it was about the middle of June, but it could have been as late as mid-July.3 Apparently recognizing this as a genuine case of distress, Admiral Montagu and the customs officers allowed Ross to { 244 } enter the port for repairs. But Ross overstayed his welcome. After an indeterminate period, probably two to three weeks, his ship was still not ready to sail, and he had begun to offer some of his cargo for sale, perhaps to raise necessary funds.
The Crown now acted, presumably by seizing the vessel and libeling her in the Admiralty Court. In view of the local reaction to the Port Act, it is unlikely that the customs officers would have entrusted any case under it to a jury, and there is no record of any proceeding at common law.4 Daniel Leonard argued the case for the Crown and William Tudor appeared for Ross, who had presumably filed a claim for the vessel. Adams' minutes show that he attended the argument. It thus could have taken place before he left for the eastern circuit on 20 June, but it was probably held between his return from the eastward on about 18 July and his departure on 10 August to attend the Continental Congress at Philadelphia.5 The question chiefly agitated at the hearing was whether Ross had been diligent in getting his ship ready to put to sea. No record has been found of the result, but it seems most probable that the vessel was acquitted, because no notice of her sale as forfeit appeared in the Boston newspapers.
1. For the Tea Party and the Coercive Acts, see p. 105–106 above.
2. 14 Geo. 3, c. 19 (1774). As to the latter provision, see note 712 below.
3. One Ross entered at Boston from St. Croix early in May. Massachusetts Gazette, 5 May 1774, p. 2, col. 3. Since under 14 Geo. 3, c. 19, §4, a ship arriving before 1 June could have entered and would have had until 14 June to clear, it is unlikely that this was the Ross in question here. The dates in the text are consistent with the assumption that the hearing was held between 15 July and 10 August. See note 5 below. This would have been three to four weeks after the vessel's arrival, allowing her two or three weeks in port before seizure and a week to ten days between seizure and trial. A June arrival seems more likely because of Ross' “April” embarkation.
4. For accounts of several proceedings in Admiralty under the Act between 30 Sept. and 21 Nov. 1774, see “Letters of John Andrews,” 8 MHS, Procs. 371, 378, 386 (1864–1865).
5. See 2 JA, Diary and Autobiography96–97. The hearing was probably three or four weeks after the vessel's arrival. Since she must have arrived after 1 June, there probably would not have been time for trial before 20 June. See note 3 above. JA's return from Maine can be estimated on the basis of the fact that the Superior Court at Falmouth adjourned on 13 July. SCJ Rec. 1774, fol. 225.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0011-0002

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1774-06 - 1774-07

Adams' Minutes of the Argument1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, June or July 1774
Leonard. Port Bill, Lex Talionis. Punishment of Boston the main Object.
There is an Exception where by the Act of God, there is an Impossibility of getting out.2 A Necessity.
She had no Right to Stay to repair and refit for a Voyage.
She might have gone out, if not in 6 Hours,3 yet in two or three days.
She was not in a worse situation than she had been.
{ 245 }
She might have hired assistance.
The Part the Crown officers have acted is extreamly fair and legal.
The Admiral could not allow him to stay compleatly to refit. Tho he seemed to understand that he had leave to do so.
Mr. Gray4 tells us that the whole might have been had in a Week.
J. Hall thinks 7 or 8 days. Compasses were done in 4 days.
If she is not now fit for sea that is not an excuse.
He is shewing Specimens of his Indigo &c. and brings on shore some of his Wrought Plate. This comes within another Act.5
Plate—Goods, Wares or Merchandise.6
She was in the same Condition in which she came 500 Leagues.
Tudor. The Rules that govern other Acts, are to rule this.7
Ross Sail'd in April. Heard in his Passage that Boston Port was shut.8
Holrode describes their distress. Bound to N. York. Shut. And Middleton says, Distress. Mier, and Dodge.
John Hall. Mate of the Mercury9 describes her distress, no Masts, sails tattered.
James Hall. We have invalidated his Testimony.
{ 246 }
Jack the Pilot. Distress enough.
It was Ross's Duty to come in here.
Q. Whether Ross used his utmost Endeavour to get out?
Hall says Ross did Use a reasonable Dilligence. Middleton &c. Mier says Ross hurried them.
In Town. Mr. Hutchinson. Very dilligent. Concernd about lying at Expence.
His Landlady. Anxious to get away.
Ruggles the Sail maker. Up at Gun firing [hiring us?].10 Worked on the Mast when the Weather would permit. Employd as Many Hands as could be employed.
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. For the dating, see notes 3, 5, above.
2. There is no such exception within the Port Act. 14 Geo. 3, c. 19 (1774). Leonard may here refer to a doctrine of statutory construction that excuses liability for actions forced by acts of God. See 4 Bacon, Abridgment 649. Or he may be incorporating by analogy an exception in cases of necessity to the provision of the Act of 1764 requiring foreign vessels to leave colonial waters on warning. 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §33. See note 38 below.
3. Six hours was the grace period allowed to vessels after being warned to leave by naval or customs officers. 14 Geo. 3, c. 19, §3.
4. Perhaps John Gray, the proprietor of Gray's ropewalk.
5. Under 15 Car. 2, c. 7, §8 (1663), set out, No. 48, note 210, unloading goods before entry was a cause of forfeiture. Ross had presumably made no entry, because the customs officers had moved to Plymouth with their records. Warren, “The Colonial Customs Service in Massachusetts in its relation to the American Revolution,” 46 MHS, Procs. 440, 471–472 (1913). In addition, if the goods were European in origin, they could be forfeited if they had not been shipped in Great Britain. See No. 52.
6. The Port Act forbade the loading of “any goods, wares, or merchandise whatsoever, to be transported or carried into any other country, province, or place whatsoever, or into any other part of the said province of the Massachuset's Bay, in New England,” or the unloading of goods, wares or merchandise “to be brought from any other country, province, or place, or any other part of the said province of Massachuset's Bay in New England,” under penalty of forfeiture of goods, vessel, and small craft used in the process. 14 Geo. 3, c. 19, §1.
7. The Act, 14 Geo. 3, c. 19, §6, provided that forfeitures were to be prosecuted “in like manner as other penalties and forfeitures inflicted by any act or acts of parliament relating to the trade or revenues of the British colonies or plantations in America, are directed to be prosecuted,” under 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §§41–47 (1764) and 8 Geo. 3, c. 22 (1768). For authorities favoring strict construction of these Acts in favor of the claimant, see No. 51. In addition, there were provisions in some of the statutes for leniency toward unintentional violations. See, for example, 4 Geo. 3, c. 15, §22 (1764), excusing from liability goods improperly imported into England with no intent to defraud.
8. The Port Act was passed on 25 March 1774. News of it reached Boston on 11 May. Miller, Origins of the American Revolution 359–360.
9. One of the British warships on station off Boston to enforce the Act. See Rowe, Letters and Diary 273 (29 May 1774). Perhaps the Mercury had intercepted Ross' vessel and escorted her into port.
10. Illegible in MS. If the editors' reading is correct, the meaning may be “up at sunrise assembling a crew.”

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Editorial Note

Colonial forests were a natural resource upon which Britain depended for a vital element in her naval strength. The towering white pines which had grown untouched in the woods of northern New England for centuries were unequaled throughout the world as mast timber. Moreover, the supply from this source did not depend upon the vicissitudes of foreign trade or war and peace. The royal mast contractors met severe competition, however, because these same mighty trees were attractive to the colonists both for maritime uses and for the humbler purposes of the settler. To protect the forests from local depredations, the British developed a statutory conservation scheme, enforced in the Vice Admiralty Courts, which led to a running battle with the colonists through most of the 18th century.1
The basis of the scheme was the Massachusetts Charter of 1691, which combined the former colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Maine, Nova Scotia, and certain lands lying between the latter two, into a single province. In the Charter “all Trees of the Diameter of Twenty Four Inches and upwards of Twelve Inches from the ground” growing on land “not heretofore granted to any private persons” were reserved to the Crown, to be cut only by royal license; a penalty of £100 for each tree cut without license was established.2 To implement this provision a system of licensing certain royal mast contractors was established, and a Surveyor General of the Woods was appointed to oversee their operations and to put down unlicensed activity.3 After a series of only partly successful enforcement attempts, Parliament in 1711 embodied the Charter language in the { 248 } first of the White Pine Acts, which provided that no “white or other pine tree” meeting the Charter qualifications should be cut in any province or colony north of New Jersey. Penalties in the amount set in the Charter were to be sued for before the nearest justice of the peace and to be divided equally between the Crown and the informer.4
These provisions produced more controversy than conservation. The popular faction in the Massachusetts House, led by Dr. Elisha Cooke, a lifelong opponent of royal authority, denied that the Charter and Act bound the unincorporated Province lands in the timber-rich Gorges patent in Maine, claiming that the royal grant of this tract to Sir Ferdinando Gorges in 1639 brought it within the exception for lands granted to private persons.5 In 1718 Counsel for the Board of Trade held that the conveyance of these lands from the Gorges interests to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1678 and the vacation of the colony charter in 1684 revested the lands in the Crown and took them out of the exception.6 The focus then shifted { 249 } to the trees themselves. In 1721 the House claimed and exercised the power to seize for the Province logs that had been cut into twenty-foot lengths. The justification advanced by Cooke was that the Charter reserved only timber fit for use as masts. This stand was the basis of one of the charges of usurpation of the prerogative which Governor Shute successfully prosecuted against the House before the Privy Council in 1725.7
The Act of 1711 also proved inadequate in its enforcement provisions. Jurisdiction of offenses under it had been given to justices of the peace { 250 } to avoid the hazards of jury trial, but the local interests of the justices made them of little more value than juries in obtaining convictions of violators.8 There were other impediments to prosecution: The Crown bore the burden of proving that trees had been cut on reserved land;9 the rigid and complicated common-law process, which was under the control of reluctant local courts and sheriffs made it difficult to obtain execution when penalties were awarded;10 there was no express authority for the in rem seizure and forfeiture of trees felled within the prohibited areas.11
The Naval Stores Act of 1722, which was the basis of enforcement until the Revolution, sought to deal with all of these problems. It repealed the Act of 1711 and replaced its provisions with a prohibition against the unlicensed cutting of “any white pine trees, not growing within any township,” in the colonies from New Jersey north, with penalties varying in amount according to the size of the tree. The bulk of the Gorges tract, being unincorporated, was thus covered, whatever the state of the title.12 The problem of locally oriented courts was solved by a provision that the penalties were to be recovered “before the judge of the admiralty, or his deputy, within the colony or plantation where such pinetree shall be { 251 } cut.”13 Other complaints about the judicial process were remedied by placing the burden of proof of the trees' location upon the claimant and by providing stringent measures for execution by distress and sale.14 To meet the contention that cut logs were not Crown property and to end the difficulties experienced in enforcing seizures, the statute further provided that all illegally-cut “white pine-trees, masts or logs made from such trees,” should “be forfeited and seized for the use of his Majesty.”15
{ 252 }
It was soon argued that the Act of 1722 had rendered void the Charter reservation. The Crown law officers ruled that the reservation was still in force, but repeal of the Act of 1711 meant that, except in Massachusetts, trees of the reserved size were protected only if they grew outside township bounds. Within Massachusetts the Charter covered trees in the towns, but its enforcement was again at the mercy of common-law juries.16 These loopholes were closed by the Act of 1729, which provided that in all of the American colonies no white pine trees should be felled (except by licensed cutters) even within a township's bounds unless they were “the property of private persons,” and that in Massachusetts white pines within the Charter reservation should not be cut unless they were on lands granted to private persons before 1690. The penalties and recovery machinery of the 1722 statute were to be applicable to violations.17
The construction which the Crown gave to the rules applicable in the Province of Massachusetts may be summarized as follows: (1) White pine trees of the size reserved in the Charter could not be cut without license unless they grew (a) within a township at the time of cutting, and (b) on land granted to private persons before 1690. (2) White pine trees of lesser size could not be cut without license unless at the time of cutting they were (a) within a township, and (b) the property of private persons.18 Until the Revolution this scheme was criticized as bad conservation and commercial policy, as well as an unjust taking of property without compensation. It was also attacked before the courts. Despite the best efforts { 253 } of men seriously interested in a sound forest policy, the attacks on policy grounds brought no change. The court battles provided a constant accompaniment to sporadic efforts at strict enforcement.19
These efforts and resultant opposition, legal and otherwise, continued steadily until 1743 when Benning Wentworth, Governor of New Hampshire, succeeded in becoming Surveyor General of the Woods, a fitting appointment, since the mast contract for the northern woods was also in the Wentworth family. Enforcement now subsided, perhaps because the wide-ranging family timber interests were able by different means to satisfy the demand for naval stores as well as for commercial lumber.20 Apparently moved both by new demands for enforcement from the Crown and by the encroachment of commercial rivals on the family preserve, Wentworth in 1763 suddenly began to enforce the Acts in a series of suits for logs brought in the Admiralty Court at Boston. These suits continued until his resignation, in 1766, as Governor of New Hampshire and as Surveyor.21
John Wentworth, nephew of Benning, and successor to both his titles, brought to his new positions a desire to enforce the laws and an enthusiastic interest in the welfare of his native New England. He was in office until the Revolution, and was always active in the surveying phase of his commission, which required him to locate trees suitable for masts and to mark them with the King's broad arrow. He also worked continually to remove colonial objections to the laws.22 From the beginning, however, he was engaged in the task of enforcement. In July 1767 and again in September he brought libels in the Vice Admiralty Court at Boston for the forfeiture of illegally cut logs and masts which he had seized.23 Thereafter he was not a suitor in that court until April 1769, although he may have brought { 254 } forfeiture actions in the Portsmouth Admiralty Court, held by William Parker, deputy of Robert Auchmuty, Judge of Admiralty at Boston.
In the spring of 1769 Wentworth was about to proceed in the Portsmouth court when Auchmuty suspended Parker from office; Wentworth therefore turned again to Boston. In a letter of 10 April he sent several “informations” against violators to Joshua Loring Jr., one of his deputy surveyors general, with directions to put them in suit before Auchmuty. (No. 54, Document III). At about the same time, John Hurd, one of the Governor's staff, forwarded other informations that had already been “under Consideration of Mr. Parker.” (No. 54, Document I). In his letter to Loring, Wentworth suggested that his old friend and Harvard classmate, John Adams, be retained to prosecute the suits. Wentworth spoke warmly of Adams and their somewhat neglected friendship, and ordered that Loring “Present the Lawyer rather a generous fee.”
Wentworth's letter may represent one of the influences which were brought to bear on Adams at about this time in an effort to draw him to the side of government.24 Adams, however, seems to have proceeded in the case more out of pleasant regard for his old companion (and perhaps for the “generous fee”) than from any conscious political motive. On 24 April he wrote Wentworth, reporting on his progress in drawing several libels, and asking for information necessary to complete others. (No. 54, Document IV). The letter concludes with a personal message, briefly reminiscent of the baroque style of Adams' youthful correspondence, which seems to express a longing for the freedom and innocence of their old friendship, while recognizing that in present circumstances it could never again exist.
Whatever his motive, Adams drafted an information praying forfeiture of 606 logs and nine masts seized by Wentworth in various locations in York and Cumberland Counties, Maine. (No. 54, Document II). Although Adams' draft is dated 20 April, the libel was filed on 1 May, and claimants were cited to appear on the 24th. The logs and masts were decreed forfeit on 1 June, apparently without a claim's being filed.25
In the months before and after the forfeiture, twenty in personam actions, some of them involving several respondents, were entered in the Court of Vice Admiralty on Wentworth's behalf. The Minute Book of the court shows that Adams filed three of these on 4 September 1769; penalties of £50 to £100 were decreed against the respondents upon their default on 20 November.26 Fifteen years later, in describing the White Pine Acts to the Maréchal de Castries, the French Minister of Marine, Adams wrote that at Wentworth's request he had “commenced and prose• { 255 } cuted a great number of libels in the court of admiralty at Boston against transgressions of those acts of parliament.”27 This statement and Adams' letter to Wentworth indicate that Adams was responsible for most, if not all, of the remainder of the twenty suits as well.28 The Minute Book shows that, in addition to the three defaults, forfeitures were decreed in only two other actions. Of the rest, two were settled, one was dismissed, and in twelve the respondents were not served.
After 1769 Wentworth's enforcement activities seemed to subside, at least as they were reflected in Admiralty actions at Boston. Perhaps he was trying to encourage compliance through persuasion and negotiation, rather than by legal process.29 His dealings with the Kennebec Company which preceded his action against logs found on the lands which it claimed in Maine (No. 55) suggest an effort to reach an understanding.
In the summer of 1769, the Company, one of Adams' most important clients, had won three significant actions against other claimants to that famous tract, the Kennebec Purchase.30 Perhaps encouraged, the Proprietors, all of whom were important figures in the Boston financial community, wrote to Wentworth on 16 October 1769, asserting their claim to the Kennebec lands, and protesting the entry thereon of the royal mast contractors, but expressing a willingness to furnish masts to the Crown on their own terms. Wentworth replied that he could not decide the validity of their title himself, but that he was as eager as they were to have a correct determination of it. He offered either to bring an action in Admiralty that would decide the question, or to transmit to England a state of the Proprietors' claim for a ruling. Although he could not “relinquish the Royal Claim either in honor or Justice,” he would in the meantime “endeavor to prevent tho' I have no power to refuse the Cutting Masts on the premises.”31 The Proprietors apparently hoped to avoid either variety of determination, perhaps relying on their social acquaintance with Wentworth to produce a favorable result. They thus wrote to him in May 1770, sug• { 256 } gesting that he submit the question to counsel for an opinion. Wentworth refused to be trapped, pointing out in reply that his position was based on the opinion given on Cooke's claims in 1718, to which he must conform, and that the question was beyond his competence. He renewed his offer to forward the Company's state of its claim, however.32
About a year later, Richard Jackson, counsel for the Board of Trade, was asked to decide the matter on the basis of a letter from Wentworth, stating the Kennebec claim. Jackson refused to decide the question of title involved, but stated that if the trees in question grew within a township, and if the claim of the Kennebec Company to a title derived prior to 1690 were established, the trees could be cut without penalty.33 The Proprietors were still reluctant to submit their title to the courts, however, probably fearing the effect of an adverse determination on other claims which might be brought for the lands. In December 1771 they petitioned the Admiralty and Treasury, not for complete relief, but for compensation for logs taken from their lands, stating that they wished to avoid litigation, “the entering into a Law Suit having the appearance of refusing the Masts for His Majesty's service.” Wentworth himself recommended this solution to the Treasury, “not as a matter of right, but as a Gratuity for the Timber being found well preserved upon their Land.”34 The petition, which had not been acted upon by the fall of 1772,35 was probably tabled, because the question was finally submitted to litigation.
Perhaps expecting efforts at settlement to fail, the Proprietors had already begun to prepare for litigation. At a meeting on 8 January 1772, James Bowdoin, James Pitts, Sylvester Gardiner, Benjamin Hallowell, and { 257 } William Bowdoin were constituted “lawful attorneys,” who were empowered, among other things, “to appear, and the Person of us said Proprietors Constituant to represent before any Governor, Judges, Justices, Officers and Ministers of the Law whatsoever, in any Court or Courts whatsoever, and there on our behalf to answer, defend, and reply unto all Actions, Matters and things whatsoever,” with power to appoint attorneys under them. Since the previous grant of such a power to a committee had authorized only the appointment of an “Attorney for the proprietors to appear for them in any Courts of Law or Equity in New England or Great Britain,” the 1772 vote indicates an awareness that the controversy with Wentworth would be tried in Admiralty. At the same meeting Adams, who had been acting for the Company since 1769, was formally voted “Attorney in all Causes, Real, personal, or Mixt, moved and to be moved for us or against us.”36
On 14 July 1772 an information was filed in the Court of Admiralty at Boston against a total of 573 logs, 424 pieces of hewn timber and 70,000 feet of pine board, alleged to have been seized on the Kennebec River and at various locations within the claimed lands to either side of it.37 The action seemed calculated to produce a determination both of the Kennebec claim and of the question whether the statutes applied to dressed timber (other than masts) and sawn boards, as well as to trees, masts, and logs.38 Adams appeared for the Kennebec Company and filed a claim, which apparently asserted its title. The case was argued on what Adams in his minutes described as a “demurrer” (No. 55, Document II), but which in Admiralty practice is more properly known as an exception. The effect was that of a demurrer, however, which admitted all the facts as to the chain of title pleaded in the claim, leaving in issue only questions of law as to the validity of the title and the construction of the White Pine Acts.39
{ 258 }
The case was heard in March 1773. James Otis and Samuel Fitch, the Advocate General, argued for the Crown. Adams appeared for his old clients, undoubtedly with a colleague whose identity is not known. Printed below in No. 55 are a list of questions of law apparently drawn for the hearing (Document I), Adams' minutes of the Crown argument (Document II), and Adams' notes of his own argument (Document III).
The Kennebec Company traced its title back to the Council for New England, or Council of Plymouth, established in 1620 by a royal patent which conveyed to it all of New England from 40° to 48° North Latitude. In 1630 the Council had granted to William Bradford, moving spirit in the Plymouth Colony, the so-called Plymouth Patent, which conveyed both the lands which the Pilgrims had occupied in Massachusetts and a tract on either side of the Kennebec to be used for trading purposes. In 1641 Bradford had “surrendered” to the colony his interest and that of his associates in the patent. Plymouth sought to improve the Maine lands, leasing the trading rights there periodically and adding further tracts acquired by deed from the Indians. Finally in 1665 the colony conveyed the land to four individuals. The heirs and successors of these grantees organized in 1749 as “the Proprietors of the Kennebec Purchase from the late colony of New Plymouth,” an arrangement given legal sanction by a Province Act of 1753 permitting the proprietors of undivided lands lying outside of organized townships to act as a body.40
The basic position of the Proprietors was that the chain validated their title and that at least the conveyance out of the Plymouth colony in 1665 was a grant to private persons before 1690, within the meaning of the Charter and statutes. Otis and Fitch attacked the Kennebec position along two lines: First, that the grants were made not to “private persons,” but to corporate bodies or to tenants in common of undivided lands, who as proprietors held in a capacity other than private. Second, that the chain of title was defective, so that even if the grantees were private persons, they did not hold by virtue of a grant, but by adverse possession. Even if the Proprietors' arguments on these points prevailed, only trees growing within townships would be protected.41 Fitch argued that the 1722 act had been { 259 } construed to mean that trees growing outside of township bounds were reserved, regardless of ownership. Adams met the argument with the proposition that the Charter excepted grants to private persons, regardless of township bounds, and that the exception was not narrowed by the Act of 1722, which was intended to apply only in other royal provinces in which all unincorporated lands of necessity belonged to the Crown.
Adams' arguments must have been successful, because on 3 May 1773 Wentworth's libel was dismissed. The Surveyor General appealed to the Privy Council, and in September 1774 his petition was referred to the Council's Committee for Hearing Appeals, which finally set the case for hearing on 3 August 1775.42 No record of the result has been found. If the petition was not withdrawn, the Order in Council resulting can have had little effect, since Boston was by the time of its issuance the besieged stronghold of the last vestiges of British authority in New England.
1. For an admirable treatment of the naval and economic considerations, and a summary of the 18th-century struggle, see Robert G. Albion, Forests and Sea Power 231–280 (Cambridge, Mass., 1926). The cutting and shipment of masts to England was further encouraged by the grant of bounties to importers, and the inclusion of masts and other naval stores in the list of “enumerated” colonial products that could be shipped only to an English or colonial port. The latter provision did not prevent the development of an illicit trade in these materials. Id. at 250–251, 264–265; see note 17 below.
2. Province Charter of 1691, 1 A&R 20, set out in pertinent part in No. 55, Doc. III, text and note 228. England had relied on colonial masts through most of the 17th century, but the Charter of 1691 was the first formal effort at regulation. It seems to have resulted from a combination of pressures exerted by the commencement of hostilities with the French and a mercantilist desire to protect the English woolen industry by encouraging colonial initiatives in other directions. Albion, Forests and Sea Power 233–240. Compare Board of Trade to Governor Shute, 16 Aug. 1722, Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1722–1723, §263. Although there was no enforcement provision in the Charter, actions under it were brought in the common-law courts. See materials cited in Albion, Forests and Sea Power 265 note; Usher to Secretary of State, 25 Nov. 1710, 9 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (2d ser.) 305 (1907).
3. Albion, Forests and Sea Power 235–238, 242–248.
4. 9 Anne, c. 17, §1 (1711), set out in No. 55, Doc. III, at note 531. For the enforcement efforts, see Albion, Forests and. Sea tower 242–249 and materials cited in note 2 above. An earlier statute had protected “pitch, pine trees, or tar trees, not being within any fence or actual inclosure, under the growth of twelve inches diameter, at three foot from the earth.” Penalties of £5 “for each offense” were to be sued for before the nearest justice of the peace, to be divided equally between Crown and informer. 3 & 4 Anne, c. 10, §6 (1704). The purpose of the latter act seems to have been to protect trees useful for naval stores such as tar, rather than mast trees. Albion, Forests and Sea Power 249. See Bridger to Board of Trade, 9 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (2d ser.) 266, abstracted in Cal. State Payers (Col), 1708–1709, §428. However, it did have the further effect of serving as a long-range conservation measure by assuring future growth of the great pines. The exception for trees within a fence or enclosure seems to have been intended to permit cutting for the purposes of clearing land for settlement only. Albion indicates that this limitation was continued in the White Pine Act of 1729, note 17 below. Id. at 258. It is probable, however, that the latter act, and that of 1721, note 13 below, which covered white pines of every size, and together limited unlicensed cutting to private property within township bounds, were considered to have repealed 3 & 4 Anne, c. 19, §6 sub silentio and not to embody its narrower limits. JA did not use its language in the information which he drafted for John Wentworth in 1769. No. 54, Doc. II.
5. The Gorges Patent, or Province of Maine, which ran from the New Hampshire border to the Kennebec River, had been conveyed by Gorges' heir through a straw to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1678. See the deeds in 2 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (1st ser.) 257–264 (1847). As to the Gorges Patent, see No. 55, notes 6, 1117. The Massachusetts argument was that the Province title derived from the 1639 grant to Gorges through the title of the Bay Colony, which had allegedly been confirmed by another provision of the 1691 Charter (No. 55, note 1622). See “The right of Massachusetts to the Province of Maine, vindicated,” 9 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (2d ser.) 388–414. Cooke had a personal interest in this phase of the struggle against the Crown, for he had bought up at least two grants of land made by the Bay Colony General Court before 1678 which had never been laid out, and had proceeded to lay them out as a large tract within the Gorges Patent, which the Province General Court confirmed. John Bridger to ———, 8 April 1720, 10 id. at 134–135; 2 Mass., House Jour. 24, 66–67. As to Cooke generally, see 4 Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates 349–356; No. 5, note 514.
6. The question reached the Board of Trade on the petition of John Bridger, Surveyor General of the Woods, whom Cooke had personally attacked as part of his campaign (note 5 above). The House had approved these strictures against Bridger in Dec. 1718, Cooke having spent the session on the sidelines as a result of the Governor's negative of his election to the Council. See Bridger to Board of Trade, 14 July 1718, Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1717–1718, §616; 1 Mass., House Jour. 272; 2 id. at 3, 47, 52, 53, 108–109. By this time, however, Richard West's opinion, adopted by the Board of Trade, had destroyed the legal foundation of the Province arguments, since it meant that any conveyance of the Gorges lands from the Province General Court after 1691 could have been made only by virtue of a title derived from the 1691 Charter and must be subject to the reservation in that instrument. Opinion of Richard West, 12 Nov. 1718, Chalmers, Opinions 133–137; Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1717–1718, §§744, 755. See generally, Albion, Forests and Sea Power 256–257; Knollenberg, Origin of the American Revolution 132–133. Knollenberg argues that on a strict construction of the Charter language, West's opinion is unsound; since the only requirement was that the lands have been granted previously to private persons, the subsequent history of the title was irrelevant. Ibid. West's ruling that the Bay Colony title was revested in the Crown in 1684 had some sanction in English corporate law, however, and it was supported by a decision of the Privy Council on Gorges' application in 1691. See 9 Holdsworth, History of English Law 67–68; 9 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (2d ser.) 390–392; Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1689–1692, §1677. The 1691 Charter confirmed titles under previous grants in language which limited the confirmation to grantees actually holding title at the time of the Charter, thus excluding the Bay Colony. See No. 55, note 1622. When the Charter's exception of lands previously granted to private persons is read with this confirmation clause, it would seem that the Crown could not have intended to save private rights in trees growing on lands to which it did not at the same time confirm the title. The problem raised by the Gorges patent is thus to be distinguished from the case of the Kennebec Company's claims, which were based on a title that had not revested in the Crown in 1684 and was thus confirmed in r6gi. See text and notes 33–41, below.
7. See generally, Albion, Forests and Sea Power 256–267. For the House action, see 2 Mass., House Jour. 362–366, 381, 383, 386, 388; 3 id. at 30–32, 42, 154, 159, 174, 186. For Cooke's justification, see 3 id. at 31–32, 40. See also 2 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 190–191. Shute's charges were the result of a struggle that had been going on between him and the House since his arrival in 1716. Cooke, who was involved in all of the questions, traveled to England to argue the case for the House. He tried to maintain that they had acted so as to preserve the King's rights, but he was confronted with the defiant resolutions of the House, and after an adverse report by the hearing officers, was forced to abandon this and several other points. He ultimately prevailed before the Privy Council on the questions whether the Governor had the power to negative him as Speaker of the House, and whether the House could adjourn without the Governor's consent. The Explanatory Charter of 1726 was a direct result of Cooke's activities. See Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1722–1723, §§683, 704; id. 1724–1725, §346 1; 3 Acts, Privy Council (Col.) 94–95, 102–104; John Colman to Rev. Dr. Colman, 18 May 1724, 2 MHS, Colls., (1st ser.) 32 (2d edn., 1810); Boston Chronicle, 7–1 1 Jan. 1768, p. 33, cols. 1–3; 1 A&R 21–23.
8. For troubles with juries before 1711, see materials cited, note 2 above. For later instances, see Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1720–1721, §118; id, 1722–1723, §132; id. 1728–1729, §118; 6 Acts, Privy Council (Col.) §399. The situation was further complicated in Massachusetts by the fact that there was an appeal as of right from the decision of a single justice to the Court of General Sessions, which sat with a jury, 1 A&R 368–369. This provision was presumably applicable even where jurisdiction was conferred by Parliament, in the absence of any expression to the contrary.
9. Surveyor General Bridger urged that “The owners [i.e. onus] probandi must be on the cutters,” after losing on a failure of proof. Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1720–1721, §118; see id. §179 1. For similar but more conventional comments, see id. §§319, 352 11; 9 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (2d ser.) 267.
10. For Bridger's difficulties with fraudulent conveyances, faulty returns, inadequate jails, and the like, see Bridger to Lords of Trade, 14 July 1718, 9 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (2d ser.) 420; Bridger to Popple, 26 June 1719, 10 id. at 119—120 (1907).
11. Such seizures had been carried out at least as early as 1709, probably on the authority of the Surveyor General's commission or instructions, or perhaps by special warrant from the Admiralty. Logs so seized were apparently not forfeit without the approval of the Lords of Admiralty in England, however, which meant that difficult questions of fact and title had to be decided by a body far from the scene and unacquainted with local practice. As a result the chance of forfeiture was very uncertain, and the logs more than likely to rot where they lay before they could be condemned. See Bridger to Board of Trade, 27 March 1709, 9 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (2d ser.) 268; same to same, 17 Aug. 1709, id. at 298; Bridger to Lord Dartmouth[?], 21 May 1711, Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1710–1711, §846. Bridger to ———, 8 April 1720, 10 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (2d ser.) 137. The common-law courts could also interfere by treating a seizure as an attachment in a suit for penalties and ordering delivery on failure of conviction. Ibid.; Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1720–1721, §§57, 82, 118, 127, 179.
12. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §§5, 6 (1722), set out in No. 55, at notes 6–932–35. The reservation of all trees outside township bounds was an idea of Bridger's directed specifically against Cooke's claims to unincorporated lands. Bridger to ———, 8 April 1720, 10 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (2d ser.) 135–137.
13. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §. See No. 55, note 733. See the materials cited, note 8 above. Little consideration seems to have been given to the legal basis for this extension of the Admiralty jurisdiction to an area that was geographically far from its usual purview. Objections were occasionally made in a political context. See Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1722–1723, §4. However, no case has been found in which a plea to the jurisdiction was offered. See Wentworth v. Dean, Hough, Reports 227, 229, 233 note (N.Y. Vice Adm., 1769) (Respondent complained of “Hardship of the Prosecution in the Admiralty” and being held to bail; but no jurisdictional objection made). It may have been generally accepted that the Admiralty was a proper forum in which to litigate the King's right to royal property of a maritime nature, on an analogy to droits of Admiralty (great fish and other unclaimed objects cast up from the sea, which belonged to the Crown). The proceeds of the droits were granted to the Lord High Admiral and litigation concerning them was carried on in the Admiralty Courts. 1 Holdsworth, History of English Law 559–561. If this was the basis of the extension, the Crown interest must have been the chief justification, since ordinarily even today in delictual actions, some element of maritime location is usually necessary for jurisdiction. Grant Gilmore and Charles L. Black, The Law of Admiralty 18–30 (Brooklyn, 1957). There was also a clear administrative justification for the jurisdiction since the Lords of the Admiralty, who were the authority constituting the colonial Vice Admiralty Courts, had ultimate control of timber policy, having in fact previously supervised the process of seizure and forfeiture. See Albion, Forests and Sea Power 42–43; note 11 above. Although the in personam actions for penalties involved the same questions of title to royal property, colonial complaints about deprivation of the jury had more force here. They could be met, however, by the argument that in England countless such petty offenses were triable before justices of the peace, who sat without a jury, a practice which had doubtless been the model for the statute 9 Anne, c. 17 (note 4 above). See No. 46, note 26103.
14. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §5. As to burden of proof, see note 9 above. Problems concerning execution are covered, note 10 above. The act provided that if a convicted offender failed to pay the penalties assessed within twenty days, the judge was authorized to have the amounts due levied by distress and sale of the offender's goods (presumably through the office of Marshal of the Admiralty Court, rather than the sheriff), or to imprison him for three to twelve months. For this provision in action, see Wentworth v. Dean, Hough, Reports 227, 232–233 (N.Y. Vice Adm., 1769).
15. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §5. See No. 55, note 834. For the problems concerning property in the logs and the enforcement of seizures, see notes 8, 11, above. The statute did not expressly provide that such seizures should be prosecuted in Admiralty, but no case has been found in which an objection to the jurisdiction based on the statutory language was made. It may have been felt that the Admiralty's right to the logs made the jurisdiction clear. See note 13 above. In any event, the grant of jurisdiction over penalties could be read to include seizures. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §5. It is also not clear how the forfeited logs were to be dealt with, once condemned. The statutory language, and that of JA's information, No. 54, Doc. II, indicate that the logs or their proceeds were to go solely to the Crown. See also Wentworth v. Dean, Hough, Reports 227 (N.Y. Vice Adm., 1769), where the action for penalties is entitled Wentworth qui tam v. Dean, but the action against the logs is entitled Our Lord The King v. Three White Pine Trees. After condemnation, if the timber had been cut into logs too short for masts, it might be sold, with the proceeds going to the Surveyor General for the Crown, subject to a charge for his expenses. See Benning Wentworth v. Logs, SF 157245 (Mass. Vice Adm., 1763); Mayo, “The King's Woods,” 54 MHS, Procs. 50, 54 (1920–1921); Bridger to Board of Trade, 27 March 1709, 9 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (2d ser.) 268; same to same, 17 Aug. 1709, id. at 298. If the seized logs were fit for use as masts, at least in earlier practice they were taken in specie by the Crown. Ibid. That this remained the practice is suggested by the fact that no notices of sale appear in the Boston newspapers for John Went-worth's successful seizures in 1769–1772.
16. See Opinion of Francis Fane, 19 July 1726, Chalmers, Opinions 137; Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1726–1727, §226; Opinion of Attorney General Yorke and Solicitor General Talbot, 23 Dec. 1726, Chalmers, Opinions 139; Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1726–1727, §386. For the opposition to enforcement, including the necessity of a resort to common law, which these loopholes provoked, see id. 1724–1725, §§352, 771; id. 1726–1727, §§48, 172, 227, 290, 498; id. 1728–1729, §§627 1, 892 1, 1018; id. 1730, §§288, 402 ii. The problem was further aggravated by a sudden proliferation of new townships in the white pine country. See Albion, Forests and Sea Power 255–256; Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1726–1727, §335.
17. 2 Geo. 2, c. 35, §§1, 2 (1729), set out by JA in No. 55, notes 12–1738–43. That the Act was the result of the problems in note 16 above, appears in Cal. State Papers (Col.), 1726–1727, §§498, 771; id. 1728–1729, §§50, 118, 755. The statute also revived the system of bounties and enumeration enacted in 3 & 4 Anne, c. 10 (1705), which had lapsed in 1725. 2 Geo. 2, c. 35, §§3–17. See note 1 above.
18. Opinion of Richard Jackson, 5 June 1771, Chalmers, Opinions 157. In 1773 JA argued that the reservation of trees outside of township bounds was not meant to apply to Massachusetts. See No. 55, text at notes 10–1136–37.
19. For the failure of various well-intentioned efforts to change the colonial forest policy and the difficulties in enforcement, see Albion, Forests and Sea Power 258—269; Knollenberg, Origin of the American Revolution 130–131, 133–134.
20. Albion, Forests and Sea Power 253; Knollenberg, Origin of the American Revolution 134–135.
21. See Albion, Forests and Sea Power 253; Knollenberg, Origin of the American Revolution 135–137; Lawrence S. Mayo, John Wentworth 23–24, 47–51 (Cambridge, Mass., 1921). For instances of Benning Wentworth's activities in 1763 and after, see Wentworth v. Logs, SF 157245 (Mass. Vice Adm., 1763); Wentworth v. Loggs, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 19 April 1766. See Governor Bernard's Proclamation, 9 July 1763, calling on all to aid the Surveyor General of the Woods. Book of Commissions, 1756–1767, fols. 339–340, M-Ar.
22. For Wentworth's role as Surveyor General, see Albion, Forests and Sea Power 253–254, 268–271; Mayo, John Wentworth 51–60. Born in 1737, he was a Harvard classmate of JA's, and a man of considerable education. He was one of the most sympathetic and effective colonial administrators, but remained loyal to the Crown at the Revolution. In 1782 he was reappointed Surveyor General of the Woods and took up residence in Nova Scotia, where he served as Lieutenant Governor from 1792 until 1808. He was knighted in 1795 and died in 1820. See generally, Mayo, John Wentworth.
23. Wentworth v. Loggs, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 28 July 1767; Wentworth v. Masts and Bowsprit, id. 7 Sept. 1767. Wentworth did not arrive in Portsmouth to take up his duties until 13 June 1767. Mayo, John Wentworth 28–30.
24. As to other possible efforts to subvert JA, see p. 103 above. His early friendship with Wentworth is amply documented in 1 JA, Diary and Autobiography4, 19, 115, 355, 360, 2 id. at 308, 4 id. at 85–86. See also Mayo, John Wentworth 166–167, 189–190.
25. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 1 May 1769; Massachusetts Gazette, 11 May 1769, p. 2, col. 1.
26. Wentworth v. Noyes, Wentworth v. Frost, Wentworth v. Knight, Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 4 Sept. 1769.
27. JA to the Maréchal de Castries, 9 Dec. 1784, 8 JA, Works 216.
28. Wentworth was present in Boston during June 1769 as a member of the Special Court of Admiralty convened for Corbet's Case, in which JA was of counsel for the accused. See No. 56. An agreement for JA to take on more of the logs cases may have been made at this point.
29. For Wentworth's own account of a successful attempt at persuasion along the Androscoggin in the summer of 1769, see Mayo, John Wentworth 52–54. The best known of his prosecutions, Wentworth v. Dean, Hough, Reports 227, was tried and decided in the New York Court of Vice Admiralty during the fall of 1769. See Mayo, John Wentworth 56–61; Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 177–178. See also notes 13–15 above.
30. See JA to AA, Falmouth, 1 July 1769, 1 Adams Family Correspondence 67. JA's notes of two of these cases, Bowdoin v. Springer and Gardiner v. Tyng, show that the opposing claims were based at least in part on the Gorges Patent (notes 5, 6, above). Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185.
31. Wentworth to the Committee of the Kennebec Purchase, 19 Oct. 1769, PRO, Treas. 1:471, fols. 149–150. The Proprietors' letter is in 1 Kennebec Purchase Letter Book 26–27, MeHi. For another statement of their position, see James Bowdoin to Thomas Pownall, 29 Sept. 1772, 1 Bowdoin-Temple Papers (9 MHS, Colls., 6th ser.) 296 (1897).
32. Wentworth to the Committee of the Kennebec Purchase, 29 June 1770, PRO, Treas. 1:471, fol. 150. See the Proprietors' letter in 1 Kennebec Purchase Letter Book 35–36, MeHi. For the 1718 opinion, see note 6 above. The Proprietors had replied to Wentworth's earlier letter (note 31 above) by asserting their claim in fuller detail, threatening to prosecute the “mast men,” and pointing out that they should at least have compensation for their efforts and expenditures in opening the country. Proprietors to Wentworth, 8 Nov. 1769, 1 Kennebec Purchase Letter Book 27, MeHi.
33. Opinion of Richard Jackson, 23 May 1771, Chalmers, Opinions 155–156. See also Opinion of same, 5 June 1771, id. at 157–158.
34. For the petition to the Admiralty, 18 Dec. 1771, and letters requesting Wentworth, Governor Hutchinson, and Admiral Montagu to forward it, see 1 Kennebec Purchase Letter Book 55–72, MeHi. Wentworth's comment is quoted in Albion, Forests and Sea Power 258. In an earlier letter, commenting upon a proposal by Hutchinson that the General Court curb the unlicensed destruction of timber in Maine, James Bowdoin of the Proprietors had stated their wish to cooperate in providing masts, if their title was made clear. Bowdoin to Thomas Pownall, 12 Nov. 1770, 1 Bowdoin-Temple Papers 234. See notes 31, 32, above. See also 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo 244–245. Hutchinson's family had long been active in Maine land speculation under claims opposed to those of the Kennebec Company. See Malcolm Freiberg, Prelude to Purgatory 119 and notes (Brown Univ. doctoral dissertation, 1950); Remarks on the Plan and Extracts of Deeds Lately Published by the Proprietors of the Township of Brunswick 6–7 (Boston, 1753). Later Bowdoin wrote that the Company's motive for avoiding litigation was financial. Bowdoin to Pownall, 29 Sept. 1772, 1 Bowdoin-Temple Papers 295–296.
35. Bowdoin to Pownall, 29 Sept. 1772, 1 Bowdoin-Temple Papers 296.
36. See the 1772 votes in 3 Kennebec Purchase Records 78–79, MeHi. The earlier power was granted on 19 Jan. 1764 to the same committee and Thomas Hancock. 2 id. at 341–342. JA's appointment seems to have been only a formal step, coincident with the withdrawal of William Cushing from the same post, which he had held since 1760. See id. at 255; Cushing's Account, Aug. 1761-Sept. 1771, Kennebec Purchase Waste Book 131–140, MeHi. Cushing was appointed to the Superior Court bench on 15 Jan. 1772. Whitmore, Mass. Civil List 70.
37. Massachusetts Gazette, 16 July 1772, p. 3, col. 2. In a letter of 22 July, the Proprietors asked Jonathan Bowman to find out whose were the logs mentioned in this notice and stated that if the owners would apply, the Company would defend for them. 1 Kennebec Purchase Letter Book 73, MeHi.
39. On 23 Oct. 1772 JA received a fee of £4 16s. “for his Appearing at the Court of Admiralty to claim Logs.” On 28 Nov. he received an additional £7 45. No other payments for this case have been found. See Accounts of Henry Alline, Kennebec Purchase Bills, Receipts, &c., MeHi. The term “exception” covers all preliminary objections including those in the nature of a demurrer. See 2 Browne, Civil Law 362. Despite JA's statement as to the effect of a demurrer here (No. 55, Doc. II), the Company obtained a Commission from the court to take depositions and obtain record copies at Plymouth in April 1773. Alline's Accounts, Kennebec Purchase Bills, Receipts, &c., MeHi.
40. For documentation of the title, see No. 55, notes 2, 3, 1117, 1218. For the history of the Kennebec Company see Gardiner, “History of the Kennebec Purchase,” 2 Maine Hist. Soc., Colls. (1st ser.) 269–294 (1847); L. C. Wroth, “The Thomas Johnston Maps of the Kennebeck Purchase,” in Walter M. Whitehill, ed., In Tribute to Fred C. Anthoensen, Master Printer 77–107 (Portland, Maine, 1952); Philip C. Olsson, The Kennebec Purchase from the Colony of New Plymouth, 1749–1765 (Harvard Univ. B.A. Honors Paper, 1962). For the Proprietorship Act, see 3 A&R 669. See also 4 Dane, Abridgment 70–72.
41. At least six townships had been granted within the Kennebec Purchase before 1772; Pownalborough, 1760, 4 A&R 287; Bowdoinham, 1762, 4 A&R 600; Hallo-well, 1771, 5 A&R 129; Winthrop, 1771, 5 A&R 132; Vassalborough, 1771, 5 A&R 135; Winslow, 1771, 5 A&R 136. These grants had not been confirmed by the Crown, however, a Charter requirement for lands north and east of the Sagahadoc River, which arguably included Pownalborough, part of Hallowell, part of Vassalborough, and part of Winslow. See 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo 244–245; Bowdoin to Pownall, 29 Sept. 1772, 1 Bowdoin-Temple Papers 295; 1 A&R 18–19.
42. 5 Acts, Privy Council (Col.) §304. Robert Auchmuty, Judge of the Admiralty Court, had been of counsel to the Company in important land actions in the prior decade. In June and Dec. 1774 he received payments totaling £282 os. iad., apparently for these services. No objection seems to have been raised on this ground, however. See 2 Kennebec Purchase Records 422; Accounts of Henry Alline, Kennebec Purchase Bills, Receipts, &c., MeHi.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0007-0002-0001

Author: Hurd, John
Recipient: Loring, Joshua Jr.
Date: 1769-04-13

John Hurd to Joshua Loring Jr.1

[salute] Dear Sir

The inclosd Informations were preparing by Mr. Claggett,2 and under Consideration of Mr. Parker the Deputy Judge of Admiralty, { 260 } when he received a Letter from the Honorable Judge Auchmuty suspending him from the Office.3 Mr. Claggett returnd them to the Surveyor General, and by his directions I forward them to you, to be laid before Mr. Auchmuty, who will know best to putt them in proper order; and if he thinks the Evidence sufficient forward them for Execution, as the Governor has already advisd. There will be further and more particular Information soon collected from some of the principal people at Law which shall be immediately sent along. I am with great Esteem and regard Dear Sir Your Most hum Servt.
[signed] John Hurd
Mr. Claggett is about leaving Us and sails soon for England. We shall miss him in some of our Affairs.
P.S. You have also inclosd a Diary of Willm. Ham Assistant Deputy, which may be of some use; after shewing it to the Judge You'll please to return it to the Surveyor General's Office.
1. RC, presumably in Hurd's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. Docketed by JA: “Mr. Hurd's Letter.” Enclosures not found. Hurd (1727–1809), Harvard 1747, was the son of Jacob Hurd, Boston goldsmith. After an unstable commercial career in Boston he developed New Hampshire land interests, became Wentworth's personal secretary, and held other administrative positions. He became an early settler in the upper Connecticut Valley and at the Revolution was a patriot. After losing in several political struggles, he returned to Boston in 1779, where he finished his life in the commercial community. 12 Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates 164–171. Loring (1744–1789) was Deputy Surveyor of the Woods, as well as the last royal sheriff of Suffolk County. A tory, he is best known as General Howe's Commissary of Prisoners, a post for which he has received much abuse. Stark, Loyalists of Mass. 424–425; Jones, Loyalists of Mass. 199–200.
2. Wyseman Clagett (1721–1784), Attorney General of New Hampshire from 1765 to 1769. Son of an English barrister, he had been admitted an attorney in the King's Bench before his emigration to Antigua in 1748. He came to Portsmouth in 1758, where he took up practice and was soon made a justice of the peace. His severity with petty offenders was such that “I'll Clagett you,” became a popular threat. In 1769, as Hurd's postscript, below, indicates, he moved to England. Upon his return in 1771, he took up the patriot cause, serving in the Provincial Congresses and later on the State Committee of Safety and Council. From 1781 to 1784 he was a special Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court and Solicitor General. DAB.
3. William Parker (1703–1781), Harvard A.M. (hon.) 1763, Deputy Admiralty Judge for the Province of New Hampshire. Admitted to the bar in 1732, Parker served in a variety of legislative and judicial posts, ending his active career as a Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court (1771–1775). Charles H. Bell, The Bench and Bar of New Hampshire 26–28 (Boston, 1894). Since New Hampshire was under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Vice Admiralty Judge, Parker owed his authority to a deputation from Judge Auchmuty. He was apparently also commissioned by Governor Wentworth. See Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 153–154; Jeremy Belknap, The History of New Hampshire, 1:421 (Dover, 2d edn., 1831). The cause of his suspension has not been determined, but he was still in office in 1773. Ibid. He had also sat on a case appealed from New Hampshire to Auchmuty's new District Court of Vice Admiralty at Boston in 1772. Lawrence S. Mayo, John Langdon of New Hampshire 42 (Concord, 1937). See p. 104 above.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0007-0002-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1769-04-20

Adams' Draft of the Information1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, 20 April 1769
Province of the Massachusetts Bay Court of vice Admty. 20th. April 1769To the Honble. Robert Auchmuty Esqr. Judge <of his Majestys said Court or to his lawfull Deputy> Commissary Deputy and surrogate of the Court of Vice Admiralty of Boston in the Province of the Massachusetts Bay
{ [facing 260] } { [facing 261] } { 261 }
John Wentworth Esqr. Surveyor General of all and singular his Majestys Woods on the Continent of North America shews that on the Twenty fourth day of March last he seized for his Majestys Use, at the several Places hereafter mentioned in said Province, the following white pine Logs; vizt at a Place called little Ossipee in the County of York in said Province Three hundred white Pine Logs from twenty four to fifty four Inches Diameter, and from Eighteen to Twenty four Feet long; at a Place called Narragansett in the County of York in said Province Three Logs from twenty five to Thirty Inches Diameter; at Faybans Mills so called in Scarborough in the County of Cumberland, Three hundred Logs.
At a Place called Dunstons Landing in Scarborough aforesaid, two Masts, vizt one of forty Inches Diameter and fifty seven Feet long, another of forty four Inches Diameter and Eighty seven feet long.
At a Place called Blue Point in Scarborough aforesaid one Mast of forty four Inches Diameter and Ninty three feet long, one of twenty Eight Inches Diameter and Eighty Eight feet and an half long; At a Place called Pepperellborough in the County of York aforesaid one Mast forty two Inches in Diameter and Sixty feet long, one of forty two Inches in Diameter and Eighty four feet long, one of Thirty Six Inches in Diameter and Eighty four feet long, one of forty two Inches in Diameter and fifty seven feet long, one of Thirty Six Inches Diameter and fifty seven feet long. At Narragansett in the County of York aforesaid Three Logs from twenty five to Thirty Inches Diameter; All cutt out of Trees growing in this Province, and not in any Township, or within the Bounds Lines or Limits thereof, or if growing within the Limits of any Town, those of twenty four Inches Diameter at twelve Inches from the Ground, not growing within any Soil or Tract of Land granted to any private Person before the Seventh Day of October Anno Domini 1690, and those under Twenty four Inches Diameter, not being the Property of any private Person or Persons, and felled by some evil minded Persons within Six Months last past, without his Majestys royal Licence first had and obtained; and by them removed to the aforesaid Places, contrary to the Laws in that Case made and provided.2
Wherefore as this matter is within the Jurisdiction of this Honorable Court the said John Wentworth prays sentence for the Forfeiture of said Logs to his Majestys Use, agreable to Law.
1. Copy in JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. Docketed by JA: “Wentworth vs. Logs. Form.” The caption of the document indicates that Auchmuty sat on the case in his capacity as Judge of the Massachusetts provincial court, rather than as Judge of the new district court to which he was appointed in the fall of 1768. See No. 46, notes 41–43; p. 102, note 16, above. Compare Ubbelohde, Vice Admiralty Courts 148–155.
2. For the statutes, the requirements of which are neatly summarized in the foregoing sentence, see No. 55, notes 6–932–35, 12–1738–43.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0007-0002-0003

Author: Wentworth, John
Recipient: Loring, Joshua Jr.
Date: 1769-04-10

John Wentworth to Joshua Loring Jr.1

[salute] Sir

Inclosed are informations against sundry Tresspassers upon the King's woods, in the (late called) Province of Main. Which I request you will immediately in my name enter Complaint of, before the Honorable Robert Auchmuty Esq. and pray that process may immediately issue thereon, for recovery of the penalty. The Trees were not seized mentioned in the information No. 5, As the offenders by violence and menaces rendered it too dangerous for any single Officer to perform, but I am determined in May next to go myself and convince them that Threats and wicked Intents are not enough to prevent any service being done;2 that is committed to my care. Whatever may be the Event, I will assuredly attempt and persevere in my duty. As Mr. Sewall is now (I am glad for him) constituted Judge,3 I am at a Loss who to direct to as Advocate, If he does not still act, I desire you'd employ John Adams Esq. in my behalf to prosecute and aid and advise in these suits. He was my Cotemporary at Cambridge, and will I dare say oblige me by his greatest care and assiduity herein, which I hope will give me opportunity to convince him that our Friendship long since commenced is still the object of my pleasing respect. I wou'd observe to you, That these People, Vizt. Ross, Ross, Denning and particularly Thompson, have thus, trespassed in open avowed defiance and contempt of the Law, publickly declaring they have done it, will persist, and that no Officer shall come among them; it is therefore necessary that a trusty, resolute and experienced Marshal be entrusted by the Court, to execute these Precepts.4 If they fail then adieu to all public reservations to the Crown, or private property of individuals. I therefore hope they'l be properly supported by the Sheriffs and other civil officers—it is too important to bear even a thought of disappointment, in bringing them to legal trial. I am resolv'd to carry this prosecution to effect, Mr. Adams will therefore be pleased to pursue the exact rules of the Law, and on our side I'le promise him the { 263 } most steady and vigorous support. Hitherto I have not been able to collect the additions5 to the names complain'd against, but am daily expecting them; these will be sufficient I presume to ground the respective process, and I shall be glad Mr. Adams will write me what further will be requisite to support our Complaints and informations. By the next post I shall send some further Evidence. I have this day wrote to the Judge on this subject, requesting to you, all necessary and legal Assistance. I beg you'd lose no time in these matters, for they are of the greatest consequence to the preservation of the Woods.
Have you yet heard any thing further from Albany of Colo. Bs. supposed tresspasses? We will now make a thorough business of reformation by the Vigor of Law, since these and these only are no other ways to be reclaim'd.6
I am exceedingly oblig'd by your good Father's interest to get the Young man discharg'd, it has made a Family very happy here. If this favor was asked in my name of Commodore Hood, I beg He would be so kind to make my most respectful acknowledgments for his politeness, which I shall at all times rejoice to retaliate. I was uncertain, therefore cou'd not mention anything about it, in a Letter I've lately had occasion to write to Commodore Hood.
My best regards attend your good Parents. I suppose your Father is quite a Farmer and you a Gardener—happy life indeed—and if completely so, long may it be continued to you. Pray be so good to make my Respects to Mr. Adams, I fear myself indebted to him a Letter from Worcester, but hope soon to repay him—better late than never.7

[salute] I am with great esteem my dear Sir, your very sincere friend and most hble servt.,

[signed] Wentworth
PS. Present the Lawyer rather a generous fee, I'le reimburse.
1. RC in Wentworth's hand, addressed to “Joshua Loring Junr. Esq.” Adams Papers. This letter, and that printed as Doc. IV, appear out of chronological order because they were discovered after the rest of the documents in this case had been set in type.
2. See p. 255, note 29 above.
3. That is, Jonathan Sewall, commissioned as Judge of the Vice Admiralty Court at Halifax. See No. 46, text at notes 41–43.
4. Libels in Wentworth's name against Robert Ross, William Ross, James Denning, and Samuel Thompson, were entered in the Vice Admiralty Court on 26 May 1769, but the respondents were not served. Vice Adm. Min. Bk., 26 May 1769.
5. That is, the degree or occupation and place of abode of the party, a necessary element in a pleading. See vol. 1, p. 32, note 19.
6. See p. 255, note 29 above.
7. Probably JA's letter to Wentworth from Worcester dated Sept. 1756; Photostat of FC in Adams Papers Files.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0007-0002-0004

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Wentworth, John
Date: 1769-04-24

John Adams to John Wentworth1

[salute] Sir

I have prepared Eight Libells, and shall compleat the rest immediately. Those I mean whose Additions and Abodes are made known to me. The others must remain undone till I receive Directions con• { 264 } cerning the Persons. Should be glad if any further Informations are sent, to have the Names, Occupations, and Places of Abode of the Persons, that is, the Towns and Countys they live in. The Number of Trees they have cutt, not the Number of Logs, because if we prosecute for Penalties, those Penalties are to be measured by the Number of Trees, not of Logs, according to the Statutes.2 And also the Town and County where the Trespasses were done. As to the Riot or Assault upon Mr. Ham the officer, you desired that the Rioters might be rigorously prosecuted, but this cannot be done in the Court of Admiralty, which has no Jurisdiction of such Crimes, but must be left to the Kings Attorney and the grand Jury at the next Circuit of the Court of Assize.
In the Informations against Ross, Ross, Denning, and Thompson, I have put fifty Trees for each. In the Minutes I received it is Said they had cut 400 Logs each. It is possible that 50 Trees may not make so many as 400 Logs. But I thought that 50 Trees would probably be 25 times so much as the Culprits were worth, and therefore an omission of 100 Trees or so, would be of no Consequence to the Parties nor to the Crown.
I have given this Business all the Dispatch in my Power, encumbered as I have been during the whole of it, with the Hurry and Confusion of a Court in a wild, noisy, Smoaky Town. I wonder from my Soul what Fiend possessed me, when I left the <calm> Tranquility of Braintree for the Fatigue and Dissipation of Boston? But, hush my murmuring Imagination! I see more and more there is no disputing with Fate and Fortune. These inexorable Deities will dragg, if they cannot lead, and therefore the best Way is to trip it along as light as you can.
You see I feel a great Inclination to be upon a Footing with your Excellency and to be chatting about my self as I used twelve years ago. But I cant conceive what Business I have with a Wife and three Children when I am conversing with your Excellency. Excuse this Freedom and believe me, with great Respect and Esteem, your Excellency's most obedient, huml Servt.,
[signed] John Adams
1. FC in JA's hand. Adams Papers. Addressed to “His Excellency Governor Wentworth.”
2. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §5 (1722); 2 Geo. 2, c. 35, §2 (1729). See No. 55, text at notes 733, 1743.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0007-0003-0001

Date: 1773-03

Questions Presented1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, March 1773
1. Whether King James's Letters patent to Lodowick Duke Lenox and others,2 are allowed to be good and sufficient to vest the lands thereby granted in the Grantees in Fee simple?
2. Whether their grant to Bradford is also good, and sufficient to vest the lands thereby granted either in him and his heirs in fee simple, or in the Colony of New Plymouth so called, by virtue of the said grant and his surrender.3
{ 266 }
3. Whether it is granted that there are now living lawfull heirs of the said Bradford.
4. Whether it is contended, that private persons, mean private persons in opposition to Tenants in common or joint Tenants?4
5. Whether the Duke of Lenox et al. are to be considered as private persons within the meaning of the Charter and Statutes?
6. If a mere Trespasser should cut Masts on land, which was indisputably the property of private persons before 1690, and was, by the King, prosecuted for the penalty could he legally, give in evidence, that the soil on which such trees grew, was the property of private persons before the 7 of October 1690,5 and thereby prevent the Statutes operating against him?
7. If lands were duly granted to a private person or persons before 7 Octr. 1690 and one, not the Owner of such lands, should cut Masts on said lands, could the King by virtue of the Charter and Statutes recover said trees or masts?
8. Whether the Council of Plymouth ever surrendered their patent,6 and when?
9. Whether it is conceded that by force of the Charter or the Stat• { 267 } utes, the Claimants are obliged to derive their title from a date prior to 7 October 1690?
1. In an unidentified hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185.
2. That is, the patent of 3 Nov. 1620, to Lenox and other worthies, by which James I incorporated them as “the Councill established at Plymouth, in the County of Devon, for the planting, ruling, ordering, and governing of New-England, in America,” and granted to this council “and their Successors and Assignes forever,” all of New England from 40° to 48° North Latitude, and “from Sea to Sea, . . . to be holden of Us, our Heires, and Successors, as of our Manor of East-Greenwich, in our County of Kent, in free and common Soccage and not in Capite, nor by Knight's Service; yielding and paying therefore,” one-fifth of all gold and silver found to the Crown for “all Dutys, Demands and Services whatsoever.” 3 Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions 1827–1840.
3. In Jan. 1630 the New England Council, reciting its patent, note 2 above, granted to
“Wm. Bradford, his heires associates and assignes for ever,” both the lands in Massachusetts on which the Plymouth Colony was settled, and a tract “which lyeth within or between and Extendeth it self from the utmost of Cobest-cont alias Comasecont Which adjoyneth to the River Kenibeck alias Kenebeckick towards the Westerne Ocean and a place called the falls of Nequamkick in America aforesaid and the Space of Fifteen English milles on Each Side of the said River Commonly called Kenebeck River and all the said River Called Kenebeck that Lyes within the said Limitts and Bounds Eastward Westward Northward and Southward Last afore mentioned.”
The grantees were to pay one fifth of all gold and silver found to the Crown, and another fifth to the grantors, “for all Services and demands Whatsoever.” Morison, “The Mayflower's Destination and the Pilgrim Fathers' Patents,” 38 Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. 387, 407–413 (1959). See 1 Andrews, Colonial Period 293–296. Bradford held directly from the King by virtue of the requirement of the Statute of Quia Emptores, 18 Edw. 1 (1290), which had not been waived in the 1620 patent. Id. at 335. Known as the “Plymouth Patent,” this grant was the foundation of the Kennebec Company's land claims in the 18th century. See Doc. II below. The “surrender” of the patent was the act by which Bradford, on 2 March 1641,
“by the free and full consent, approbacion, and agreement of the . . . old planters,” who had joined him in financing the early days of the colony, did “surrender into the handes of the whole Court, consistinge of the freemen of this corporacion of New Plymouth, all that ther right and title, power, authorytie, priviledges, immunities and freedomes granted in the said lettres patentes by the said right honorable counsell for New England, reserving his and their personall right of freemen, together with the said old planters aforesaid, except the said lands before excepted [certain tracts previously agreed to be reserved for the old planters], declareing the freemen of this present corporacion, together with all such as shalbe legally admitted into the same, his associates.” Records of the Colony of New Plymouth, 2:10–11 (Boston, ed. N. B. Shurtleff, 1855).
The patent was actually surrendered “in publick Court” and returned to Bradford for safekeeping. Id. at 11. See Morison, “Pilgrim Fathers' Patents,” 38 Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. 397–398.
4. That is, “private persons” in the language of the Charter of 1691 and applicable statutes, text at notes 228, 1238, below. For earlier arguments that land held by proprietors in common was not held by “private persons,” see Knollenberg, Origin of the American Revolution 131.
5. The date set by statute. See text at note 1642 below.
6. Presumably, “the Councill established at Plymouth, in the County of Devon,” note 2 above, rather than the Plymouth Colony. The Council surrendered its patent to the Crown on 7 June 1635. Records of the Council for New England 75–80 (Cambridge, Mass., 1867). This action was part of an effort by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, moving force in the Council, to halt the infringement of the Massachusetts Bay Company upon his domains in New England. Charles I accepted the surrender in July 1637, shortly after the Crown had obtained a judgment in quo warranto in the King's Bench against the Massachusetts Bay charter. Gorges' plan was to divide the Council's patent among its members, the whole to be under a royal government loyal to the Crown. Only Gorges' own patent for a part of Maine was confirmed, however, as the onset of the civil war involved the other participants in different concerns. See 1 Andrews, Colonial Period 417–424; Barnes, “Land Tenure in English Colonial Charters,” in Essays in Colonial History Presented to Charles McLean Andrews 29–30, 34–35 (New Haven, 1931).

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0007-0003-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1773-03-08

Adams' Minutes of the Argument1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, 8 March 1773
Surveyor General vs. Loggs.
Kennebec Company. March 8. 1773.
Claim and Demurrer—which admits all in the Claim.2
Mr. Otis. In Event, as important a Cause as ever was decided in America.
The Navy, an important Object, without offence to any Sect or Party.
Charter. Reservation in it.3 We hold all we have under this Charter. No Gentleman will dispute the Validity of this Reservation.
A great deal of Talk and Scribbling about mutual Compact. Should as soon expect good and sound Law from N. Hampton in a N.W. Wind.4
Indian Natives had under God a Right to the Soil. That no good Title could be acquired by sovereign or subject, without obtaining it from the Natives.
No Man has a Right to a Foot of Land, who has not a good Purchase from the Natives, by a Licence from his lawfull Prince.
Proposal of large Forrests to be set apart, by Act of Parliament in Secula Seculorum.5
8. G. 1, c. 12, §5. 1721.6
2. G. 2, c. 35, §1. 2. No Trees to be cutt, excepting such as are the Property of private Persons. 1729.7
Plymouth Patent.
{ 268 }
Not in the Power of the King to grant Royalties. King deceived.8 Lit. §117. Socage Tenure. 1. Inst. 85. b.9
Sir F. Barnards Doctrine about holding as of our Manor of East Greenwich in the County of Kent.10
{ 269 }
Uncertain where the Bounds of the Patent are. What then?
Will it be said that the Patent is a Grant to private Persons? If so the Grant to Massachusetts, Province of Maine &c. are Grants to private Persons.11
1665 Grant to Boies &c.—a private Transaction.—Mem. by the Way Otis concedes tacitly at least we are within the Exception of Grants made to private Persons. Is forced to deny this to be a Grant to private Persons.12
This no Grant at all. No Estate passed by it. It is void.
Viner. Tit. Corporations B. pl. 1. “None but the King can make a Corporation.”13
E. pl. 1. a Name.14
{ 270 }
Mr. Fitch. 8. G.15 secures all Trees, let them be whose Property they will.
Boies had no Title.
Bradford—His associates could not take by the Grant. No Name of a Corporation.
The surrender is no Deed, nor Conveyance. Mem. our Law and Clause in the Charter.16
No Colony of New Plymouth.17
1. Inst. 295. b. “Confirmation doth not strengthen a void Estate.”18
Duely made, or any other lawfull Title.19
Law of Prov. 13. Wm.20
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185.
2. See p. 257, note 39 above.
3. The Province Charter of 1691, set out, text at note 228 below.
4. Perhaps a reference to Joseph Hawley, Northampton lawyer, who was disbarred from 1767 to 1769.
5. Such proposals, intended to free large tracts of forest for general use, had been made periodically during the 18th century. The most recent effort, by Wentworth himself, had received some support in England in 1769, and by 1773 the Surveyor General had made extensive preliminary surveys for it. Robert G. Albion, Forests and Sea Power 268–272 (Cambridge, Mass., 1926). Otis' point here would seem to be that until such a plan received legislative sanction, all forest lands were subject to the laws.
6. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §5 (1722), extracted by JA, text at notes 6–732–33 below.
7. 2 Geo. 2, c. 35, §§1, 2 (1729), extracted by JA, text at notes 12–1738–43 below.
8. Both the patent of the Council for New England (note 2 above) and the Plymouth Patent (note 3 above) included a grant of “Royalties,” or royal rights and privileges. See Cunningham, Law Dictionary, tit. Royalties. Otis here seems to be meeting an argument that this grant included the timber reserved to the Crown by the 1691 Charter and later statutes. Presumably he does not mean that the patentees “deceived” King James, but is using the term in the sense intended in Coke, Littleton 27a: “If the King by his Letters Patents giveth Lands or Tenements to a man, and to his heires males, the grant is void, for that the King is deceived in his grant, in as much as there can be no such inheritance of Lands or tenements as the King intended to grant.” Compare No. 45, text at note 2159.
9. That is, Coke, Littleton §117, appearing in 1 Coke, Institutes 85b: “Tenure in Socage, is where the Tenant holdeth of his Lord the tenancie by certain service for all manner of services, so that the service be not Knights service: As where a man holdeth his land of his Lord by Fealty and certaine rent, for all manner of services: or else where a man holdeth his Land by homage, fealty, and certain rent, for all manner of services, for homage by it selfe maketh not Knights service. The patent of the New England Council (note 2 above), the Plymouth Patent (note 3 above), and the Plymouth deed of the Kennebec lands (note 1218 below), were all grants in socage, one of the four ancient feudal tenures. At this period the tenures had largely lost their military and political significance and were only descriptive of differing proprietary relationships. When they could, English rulers were glad to grant lands by Knight Service, which had profitable incidents such as scutage and wardship and marriage. Socage, under which there were few fixed requirements of service, had become much more common, however, especially in grants like these, where some inducement was necessary for the grantees. See Sir William Holdsworth, Historical Introduction to the Land Law 21–29 (London, 1927), Haskins, “Gavelkind and the Charter of Massachusetts Bay,” 34 Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. 483–484, 496 (1943); Barnes, “Land Tenure,” Essays in Colonial History 7, 10, 33.
10. The reference to “Sir F. Barnard” remains unclear. The language is that of the New England Council's patent of 1620, note 2 above. Since the Plymouth patentees of 1630 (note 3 above) were “assignes” of the New England Council under its 1620 patent, it would seem that Haskins is in error in his conclusion that the Plymouth grant “was not as of East Greenwich.” As he notes, the leaders of the colony thought that they so held. Haskins, “Gavelkind,” 34 Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. 487 note. Moreover, the colony's grant of the Kennebec lands in 1661 was as of East Greenwich. See note 1218 below. This was the common form of grant, designed to make clear that the tenant did not hold in capite, that is, “as of the Crown.” Although the King made the grant and received services in both cases, the fiction that the grant was from a lesser lord was adopted where the potential grantee had the bargaining power because, as in the case of tenure by socage, note 915 above, the incidents were far less onerous. Such grants had been made in England since the 16th century, with the “Manor of East-Greenwich” employed in most cases apparently as a convenient form, adopted because it was a favorite royal resort. The form was also used in about a dozen other colonial charters. Id. at 483–484, 489, 494–496; Barnes, “Land Tenure,” Essays in Colonial History 4–11. Modern historians generally agree that its only significance was as the description of a convenient relationship, and that there was no intention to incorporate the peculiar Kentish custom of gavelkind, or partible inheritance, a practice which made its way to some of the colonies independently. Haskins, “Gavelkind,” 34 Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. 483–498; 1 Andrews, Colonial Period 86–87 note; Goebel, “King's Law and Local Custom in Seventeenth Century New England,” 31 Colum. L. Rev. 416 (1931). But see Richard B. Morris, Studies in the History of American Law 103–120 (Phila., 2d edn. 1959).
11. That is, the Massachusetts Bay Charter of 1629, and the grant of the Province of Maine to Sir Ferdinando Gorges in 1639. (As to the latter, see note 6 above.) In the former the grant was to individual patentees, who were then incorporated into the Massachusetts Bay Company. 1 Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England 3–20 (Boston, ed. N. B. Shurtleff, 1853). In the latter the grant was to Gorges personally, but the lands were first constituted a Province or County Palatinate. 1 Province and Court Records of Maine 9–29 (Portland, ed. C. T. Libby, 1928). The Plymouth Patent, note 3 above, was, of course, in form only to individuals, with leave to incorporate themselves. See note 1723 below. The patent of the New England Council, note 2 above, was even less “private,” since the grant was in form to the Council which the patent had created. As to earlier claims for logs based on the Gorges patent, see p. 248, notes 5, 6, above.
12. Otis refers to the deed by which the General Court of Plymouth Colony conveyed the Kennebec lands to Antipas Boies, Edward Tyng, Thomas Brattle, and John Winslow, the predecessors in interest of the Kennebec Company. See p. 258, at note 40 above. The instrument, dated 27 Oct. 1661, but not delivered until 15 June 1665, had been recorded in Plymouth, probably on the latter date, and was recorded in York County, Maine, 22 Oct. 1719. After reciting the New England and Plymouth patents (notes 2, 3, above) and a consideration of £400, it proceeded to grant the lands conveyed to Plymouth by the New England Council, as well as lands in the same area which the colony had acquired by two Indian deeds, “with All our said lawful right in the lands Abovementioned Either by Purchase or Patent with All and Singular the Appurtenances priviledges and Immunitys thereunto belonging to Appurtaine to them the said [named grantees] to them and Every of them their and Every of their heirs and Assigns forever to be holden of his Majesty [as of] his Manner of East Greenewick in the County of Kent in free And Common Soccage And not in Capita Nor by Knights Service by the rents and Services thereof and thereby due and of right Accustomed.” The grant was warranted against all claims that might be made under the colony's title. 9 York Deeds, fols. 226–228 (Portland, 1894). The sale was ratified by the General Court on 3 June 1662. 4 Plymouth Colony Records 17. See also id. at 38. JA's note to himself seems to mean that Otis has conceded that Boies et al. were “private persons” and is now forced to attack the sufficiency of the grant.
13. 6 Viner, Abridgment 259, tit. Corporations, B. 1. Quotation marks supplied.
14. 6 Viner, Abridgment 261, tit. Corporations, E. 1: “There ought to be a Name by which it ought to be incorporated.”
15. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §5, text at notes 6–832–34 below.
16. The last phrase is apparently JA's note of his own position made during Fitch's argument. The charter clause is presumably the provision of the Province Charter of 1691, by which the Crown, after granting all the lands formerly part of the colonies of Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Maine, and Nova Scotia to the inhabitants of the newly created Province, confirmed the titles to all lands “which any person or persons or Bodyes Politique or Corporate Townes Villages Colledges or Schooles doe hold and enjoy or ought to hold and enjoy within the bounds aforesaid by or under any Grant or estate duely made or granted by any Generall Court formerly held or by vertue of the Letters Patents herein before recited [those to the New England Council, note 2 above, and from the Council to the Massachusetts Bay Company] or by any other lawful Right or title whatsoever,” to be “by such person and Persons Bodyes Politique and Corporate Townes Villages Colledges or Schooles their Respective Heires Successors and assignes forever hereafter held and enjoyed” according to the terms of the original grant. 1 A&R 9–10. The “law” to which JA referred was probably the Act of 30 Oct. 1697, 1 A&R 299–301, which provides that “every person or persons who were possessed in his and their own proper right of any houses or lands within this province,” on 1 Oct. 1692, and their successors in interest, who continued in undisturbed possession until 1 Oct. 1704, should thereafter have title in fee simple, “provided, always, that there shall be a saving of his majesty's rights, and all publick lands belonging to the province not orderly disposed of.” An exception that titles in the Maine lands should remain open until five years after the conclusion of King William's War, then in progress, is not material, because that war ended on 30 Oct. 1697 with the Treaty of Ryswick, which was proclaimed at Boston on 10 Dec. of that year. See 1 A&R 767 note.
17. This argument is presumably based on the fact that the Plymouth colony was not directly constituted by the Crown; the Plymouth Patent of 1630 was in form a grant to William Bradford and his associates. See note 3 above. The colony was recognized as such by the Crown in various dealings, including the Massachusetts Charter of 1691, however, so that it may be said to have had some sort of de facto status. See 1 Andrews, Colonial Period 296 note; 1 A&R 8. Moreover, the government of the colony was sanctioned by both the so-called “Peirce Patent” of 1621 and the 1630 grant to Bradford. Morison, “Pilgrim Fathers' Patents,” 38 Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns. 402–403, 411. There was thus a corporate body in existence to take title to the lands, even if it was not technically a colony.
18. Coke, Littleton 295b. Quotation marks supplied. Coke adds, “for a Confirmation may make a voidable or defeasable estate good, but it cannot work upon an estate that is void in Law.” Ibid. Fitch is arguing that the confirmation of all titles in the Charter of 1691, note 1622 above, is of no effect here. The Charter did provide, however, that no grant should fail for want of form. 1 A&R 10.
19. The language of the Charter of 1691, note 1622 above.
20. Presumably the Act of 26 June 1701, 1 A&R 471, which provided that grants of land obtained “by any person or persons whatsoever” from the Indians without license of the General Court of Massachusetts or New Plymouth were void unless in confirmation of other valid titles in the purchasers. Fitch is arguing that the Kennebec Company's title cannot be supported on Indian deeds of the land in question to the Plymouth Colony. See note 1218 above.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0007-0003-0003

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1773-03

Adams' Notes for His Argument1

Court of Vice Admiralty, Boston, March 1773
Prov. Charter. Last Clause. “We do hereby reserve to Us, our Heirs and Successors, all Trees of the Diameter of 24 Inches and upwards of 12 Inches from the Ground, growing upon any Soil or Tract of Land within our said Province or Territory, not heretofore granted to any private Persons.”2 The Old Charter of Mass. Bay, was a Grant to private Persons.3
“Growing” when? At the date of the Charter? According to this no Tree was reserved, but such as were then standing and 24 Inches diameter.
No Trees, growing on any “Soil” theretofore granted to any private Persons, are within this Reservation.
The Question is what is meant by the Words “granted to any private Persons” ? Granted by whom? And who are private Persons?
Answer, granted by the general Court either of Mass. Bay, or New Plymouth? To any individual, or Number of Individuals.
All the Lands in the Province, had been granted to Persons, and to private Persons, by the Council at Plymouth. The Patent to Bradford and his associates was certainly a Grant to private Persons4—not to any Corporation according to Mr. Fitch's Doctrine.
1710. 9. Ann, c. 17, §1. “No Person, or Persons &c., do or shall presume to cutt, fell, or destroy, any white or other sort of Pine Tree, fit for Masts, not being the Property of any private Person, such Tree being of the Growth of 24 Inches Diameter, and upwards at 12 Inches from the Earth.” Penalty £100, before a Justice of Peace.5
{ 272 }
1721. 8. G, c. 12, §5. “No Person or Persons, &c. do or shall presume to cutt, fell, or destroy any white Pine Trees, not growing within any Township, or the Bounds, Lines or Limits thereof,” &c. without Licence, &c.6
Penalties. 12 Inches and under 3 feet from the Ground £5. From 12 to 18 Inches £10. From 18 to 24, twenty Pounds. From 24 and upwards £50—before the Admiralty.7
Trees, Masts or Logs, found cutt, or felled, forfeited and seized to his Majestys Use.8
§6. repeals 9. Ann, c. 17. So much of it as relates to cutting &c. such White Pine Trees.9
“Not growing” when? In 1721 or at the Time of cutting.
Here a Question is what the Legislature meant by a “Township” ? This Law was intended for the other Colonies, not for this Province. Not supposed that it could affect any private Property. In N. Hampshire, and N. York, where the K's Governor was giving away and selling Townships where he had not made a Township, it remained Crown Land.10
30 years intervened, between the Charter and the Act of 1721. Many Townships were erected in the mean Time which were not private Property before the act 1690. Therefore in all these Townships Trees might be cutt, even of 24 Inches Diameter, and upwards, for the Penalty in the Charter was void.11
{ 273 }
1729. 2. G. 2, c. 35, §1. reciting the 8. G, c. 12. and that great Tracts, to evade the Act, had been erected into Townships, enacts that “No Person or Persons, do or shall presume to cutt, fell, or destroy any white Pine Trees, except only such as are the Property of private Persons, notwithstanding the said Trees do grow within the Limits of any Township, laid out, or to be laid out.” &c.12
But no Penalty, nor any Forfeiture, by this Clause, nor any Seizure to the Kings Use. This Exception defeats the Provision.13
§. 2.14 recites the Reservation in the Massachusetts Charter, “of all Trees of 24 Inches Diameter and upwards at 12 Inches &c. growing upon any Soil or Tract of Land, &c. not theretofore granted to any private Person:” to make the Reservation more effectual, enacted that “No Person or Persons within said Prov. of Mass. Bay, or N. England, do or shall presume to cutt, or destroy, any white Pine Trees of 24 Inches and Upwards at 12 Inches &c., not growing within some Soil or Tract, &c. granted to some private Person, or Persons, before 7. Oct. 1690.
“And every Person so cutting &c. such white Pine Trees, not being the Property of private Persons, in any of the Colonies &c.15
“And likewise every Person cutting &c. any white Pine Trees of the Diameter of 24 Inches or upwards at 12 Inches &c., growing in any Tract &c. in said Prov. of N. England or Mass. Bay, not granted to some private Person or Persons before 7 Oct. 1690, &c.16 shall be subject to such and the like Penalties and Forfeitures respectively, as { 274 } are provided in 8. G. 1. for such Persons as cutt &c. Pine Trees, not growing in any Township &c.”17
If the Words in the Charter “not herefore granted to any private Persons,” should be construed to mean only, not granted by Titles which were then good, valid and legal, the Words will mean nothing. For if the Vacation of the Charter18 dissolved the Basis and superstructure together, there was not at the Time of the Charter an Inch of private Property in the Province, it all being revested in the Crown, and the Consequence is that every Pine Tree in the Prov. 24 Inches, is reservd to the Crown.
On the contrary, if they mean, ever granted, and by any means, all the Trees in the Province are excepted out of the Reservation, and the Crown has no Right to one Tree.
The Clause in 2. G. 2, c. 35. “not growing within some soil &c. granted to some private Person or Persons before 7 Oct. 1690,” is liable to all the Difficulties in the Clause in the Charter, and to the same Construction. The Intention must have been, to except out of the Reservation all the Lands which had at any Time before been granted by any General Court, Either of Mass. or N. Plymouth, to private Persons, in short. Many had made great Improvements upon Lands, had cleared them, built Houses upon them &c.
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. Docketed by JA: “Masts” .
2. The Province Charter of 7 Oct. 1691, I A&R 20. Opening quotation mark supplied. Emphasis is JA's. The Charter continues,
“And Wee doe restraine and forbid all persons whatsoever from felling cutting or destroying any such Trees without the Royall Lycense of Us Our Heires and Successors first had and obteyned upon penalty of Forfeiting One Hundred Pounds sterling unto Ous Our Heires and Successors for every such Tree soe felled cutt or destroyed without such Lycense had and obteyned in that behalfe any thing in these presents conteyned to the contrary in any wise Notwithstanding.” Ibid.
3. See note 1117 above.
4. See note 3 above.
5. 9 Anne, c. 17, §1 (1711). Closing quotation mark supplied. Emphasis is JA's. JA has omitted at the “&c.” a recital of the areas in which the statute was applicable: The “colonies of New Hampshire, the Massachusetts Bay, and Province of Main, Rhode Island, and Providence Plantation, the Narragansett Country or King's Province, Connecticut in New England, and New York and New Jersey.” The penalty was £100 “for each such offense” unless royal license had been obtained. It was to be sued upon within six months before the nearest justice of the peace, and was to be divided, half to the Crown and half to the informer. The act was repealed as to white pine trees by 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §6 (1722). See note 935 below.
6. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §5 (1722). Quotation marks supplied. Emphasis is JA's. JA omitted a recital of the colonies in which the act was effective, which was identical to that in note 531 above, with the addition of Nova Scotia.
7. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §5. Abstracted by JA. The figures in inches are the diameters of the trees. The penalties could be “sued for within six months after the offence committed, by plaint or information, upon the oath of one or more credible witness or witnesses, before the judge of the admiralty or his deputy, within the colony or plantation, where such pine tree shall be cut, felled or destroyed.” They were to be divided, half to the Crown and half to the informer.
8. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §5. Abstracted by JA. See p. 251, notes 814, 915, above.
9. 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, §6, repealing 9 Anne, c. 17, §1, note 531 above, as far as it applied to white pine trees.
10. That is, there were no private claims to the unincorporated lands. In these provinces a reservation of mast trees was contained in township grants. Mayo, “The King's Woods,” 54 MHS, Procs. 51.
11. For rulings of English law officers in 1726 that the Act of 8 Geo. 1 did not affect the charter reservation, and the problem of new townships, see p. 252, note 16, above.
12. 2 Geo. 2, c. 35, §1 (1729). Closing quotation mark supplied. Emphasis JA's. JA has omitted a clause reciting the areas in which the Act applies, which extends coverage from that in prior acts (notes 531, 632, above), to “any other province or country in America, that now belongs or hereafter shall belong to the Crown of Great Britain.” The final “&c.” covers the omission of “in any of the said colonies or plantations, without his Majesty's royal license for so doing first had and obtained.”
13. The last sentence is an insertion by JA with a different pen, suggesting that it was an afterthought. It may refer either to the exception for “the Property of private Persons,” in the statute, or to the lack of a forfeiture provision in the section. Section 2 of the act, which is quoted by JA below, is ambiguous, but arguably was intended to provide a penalty for section 1. See note 1541 below.
14. 2 Geo. 2, c. 35, §2, set out by JA in this and the next two paragraphs. Quotation marks supplied. Emphasis is JA's.
15. JA has here omitted: “abovementioned.” This reference to section 1 of the Act, as well as the use of the phrase “Property of private persons” from that section, suggests that this clause was intended to provide a penalty for section 1. See note 1339 above.
16. JA has here omitted: “or who shall be abiding and assisting therein, or in drawing away the said pine trees, after the same shall have been so cut and felled.”
17. JA has here omitted: “the said forfeitures to be recovered and applied in the same manner, as in the said act is particularly set forth and enacted.” For the penalties and enforcement provisions of 8 Geo. 1, c. 12, see text and note 733 above. In the MS a half-page is left blank. The notes resume on the facing page.
18. That is, of the old Charter of Massachusetts Bay, in 1684.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0001

Editorial Note

The Vice Admiralty Courts had jurisdiction over a multitude of petty criminal offenses committed at sea by masters and mariners, as well as power to punish contempt of their own authority.1 Offenses that amounted to felony and the crime of piracy were within the competence of a different forum.
In England, since the time of Henry VIII, the trial of “all treasons, felonies, robberies, murders and confederacies,” committed upon the seas, or elsewhere within the Admiralty jurisdiction had been given to royal commissioners, who were to sit within the realm and try such offenses “after the common course of the laws of this realm, used for treasons, felonies, murders, robberies and confederacies of the same, done and committed upon the land within this realm.” Trial was to be upon indictment of a grand jury, before a petit jury to be summoned by the commissioners.2 By the middle of the 18th century, procedure under this statute had become formalized as an Admiralty Session at the Old Bailey, where the judges of the common law courts, who were appointed commissioners, sat with a jury for the trial of maritime offenses, dispensing substantially the same brand of justice that shoregoing offenders received.3
Since the distance of the colonies from England made transportation of offenders apprehended there a matter of great difficulty, provision was made in a statute of 1700 for the trial in the colonies of “all piracies, felonies, and robberies” committed upon the seas. Commissioners to be appointed by the Crown in each colony were given authority to remit suspected persons to custody and to call a Special Court of Admiralty, which would have power to summon and try offenders “according to the civil law, and the methods and rules of the admiralty.” The statute provided a procedure for the court, defined certain offenses, and gave the commissioners under it or the Act of Henry VIII exclusive jurisdiction of such offenses within the colonies.4 To prevent a possible jurisdictional doubt, an act of { 276 } 1717 provided that all offenses under the 1700 statute might be tried according to the method laid down in the Act of Henry VIII.5
During the 18th century the Crown issued standing commissions in each colony or Admiralty district for trial under the provisions of the Act of 1700. The commissioners were a roster of all of the political leaders of the colony or district involved, usually including the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary, Chief Justice, Judge of Admiralty, members of the Council, officers of the royal navy within the district, and various customs officers.6 In Massachusetts when the time came to issue a new commission after the death of George II in 1760, this practice was varied. The Council was no longer included, allegedly because Governor Bernard had complained to the Admiralty that its members had joined with the House in opposing the activities of the Vice Admiralty Court.7 The commission that was issued on 14 January 1762 covered Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire, and so included appropriate officers from all of those colonies.8 It was before Special Courts of Admiralty called pursuant to this commission that Adams tried two of his most unusual criminal cases, Rex v. Corbet, No. 56, and Rex v. Nickerson, No. 57.
1. See Wroth, “Massachusetts Vice Admiralty Courts,” 6 Am. Jour. Legal Hist. 347–348 (1962). For an exercise of the contempt power, see Rex v. Bethune, Vice Adm. Recs. 1718–1726, fol. 1 (1718).
2. 28 Hen. 8, c. 15, §§1, 2 (1536). Portions of the act are set out in No. 56, at notes 734, 2–540–43.
3. See 2 Stephen, History of the Criminal Law 18–20; 1 Holdsworth, History of English Law 550–552; 2 Browne, Civil Law 457–460. For correspondence and other material dealing with these sessions, 1767–1774, see PRO, Adm. 1:3679.
4. 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7 (1700), made perpetual by 6 Geo. 1, c. 19, §3 (1719). Portions of the Act are set out in No. 56, at notes 6–1144–49 and in No. 57, note 257.
5. 4 Geo. 1, c. 11, §7 (1717), set out in No. 56, at note 1553.
6. See J. Franklin Jameson, ed., Privateering and Piracy in the Colonial Period 577 note (N.Y., 1923).
7. 'Samuel Dexter to William Bollan, 26 July 1769, 2 Bowdoin-Temple MSS, fol. 25, MHi. Compare “A Journal of the Times,” 31 May 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 104–105.
8. See Samuel Seddon, Solicitor to the Admiralty, to Philip Stephens, Secretary of the Admiralty, 26 Aug. 1772, Jameson, Privateering and Piracy 578–580. The commission gave to the Commissioners
“jointly or severally by warrant under the hand and seal of you or any one of you full power and authority to commit to safe custody any person or persons against whom information of piracy, or robbery or Felony upon the sea or as accessory or accessories to any piracy or robbery shall be given upon oath (which oath you or any one of you shall have full power and are hereby required to administer), and call and assemble a Court of Admiralty on Shipboard or on the land when and as often as occasion shall require which court our will and pleasure is shall consist of 7 persons at the least and if so many of you our said Commissioners cannot conveniently be assembled any 3 or more of you.” Book of Charters, Commissions, Proclamations, etc., 1628–1763, fols. 231–238. M-Ar.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0002-0001

Editorial Note

British impressment of American seamen, a grievance normally associated with the War of 1812, actually antedated even the Revolution, as the present case shows. Early in the morning of Saturday, 22 April 1769, H.M. Frigate Rose, patrolling on the high seas off Marblehead, intercepted and stopped the brig Pitt Packet (Thomas Power master), owned by Robert “King” Hooper, manned with a crew of Irishmen, and homeward bound { 277 } from Cadiz, Spain, with a cargo of salt.1 Henry Panton, the lieutenant, or executive officer, of Rose, came aboard with some sailors and marines, asked for the vessel's papers, and commenced a search. In the forepeak, a small space under the weather deck between the stem and the main hold, he discovered crewmen Michael Corbet, Pierce Fenning, John Ryan, and William Conner, variously armed with fish gig, musket, hatchet, and harpoon. To Panton's threats and entreaties, they remained obdurate and menacing; even when the officer secured reinforcements from Rose and commenced to have the bulkhead torn down, they refused to budge.
According to John Adams' later reminiscences of the testimony at trial, Corbet drew a line in the salt and told Panton, “ 'If you step over that line, I shall consider it as a proof that you are determined to impress me, and by the eternal God of Heaven, you are a dead man.' 'Aye, my lad,' said the lieutenant, 'I have seen many a brave fellow before now.' Taking his snuffbox out of his pocket, and taking a pinch of snuff, he very deliberately stepped over the line, and attempted to seize Corbet. The latter, drawing back his arm, and driving his harpoon with all his force, cut off the carotid artery and jugular vein, and laid the lieutenant dead at his feet.”2
But the truth, at least according to the actual testimony at the trial, set out in Document V, suggests that Panton, rather than striding into danger, was sitting on the salt, there being no room to stand, and that Corbet, like his friends, was “pushing” at the men who were tearing apart their fortress. At least one pistol had been fired into the forepeak, and it could be only a matter of time before someone was seriously hurt. In the confusion, Corbet thrust with his harpoon, striking Panton, who was carried topside where he bled to death within two hours. Corbet and the others meanwhile were gradually subdued, and that only because, it was rumored, they had drunk themselves into a stupor.3
Now the authorities faced the serious problem of properly dealing with the sailors. It was clear that they could not be indicted and tried in one of the common law courts, because the offense had not been committed within the bounds of any county, but the statutes providing for Admiralty jurisdiction of such offenses left the question of jury trial in doubt. The { 278 } original Act of Henry VIII specified a jury trial before a special Admiralty court in England;4 a statute passed in the time of William III indicated that trial in the colonies ought to be without a jury.5 Finally, an Act of George I seemed to restore the jury right.6 Predictably, the defendants pressed for a jury trial, while the Crown advocates tried to bar it.
But even if the mode of trial were settled, there still remained two knotty issues: Of what crime should the men be accused, and by what substantive law should they be tried? Adams, who with James Otis defended the sailors, was in later years to claim that the successful result of the trial hinged on his discovery of a statute which forbade impressment of American seamen, and on the court's fear that it might have to apply that statute.7 It is certainly true that the statute in question seemed to render Rose's press gang illegal; that being so, then Panton had no authority to threaten or attempt to seize Corbet, and the killing could be justified on grounds of self-defense. But the issue appears to have been current long before the trial. If one can believe “A Journal of the Times,” the loyalists were contending as early as 5 May 1769 that Panton had gone aboard, not to search for seamen, but to inspect for contraband,8 an argument which the Crown advocates, Samuel Fitch and Jonathan Sewall, were to echo at the trial. And indeed, almost a year before Panton's death, the “Instructions of the Town of Boston to their Representatives,” written by Adams himself, had set out the entire relevant section of the act.9
Much depended on the question of the applicable substantive law. If the common law applied, then, unless the homicide were justifiable, the accused would be liable to conviction of manslaughter; and the statutes left it unclear whether in trials before the Special Admiralty Court the benefit of clergy could be pleaded, as it could have been at common law. If the trial were, on the other hand, to be held according to the civil law (which usually controlled ordinary Admiralty proceedings), the killing was { 279 } punishable by death only if it was murder; there was no death penalty for the crime which the common law called manslaughter (intentional, unjustifiable, inexcusable homicide without malice).
The Crown officers proceeded carefully. Panton was barely in his King's Chapel grave10 when Governor Bernard, Lieutenant Governor Hutchinson, Commodore Samuel Hood, Province Secretary Oliver, and Admiralty Judge Auchmuty, Commissioners for the Trial of Piracies, went aboard Rose to confer with Captain Caldwell.11 Shortly thereafter, an account of the affair, based, as it later developed, on the various depositions of Rose's people, appeared in the tory Boston Chronicle and so angered the patriots that they attempted to counter it with a rehash of an earlier version which everyone, including the Chronicle, had already published.12
In the face of conflicting documents, Adams' shifting memory, and the disappearance of the pleadings, the exact chronology of the litigation is hard to trace. However, the following seems probable. “Articles” were drawn up against each defendant by Ezekiel Price, Register (Clerk) of the Court of Vice Admiralty. On Tuesday, 23 May 1769, the Special Court of Admiralty, called pursuant to the Commission for the Trial of Piracies, convened. In addition to the five Commissioners who had visited Rose, the court consisted of Governor John Wentworth and Councilors Jonathan Warner and George Jaffrey of New Hampshire; Judge John Andrews of the Rhode Island Court of Vice Admiralty; Collectors Joseph Harrison of Boston, John Nutting of Salem, and Robert Trail of Portsmouth. However, at the first session, only Bernard, Hutchinson, Hood, Auchmuty, Oliver, Trail, and Nutting attended.13 The jury-right issue having been raised early, the court adjourned to Thursday, 25 May, meanwhile hearing argument (Document II); then it further adjourned to Monday, 29 May, when Adams filed his plea to the jurisdiction (Document III), upon which the court “thought proper to take the same under consideration,” and adjourned to 14 June.14
Finally, on Wednesday, 14 June 1769, the trial commenced in the Court House. “No trial had ever interested the community so much before, excited so much curiosity and compassion, or so many apprehensions of the fateful consequences of the supremacy of parliamentary jurisdiction, or the intrigues of parliamentary courts. No trial had drawn together such crowds of auditors from day to day; they were as numerous as those in the next year, at the trials of Preston and the soldiers.”15
The court quickly announced that it had overruled the pleas, and pro• { 280 } ceeded to trial.16 The taking of evidence commenced immediately and continued for three days; the testimony seems to be substantially reproduced in Adams' minutes (Document V). In contrast to the common-law practice, the evidence was “taken down by the clerk and the counsel in writing.”17 It should be noted that none of the accused testified. There is no evidence that any attempt was made to call any of them as witnesses on behalf of any of the others. Of course, no accused could testify in his own behalf, even at common law; but it was customary at common law when a number of prisoners were tried on the same facts for the court to acquit those whom the evidence did not materially affect, in order that the others might call them as witnesses.18
On Saturday, 17 June, Adams rose to make the argument which is detailed in Document VI. He had barely commenced, and had begun to argue that the killing was only justifiable homicide, when, as he loved to tell in later years, Hutchinson moved for adjournment. The court retired for four hours, then returned with its decree: Justifiable homicide, and the prisoners set at liberty. Although Adams insisted that it was fear of the nonimpressment statute which swayed the court, Hutchinson gave a different reason: “It appeared that neither the lieutenant nor any of his superior officers were authorized to impress, by any warrant or special authority from the lords of the admiralty; and the court (the commanding officer of the king's ships being one of the commissioners) was unanimously of opinion that the prisoners had a good right to defend themselves, and, though the fact of killing was fully proved, that they ought to be acquitted of murder, with which they were charged, and that, at common law, the killing would not have amounted to manslaughter.”19 In other words, Adams' substantive legal argument prevailed.
Immediately upon the acquittal, Ryan, whose arm had been broken by a pistol ball in the fracas, brought an action against Midshipman William { 281 } Peacock, who had fired the shot. The Sheriff rowed out to Rose and seized Peacock personally, taking £300 bail in lieu of an arrest.20 Commodore Hood himself sought vainly to buy Peacock's peace, writing Adams (who represented Ryan) and offering his client a cook's place in the fleet, which, with its perquisites, was worth £30 a year. But Ryan refused “because he had fallen in love and would be married,” and the matter was finally settled for £30.21
Adams always remembered Corbet's case warmly. He considered it more important than the Massacre trials,22 and he never forgot the honest testimony of the British sailors (some of whom testified in behalf of the prisoners) and their apparent abhorrence of the press gang.23 At one time, he contemplated publishing a report of the case. Characteristically, he noted: “A great Variety of useful Learning might be brought into an History of that Case—and the great Curiosity of the World after the Case, would make it sell. I have half a Mind to undertake it.”24 Apparently, { 282 } he did take some steps along those lines, because the documents here set out, particularly Documents II and VI, indicate careful expansion of legal jottings and courtroom minutes. Document I seems to be the rough notes on which he based his argument, expanded in Document II. Document III is the plea, and Document IV additional pleadings in the nature of demurrer and joinder. Adams' actual trial minutes are Document V, while his final argument is Document VI.
The editors have decided to place the litigation materials in roughly chronological order, and have therefore divided some of Adams' documents at appropriate places. The MS trial minutes (Document V) contain also a series of eight leaves in Adams' hand which Brooks Adams called “supplementary notes.”25 They appear, in fact, to be Adams' digest of the various witnesses' depositions. Thus the summary of Hugh Hill's testimony commences: “Like the Master's till. . . .” And John Roney's starts: “As the Master.” In the present arrangement of the materials these have been placed as footnotes to each respective witness' trial testimony.
It is tempting to speculate that these notes are evidence of pre-trial discovery techniques not usually associated with traditional Admiralty practice.26 However, a more probable view is that, all the witnesses being mariners, each deposition had been taken in rei perpetuam, against the possibility of the witness' being at sea when the case came to trial.27
1. See Rowe, Letters and Diary 186–187. “Not one American belonging to the Brig.” Boston Gazette, 5 May 1769, p. 1, cols. 1–2; Boston Chronicle, 27 April 1769, p. 135, cols. 2–3. As to the Pitt Packet's cargo, see Customs Commissioners to Salem Customs Officers, 27 April 1769, Salem Custom House Record Book, 1763–1772, fols. 280–281, MSaE.
2. “The Inadmissible Principles of the King of England's Proclamation of October 16, 1807, Considered,” 9 JA, Works 312, 318. See JA to JQA, 8 Jan. 1808, 44 MHS, Procs. 422, 424 (1910–1911).
3. See Boston Chronicle, 27 April 1769, p. 135, col. 2; Boston Gazette, 1 May 1769, p. 1, cols. 1–2; “A Journal of the Times,” 4 May 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 94–95. “About noon two of the people delivered themselves up, and soon after they seized Corbet. They were all carried on board the Rose. It must be observed the man who was wounded came out soon after Mr. Panton was killed. N.B. It has been said the Brig's men were drunk, but they did not appear so when they were carried on board the Rose.” Boston Chronicle, 1 May 1769, p. 139, cols. 2–3.
4. 28 Hen. 8, c. 15 (1536).
5. 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7 (1700).
6. 4 Geo. 1, c. 11 (1717). This statute, and those in notes 4 and 5, are discussed at p. 275–276, notes 2, 4, 5, above, and are set out in part at notes 1734, 2–1140–49, 14–1552–53, below. See also No. 57, note 257.
7. 6 Anne, c. 37, §9 (1707); see JA to William Tudor, 30 Dec. 1816, 2 JA, Works 224, 225. Of Otis, JA later said, “[H]is unhappy distemper was then in one of its unlucid intervals, and I could hardly persuade him to converse with me a few minutes on the subject; and he constantly and finally refused to appear publicly in the cause.” Id. at 224.
8. “A Journal of the Times,” 5 May 1769, Dickerson, Boston under Military Rule 95. As to the veracity of the “Journal,” see No. 46, notes 30–41, text at note 45. The Pitt Packet, having been seized and “rummaged” at Boston, was ordered admitted to entry at Marblehead by the Customs Commissioners, with a few prohibited goods in stores. The officers of the port were ordered to search carefully, however, lest there be further prohibited goods concealed beneath her cargo of salt. See Commissioners to Salem Officers, 27 April 1769, Salem Record Book, 1763–1772, fols. 280–281, MSaE; note 3496 below. As to impressment, see note 2102 below.
9. 3 JA, Works, 501, 503–504. The “Instructions” are dated 17 June 1768. Impressment had been a Boston grievance at the time of the Liberty riot in June 1768. See No. 46, notes 12, 21.
10. Boston Chronicle, 1 May 1769, p. 140, col. 1.
11. Boston Gazette, 8 May 1769, p. 2, col. 1. The visit took place on 29 April.
12. Boston Chronicle, 1 May 1769, p. 139, cols. 2–3; see note 3 above.
13. See Boston Gazette, 29 May 1769, p. 3, col. 1; id., 19 June 1769, p. 1, col. 3.
14. Boston Gazette, 29 May 1769, p. 3, col. 1; Boston News-Letter, 1 June 1769, p. 3, col. 1.
15. JA to Jedidiah Morse, 20 Jan. 1816, 10 JA, Works 204, 209–210. The trial was among the first held in the newly built court house on Queen (now Court) Street. See Thwing, Crooked and Narrow Streets 95.
16. Massachusetts Gazette, 15 June 1769, p. 1, col. 3; Boston Gazette, 19 June 1769, p. 1, col. 3. It is interesting to speculate that in coming to its conclusion the court may have contemplated an item from the Boston Chronicle, 25 May 1769, p. 167, col. 2, describing the trial in New York, “before a court of Admiralty held in the City hall, consisting of his Excellency the Governor, the gentlemen of his Majesty's Council &c.,” of Joseph Andrews, accused of piracy and murder in Aug. or Sept. 1766. He was convicted and condemned to be hanged.
17. Boston Chronicle, 19 June 1769, p. 195, col. 2; JA to Jedidiah Morse, 20 Jan. 1816, 10 JA, Works 204, 207. The procedure, particularly the questioning of witnesses by the court and by the accused, suggests 18th-century naval court-martial procedure. See, for example, Owen Rutter, The Court-Martial of the Bounty Mutineers (London, 1931). Hood was president of the Bounty trial (1792).
18. This point arose in the Bounty trial, and resulted in the reversing of one of the convictions. See Rutter, The Court-Martial of the Bounty Mutineers 53–54.
19. 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 167. For JA's versions, see sources cited in notes 7, 15, 17, above. JA's recollection, JA to William Tudor, 30 Dec. 1816, 2 JA, Works 224, 225–226, that the court considered its decree overnight, is probably erroneous in light of the contemporary note that the court consulted from 9 to 1 p.m. on Saturday, 17 June. Boston Chronicle, 19 June 1769, p. 195, col. 2. It is possible, however, that JA began to argue and was interrupted late on Friday, and the court adjourned to consider on Saturday.
20. Boston News-Letter, 22 June 1769, p. 2, col. 1. SF 101703.
21. JA to JQA, 8 Jan. 1808, 44 MHS, Procs. 422, 424; Hood to James Bowdoin, Halifax, 24 April 1770, 1 Bowdoin-Temple Papers (9 MHS, Colls., 6th ser.) 175, 176 (1897); Hood to James Bowdoin, 7 Aug. 1770, id. at 210. Ryan's release, in SF 101703, is here set out in full to illustrate how little personal injury litigation has changed in two centuries:
Know all Men by these presents that I John Ryan late of Marblehead in the County of Essex, now of Boston in the County of Suffolk and Province of the Massachusetts Bay Mariner, for and in Consideration of the Sum of Thirty pounds Lawful Money of the Kingdom of Great Britain, to me in Hand paid before the Executing of these presents by William Peacock of his Majesty's Ship Rose, now in said Boston Gentleman, the Receipt whereof I do hereby acknowledge; Do by these presents fully and absolutely Release Remise and for ever acquit and Discharge the said William Peacock his Heirs, Executors and Administrators of and from all and all Manner of Action and Actions Cause and Causes of Action, Suits, Sum and Sums of Money, Controversies Variances, Damages, Trespasses, Claims and Demands Whatsoever in Law and Equity which against the said William Peacock I the said John Ryan ever had, now have or which I, my Heirs, Executors or Administrators hereafter can shall or may have for, upon, or by Reason of any Matter, Cause, or Thing whatsoever from the Begining of the World to the Day of the Date of these Presents: More especially a Certain Action of Trespass brought by me the said John Ryan against the said William Peacock and which is now depending in the Superiour Court of Judicature &c. now holden at Said Boston in and for said County of Suffolk; which said last mentioned Action, and the Cause thereof being settled, I hereby Release and Discharge the same and all Costs thereon, and acquit and Discharge him the said William Peacock therefrom forever: In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my Hand and Seal this thirtieth Day of August in the Tenth Year of the Reign of his Majesty George the third of Great-Britain &c. King Annoque Domini 1770.
[signed] John Ryan
22. JA to Jedidiah Morse, 20 Jan. 1816, 10 JA, Works 204, 210: “Panton and Corbet ought not to have been forgotten. Preston and his soldiers ought to have been forgotten sooner.”
23. See letters cited in notes 2 and 22 above.
24. Diary, 23 Dec. 1769, 1 JA, Diary and Autobiography347. JA's plan for a report consisting both of the record of the case and a statement of the broader arguments involved (ibid) resembles that of Henry Laurens, Extracts From the Proceedings of the Court of Vice-Admiralty In Charles-Town, South-Carolina (Phila., 1768). See No. 46, notes 73, 75. JA may also have contemplated such a report of Hancock's case. Id., text at notes 72–77.
25. Appendix to BA, “The Convention of 1800 with France,” 44 MHS, Procs. 377, 429 (1910–1911). Because the stitching in JA's paper booklet recording the evidence wore away long ago and allowed the leaves of the MS to get out of order, BA printed some of the testimony in an improper sequence; the order of the documents in the Adams Papers microfilms is also wrong. What is with little doubt the correct order of the evidence on both sides has been restored below. See also note 3395 below.
26. See Miner v. Atlass, 363 U.S. 641 (1960).
27. See “An Act for Taking of Affidavits out of Court,” 12 Dec. 1695, 1 A&R 225, 226.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0002-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1769-05

Adams' Notes of Authorities1

Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, May 1769
28. H. 8, c. 15. For Pirates.
The Statute on which this Court is founded is 11th. & 12th. Wm. 3rd, C. 7. An Act for the more effectual suppression of Piracy.
6. Ann, c. 37, §9. Impresses in America prohibited. This act perpetual, 1. because of the Title. 2. the Preamble, in two Parts, for Ad• { 283 } vancement of Trade, and increase of Shipping and Seamen. 4. the same Clauses in their Nature temporary, yet others perpetual. Others expressly limited to the duration of the War. This § not §4. No limitation in the Act itself to Years, or other Term. 4. G, c. 11, §7. Sugar Colonies Act. 19. G. 2, c. 30, §1.2
Fosters Crown Law.
Necessary Homicide. 2. Domat. 638 §6. Woods Inst. civ. Law 270. Cod. Lib. 9. Tit. 16. 2. 3. 4 &c.
Civil Law, relative to Defense and Provocation.
2. Domat 638. §6. Woods Inst. civ. Law 270. Cod. Lib. 9. Tit. 16. 2. 3. 4. &c. Note 46. Gail Page 503. Maranta Page 49, Pars 4. <Dig. 1.> Dist. 1. 77.
Com. Law justifiable self Defense.
1. Hawk. 71. §4. middle. §21. killing ravisher. page 72 §23. towards the End. §24. page 75. §14.
Keyling page 128. bottom page 136. Top. Buckners 136. 3. bottom. 3dly. 59. Hopkin Huggetts. 2. Ld. Ray. Tooleys Case. Holt 485. 484. Faster 312—316—vid. Foster 292, the smart &c. for Manslaugter, also 296.
Calvin. Tit. Culpa.3
7. W. 3, c. 4. An Act for Grand Jurors serving at Quarter Sessions. Clerk of the Peace of each County shall annually 15 days before the day for holding the Court issue out Writs to the Constables of Towns, to warn a Meeting of the Inhabitants, for chusing one or more Grand Jurors.4
Grand Jurors Oath 4. W. & Mary. c. 16.5
{ 284 }
Temp[orary] Laws. 23. G. 2, c. 2. better regulating the Choice of Petit Jurors.6
28. H. 8, c. 15. For Pirates. After the common Course of the Laws of this Realm. Commissioners to enquire, by the Oaths of 12 good and lawfull Inhabitants, in the Shire limited in their Commission, as if such Crimes committed on Land. And Tryal by 12 lawfull Men, inhabited in the shire limited within such Commission. Expressly excluded clergy. Tryals in 5. Ports shall be <in> by Inhabitants,7 &c.
11. & 12. W. 3, c. 7. Act for more effectual suppression of Pyracy.
4. G. c.
18. G. 2, c. 30.8
Otis. 2 Salk. The Word “may,” shall be construed “shall.” Tit. Statutes and their Construction.9
Tryal of Stede Bonnett, before Judge Trott.
1718. 5. G. 1. V. 6. 156.10
Consent of Parties would cure all Difficulties, Vin. Tit. Tryal.11
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184. Because most of the authorities are expanded in Docs. II and VI, full annotations have been deferred until those documents. On the first page of the notes, to which JA gave no caption, “Corbit's Case” is written in pencil in an unidentified hand.
2. “An Act for the Better Encouragement of the Trade of His Majesty's Sugar Colonies in America,” 19 Geo. 2, c. 30 (1746). Section I exempts from impressment all mariners “who shall serve on board, or be retained to serve on board any privateer, or trading ship or vessel, that shall be employed in any of the British sugar colonies in the West Indies, in America.”
3. John Calvin, Magnum Lexicon Juridicum, 1:406–409 (Geneva, 1734), discusses guilt.
4. Act of 16 March 1695, 1 A&R 193.
5. Act of 25 Nov. 1692, 1 A&R 78, 79:
“You as foreman of this inquest for the body of this county of S., you shall diligently enquire and a true presentment make of all such matters and things as shall be given you in charge, the king and queen's majesties 'counsel, your fellows' and your own you shall keep secret; you shall present no man for envy, hatred or malice, neither shall you leave any man unpresented for love, fear, favor or affection, or hope of reward, but you shall present things truly as they come to your knowledge, according to the best of your understanding. So help you God. The same oath which your foreman hath taken on his part, you and every one of you on your behalf shall well and truly observe and keep. So help you God.”
6. “An Act for the Better Regulating the Choice of Petit Jurors,” 12 Aug. 1749, 3 A&R 474. Renewed 13 Oct. 1756, 3 A&R 995; 29 March 1760, 4 A&R 318; 20 March 1767, 4 A&R 920.
7. 28 Hen. 8, c. 15, §6 (1536): “Provided alway, that whensoever any commission shall be directed unto the five ports for the inquisition and trials of any the offences expressed in this act, that every such inquisition and trial to be had by virtue of such commission, shall be made and had by the inhabitants in the said five ports, or the members of the same.” The “five ports” or “cinque ports” were “those special havens that lie toward France,” generally thought to be Dover, Sandwich, Rumney, Winchelsea, and Rye. They had “many privileges, liberties, and franchises.” Their governor, or Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, had a special Admiralty jurisdiction. See Cunningham, Law Dictionary, tit. Cinque Ports.
8. 18 Geo. 2, c. 30 (1745) extends the Act of 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7 (1700) to British subjects committing nautical treason.
9. Presumably Otis refers to 2 Salk. 610–613: “Statutes, and the Exposition thereof.” But none of the cases there reported treats the issue here framed. The other reference may be either to 4 Bacon, Abridgment 644: “Rules to be Observed in the Construction of Statutes “; or to 19 Viner, Abridgment 511: “Construction of Statutes.”
10. Rex v. Bonnet et al., 6 State Trials 156 (S.C. Vice Adm., 1718).
11. Possibly 21 Viner, Abridgment 386: “"The Jury is not to inquire of that which is agreed by the Parties.”

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0002-0003

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1769-05

Adams' Argument and Report1

Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, May 1769
Case of Michael Corbit and others, charged with the Murder of Lt. Panton on the High Seas
28th. Hen. 8th. c. 15. “For Pirates.”2 Where Traytors, Pirates, Thieves, Robbers, Murtherers, and Confederates upon the Sea, many times escaped unpunished, because the Tryal of their offences, hath heretofore been ordered, judged and determined before the Admiral, or his Lieutenant or Commissary, after the Course of the civil Laws, the Nature whereof is, that before any Judgment of Death can be given against the offenders, either they must plainly confess their offences, (which they will never do, without Torture or Pains) or else their offences be so plainly and directly proved by Witness indifferent, such as saw their offences committed &c.3 for Reformation whereof be it enacted, That all Treasons, Felonies, Robberies, Murthers, and Confederacies, hereafter to be committed in or upon the Sea, or in any other Haven, River, Creek, or Place where the Admiral or Admirals, have or pretend to have Jurisdiction, Authority, or Power, shall be enquired, tried, heard, determined, and Judged, in such Shires and Places in the Realm, as shall be limited, by the Kings Commission, &c. as if the Offence done upon Land, &c. after the common Course of the Laws of this Realm.4
§. 2d. to enquire by the Oaths of twelve good and lawfull Men &c. in the shire limit in the Commission.5
11. and 12. W. 3, c. 7. An Act for the more effectual Suppression of Piracy.6
All Pyracies, Felonies, and Robberies, committed in, or upon the { 286 } Sea, or in any Haven, River, Creek, or Place, where the Admiral or Admirals have Power, Authority, or Jurisdiction, may be examined, enquired of, tried, heard, determined, and adjudged, [according to the directions of this act,] and in any Place at sea, or upon the Land, in any of his Majestys Islands, Plantations, Colonies, Dominions, Forts or Factories to be appointed for that Purpose by the K's Commission &c. under the great seal of England, or the Seal of the Admiralty of England, directed to all or any of the Admirals, Vice Admirals, Reer Admirals, Judges of Vice Admiralties, or Commanders of any of his Majestys Ships of War, and also to all or any such Person or Persons as his Majesty shall please7 to appoint; &c. which said Commissioners shall have full Power jointly or severally, by Warrant under the Hand and seal of them or anyone of them to commit to Safe Custody, any Person &c. vs. whom Information of Pyracy, Robbery or Felony upon the Sea shall be given upon oath &c.8 and to call and assemble a Court of Admiralty on shipboard, or upon the Land &c.9 and such Persons so assembled, shall have full Authority, according to the Course of the Admiralty, to issue Warrants for bringing any Person accused of Piracy or Robbery before them, to be tried &c.10 to summon, and examine Witnesses &c. and to do all Things necessary for the Hearing and final Determination of any Case of Piracy, Robbery, and Felony; and to give Sentence and Judgment of Death, and to award Execution [of the offenders convicted and attainted as aforesaid], according to the civil Law, and the Methods and Rules of the Admiralty.11
This Statute is the Foundation of the Special Commission, and of the present Proceeding, and upon it a Question has been made by Mr. Otis whether the Prisoners have not a Right to a Jury? He says that Magna Charta, in a Case of Life, at least must be expressly repealed, not by Implication, or Construction only. And that in England a Jury is summoned every day for the Tryal of such offences committed at sea. But I think that the statute of 28th H.8. before cited explains this Difficulty. And this Case seems to be but one Instance among many others, of the partial Distinctions made between British subjects at Home and abroad. The civil Law, The Course of the Admiralty, and { 287 } the Methods and Rules of the Admiralty, will be construed to take away the Benefit of a Jury.—†Turn to the last Leaf but one.12
† Mr. Otis, from his first Retainer in the Cause, has been very sanguine, to move for a Jury. He has mentioned his Resolution in all Companies, [and] last Week at Plymouth he mentioned it to the Lt. Govr. and the rest of the Judges.13 Mr. Fitch happening to hear of our Design to move for a Jury, went to rummaging up Acts of Parliament to satisfy himself, and found the 4. of G, c. 11. An Act for the further preventing of Robbery &c. and for declaring the Law upon some Points relating to Pirates.14 In the 7th section of this statute “It is hereby declared, that all and every Person and Persons who have committed or shall commit any offence, or offences, for which they ought to be adjudged, deemed and taken to be Pirates, Felons, or Robbers, by an Act made in the Parliament holden in the 11. and 12. Years of [the reign of his late majesty King] Wm. 3d, intituled 'An Act for the more effectual suppression of Piracy' may be tried and judged for every such offence, in such Manner and Form as in and by an Act 28. H. 8. is directed and appointed for the Tryal of Pirates.”15 This statute Fitch discovered to Sewall and Sewall shewed it to the Governor and Lt. Govr., and the rest of the Court, the first Morning of the Courts sitting, in the Council Chamber. They were all struck and surprised, and the Lt. Govr. observed that this Statute cleared up, what had always to him appeared a Mistery. In the State Tryals, the Tryal of Stede Bonnet before Judge Trott at Carolina 1718. 5. G. 1.—V. 6. 156. It being the next Year after the statute, Bonnett had a Grand and Petit Jury.16
In the Council Chamber the Court, however agreed, that they would go into the Court House and take the oaths &c. and then the Court would publickly propose a Jury. This was done and the statutes 28. H. 8. 11. & 12. W. 3. and 4. G. 1. were read and then the Commission &c. and then the Govr. proposed, to adjourn the Court to Thurdsday,17 { 288 } and to hear Council [i.e. Counsel] this afternoon in the Council Chamber, upon the subject of a Jury.
In the afternoon We accordingly attended, and a Difficulty was started by the Lt. Governor about the Venire's. Whether they should be directed to the Sherriff, to summon a Jury as in England, or whether the Venires should issue in any manner analogous to the Laws of this Province relative to this subject? In the Afternoon, We had the argument, and the whole Court seemed convinced that a Jury must be had. The Govr. indeed, talked that they might be sent to England for Tryal, &c.
But the next Morning, when Mr. Otis was to have prepared and produced a Venire facias to the Sherriff to return a Jury, We found all aback. The whole Court, Advocate Genl. Mr. Sewall, and Mr. Fitch all of opinion that we had been all wrong, and that a Jury could not be had. The Lt. Govr. had in the Course of his Lucubrations, discovered this great secret, that by Law two Ways of Tryal are pointed out and provided, one by 28. H. 8., the other by 11. & 12. of W. 3. and that his Majesty may grant a Commission in Pursuance of Either. That this Commission was expressly limited to 11. & 12. W. 3. and therefore could not proceed, according to 28. H. 8.
1. In JA's hand, in his Admiralty Book, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184. Printed in 2 JA, Works, Appendix B, 526–528.
2. That is, 28 Hen. 8, c. 15 (1536). Emphasis is JA's.
3. JA omits this apparently relevant material:
“which cannot be gotten but by chance at few times, because such offenders commit their offences upon the sea, and at many times murder and kill such persons being in the ship or boat where they commit their offences, which should witness against them in that behalf; and also such as should bear witness be commonly mariners and shipmen, which, because of their often voyages and passages in the seas, depart without long tarrying and protraction of time, to the great costs and charges as well of the King's highness, as such as would pursue such offenders.”
4. JA omits several unimportant phrases.
5. This section of the statute details procedure for jury indictment and jury trial.
6. That is, 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7 (1700). Emphasis is JA's.
7. The statute says: “think fit.”
8. JA omits: “(which oath they or any one of them shall have full power, and are hereby required to administer).”
9. JA omits: “when and as often as occasion shall require; which court shall consist of seven persons at the least.”
10. JA omits: “heard, and adjudged” he also paraphrases the next clause, which says: “and to summon witnesses, and to take informations and examinations of witnesses upon their oath.”
11. The text from note 947 to this point comes from §4 of the statute.
12. That is, of JA's Admiralty Book. At the present point in the MS appears the material separately set out as Doc. VI.
13. Presumably during the May 1769 sitting of the Superior Court at Plymouth.
14. 4 Geo. 1, c. 11 (1717), “An Act for the Further Preventing Robbery, Burglary, and Other Felonies, and for the More Effectual Transportations of Felons, and Unlawful Exporters of Wool; and for Declaring the Law upon Some Points Relating to Pirates.”
15. JA omits: “and shall and ought to be utterly debarred and excluded from the benefit of clergy for the said offenses; any law or statute to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding.” The statutes referred to are 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7 (1700), and 28 Hen. 8, c. 15 (1536).
16. Rex v. Bonnet et al., 6 State Trials 156 (S.C. Vice Adm., 1718).
17. See the discussion of the chronology, text at notes 13, 14, above.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0002-0004

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1769-05

Plea to the Jurisdiction1

Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, May 1769
Province of the Massachusetts BayTo the Honble. the Commissioners <of the> constituting the Special Court of Admiralty for the hearing and determining of Piracies Robberies and Fellonies committed upon the high Seas, begun and held at Boston in the County of Suffolk, and Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England in America on the twenty third day of May in the Ninth Year of the Reign of George the Third by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France and Ireland, King Defender of the Faith &c.
{ 289 }
Humbly shews Michael Corbit of Marblehead in the County of Essex, Mariner that this Hon'ble Court ought not to take Cognizance of the Matters and Things sett forth and alledged in the said Articles exhibited against him by Ezekiel Price Gentleman, because the said Michael says, that by an Act of Parliament made in the Twenty Eighth Year of the Reign of King Henry the Eighth, it is among other Things enacted, “That all Treasons, Felonies, Robberies, Murthers, and Confederacies, hereafter to be committed in or upon the Sea, or in any other Haven, River, Creek or Place where the Admiral or Admirals, have or pretend to have Power, Authority or Jurisdiction shall be inquired, tried, heard, determined, and judged, in such Shires and Places in the Realm as shall be limited by the Kings Commission or Commissions to be directed for the same, in like Form and Condition, as if any such offence or offences had been committed or done in or upon the Land; and such Commissions shall be had under the Kings Great Seal, directed to the Admiral or Admirals, or to his or their Lieutenant, Deputy, and Deputies, and to three or four such other substantial Persons, as shall be named or appointed, by the Lord Chancellor of England for the Time being, from Time to Time, and as oft as need shall require, to hear and determine such offences after the common Course of the Laws of this Realm, used for Treasons, Felonies, Murthers, and Confederacies of the same, done and committed upon the Land within this Realm,” And “that such Persons to whom such Commission or Commissions, shall be directed, or four of them at the least, shall have full Power and Authority to enquire of such offences, and of every of them, by the oaths of Twelve good and lawfull Inhabitants in the shire limited in their Commission, in such like manner and Form, as if such offences had been committed upon the Land within the same shire, and that every Indictment found and presented before such Commissioners, of any Treasons, Felonies, Robberies Murthers, Manslaughters, or such other offences, being committed or done, in or upon the Seas, or in or upon any other Haven, River or Creek, shall be good and effectual in the Law and if any Person or Persons happen to be indicted for any such offence, done or hereafter to be done upon the seas, or in any other Place above limited, that then such order, Proscess, Judgment and Execution shall be used, had, done and made, to and against every such Person and Persons, so being indicted, as against Traytors, Felons and Murtherers, for Treason, Felony, Robbery, Murther or other such offences done upon the Land, as by the Laws of this Realm is accustomed; and that the Tryal of such offence or offences, if it be denied by the offender or offenders, { 290 } shall be had by twelve lawfull Men, inhabited in the shire limited within such Commission, which shall be directed as is aforesaid, and no Challenge or Challenges to be had for the Hundred; and such as shall be convict of any such offence or offences, by Verdict, Confession or Proscess, by authority of any such Commission, shall have and suffer, such Pains of Death, Losses of Lands, Goods and Chattells, as if they had been attainted and convicted of any Treasons, Felonies, Robberies, or other the said offences done upon the Lands.”2
And the said Michael further shews, that by another Act of Parliament made and passed in the Parliament holden in the Eleventh and Twelfth Years of the Reign of King William the third, it is, among other Things declared and enacted “That all Piracies, Felonies, and Robberies committed in or upon the sea, or in any Haven, River, Creek or Place, where the Admiral or Admirals have Power, Authority or Jurisdiction, may be examind, enquired of, tried, heard and determined and adjudged, according to the Directions of this Act, in any Place at Sea, or upon the Land, in any of his Majestys Islands, Plantations, Colonies, Dominions, Forts or Factories, to be appointed for that Purpose by the Kings Commission or Commissions under the Great Seal of England, or the Seal of the Admiralty of England, directed to all or any of the Admirals, Vice Admirals, Reer Admirals, Judges of Vice Admiralties, or Commanders of any of his Majestys Ships of War, and also to all or any such Person or Persons, officer or officers, by Name, or for the Time being, as his Majesty shall think fit to appoint, which said Commissioners shall have full Power jointly or severally, by Warrant under the Hand and Seal of them, or any one of them, to commit to safe Custody any Person or Persons against whom Information of Piracy, Robbery, or Felony upon the sea, shall be given upon oath which oath they or any one of them, shall have full Power, and are hereby required to administer and to call and assemble a Court of Admiralty on ship board, or upon the Land, when and as often as occasion shall require; which Court shall consist of seven Persons at the least” and “that such Persons called and assembled,” as in said Act is particularly described, “shall have full Power and Authority, according to the Course of the Admiralty, to issue Warrants for bringing any Persons accused of Pyracy or Robbery before them to be tried, heard and adjudged and to summon Witnesses, and to take Informations and Examinations of Witnesses upon their oath; and to do all Things necessary for the Hearing and final Determination of any Case of Pyracy, Robbery and Felony; and to give sentence { 291 } and Judgment of Death and to award Execution of the offenders convicted and attainted as aforesaid, according to the civil Law, and the Methods and Rules of the Admiralty; and that all and every Person and Persons so convicted and attainted of Pyracy or Robbery, shall have and suffer such Losses of Lands, Goods and Chattells, as if they had been attainted and convicted of any Piracies, Felonies and Robberies, according to the aforementioned statute, made in the Reign of King Henry the Eighth.”3
And the said Michael further saith that by another Act of Parliament made and passed in the fourth Year of the Reign of King George the first it is among other Things declared, “that all and every Person and Persons who have committed or shall commit any offence or offences, for which they ought to be adjudged, deemed, and taken to be Pirates, Fellons, or Robbers, by an Act made in the Parliament holden in the Eleventh and Twelfth Years of the Reign of his late Majesty King William the Third, intituled, 'an Act for the more effectual suppression of Pyracy,' may be tried and judged for every such offence in such manner and Form as in and by an Act made in the twenty Eighth Year of the Reign of King Henry the Eighth is directed and appointed for the Tryal of Pyrates, and shall and ought to be utterly debarred and excluded from the Benefit of Clergy, for the said offences; any Law or statute to the Contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding,” and “that this Act shall extend to all his Majestys Dominions in America, and shall be taken as a public Act.”4
Now the said Michael says that the Commission whereby this Honourable Court is constituted authorises it, to proceed only according to the Directions in the said Act made in the Reign of King William the third, according to the Course of the Admiralty, According to the civil Law, and the Methods and Rules of the Admiralty;5 and that the Matters and Things contained in the Articles aforesaid against the said Michael, ought now by Law to be heard and tryed, by a Court constituted according to the said Act made in the Reign of King Henry the Eighth, and ought to be tryed and judged in such manner and Form as in and by the same Act is directed and appointed, that is to say by a grand Jury and a petit Jury of the said County of Suffolk and as by the Laws of the Realm of Great Britain is accustomed.
Wherefore the said Michael <says> prays Judgment if this Court { 292 } will take any further Cognizance of the Matters and Things charged upon said Michael in said Articles.6
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184. Docketed in another hand: “Michael Corbett & the 4 sailors who kill'd Panton in defence of th[eir] liberty.” There were of course only four sailors involved. Similar pleas in JA's hand in behalf of John Ryan and Pierce Fenning are in MBAt:Ezekiel Price Papers. See notes 661, 162, below. Quotation marks supplied.
2. 28 Hen. 8, c. 15, §§1, 2 (1536).
3. 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7, §§1, 4 (1700).
4. 4 Geo. 1, c. 11, §§7, 9 (1717).
5. The commission recited all three statutes, but in constituting the court it gave it only powers provided by the Act of William III. See p. 276, note 8 above. Compare JA's report, text following note 1755 above.
6. The plea of John Ryan (and, mutatis mutandis, that of Pierce Fenning) concludes as follows:
“Now the said John says that the Commission whereby this Honourable Court is constituted, authorizes it to proceed only according to the Directions in the said Act made in the Reign of King William the third, that is to say according to the Course of the Admiralty, according to the civil Law, and the Methods and Rules of the Admiralty: And <that the Matters> according to the other particular Rules and Methods, therein <panic> described and explained: And the said John further says that the Matters and Things contained in the Articles aforesaid, exhibited against him, by Ezekiel Price Gentleman, ought now by Law to be heard and tryed, by a Court constituted according to the said Act of Parliament made in the Reign of King Henry the Eighth, and ought to be enquired of heard, tryed, determined, and adjudged, <accor> by the oaths of twelve good and lawfull Men, in such manner and Form as in and by the same Act of King Henry the Eighth, is directed and appointed, and as by the Laws of the Realm of Great Britain is accustomed.
“Wherefore the said John prays Judgment if this Court will take any further Cognizance of the Matters and Things charged upon <said Michael> him in said Articles.” In JA's hand. MBAt: Ezekiel Price Papers.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0002-0005

Author: Adams, John
Author: Price, Ezekiel
Date: 1769-05

Additional Pleadings1

Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, May 1769
And the said Ezekiel Price says, that he to the said plea of the said John Ryan above pleaded to the Jurisdiction of this honorable Court, has no necessity nor is he oblidged by the Law of the Land in any manner to answer, because he says that the same plea is not sufficient in Law to put this honorable Court from taking further Cognizance of the Matters and Things contained in the Articles aforesaid and this the said Ezekiel is ready to verify; wherefore for want of a sufficient plea in this behalf, he prays this honorable Court would take further Cognizance of the Matters and Things charged upon the said John Ryan in the Articles aforesaid; and that the said John Ryan may be put to answer to the Same.
[signed] Ez. Price
And the said John Ryan says, his said Plea is Sufficient to put this Honorable Court from taking further Cognizance of the Matters and Things contained in the Articles aforesaid, and thereof prays Judgment.
[signed] J. Adams
{ [facing 292] } { [facing 293] }
1. In Jonathan Sewall's hand, signed by Ezekiel Price, and in JA's hand, signed by him, appended to pleas of Ryan and Fenning, notes 156, 661, above, MBAt:Ezekiel Price Papers.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0002-0006

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1769-06

Adams' Minutes of the Trial1

Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, June 1769
Mr. Fitch.
About the Time of the Blow—the 2d Pistol was fired.
Commission from Commissioners.
Peter Bowen. I have seen all the Prisoners on Board the Brigg Pit Packet on the 22d. April last. In the Fore Peek. I knew Lt. Henry Gibson Panton, lately deceased. He was Lt. of the Rose Man of War. He was on Board the Brigg Pit Packet when I saw those Men.
Mr. Panton went on Board, and I with him. We enquird for the Master, who proved to be the Person we spoke to. Master, Mr. Panton and I went down in the Cabin. When below Mr. Panton enquired from where the Brig came? Master made answer from Calais [Cadiz?] bound to Marblehead. Mr. Panton then asked him for his Bills of Lading, clearance, and other Papers. Master answerd he had no Papers except a Bill of Health which he produced. Next Mr. Panton asked how many Men he had on Board? Master answerd 6 before the Mast besides himself and Mate. He then asked for his Log Book? Master produced it. Mr. Panton desired the Hatchways and scuttles2might be opend, and he would send his People down to search for uncustomd Goods or to that Purpose. Master said it should be done. Mr. Panton and I went upon Deck leaving the Master in the Cabin. Mr. Panton desired the Mate to send all his Hands aft. At the same time orderd the Roses People to go below to search. The Mate said he would send what Hands there was aft. Mr. Panton said he must send 'em all. Mate said he could not send 'em all aft but he would go and call them. Mate went forward. Mr. Panton orderd me to go with him. Mate called the People, but none of them answerd, of which the Mate went aft and informed Mr. Panton.3Mr. Panton said We must search for them. Lights were got. Mr. Panton orderd me with 2 of the Boats Crew to search in the main hold for the Men. We searched. We found nor heard none. I came out of the main Hold and went forward. Gibson, one of the Boats Crew said to me theres a Scuttle, pointing to one be• { 294 } fore him. We orderd him and Churchill another of the Boats Crew, to unlay. Churchill taking up the Scuttle, called out “Here they are,” and desired the Men he saw to come up. Briggs People swore they would not, meaning those in the fore Peek, and that the first Man that dared to approach em, they would cut his Limbs off. Which of em said this I cant tell. They all spoke to that Purpose—at the same Time shewing a Hatched [Hatchet,] Harpoon, a Musquet and a Fish Gigg. I then said, the Lt. wanted to see them and desired em the Prisoners to come upon deck. They swore they would not. I informed Mr. Panton of what happend. Mr. Panton, hearing it, went forward. I went with him. Mr. Panton mildly desird the Briggs People the Prisoners to come out— which they refused to do, swearing they would die in the Hold before they would suffer themselves to be impressed. Mr. Panton then said he wanted to search the Hold, and asked them to let him come down where they were. They repeated to him what they had threatened to me and shew him their Weapons. Mr. Panton desired a 2d. Time that they would come out, adding if they persisted in refusing he must oblige them. One and all of them said to Mr. Panton if he brought any Arms against them, he should be their Mark and they would put his Lamp out first. Mr. Panton ordered the Roses Boat to be manned and sent Mr. Stanhope aboard the Rose for Assistance, which I did. I returned to Mr. Panton, and found him talking with the Prisoners, endeavoring to perswade them to come out, explaining the folly of being obstinate. The Prisoners said several Times in my hearing, if there were 50 men armd they would not be taken, and told Mr. Panton if he had any Regard for his own Life, he would let them pass. He said it was his Duty and he could not do it. They said they knew he was Lt. and knew his orders, and desird them again to let them pass, swearing and repeating their Threats against him particularly. Mr. Panton had a Candle in his Hand, the Place being very dark, which he gave to one of the Prisoners. Desird they would let him see what sort of a Place they were in. One of em took the Candle and lighted it about where they stood. Mr. Panton said He could not see what sort of a Place it was, and wanted to go down. They said he should not go down, and if he attempted it they would shoot him, and Pierce Fenning presented the Musquet and said it was loaded with sluggs and primed. Then returned the Candle. Mr. Panton Aye! will you shoot me? In a joking, chearfull Manner, added, I will take a Pinch of Snuff first, and ordered me to go and see if the Boat was come back. I informd him the Boat was just returnd. Mr. Peacock, Mr. Stanhope, Forbes the Master at Arms, and the Boats Crew. They all came below. { 295 } Mr. Panton asked the Prisoners if they would surrender. They said they would not. Mr. Panton orderd Mr. Peacock and the Boats Crew to go below in the main hold, and open the Bulkhed where the Prisoners were. As soon as the Crew began to work upon the Bulk head, the Prisoners all of em at different Times said they would shoot the first Man that made a Hole. One of em, which I cant say, advised the others to shoot the Lt. first and divide themselves, 2 to defend the Scuttle and one the Bulk head. One of those at the Scuttle presented a Musquet, the other a Fish gig. One from within called out fire. Mr. Panton and I having our swords drawn, I with my sword struck the Musquet out of its Direction at Mr. Panton. Mr. Panton came over towards me and orderd the Scuttle to be laid down, which Woodgate one of the Boats Crew did and stood upon it, to prevent their Doing any Mischief that Way. Mr. Panton and I went below to see what Mr. Peacock and the Crew had done there. The Master att Arms had made an opening with an Iron Crow in the Bulkhead, and having made a small one, one from within presented a Musquet thro it, at him, <threatening> to the Master at Arms, threatning to shoot him. When we went below the Roses People had seperated themselves, at each End of the Bulk head. Mr. Panton went to the starboard side, where Mr. Peacock, and some of the Crew were. I went to the Larbord side where Forbes, Silley and Sinclair were. The Man who presented his Musquet at Forbes, went over to the other side, upon which Forbes took up his Crow and broke off a large Plank, and then gave the Iron Crow to Sinclair and took up his <gun> Pistol. One within presented a Musquet at Sinclair, which he snapped 3 times, the others calling out to fire damning the Peice for not going off. Silley got hold of the Musquet, but by himself could not keep it—those within drawing it from him. Then Silley went to Mr. Pantons side. Almost immediately after I heard the Report of a Pistol which Silley at that time said was fired by him, without Ball at the Man who threatned the Lt. so hard, who the Man was I cant tell, being on the other side. Mr. Panton, all this time, frequently begging of them to surrender or he must clear his Way to them. Some of them again said they would shoot Mr. Panton first. And Forbes the Master at Arms <afterwards> next, before they would be taken. Upon Hearing the Report of a 2d Pistoll I turned about and saw Mr. Panton had been wounded in the Throat. I did not see the Harpoon. I saw the shape of the Harpoon upon the Throat—and [he] had fird a Pistol as I then thot, at the receiving of that Wound. Mr. Peacock was with him, and Ransford one of the Boats Crew endeavouring to stop the Effusion of Blood with their Hankerchiefs. Then went on deck. With Help of 2 { 296 } Men of the Boats Crew, I carried Mr. Panton to the Briggs Cabbin, where he expird in less than 2 <Minutes> Hours. I believe the Wound I saw was the Occasion of his Death.
Qu. by <Mr. Fitch> Mr. Trail.4 Did Mr. Panton declare he wanted to search for uncustomd Goods, when the Candle was handed down.— He did not at that Time.
Q. by me. Do you know what orders Mr. Panton had before he left the Rose, and by whom given.—No.
Q. Did Mr. Panton ask the Master if he had any favour5 for any of his Crew and if he had he would not take him.—No.
Q. Did you hear Mr. Panton say he did not intend to have taken more than 2, but as they had hid he would take all 4.—He did not tell the Master so, but he told the Prisoners so while the Boat was gone aboard the Rose.
Q. Did Mr. Panton perswade the Men to go on board the Man of War.—He told em they should have good Usage if they would go.
Q. Did he say, after the Candle was moved about did [he] not say he was satisfyd there was no uncustomd Goods there. No.
Q. What arms had Mr. Panton and his Party, when they went first on board.—No Body but Mr. Panton had any when they first went on board, and he only a sword.
Q. What Arms were brot on bord the Brigg by the Boat, when she came the 2d. time?—Cutlasses, Pistolls and Musquets—how many I cant say.
Q. Any of Mr. Pantons Party used any threatning Expressions to the Prisoners, and what. They said if they hurt any of em with their Weapons they would fire upon them. This was before the first Pistol.
Q. Any of Mr. Pantons Party presented their Pistolls at the Prisoners, or made any Rushes at them with their swords or Hangers before the fatal Blow was given.—They kept their Pistals in their Hands, but the Men had no swords, and none made any Pushes.
Q. Had all the Boats Crew Pistols.—I cant say that. The Lt, 2 Midshipmen, the first Time, there were more than the Boats Crew [the] second Time. Boats Crew 7. 2 Midshipmen. 4 more might come the 2d. Time. <About> 10 the first Time.
Q. Were all the Persons from the Man of War below.—Not all the Time I believe. They were about the ship.
Q. Did not the Prisoners often say they did not want to hurt him or { 297 } his Men, they only wanted their own Liberty'?—Yes. I dont know that I heard 'em more than once.
Q. Whether they beggd and pleaded that the Lt. would let 'em alone.—Yes.
Q. When the Prisoners said they would die before they would be pressed, did the Lt. tell 'em he did not want to impress 'em, but only wanted to look for uncustomed Goods.—No.
Q. Did the Lt. ever tell em he did not want to impress them?—No never in my Hearing.
Q. Was the Opening in the Bulkhead such, that the Lt. might see into the Forepeak, whether there was uncustomed Goods there or not.—I dont know.
Q. Did you hear the Prisoners say to Lt. Panton they had nothing against his searching if he would let them alone.—No.
Q. Did they take the Candle in order to shew him there was none goods.6
Q. Whether the Prisoners took the Candle from the Lt. and moved it about, that he might see there was no Goods there?—Lt. desird them to take it that he might see what sort of Place they were in.
Q. Lt. said he could not see and wanted to come down.
Q. by Mr. Fitch, whether the Hold was not so full of Cargo that they could not stand upright.—In the main hold we were obligd to set down on the Salt. I was never in the forepeak.
Q. by <Mr. Auch> Judge Auchmuty. How long between the two Pistols.—I cant tell it might be a Quarter of Hour more or less. I cant tell.
Q. by Gov. Bernard. Do you know which Prisoner gave the Wound? —No.7
{ 298 }
Mr. Henry Stanhope. Midshipman cozn. [cousin] of E[arl of] Chesterfield.8
{ 299 }
Mr. Panton was Lt. of the Rose Man of War. Knows the Prisoners, saw em 22d. April last on board the Pit Packett. I went on Board the Brigg, with Mr. Panton. The Mate threw a Rope to the Boat. Lt. enquird for Master who was the Person he spoke to. We went down into the Cabin with him. Panton, Bowen and I. When below, Lt. demanded of the Master the Bills of Lading and Clearance. He informd he had none but Bills of Health. Mr. Panton then asked for his Log Book which he produced. He then asked how many Hands he had on Board. He anserd 6 before the Mast, besides himself and Mate. Lt. went upon Deck, the Master came up a little after. Lt. told the Master he must let his Men search for prohibited Goods, which the Master readily comply'd with replying “very well.” Lt. sent Mr. Bowen with two of the Boats Crew to search the Hold.9 Mr. Bowen came up and related what had happend. Lt. orderd me to stay upon deck and look after the Roses Boat. Presently Mr. Bowen came up and told me it was Mr. Pantons orders, that I should go on board for assistance. I went with 4 of the Boats Crew, and acquainted the Captn. with what had happend. Returnd with Mr. Peacock, and Forbes the Master at Arms and others I cant recollect who, with Arms, Cutlasses, Pistolls, and Musketts. On my Return I know but little of what happd after. When Mr. Bowen came up, he said there were Men aboard who swore the first Man approached them, they would kill.
{ 300 }
Q. by me. Was the Lts. order to Mr. Bowen and 2 of the Boats Crew to search the Hold for Men or for prohibited Goods.—I cant say. He told em to search the Hold for what Purpose I know not.
Q. by Mr. Fitch. Was the orders to search presently after he told the Master he must search for Goods.—In a short time after, but the orders were given on deck. What was said to the Master was in the Cabin.10
Mr. William Peacock.
Mr. Panton was Lt. of the Rose. I knew all the Prisoners aboard the Pitt Packet 22 last April. At my first Arrival on board the Brigg, I enquird of the Mate where Mr. Panton was. He said down in the fore hatchway. I went down directly followd by the Boats Crew. I enquird the Cause of the Disturbance. He told me that [despite] all the Arguments he could make use of, the Briggs People, 4 in Number, were down the fore Peak, and said they were resolved to die, sooner than be pressed on Board a Man of War. Mr. Panton then orderd me down the Main hold, with the Boats Crew, to force down a bulk head, which Parted the main from the forehold.
I went down directly, and orderd the People to break down the bulk head, which they began. The Brigs People the Prisoners from within threatned to kill the first Person they saw. Upon a Holes being made by our People in the Bulkhead, they presented a Piece thro that hole and snapped it 3 different times. The People in the mean time breaking the Bulk head down. So that in a little time I could discern 4 Persons differently armed, with Gun, fish Gig, Ax and Harpoon, still struggling to hurt our People as much as lay in their Power. Mr. Panton then came down, and orderd the People to desist from breaking the Bulkhead down, till he had spoke to those within, the Prisoners. He represented to em the folly of persisting vs. a superiour Number, acquainting em with the Impossibility of their Escape and promising { 301 } them good Usage if they would come out voluntarily. They told him they would not, and that they knew him to be a Lt., that the Men acted by his orders, and that the first Man that offerd to touch the Bulkhead they would do for him (meaning Mr. Panton). One of our Men, then hearing this threat, <snapped> fired a Pistol at the Man who told Mr. Panton so, loaden with Powder only, which must be true, as it only scorchd his Upper Lip and made it bleed, in order to intimidate him as the Man declard. James Silley the Man. The Man Corbit said to Mr. Panton, see what one of your Men has done pointing to his Lip. Lt. made answer, it was not done by his Order, when <you> He meaning Corbit, came on board the Rose he would shew him the Man that did it. In order as I suppose to get satisfaction. Lt. then askd them if they would come out and promisd them good Usage again. They said they would not, and that the first Person that offerd to approach them they would kill him. Michael Corbit was the chief Speaker, and said this in Particular. What he said the rest generally joind in, and assented to Lt. then gave new orders, to break down the Bulk head, which our People did as well as they could being interrupted by the Prisoners. Immediately after, Mr. Panton gave orders to stop a second time, and askd them if they would come out again. They said No. Lt. then askd one of 'em, to lend him his Ax that he might beat the Bulk head down the sooner, in a Joking manner. He within [answered] he'd lend it to scalp him. Lt. then orderd [us] to break down the Bulkhead. Which we were just going about, when Corbit the Prisoner at the Bar, struck at Mr. Panton with his Harpoon. Mr. Panton immediately said after the stroke, Peacock “the Rascall has stabbed me, thro the Jugular Vein.” I immediately fired my Pistol at the Person who wounded him, who was Corbit. I saw his Blood spout out amazingly before I fired my Pistol.
Q. by the Govr. In what Posture was Mr. Panton?—He was sitting on the salt opposite to Corbit and was not any Ways attempting to force an Entry.
Q. by Commodore Hood.11 I distinguishd Corbett, by the Blood on his Face.
When Silley fired the Pistol, Lt. took the Pistol from him and gave orders that no one should fire, without his orders.
Q. by Lt. Govr. Did the Prisoners discover that they heard these orders.—I did not see any Difference in their Behaviour. I cant tell whether they heard. There was a Noise, I was quite close to him.
{ 302 }
Q. by J[udge] Auch[muty]. How long between the 2 Pist[ols]—1/2 an hour I am sure it was.
Q. by Gov. B[ernard]. Did Mr. Panton ever give orders that his Men should fire at the Prisoners?—No sir. Never.
Q. by me. What Number of Men and what Arms.—A. 8 came with me and Mr. Stanhope. We brought 2 Musquetts, 4 Pistolls, and 4 Cutlaces.
Q. by me. What Threats were used by any of the Lts. Party, to the Prisoners?—The firing of the Pistol, and damning one another, but no other Threats that I heard. Mr. Panton might say they had better come out by [fair?] Means.
Q. Did you draw up your first Deposition Yourself?
Q. by J[udge] Auch[muty]. Have you any Doubt upon your Mind but that he intended to impress the People, or not?—No sir.
Q. by Lt. Govr. Whether the other 2 Men were impressd.—They were carried on board the Rose, but immediately dischargd.
Q. Did you hear the Prisoners say to Lt. they did not want to hurt him or his Men?—I heard Corbit say to Mr. Panton see here what is done? What Right has your Men to do this.
Q. Did you hear the Prisoners or any of 'em say to Lt. or any of his Party, I can fly from you no further, I must defend myself.—They said they were resolved to defend themselves.
Q. Did any of the Prisoners say they were no Deserters, and Lt. could have no orders to impress them in time of Peace.—No. Not as I heard.12
{ 303 }
Forbes Master at Arms.
I knew Lt. Panton very well. I know all the Prisoners very well, saw 'em first on Board the Pitt Packet belonging to Marblehead.
I was called and orderd to go aboard the Brigg to Mr. Pantons Assistance, which I did. I walked forward to the starboard side of the forecastle. I heard one of the Briggs Crew, call out from below, “come on you Dogs, here we are.” I took off my Coat and threw it upon the forecastle, then went down below, one of the Boats Crew with me with a Light to shew me the Bulkhead, which I saw by the Light. I laid my Hand upon it. I said there was nothing to be done [without] an Iron Crow. I went up the main Hatchway to look [for] one. I met the Lt. He askd me where I was going. I told him I was going to look for an Iron Crow. I turnd aft and found one, and carried it down to break open the Bulkhead by Mr. Pantons orders. Lt. at the same time told me, they were well stowed forward. I gave 2 Strokes at the Bulk head with the Crow. One of the Crew, which the rest calld Corbit, by his Voice I judge, said that was all they wanted. 5 or 6 Blows made a Hole in the Bulk head so as We could see them and they us. Lt. crawld along forward. As soon as the Prisoners see him, they in general threatned him with death. And one of em whom the rest calld Corbit said Mr. Lt. I will kill you first. And you may be sure of death if you dont go about your Business. And at the same Time presented a Musquet at Mr. Panton. Others of the Prisoners within presentd fish Gig, Harpoon and Ax at the Lt., without the least Abuse from that Gent. the Lt. I seeing em present their Weapons, towards the Lt., I was afraid they would kill him. I call'd out to 'em, and desird em not to point their Weapons to kill so good a Gentleman as what that was for he { 304 } meant them no harm. And if you do not leave off pointing your Weapons at him I will fire among you, which by a Rally I made upon them I drew them to my side and I frequently presented my Pistoll to 'em <to>[as] it is proper a Man should preserve his own Life. One of the Prisoners, the rest called Ryan, was in the Larbord Wing with a fish Gig in his Hand. He hove it at me. The length of his Arms, not doing the Ex[ecutio]n they would have him, Corbit cryd out kill the Buger, and accused him of Cowardice for not doing it. Corbit ran to the Larboard side where he Ryan was and catchd the staff in his Hand. And he took hold of the staff and the Grain came off.13 Upon Corbits return to the other side, he took a Musquet from another, and snapped it at one of the Boats Crew 3 times, then went to his own Quarter again. The Opening I made was so big that the wounded Man came out. It was all down to a Piece of a Plank, which Corbit made several Attempts to pull down, swearing at the same time he wanted room to kill the Lt. One of the Boats Crew with me, made 2 or 3 attempts to hall this Plank down. But a Musquet being presented at him by one of the Prisoners he catched hold of it, but not being able to keep his Grip, he flew over, to the side where the Lt. and the rest of the Gentlemen were, took up a Pistal. Corbit seeing that dard him to fire. He told him he would if he did not put his face back from the Bulk head. Fire if you dare, I will kill the first of ye. Then I heard the Pistall go off. Silly who fird it, came over to my side. Lt. call'd out, but cant say what he said. He seemd to speak hot. Silly came over to my side, with a loaded Pistall in his Hand, I know there was priming in it, there[fore] I conclude was loaded. The Prisoners after this were very hot, pushing their Weapons at Us. I called out to the Lt. and said I must be obliged to fire to save my own Life. He called me by my Name, and forbid me to fire more than once, or else I'd have shot every Man of them. At the same time, the Lt. demanded Silleys Pistal from him, Lt. thinking Silly as hot as I was. Blew out the priming and gave it to one of the Boats Crew. The next thing I observd, 2 or 3 Minutes after, was Corbit darting out a Harpoon thro the Bulk head, where the Lt. used to sit [i.e. had been sitting]. I did not see the Lt. at that Time. In a Moment as quick as possible, I heard a Pistall go off. I dont know who fird it. The Pistall was followd by a groaning in the Hold among the Prisoners. Corbit said he was shot thro the shoulder, and lost the Use of one of his Arms. Ryan said the same afterwards. I advised em to come out and get our Doctor that they might not bleed to death. Corbit said he would not. That he would die there, and bleed to death. I { 305 } advised Ryan to come out, and helped him out, with a Pistal in my Hand, cockd and [primed?], they with their Weapons [threatening] to kill me if it [i.e. I] came in. They admitted me to come to the Bulkhead. One of the Boats Crew came down and said that Mr. Panton was dead. The first I heard or thot of it. I said to Corbit you are the Rascall that has killd the Gentleman and youl be hangd for it. He said he would kill me next for he believed I was an officer of Marines. I told him let me be what I would, I would have the satisfaction of putting him in Irons by and by both Leggs, which I had and if there had been 25 I would have put 'em all in. Ay says he you are Master at Arms, if I had known that I would have killd you long ago.
Q. by Govr. Was the <hold> Hole where the Lt. was wide eno for the Lt. to get thro.—I cant think it was. The largest Breach was at the larbord side. A Man might have got his Head thro. I saw Corbit make a Push with the Harpoon, but could not see that Lt. by Reason of a Trunk.
Q. by Prisoner Corbet. How could you see when there was no Light, the scuttles being down.—There was no Light among 'em, but we had Lights and the Planks were all clear where we were. The Light shone full upon them.
Q. by Mr. Otis. Had Lt. a sword or Pistal at the Time he fell?—To my Knowledge I never saw any Weapon in his Hand but a snuff Box.
Q. Do you remember Corbits requesting intreating the Lt. to go about your Business, and stand off?—They said go about your Business and stand off. Their constant Cry was, if we would not go about our Business they would kill.
Q. <Do you> Did Corbit and the rest frequently say, he did not desire to hurt him if he would go about his Business.—Not to my Knowledge.
Q. Did you consider yourself as searching for Goods, or as one of a Press Gang?—When the Lt. said they were well stowd forward, I thought there were goods. I am not to be a judge of my officers Business. I imagine it was for seizing Smugglers as well as any thing else. I am not a judge whether Lt. would have pressed them. The latter End they behavd so rough and turbulent that the Lt. I believe would take some of 'em on board the Rose.
Q. Did you hear Lt. say he would press em?—I did not that I remember.
Q. Did you frequently hear the Prisoners declare they would die before they would be impressed on board a Man of War.—I heard Corbit say, he would not go on board a Man of War. At the time when he said he was wounded, he said he would die, before he would go aboard a { 306 } Man of War. They said that all they had in the World was there and they were defending it.
Q. Did you hear em say they were in defence of their Liberty.— They might say so, I cant say I heard it. There was many Words said that I dont remember.
Q. Was you in the forepeak?—I never was there.
Q. Do you know of any uncustomable Goods that were found in this forepeak by any of this Party, or any other Part of the Vessell.—Not that ever were found to my Knowledge.
Q. Did Corbit express great Grief and Concern when he was assurd that the Lt. was killed?—No.
Q. by the Govr. B. Was it after Corbit knew of Lts. death that he said he would kill you.—Yes.
Q. by Govr. Do you believe the Prisoners heard the Lt., forbid Silly and me14 to fire.—I do.
Q. by Govr. Did you hear Corbet complain of the first Pistall, and the Answer?—Yes. The Ball missed Corbit if there was one in it. Corbit said to Lt., see what your Men have done. Well says the Lt., come out, and you shall have what Satisfaction you please.
Q. by Mr. Otis. Are you sure there was but one Pistol dischargd before the Lt. fell.—But one.15
{ 307 }
Q. by Prisoner to Mr. Bowen. Did the Lt. draw his sword and thrust it down several Times into the Place where the Prisoners were?–No.
Q. by Otis to Bowen. Did you consider yourself with Mr. Panton as searching for Goods, or as a press Gang?—Ans. as searching for Goods. First I searchd for Men and then for goods.
Q. Whether any of the Party searchd the forepeak for Goods after the Men were out?—I dont know that they did. Peacock and Stanhope no. We went on board the Rose before the Men were out.
Q. to Bowen, Peacock, and Stanhope. Did you hear em frequently say they did not want to hurt em if they'd leave em.—Bowen did. The other 2 did not.
Q. Mr. Bowen. I believe at different Times I might hear em all say, that [they] would kill &c. Corbit said he would put his Lamp out first. And the others might say to the same Purpose. I believe some of the others did. It was not always said with the same Voice. I cant tell which took the Candle from the Lt. I am certain Corbit said he would shoot with Gun loaden with sluggs and primed, and they all joind in it. Pierce Fenning presented the Musquet, but who the fish Gig or who cryd fire I cant say. I saw no body have the Musquet but him. The same Man presented it at Sinclair, and snapped it 3 times. Corbit said he knew him to be a Lt. Cant say that any other did. There was a Noise.
Q. by Mr. Fitch. Whether Mr. Panton had found a Pistol or any Arms while in the Hold—main hold?—He came down unarmed without his sword. He took the Pistall from Silley [some?] time after, as mentioned before. Silly had loaded it, <for> the or it [may] have been another for the Lt. blew the priming out, and gave it to one of the Crew. He had Time to go from side to side between, for Mr. Panton called him to him.
{ 308 }
Bowen see him take the Pistal from Silley, <and blow the prim> but did not see him blow the priming out. Stanhope saw him with a sword at the scuttle, but not in the Hold, I did not see him.
Wm. Petty-grew. Physician. I saw the Body before it was buried. Soon after the Vessell came up to the Wharf. He came by his Death I suppose by the Wound he received in his Neck. About 3 Inches long, and of a triangular Figure, cut the Carotid Artery and Jugular Vein. I suppose 3 Inches in depth. There are two Jugular Veins on each side of the Neck.
Q. by me. Are the Artery and vein 3 Inches deep?—I suppose it must have penetrated 3 Inches, for the natural Elasticity of the Artery and vein would have given Way.
Robert Brice. Surgeons Mate. Knew the Lt. I saw him about 1/2 Hour before he died. His death I apprehend occasioned by a try-angular Wound in the left side of his Neck. It must have been the immediate occasion of his Neck [i.e. death]. The 2 Jugulars on the left side and the Carotid Artery were cutt thro. The Wound went down in an oblique Direction. There is an external and internal Jugular Vein. One could have known the Wound by the Instrument that gave it.
There must have been force used in drawing it back, as the surface of the Wound was lacerated.
James Silley. A private Marine. I went on board the Brigg, in the Boat—the 2d Boat. I was one that rowed. I went immediately down in the Hold with Mr. Peacock and the Master at Arms. Mr. Panton orderd Us to open the <Hold> Bulkhead.
Q. by Govr. Bernard. Did you fire a Pistall?—Yes I fired a Pistall. The Prisoners orderd us upon our Peril not to approach the appartment. If We did they'd kill Us. They'd be the death of the 1st Man that should attempt to break in there. The Pistall I fired, was loaded with Powder only. It was given to me, I dont know by whom, for a Pistall only with Powder. I did not load it and dont know. He dont know by whom it was given to me but believe it was the Master at Arms. I fired it at the Time when I was taking hold of the Musquet that was presented thro the Bulkhead. I dont know that I presented at one any more than another. I had no Reason for firing it, but in Confusion, with no Intention at all. I catched at the Musquet and fird at the same time with the other Hand.
{ 309 }
Q. How near was the Mouth of your Pistoll to Corbetts face?—I dont know. It must be very nigh him, I believe, by the Explosion.
Corbit said this is not good Usage.
Mr. Panton said he would shew him the Man when he came on bord. Then a Cartridge was given me by Sinclair and I loaded the Pistall again. The Musquet was pointed thro the Bulkhead again. I seized it and kept it in my Hand for above 2 Minutes. But the Prisoners got it from me, 2 of em. I soon went over to the Larboard side where the Master at Arms were. The Lt. demanded me to give him the Pistol. Accordingly I did. I then assisted the Master at Arms in breaking down more of the Bulkhead with Pretence of getting in. The Prisoners then desired us to keep off upon their Peril for they would not be pressed. I remember Corbit very well. The others said keep clear Gentlemen at your peril for We will not be pressed. Corbit then said <Mr.> you Lt. stand clear if you dont I'le be the death of you. The Lt. made answer you may depend upon it if you kill any one you'l be hanged for it. They Corbit then often attempted shoving thro with the Harpoon, the whole of em desiring Us to stand clear. Soon upon it I heard another Pistall go off and the Cry of a Man. Looking about I saw the People all going out of the Hold and no one there but I and the Master at Arms. Sometime after Gibson came out and said the Lt. was dead. The Prisoners said it was no such thing.
Q. Mr. Panton said he gave no orders to fire.
Q. by Pris[oner]. Did We not tell em We wanted nothing but our Liberty, and not to hurt any of their People?—I heard some of them say they wanted nothing but their Liberty and would hurt nobody if they did not hurt them.
Q. Whether some of the Boats Crew did not say, if We did not come out they would blow our Brains out or shoot us.—I believe there was Words of the Kind passed of both sides. A great deal of that.
Q. Did not I give the Prisoner, a Piece of Bread and say that I wanted not to hurt him or any Man.16—Yes.
Q. by me. The Lt. said he had a Deputation to search and would search there. That [ . . . ].17 The Prisoners said there was no prohibited Goods there.
Q. Did the Lt. or any of his Party search in any Part of the main Hold for prohibited Goods.—I did not see em.
{ 310 }
Q. Did you apprehend your Business was to search for prohibited Goods or to impress Men.—I understood that I came on Board in order to [help] Mr. Panton to search for prohibited Goods or to impress Men as he gave orders.
John Bembridge.
Mr. Fitch's Application of the Evidence.
Of the Utmost Importance to society that Murder should be punished.
Shall only state the Evidence summarily.
Mr. Panton an Officer of the Customs, duly authorized to make Searches and Seizures. The Commissioners here authorized by Act of Parliament, to issue commissions. This Commission issued to the officers of the Navy.18
As a Custom House Officer he had Authority to go on board any Vessell to search. He went on board, and demanded Papers and Leave to search. The Master readily consented.
Masters explicit consent to search a material Circumstance.
He found the Men, and insisted that they should come out and said he wanted to search that Place for prohibited Goods.
No threatnings on the Part of Mr. Panton. On the contrary he spoke in the mildest and most persuasive manner.
No arms when he went down the hold. Threatning Language from Prisoners. A Pistoll. Mr. Pantons Disapprobation. The Pistoll 1/2 hour before the fatal accident.
Corbit one of the Persons that threw the Harpoon that killed the Lt. They were all active, stimulating one another, and all equally concerned, tho Corbit gave the mortal blow.
Lt. was in the lawfull Discharge of his Duty, and the explicit consent of the Master for this Purpose. Any opposition to him therefore was illegal. The opposition being illegal he was not obliged to give back. No threatnings on the Part of Mr. Panton, by which the Prisoners could apprehend Danger to their Lives—tho they had apprehensions of being impressed.
The Pistolls not fired by him, but vs. his express orders.
The last Pistol after the Wound was given, Peacock saw the Blood.
{ 311 }
Lt. Governor says he did not see the Blood, till after he fird. The Register has taken it otherwise.19
The Threatnings of Prisoners levelled at Mr. Panton himself. We will put your Lamp out first. This shews Malice vs. himself in particular. Why should they single out this Person any more than others.
If any Person is singled out, it is Malice, tho in an Affray.
I will consider the apprehensions the Prisoners were under and the Effect of this upon the Evidence. They were under Apprehension of being impressed. But Mr. Panton did not say he would impress 'em. Ans. Mr. Bowen said, the Lt. told Prisoners he would take em all.20
How far this can excuse? Justify I apprehend it cannot.
I am considering, how far the Prisoners Apprehensions could affect the Crime. I think it could not affect the Crime att all, as he was acting under a legal Authority to search for Goods.
What Effect the Firing the 1st Pistol, can have upon the Crime? I apprehend it can have very little weight, as it was done without order, and the Lt. expressly disapproved it.
Lt. unarmed, in such a Position and attitude that he could not be in a Condition of Offence.
Q. Whether these Circumstances can soften the Crime down from Murder to Manslaughter, or whether they are not Proof of Malice forethought.
Law. A Question whether the Court are to proceed by the civil Laws or by the Rules of the Common Law. I apprehend the Crime is the same by both Laws. The same essential Distinctions in both. The voluntarily taking away Life, Dolo malo, with Malice forethought. Manslaughter is not by Name in the civil Law, but the civil Law makes the same Allowances to the Infirmities of human Nature.
Discretionary in civil Law, what Punishment to give to sudden Killing. By 27. H. 8. and 11. & 12. W. 3. compard, taking em together I apprehend no safer Rule can be proceeded by than to proceed by the common Law and this has been the Practice.
I shall confine myself to the Rules of common Law.
[2] H.H.P.C. 16. 17. Q. Whether the statute does not restore Clergy.21 The offender is to have his Clergy. Lt. Governor said some { 312 } Cases that would be Manslaughter at common Law would be punishd with death by civil Law.
1. H.H.P.C. 455. 457. Implied Malice. Kills without Provocation.22
A Bailiff, Constable or Watchman. No lawful Warrant. Capias Distringas.23 9. Co. 68.24 Same Book 458. A Bailiff Jurus and Conus. Pew said stand off. Bailiff laid hold. Pew killd. Murder.25 A similarity in these Cases. If Lt. had a Right to enter any Part of the Vessell, he is equally under Protection of Law as any other officer, and opposing him is at the opposers Peril.
458. Bailiff, Cook. Cook bid him depart. It was Manslaughter in defence of his House no felony.26 Tho Lt. might pursue his Authority in an illegal Manner, yet it would be manslaughter. No greater Effect than that, it must be left to the Court whether so great. Should the { 313 } Court think, that am[ount]s to Manslaughter, I see no reason vs. punishing by the civil Law.
Our Witnesses.
Thomas Power. Master of the Brigg.
<. . . Panton said to me The Man of War.>
Q. Did the Man of War hail you before the Lt. came on board.— The Rose fired 2 Guns and hailed us by a Trumpet and order[ed] us to lie to after which Lt. Panton came on board. He enquired for the Master. I told him I was Master of the Vessell. Then he asked me for my Clearance. I told him I had none. He replyed you must certainly have some Papers. I told him I had no other Clearance but a Bill of Health and a Bill of Lading as it was a foreign Port, from whence I came, and we took no Clearance therefrom. He asked me for the Bill of Health which I produced. He then asked me for a List of my Men. I produced him my shipping Book. He asked me, if I would walk down into the Cabin. When he came down He asked me where my People were. I told him I did not know. Then he called for Pen and Ink, and for the Logg Book, and took down the Peoples Names, and he then ordered some of his Party to go and seek for my People, <then he> and turn em up from below. Then he asked me to open my Lazaretto27 scuttle for em. I told him I would. After he had taken my Peoples Names, he asked me if I had any particular Person, that I wanted a favour done him, let him know his Name, he would put a Mark against it and when he came upon deck, he would not take him. I told him I had one Man that was married, and I tho't it was very hard to take him. He said by no means he would not take <any> no married Man, for he had orders to take None that was married.28He asked me if I had any more Hands aboard, but what was in the List. I answered no. Then he desird me again to tell him if I had any more, for if he found more aboard it should be worse for me. While he and I were talking, some of his Men came and told him, that they found out the Men, that they were hid in the forepeak, and would not come out. Then he left me in the Cabin, and went upon deck, and I never saw no more of him, till he was brought up, by some of his Men out of the Hold.
{ 314 }
Q. What Condition was he then in?—He was wounded in the Neck on the left side. I perceived an Effusion of Blood. He might live an Hour or an Hour and half. Speechless when he came up.
Q. Was you present when orders were given for the Boat to go on Board the Rose for more Men and arms? Declare all you know.—I was upon Deck when orders came up, to send the Cutter on Board and bring the Cutter, properly manned and armed. When the Cutter returned the Roses Men jumped in, upon the Briggs Deck. Some with their Pistolls cocked and some with their Cutlasses drawn. Some of 'em enquird, particularly the Master at Arms, enquired where the Dogs were, and said they would soon have 'em out” ? They then went down between decks to the Lt. All of them, but one Man, left to take Care of the Boat. In a little time afterwards, one of their Men came up upon deck to me, said he was sent by the Lt., (Charles Rainsford now present in Court) for some Tools, to cutt the Bulk head thro, and if I refused sending them, that he the Lt., would confine me. I told him I had none. If they could find any, about the Vessell, they may make Use of them.
Q. by Mr. Otis. Did Lt. Panton demand a search of your Vessell as a Custom House officer?—No.
Q. Did he demand a search for the Men?—He did not demand a search for them of me, but orderd his People to go and search for them.
Q. For what Purpose did he search. Declare all you know.—I imagined it was to impress em. He said his orders were to take but 2 but as they had hid, he would take the whole four.
Q. Did he say any thing to you about his being a Customs House Officer, or his Having a Right to search for Goods from first to last.— No sir.
Q. Did you ever hear him give orders to any of his People to search the Vessell for prohibited or uncustomd Goods.—No.
Q. What did the Prisoner Corbit say, when he first saw the dead Body of the deceased in the Cabin door?—When he came to the Cabin Door and saw the Lt. dead he shed Tears, turned about to the Marine and said to him, you Rascall, you are the Instigation of this Gentlemans death, and said you are the Person that fird at me.
Q. by the Govr. Did Lt. behave civilly or uncivilly, to your observation?—He behaved civilly to me.
Q. by me. What Country men were your two foremast Men who were not in the forepeak?
Q. Were they Inhabitants of Marblehead, and had they families.— { 315 } One had a family in Marblehead, the other was an Inhabitant there.
Q. Were them 2 Men both pressed and carried aboard the Man of War afterwards the same day.—Yes. They were taken away. They were returned before night. I was not requird to settle their Wages, which I take to be the common Practice.
Q. Did one of those 2 Men, deliver you the Key of his Chest and desire you to deliver his Chest to his Wife at Marblehead before he went on Board the Rose?—Yes.
Q. by Com[modo]r[e]. When the Lt. desird you to unlay the Lazaretto scuttle, did he give any Reason for the Request.—No.
Q. by Mr. Trail. Did he ask you what Goods you had aboard?—Yes. I told him Salt.
Q. Did the Lt. say he should take no Americans?—Yes.29
Hugh Hill Mate of the Pitt Packett.
On the 22d April we met a ship standing out of the Bay. (<as to the firing before, confirms the> Bet. 6. and 7 o clock they fired the Gun, and soon after, fird another. We bore down Under the Lee. They hailed Us, told us to bring too, and with our Head the same Way that they were, untill they would send there Boat aboard. Their Boat came on Board, with the Lt., 2 Midshipmen, and seven Men. The Lt. asked for the Master of the Vessell, who was then present. He asked him for his Papers. He told him he was from a foreign Port, he had only a Bill of Health, in Case of being put into another Port, and his Bill of Lading. Lt. asked him for his shipping Book, and asked him to go down into the Cabin with him. They remaind in the Cabin 7 or 8 Minutes, and the Lt. came upon deck again, with the shipping Book in his Hand, asked me if I was Mate of the Vessell. I told him I was. He told me to call our Men to answer to their Names. I <told> called to em to come { 316 } aft and answer to their Names. The 2 that were upon deck came aft. The Lt. looking upon the Men, seeing no more come but them 2, looked steadfast upon me, and said Go sirrah and turn your People up, or I shall take you. I said sir you may use your Pleasure. At that Instant he took up his Sword from our Companion30 where he had laid it, <and went forward> drew the sword, and left the Scabbard and belt and went forward, and went down into the Forecastle, where the Prisoners were. He said My Lads, you had better come up. I shall take but 2 of you. You shall have an equall Chance. They replyed they would not. I heard a Number of Voices. Cant say they all spoke. They told him, they would not be impressed, that they would defend themselves, and they told him to keep off from them, they did not want to hurt him, nor any of His People. He called to Mr. Stanhope, one of the Midshipmen, to take 4 Hands in the Cutter, and go on board for more Men and Arms, and to have the Cutter properly armed. He then replyed to the Prisoners, that he had often known as stought31 fellows as you32 but by God I will have you all. He was down below the Upper deck, I was on the Upper deck, the scuttle open, between us, I leaning with my Head over the scuttle. I then went aft. Soon afterwards, he sent up to know if the lower deck Hat[ch]ways was open? I told him that came up, that all the Hatches and Scuttles in the Vessell were open, excepting that where the Boat stood. Soon after, he sent for Lights. I orderd the Cook to light Candles for him. Soon after they got the Light the 2d. Boat came aboard, with a Number of Men Armd. The Master at Arms, and Mr. Peacock, came out of the Boat first. The Master at Arms, <swearing,> saying “damn the Rascalls where are they? I'le have them out Immediately.” The Master at Arms went down forward, Mr. Peacock following, who orderd his Men to follow him. They went down. Soon after there came a Man up, asked for the Master, told him he wanted the Tools belonging to the Vessell, if he did not deliver em the Lt. would confine him. He told him, he did not know where they were, if they could find 'em they might take 'em. They found an Adz, and a Crow Bar, and went down into the Hold again with the Tools. In a short space of Time, I heard a Pistol go off. About 7 or 8 Minutes after, one of the People who came from below, told me that one of our Men was wounded. In 8 or 10 Minutes after, I heard a 2d. Pistall go off, and in 4 or 5 Minutes after, Mr. Peacock came up and hailed the Rose, and told em for Gods sake to send the { 317 } Dr. on board the Lt was wounded. They bro't the Lt. to the forescuttle, and I lent a hand to carry him down into the Cabin. The Dr. came to him. After the Dr. had been with the Lt., He came out of the Cabin, some of the People, asked him to dress the wounded Man, (meaning John Ryan). He answerd let the Rascall bleed and be damn'd. He ought to have a Brace of Balls drove thro his Head. The Man remaining in his Gore, till he was carried on board the Man of War. After they had placed sentries over Corbit James Silley a Marine, told Mr. Newcomb and me, that he fired a Pistol in Corbits face, thinking to make him retreat. Some of the People then after the Lt. was dead made mention that the Lt. was a Customhouse Officer. Our Master asked me if I had seen his shipping Book. I told him No. I went and asked the Midshipmen if they had seen the shipping Book. They told me No. They said they would search the Lts. Pocketts for it. They went down into the Cabbin and took his Papers all out of his Pocketts in my Presence. The shipping Book was not in his Pockett. When the Master of the Rose came on board to search, <he brought a Deputation> The Monday following, viz. the 24th., He brought a Deputation <to search> as a Custom House officer and shew it to Captn. Power. Captn. Power said He need not read it. The Vessell was all open he might search. There was no Parchment in his Lts. Pocketts, when his Papers were taken out. I examind all his Papers particularly, to find the shipping Book.—The Commission being shown him [i.e. Hill] he says it was not there.
Q. Did Lt. Panton deceased from the time of his coming on board the Pit Packett to the Time he fell, make any Demand on Captn. Power, in your hearing, or of any other belonging to the Pit Packett, to suffer him to search the Vessell as a Custom House Officer for uncustomed Goods?—No.
Q. Did the Lt. with his Party, from the Time of his coming on board the Pit packett to the time he fell, conduct him and themselves, in all Respects, merely as a press Gang?—Yes. I understood it so, and had very good Reason, when he told me, he would take me on board the Man of War, if I would not turn the men up!
Q. How long was the Lt. on board the Brigg, before he fell.—It might be 2 Hours, as near as I can judge.
Q. What Part of those 2 Hours was taken up in the forceable Attack upon the forepeak, where the Prisoners had retreated?—The whole Time, excepting what was spent with the Captn. and him, in the Cabbin and on deck, which might be 10 minutes in the whole.
Q. With What Weapons was this Attack made, and what Methods { 318 } used by the Lt. and his Party to break into the forepeak. Declare all you know.33
Answer. Crow, Adz, Pistolls and Cutlaces, I suppose, that were carried down.
Q. What was said by the Officers, or People of the Man of War, to the two of your Men, when they were orderd into the Boat, <after the Lts. fall,> in order to be carried aboard the Rose.—I dont know I want upon deck.
Q. What did the Officer find on the 24th.—He found our stores, some Bottles of Wine, and some loose Lemons, 5 or 600, in a Barrell, nothing else. He seized the Vessell, put the Broad Ar[row] on the Mast.34
Q. by Corbet. What did Corbit say when he first came up and saw the Lt., and what did he say and how behave?—Thro my Perswasion he came up. I told him it would be much better for him. He asked me if I would advise him for [what?]. I thought was best for him. I told him I would not give him advice to his Prejudice. He came up and went into the Cabin, seeing the Corps, Tears came from his eyes, He turnd round and saw the Soldier that fird the Pistol upon him. Said you are the Rascall that is the occasion of this Gentleman loosing his Life. He said in the forepeak he did not believe the Lt. was dead.35
{ 319 }
John Roney. Mariner on Board the Brigg.
The Cutter came aboard and Lt. and two Midshipmen, and 7 Men. Lt. enquird for the Master. Lt. went below with the Master. He came up with the shipping Book in his Hand, and told the Mate to call the People. The Mate said there was 2 forward and call[ed] 'em accordingly. Lt., looking upon the shipping Book calls Michael Corbet, then he calls John Roney. I answerd to my Name. One of the Roses People came and told the Lt. the Men were down in the Fore peak. Lt. went forward, immediately. Took his sword drawn along with him. Lt. <told> asked the Prisoners to come up. The Prisoners answerd they would not. Lt. made Answer He would have them up. They said they did not want to hurt him or his People they wanted nothing but their Liberty.
Some Time after the Lt. bid one, go aboard the Boat and fetch more Men, and bring the Boat armed and the Master at Arms.
When the Cutter returnd again I hove her a Rope. They had a great many Arms and there was Mr. Peacock and the Master at Arms. The Master at Arms, <hove off> took a Pistall in one hand cockd as I thought and a Cutlass in the other. He jumped aboard the Brigg and says, “By Jesus I'le have these Dogs out.” Immediately speaking again “where is these Bugers.” He went down the forecastle with his Pistoll and Cutlace, I did not hear any more of him for about 30 Minutes. First Thing I heard was the Report of a Pistoll. Mr. Stanhope, standing centry over the Forecastle scuttle, told me, one of our People was wounded. About 5 or 6 minutes afterwards I heard another Pistal go off. About 4 or 5 minutes afterwards I heard the Lt. had got a deadly wound.36
{ 320 }
James McGlocklin. Cook on board the Brigg.
I was down in the steerage, and the Lt. desird me to get him a Light. I did. Desird me to shew him the Way twixt Decks forward. I shewd him the Way and car[rie]d the Light in my Hand. Lt. asked the Prisoners if they would come up. They replyd they would not. He said it would be better for 'em. If they would not he would make them. They said they would not, they were Freemen born free, and would not go aboard a Man of War. He said He would have em. For Men he came for and Men he would have. Lt. said if they would come up he would not hurt any of them. They said say37would not, they would stand in their own Defence they did not want to hurt no Body.
I went aft into the steerage again untill the Boat came on Board 2d. time with more Men and more Arms. Lt. called for another Light. I got it, and carried it forward to him. Heard him say that he had seen as stout Men as them come out very easy before now. They replyed to him they were none of them sort of Men. He said to them I'm the Man that will bring you out. Then I went aft. Lt. calld after me to shew him the Hatchways, which I did. Then the Master at Arms came directly with his Cutlace and Pistoll, and askd me for a Crow bar. I told him I did not know where to find one. He <takes> lookd and found a Crow bar. Then says he where's these Buggers, I'le have them out. Lt. and He and the rest of their People went down in the Hold and I went away into the steerage. Presently after I heard a Pistoll go off. One of the Men of Wars men came up and told me one of our People was wounded. Soon after, 4 or 5 Minutes I believe, I heard another Pistoll go off. Presently I see the Wounded Man, John Ryan come out crawling over the Water Casks. Askd me to help him. Beggd of me to get him Water he was faint, &c. Soon after I heard the Lt. was killed.
Q. Did you ever hear Lt. or any of his Party demand leave to search for Goods or say any Thing about it.—No.
Q. Did they behave merely as a press Gang?—Yes, and I never suspected they had any other Design. I saw Lt. have his sword.38
{ 321 }
Edward Wilks. A private Marine on board the Rose.
Q. Did you place the Sentries over Corbit, on board the Brigg after the Lt. was killd?—Yes.
Q. How did he behave and what Conversation had you with him about the unhappy Accident.—The Centrys were planted and I went down to see if every Thing was quiet. I found Disturbances on both sides. I beggd of the Prisoners at the Barr, Ryan excepted to behave in a better manner, for the Lt. was kil'd. They made me answer, that they could not believe it. For they did not mean any Harm to any one without it was them that came armed against them, and further told me, that if I would lay down my Arms, they would lay down theirs, and I might be welcome to eat or drink with them. I made em answer, that I did not choose any Thing of the sort. Corbit desird me, to go to Mr. Hill the Mate, and ask him, as to send em something to stop the Wound, for he was shot. Accordingly I went up. He went down.
Charles Raynsford. A Seaman, on board the Rose. Came [in] the first Boat, with the Lt., and was down in the Briggs Hold with him. In going down the Hold, <I heard Mr. the Master at> Mr. Peacock was the Head officer, and the Master at Arms. There was orders given to break open the Bulk head. The Prisoners said the first Man that made a Hole they would be the death of him. Presently after a Hole was made. The Prisoners never hurt any of em that made it, tho the Hole was large eno, to have hurt em with their Weapons. Some time after, the Lt. came down, when he came down I did not really see him. The Lt. took my Pistall from me. Mr. Peacock was close by. I made answer I cant stand here with a naked Cutlace only. With that I drew back. Lt. orderd somebody, to go upon deck and fetch an Ax. I went up to the Captain, Power and I asked him for an Ax. I saw the first Pistal that { 322 } was fird run close to his face and fird. Corbit said Gentlemen you have wounded me. Corbit askd the Lt. by what Authority he fird at him.
Q. Did you hear Mr. Panton say he wanted to search for uncustomd Goods?—No. I did not.
Capt. Robert Calef. 30th of April, Mr. Bowen came to my House. I said to him an unhappy Accident happd on board the Brigg. How did it happen?—I was as nigh the Man that kill'd the Lt. as the Lt. was when he was killed. I askd him how the affair was. He told me the Man had given him all the fair Warning imaginable and it was Lts. own fault, and they had talked together, the Lt. and Prisoners, while the Boat was gone for.
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184.
2. In margin: “Mem. Motion by Advocate General that he might have a written Account prepared before.” A scuttle is a small opening in the deck with a moveable lid. See OED.
3. In margin: “Note.”
4. Robert Trail or Traill (d. 1785), Comptroller of the Customs at Portsmouth, later to be proscribed as a loyalist. Jones, Loyalists of Mass. 278–279; 2 Sabine, Loyalists 361.
5. BA's reading. MS (apparently): “favr.”
6. Thus in MS.
7. JA's supplementary notes (see text at note 25 above and note 3395 below):
“Mr. Bowen, Midshipman. Was with Mr. Panton, when he went on Board the Brigg. The Mate threw out a wharp [i.e. a line] for the Boat. Panton enquired for the Master and went down to the Cabin with him as did Mr. Bowen and Mr. Stanhope, another Midshipman. Panton enquired where the Brig came from. Master said from Cadiz loaden with Salt, for Marblehead. Mr. Panton demanded his Bill of Lading, Clearance and other Papers. Master replyed he had no Bill of Lading or Clearance, only a Bill of Health which was all the Papers he had, and produced it, having it in his Hand ready. Mr. Panton next enquired how many Men he had on Board? Master answered 6 before the Mast, besides himself and Mate. Mr. Panton asked for his Log Book; and said He would order the Roses People to go down into the Hold, to search for unaccustomed Goods, or to that Purpose; and desired the Hatchways and Scuttles to be opened, which the Master said should be done. Mr. Panton, Mr. Bowen and Mr. Stanhope, went upon Deck leaving the Master in the Cabin and there desired the Mate to send all his Hands aft, at the same Time ordered the Roses Boats Crew to go down below and search. The Mate said he would send what Hands there was aft. Panton made answer, he must send them all. Mate said he could not send them all aft, but he would go and call them: Mate went, and Mr. Panton ordered Mr. Bowen to go with him. The Mate called the People, but none answered. Mate went aft and informed Mr. Panton. Mr. Panton then said We must search for them. Lights were got. Mr. Panton ordered Mr. Bowen with two of the Boats Crew, to go into the Hold and search for the Men, but found nor heard none. Mr. Bowen came out of the main hold and went forward. Gibson, one of the Boats Crew said to Mr. Bowen There is a Scuttle, pointing to one before him, which Mr. Bowen ordered him and Churchill, another of the Boats Crew, to take up. Churchill taking up the Scuttle, called out, “here they are!” and desired the Men he saw to come up; they, the Brigs People, swore bitterly, that the first man, who dared to approach them, they would cutt his Limbs off, at the same Time shewing a Hatchet, a Harpoon, a Musquet and fish Gig. Mr. Bowen then said his Lieutenant wanted to see them, and desired they would come upon Deck. They swore they would not. Mr. Bowen informed Mr. Panton of what had happened. Mr. Panton, hearing it, went forward himself with Mr. Bowen and mildly desired the People to come up, which they refused to do, swearing they would die in the Hold, before they would suffer themselves to be impressed. Mr. Panton then said he wanted to search the Hold, and asked them to let him come down where they were for that Purpose, They repeated to him, what they had threatned to Mr. Bowen, and shewed Mr. Panton their Weapons. Mr. Panton desired them a second Time, to come out, adding, if they persisted in refusing he must oblige them. One and all of them said to Mr. Panton, if he brought any Arms against them, he should be their Mark, and they would put his Lamp out first. Mr. Panton ordered Mr. Bowen to man the Roses Boat, and send Mr. Stanhope on Board for assistance. Mr. Bowen returned to Mr. Panton and found him talking to the People endeavouring to perswade 'em to come out, explaining the Folly of being obstinate. They said several Times in Mr. Bowens Hearing, if there was 50 men armed, they would not be taken, and told Mr. Panton, if he had any Regard for his own Life, he would let 'em pass. He answerd it was his Duty, and he could not do it. They said they knew he was a Lt. and his orders, and desired him again to let them pass, swearing and repeating their Threats against him particularly. Mr. Panton had a Candle in his Hand (the Place being very dark) which he gave to one of them, desiring they would let him see, thro the scuttle, what Sort of a Place it was they were in. One of 'em, took the Candle, and lighted it about the Place where they stood, Mr. Panton said he could not see it and wanted to go down; They said he should not go down, and if he attempted it, they would that Moment shoot him; presenting their Musquet, which they said was loaded with Sluggs, and primed. Then they returned the Candle. Mr. Panton said, Aye? will you shoot me? And in a joking manner added I will take a Pinch of snuff first; and ordered Mr. Bowen to go and see if the Boat was returned. The Boat was just then come back with Mr. Peacock a Midshipman, Mr. Stanhope, Forbes the Master at arms, and Boats Crew. They all went below. Soon after, Mr. Panton orderd Mr. Peacock and Boats Crew to open the Bulkhead of the Place, where the Briggs People were. As soon as the Boats Crew began to work upon the Bulkhead, the Briggs People said they would shoot the first Man that made a Hole. One of them advised the others to shoot the Lt. first and divide themselves. 2 to defend the scuttle and 2 the Bulkhead. One of those at the scuttle, presented a Musquet, another a Fish gig and one from within called out fire. Mr. Panton and Mr. Bowen having their Swords drawn, Mr. Bowen with his, struck the Musquet downwards, out of its Direction at Mr. Panton, Mr. Panton then went towards Mr. Bowen and ordered the Scuttle to be put down, which Woodgate (one of the Boats Crew) did and stood upon it, to prevent their Doing Mischief that Way, or coming out. Then Mr. Panton and Bowen left the scuttle and went to the Bulkhead to see what Mr. Peacock and the Boats Crew had done there. The Master at arms had begun to make an opening, with a Crow, and having made a small one, one from within presented a Musquet thro it, threatning to shoot him. When Mr. Panton and Mr. Bowen went to the Bulk head, the Roses Men were seperated at each End of it. Mr. Panton went to the starboard side, where Mr. Peacock was, with some of the Boats Crew; Mr. Bowen to the Larboard side, where Forbes, Silley and Sinclair were. The Man who presented the Musquet at Forbes, removed to the other Side upon which Forbes with the Crow broke off a Piece of Plank, then gave the Crow to Sinclair and took up his Pistol; again one within presented a Musquet at Sinclair which he snapt, 3 times; all the others calling out to Fire, damning the Musquet for not going off. Silley got hold of the Musquet, but by himself could not keep it, those within, drawing it from him: Then Silley went to Mr. Pantons side and almost immediately Mr. Bowen heard the Report of a Pistal, which Silley says was fired by him, without Ball at the Man, that threatned the Lt. so hard, and had several Times snapt his Musquet at him; in order to frighten them and make them submit. Mr. Panton during all this Time, frequently begged of them to surrender or he must clear his Way to come to them. But all of 'em said they would shoot Mr. Panton first and Forbes after before they would be taken.
“Upon hearing the Report of a Second Pistol, Mr. Bowen turned about, and saw Mr. Panton had been wounded in the Throat with a Harpoon, and a Pistol had been fired at the Person who did it, and Mr. Peacock endeavouring to stop the Effusion of Blood with his Hankerchief. P[anton] expired in less than 2 Hours.”
8. In margin: “[Learnt?] it perfectly before I came into Court.” Philip Dormer Stanhope (1694–1773), fourth Earl of Chesterfield, and author of the famous Letters, was Midshipman Stanhope's cousin.
9. In margin: “Q. for what.”
10. JA's supplementary notes:
“Mr. Stanhope, Midshipman, says he went on board with Mr. Panton, that the Mate threw a Rope to the Boat. Panton went down to the Cabbin, Bowen and Stanhope followed. Panton demanded Bills of Lading and Clearance. Master answerd he had only Bills of Health, which Mr. Panton desired to see. Mr. Panton then [asked] for his Log Book, which he produced. Mr. Panton enquired how many Men there were on board. Master said 6 besides himself and Mate. Mr. Panton then said he must open his Fore and After Peak, and let his Men search for prohibited Goods, or to that Purpose. Master answerd very well. They went upon deck and the Master came up after. Mr. Panton then ordered Mr. Bowen and 2 of the Boats Crew to go down into the Hold, and Mr. Stanhope upon deck to look after the Roses Boat. Mr. Bowen came upon the Quarter Deck and acquainted Mr. Panton, that there were Men below, who swore, the first Man who came near 'em was a dead Man. Soon after he was sent on board the Rose for Assistance, and knows but little more.”
11. Here, as on some other occasions in JA's minutes, the answer appears without a question.
12. JA's supplementary notes:
“Mr. Peacock, Midshipman, says, at his Arrival on board the Brigg he enquired at the Mate, where Mr. Panton was who informed him, he was down the Fore hatchway; Mr. Peacock went down immediately followed by the Boats Crew, and asked Mr. Panton what was the Reason of the Disturbance, who told him, the People were so obstinate, that all the arguments he could make Use of, were to no Effect, that they had told him they were resolved to die, sooner than be pressed on board a Man of War. Mr. Panton then ordered Mr. Peacock down the main Hold to force down a Bulkhead, which parted the main Hold from the fore hold where the men were. He went down and ordered the Boats Crew to knock down the Bulkhead as fast as possible. When they began the Briggs People within threatned immediate Death, to the first Person they saw, and presented a Gun thro one of the Holes, which they snapp'd 3 Times. By this Time, the Bulkhead was so much down as to give an imperfect Light of the Place. We could observe there were 4 men in it, differently armed, with a fish Gig, Harpoon, Musquet, and ax, still threatning to kill whoever durst approach them. Mr. Panton then came down, and orderd the Men to withhold from breaking the Bulkhead till he had spoke to them within. He then represented to them the folly of persisting, against such a superiour Number, the Impossibility of their Escape, promising them good Usage, if they would <surrender> voluntarily come out. But they were deaf to all he said, told him, they knew him to be a Lt. and the Men acted by his orders: that the first Man they saw offer to break the Bulkhead, they would do for him <meaning Mr. Panton->. One of our Men then fired a Pistol at the Man who told Mr. Panton so, loaden with Powder only, as the Man afterwards declared (who fird), in order to intimidate them, which must be true as it had no other Effect, than scorching the face of the Person fired at. Upon which the Man whose face was scorched asked Mr. Panton why his Men fired at him, and desird him to look what was done. Mr. Panton then replyed it was not done by his order, and that he would shew him the Man, when he came on board (meaning as Mr. Peacock understood) he should get Satisfaction and immediately took the Pistol from the Man, and gave strict orders no one should fire without his Directions. Mr. Panton then desired the Men to proceed with knocking down the Bulkhead, which they did as well as possible, being interrupted by those within, who kept presenting their Piece, and striving to hurt our Men with their other Weapons. Mr. Panton gave orders to stop, and asked those within, whether they would come out, they answerd they would not; Mr. Panton then asked one of them, if he would lend him his ax, to knock down the Bulkhead a little faster? who answerd he'd lend it to scalp him. Mr. Panton then gave orders to knock down the Bulk head directly, which we were going about, when one of those within made a Lunge at Mr. Panton with a Harpoon and Mr. Peacock immediately fired his Pistol. He stood in his former Position, for a few seconds, and then said, Peacock, the Rascal has stabbed me in the Jugular Vein. Mr. Peacock ran, and bound his Neck with his Hankerchief. He died in less than 2 Hours.”
13. Grains are prongs of a fish gig. OED.
14. Thus clearly in MS, although BA reads “em.”
15. “JA's supplementary notes:
“John Forbes, Master at Arms. Says, he heard the People after he came on Board, <say> call out from below, 'come on Ye Dogs, Here we are.' Forbes threw off his Coat, and went down the Main Hatchway to the Bulkhead of the Forehold, where the Briggs People were. One of the Boats Crew followed him with a Light by the Help of which, he saw the Bulkhead, and said it could not be broke down without an Iron Crow. Went on deck and found one; at which Time he saw Mr. Panton who ordered him to go down and force open the Bulkhead. He accordingly went, and began to work on the starboard side; the first or 2d. stroke he gave, the People within called out, 'Come on Ye Dogs, thats all we want,' to which Forbes answerd he expected to get 4 or 5 dollars, for the Vessell yet. With 5 or 6 Blows he made an opening in the Bulkhead, so as to see the People within. Mr. Panton then came down from the scuttle; Forbes continued to knock down the Bulk head towards the Larboard Side; The Briggs People all the Time threatning to murder the Lt., when one of them called Corbit by the others, saw the Lt., thro the opening that was made, said 'Mr. Lt. I will kill you first and you may be certain of Death, if you do not go about your Business,' at the same Time presenting a Musquet at Mr. Panton, others with a Fish Gig, Harpoon and Ax, swearing and repeating Corbetts Threats without Intermission, Mr. Panton all the Time gave them not the least Provocation or abuse, on the Contrary, very fair Words, Forbes desird 'em to point their Weapons at him, and not hurt a Gentleman who meant them no harm, and told them if they continued to point their Weapons at Mr. Panton, he would fire at em, then they made several Pushes at Forbes, and one called Ryan, striking a Fish Gig at Forbes and not throwing it out far eno to do Execution, the others within called him a Coward and struggling to take the Fish Gigg from him, the Grain dropped from the Pole. The Person called Corbet then took up a Musquet and snapt it 3 Times at Sinclair, one of the Boats Crew, and afterwards at Forbes damning it for not going off. Forbes by this Time had cleared away the Bulk head, as far as the Larboard Wing, except a Piece of Plank about Midships which Corbet tryed to pul down himself, saying he wanted Room to kill the Lt. Mr. Panton, hearing that, said Aye my Lads? Silley who was on the Larboard side with Forbes, made several Attempts to bring down the Board. One of them within pointed a Musquet at him, which he got hold of. But not being able to keep his Hold, went to the starboard side, where Panton was, and took up a Pistall, which the Person called Corbett, seeing in his Hand dared him to fire. Silley made answer if he did not go back from the opening he would fire at <Cor> him. Corbet then said, 'Fire if you dare: I will not go back, I will kill the first of you.' Immediately after Forbes heard a Pistol go off, and a Person call to the Lt. and those from within, push their Weapons so hard at them that Forbes called out to Mr. Panton he must be obliged to fire, to save his Life; which Mr. Panton strictly forbid him to do upon his Peril, and took a Pistoll from Silley and blew the priming out; then Forbes saw the Person called Corbet dart a Harpoon at Mr. Panton and immediately after a Pistol go off, followed by a groaning in the Hold.”
16. The word “Prisoner” is an apparent inadvertence. See testimony of the Marine, Wilks, text following note 38100 below, which indicates that it was the prisoners who made the offer of food.
17. The MS apparently reads “alls,” which makes no sense. BA's text reads “also.” Presumably, the following sentence is an answer by the witness, but even this is uncertain.
18. Panton's commission has not been found. As to the powers of naval officers generally, see No. 51, note 1. The Act of Parliament referred to is 7 & 8 Will. 3, c. 22, §6 (1696).
19. These two sentences are apparently a colloquy between Hutchinson and Fitch over Peacock's testimony, Fitch referring to the testimony taken by the Register of the Court of Vice Admiralty. See text at note 17 above. For Peacock's testimony, see text following note 1072 above.
20. Apparently JA's comment. See text following note 567 above; see also note 2991 below.
21. 2 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 16–17, discusses 28 Hen. 8, c. 15 (1536): “The offender excluded from clergy; but quaere, whether the statute of I Edw. 6 c. 12 (1547) does not restore it even in this case.” The statute Hale mentions, “An Act for the Repeal of Certain Statutes Concerning Treasons and Felonies,” abolished clergy for certain offenses (not including killing on the high seas) and in the same section (§10) specifically allowed clergy “in all other cases of felony other than such as are before mentioned.”
22. 1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 455:
“Concerning Murder by Malice Implied Presumptive, or Malice in Law. “When one voluntarily kills another without any provocation, it is murder, for the law presumes it to be malicious.” Id. at 457: “The second kind of malice implied is, when a minister of justice, as a bailiff, constable, or watchman, etc. is kild in the execution of his office, in such a case it is murder. If the sheriff's bailiff comes to execute a process, but hath not a lawful warrant . . . if such bailiff be kild, it is but manslaughter, and not murder.”
23. Capias is a writ ordering the sheriff to take the body of the defendant; a distringas orders the sheriff to take goods of the defendant to compel his appearance. Black, Law Dictionary. “[I]f a process issuing out of a court of record to a sergeant at mace, sheriff, or other minister, be erroneous, as if a Capias issue, when a Distringas should issue, yet the killing of such a minister in the execution of that process is murder.” 1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 457.
24. Mackalley's Case, 9 Co. Rep. 65b, 68a, 77 Eng. Rep. 828, 833–834 (1612). This supports the point in note 2385 above.
25. 1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 458:
“A bailiff jurus & conus had a warrant to arrest Pew upon a Capias, and came to arrest him, not using any words of arrest, Pew said, Stand off, I know you well enough, come at your peril, the bailiff takes hold of him, Pew thrusts him through; it was ruled murder, tho he used no words of arrest, nor shewed his warrant, for possibly he had not time.” Rex v. Pew, Cro. Car. 183, 79 Eng. Rep. 760 (K.B. 1631).
26. 1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 458:
“A bailiff having a warrant to arrest Cook upon a Capias ad satisfaciendum came to Cook's house, and gave him notice, Cook menaceth to shoot him if he depart not, yet the bailiff departs not, but breaks open the window to make the arrest, Cook shoots him, and kills him; it was ruled, 1. That it is not murder, because he cannot break the house, otherwise it had been, if it had been upon a Habere facias possessionem. 2. But it was manslaughter, because he knew him to be a bailiff. But 3. Had he not known him to be a bailiff, or one that came upon that business, it had been no felony, because done in defense of his house.” Rex v. Cook, Cro. Car. 537, W. Jones 429, 79 Eng. Rep. 1063, 82 Eng. Rep. 225 (K.B. 1639).
A Habere facias possessionem is a writ directing the sheriff to put the plaintiff in possession of a given piece of realty. Black, Law Dictionary.
27. A place parted off at the fore part of the 'tween decks in some merchantmen, for storing provisions and stores. OED.
28. “The two men belonging to the brig not mentioned in the above account [i.e. the men not in the forepeak], were Americans, they remained on deck the whole time the Rose's people were on board her; the Commodore, out of his great goodness, having given orders, that no American or person married in America, should be pressed.” Boston Chronicle, 1 May 1769, p. 139, col. 2.
29. JA's supplementary notes:
“Thos. Power, Master. 22nd. April. 4 leagues from Cape Ann. The Rose fired 2 Guns, and bro't us to. Lt. and two Midshipmen came on board, in the Cutter. Asked me for my Papers and my Clearance. I said I had none, coming from a foreign Port, except a Bill of Health and a Bill of Lading. Then he asked for a List of my Men. I brought up my Shipping Book and shewed him. He then desired I would go down in the Cabbin with him. I did. He there took an Account of the Peoples Names, and asked where they were? I answerd I know not. He then asked me to order my People to open the Lazaretto. I told him it should be done. While he and I were talking together he ordered his People to go and search and get my Men. He then asked me if I had any particular favour for any Man. He would not take him, but he would set a Mark against his Name. He then said He would have taken only 2, but as they had hid themselves, he would take them all four. Then a Midshipman or Man came down, and told him, he had found the People out and that they had hid, in the forepeak and would not come out for them. Then the Lt. went upon Dick, and I saw him no more alive.”
30. That is, the wooden hood placed over the entrance or staircase to the master's cabin. OED.
31. BA reads this as “tough.”
32. Apparently written over “they.”
33. At this point in the MS are stitched in the eight leaves of rough notes in JA's hand, headed “Witnesses for the Prisoners. Thos. Power, Master. Hugh Hill Mate, John Ronay and James McGloclkin Mariners, on board the Pitt Packett.” The second part of the notes is headed “Witnesses against the Prisoners.” In the present arrangement the text of these notes has been divided up and each witness' remarks appended as footnotes to the full record of his testimony. See note 25 above.
34. The “broad arrow” (↑) was, in this connection, the sign that a vessel had been seized for violation of the Customs Acts. See note 8 above. The letter of the Commissioners of Customs ordering the Pitt Packet admitted to entry at Marblehead listed her cargo, including three small kegs, two cases, one-quarter barrel, and twenty-seven bottles of wine; sixteen bottles of champagne; three kegs of gin; and three-quarters of a barrel of “lemmons.” Commissioners to Salem Customs Officers, 27 April 1769, Salem Custom House Record Book, 1763–1772, fols. 280–281, MSaE.
35. JA's supplementary notes:
“Hugh Hill Mate. Like the Masters [testimony or, more likely, deposition] till—I heard the Commander of the Rose, order Captn. Power to heave too, and lay his Head as theirs was, which he did. Then like the Master untill He went down into the Cabin, with the Master. In 5 minutes he came upon deck, and asked me, if I was Mate? I told him I was. He told me to call the People to answer to their Names. 2, who were upon deck came aft. He asked me where the rest of the People were? I told him, I did not know. He then told me to go, and turn the People up from below, or he would take me. Use your Pleasure. Then his People came and told him, the Briggs People was down in the Forecastle in the Peak. He then went down into the Forecastle, and said to the Men in the Peak, my Lads, you had better come up. They <said> told him no, and to stand off, and that they did not want to hurt him or his Men. He told them, that he had seen as stought Fellows as they, and by God he would have them out, and called his Midshipman, to take 4 Hands in the Boat, and go on board the ship for more Men and Arms, and to bring the Cutter, properly armed. They came on board, and they called for Lights, which were given them. Lt. sent a Midshipman up and demanded Tools, to break down the Bulk Head, and if they did not deliver Tools he would confine the Master. Master said he had no Tools, if they could find any, they might take them. They found an Adz and a Crow bar. In a short Space of Time after, I heard a Pistall go off, and our People told me, one of our People was wounded. In 6 minutes after, I heard another Pistal go off. Immediately after they said the Lt. was dead. Midshipman hailed the ship, and called for the Dr., who came &c. and was asked to dress the wounded Man. He said let the Dog die and be damned. One of their Marines said, he fired a Pistol in Corbetts face by order of the Lt., thinking to make him retreat, which he would not.”
36. JA's supplementary notes:
“John Ronay, Mariner. As the Master. After the Lt. came up from the Cabin, I saw him have the Shipping Book in his Hand, and he asked the Mate, where the People were? Mate replyed, 2 of 'em were forward, and looking over the Shipping Book. Lt. called for Michael Corbit, and then for John Ronay. I answerd to my Name. A Man of Wars man came up and said, one of our People had drove a pair of Grains thro his Trowsers. Upon that the Lt. went forward, and talked to em, and said 'My Lads come up,' and they said they would not come up from where they were. He said then he would force them up. They replyed they did not want to hurt, or any of his Men. Then he orderd a Man to hail the ship, and a midshipman did hail and I got him the Trumpet to hail her. Lt. told one of the Midshipmen to go on board and fetch Men and Arms, and the Master of arms, who came, and jumped over the Ruff trees and swore by his Saviour, the he would have 'em up, asking where are the Dogs? One of their People made answer they are down here in the forepeak. He went down in the forecastle scuttle into the Hold, and in about 20 minutes I heard a Pistal go off. A Midshipman told me one of our People was wounded. About 5 minutes after, I heard another Pistall go off and about 6 minutes afterwards I heard the Lt. was killed.”
37. “they” ?
38. JA's supplementary notes:
“James McGlocklin. Lt. ordered me to give him a Light, which I did, and to go forward with it to the Forecastle. The Lt. was there, talking to the People in the forepeak. He told them to come out, for it would be better for them. They said they would not. He said he would have 'em out. They told him to stand off, for they did not want to hurt him, or his Men. Then I went aft. Heard Lt. order a Man to hail the ship and to take the Cutter, and go on board to get more Men and Arms. Upon the Mens coming on board he ordered me to get another Light and go down into the Hold, and showed him the main Hatchway. The Master of Arms asked me to look for a Crow bar, to break down the Bulk head, where the People were. He looked himself and found one, by the Water cask, and carried it down in the Hold. After that I went into the Steerage, and sat there some time and heard a Pistoll fired. Presently after that a Man of Wars man came up and told me, that one of our People, was wounded. Soon after that I heard another Pistoll and saw Jno. Ryan coming in the Steerage, and helped him over the Water Casks. Then he asked for Water and Cloths, and said he was faint. A few minutes after that, a Report came up that the Lt. was dead, &c.”

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0002-0007

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1769-06

Adams' Argument and Report1

Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, June 1769
But, the first Question that is to be made, according to my Opinion, is, whether Impresses in any Cases, are legal? For if Impresses are always illegal, and Lt. Panton acted as an Impress Officer, Michael Corbitt and his Associates had a Right to resist him, and if they could not otherwise preserve their Liberty, to take away his Life. His Blood must lye at his own Door, and they be held guiltless. Nay I think that Impresses may be allowed to be legal, and yet Corbit might have a Right to resist. To be more particular, when I say Impresses may be legal, I mean that the Lieutenant or other officer who Impresses, may not be liable to any Action of false Imprisonment at the suit of the Party, or to any Indictment at the suit of the Crown, for an Assault, or Riot. The Custom may be admitted to extend so far, and yet it will not follow, that the Seaman has not a Right to resist, and keep himself out of the officers Power, if he can. And whatever may be said of the Antiquity of the Custom, &c. it is very remarkable, that no statute has ever been made to establish or even to approve it, and no single Judgment of any Court of Law can be found in favour of it.2 It is { 323 } found in the Commissions of the Admiralty, and in Warrants from the Admiralty, but no where else.
However the General Question concerning the Legality of Impresses may be determined I humbly conceive it clear, that in America, they are illegal. And that by a particular statute. I mean 6. Ann, c. 37, §9.3 “No Mariner, or other Person who shall serve on Board, or be retained to serve on Board any Privateer, or trading Ship or Vessell, that shall be imployed in any Part of America, nor any Mariner or other Person, being on Shore in any Part thereof, shall be liable to be impressed or taken away, or shall be impressed or taken away, by any officer or officers, of or belonging to any of her Majestys Ships of War, impowered by the Lord high Admiral, or any other Person whatsoever, unless such Mariner shall have deserted &c.4 upon Pain that any officer or officers so impressing or taking away or causing to be impressed or taken away, any Mariner or other Person, contrary to the Tenor and true Meaning of this Act, shall forfeit to the Master, or owner or owners, of any such Ship or Vessell, twenty Pounds, for every Man he or they shall so impress or take, to be recovered with full Costs of Suit, in any Court within any Part of her Majestys Dominions.”
This Statute is clear, and decisive, and if it is now in Force, it places the Illegality of all Impresses in America, beyond Controversy. No Mariner on board any trading Vessell, in any Part of America, shall be liable to be impressed, or shall be impressed, by any officer, impowered by the Ld. Admiral, or any other Person. If therefore this Statute is now in Force, all that Lt. Panton did on board the Vessell was tortious and illegal, he was a Trespasser from the Beginning, a Trespasser, in coming on board, and in every Act that he did, untill { 324 } he received the mortal, fatal Wound. He was a Trespasser in going down below, but especially in firing a Pistall among the Men in the Forepeak. It is said that the Lt. with his own Hand discharged this Pistall directly att Michael Corbitt but the Ball missed him and wounded the Man who was next him in the Arm. This therefore was a direct Commencement of Hostilities, it was an open Act of Pyracy, and Corbit and his associates had a Right and it was their Duty to defend themselves. It was a direct Attempt upon their Lives. And surely these unhappy Persons had a Right to defend their Lives. No Custom House officer, no Impress officer has a Right to attempt Life. But it seems that a second Pistall was discharged and wounded Corbit in his Cheek, with Powder before the fatal Blow was struck. What could Corbit expect? Should he stand still and be shot? Or should he have surrendered, to a Pyrate? Should he have surrendered to the Impress?
But it has been made a Question whether this Statute of 6. of Ann is now in Force? It has been reported as the Opinion of Sir Dudley Rider, and Sir John Strange, that this Statute expired with the War of Queen Ann.5 These are venerable Names, but their Opinions are Opinions only of private Men. And there has been no judicial Decision to this Purpose, in any Court of Law, and I trust never will. Their Opinions were expressed so very concisely, that there is great Room to question whether they were given upon the whole Act, or only on some particular Clause in it. Supposing these Opinions to extend to the whole Act, I have taken Pains, to discover what Reasons can be produced in Support of them. And I confess I can think of none. There is not the least Colour, for such an Opinion. On the Contrary, there is every Argument, for supposing the Act perpetual.
1. It is a good Rule, to consider the Title of an Act, in order to ascertain its Construction and operation in all Respects. The Title of this is “An Act for the Encouragement of the Trade to America.” Encouragement of the Trade to America, is [the] professed Object, End and Design of this Law. Is this Trade, only valuable in Time of War? If the Trade to America existed and was carried on only in Time of War, { 325 } the Act made for the Encouragement of it must expire when the Trade expired, at the End of the War. But the Trade did not expire with the War, but continued after it, and therefore, the Encouragement given it, by this Act, continued and survived too. This is of equal Importance in Peace as in War, and there is stronger Reason why it should be incouraged by exempting Seamen from Impresses, in Peace than in War, because there is not the same Necessity for impressing seamen in Peace, as there is in War.
2. The Preamble furnishes another Argument to prove the Act perpetual. “For Advancement of the Trade of her Majestys Kingdom of Great Britain, to and in the several Parts of America.”6 This is one End of this Law. Is not this End as beneficial and Important in Peace as in War? Has there been a Year, a Day, an Hour since 1707 when this Act was made when the Trade of Great Britain, to and in the several Parts of America, was of less Consequence to the Nation, than it was at that Time? Surely the Advancement of the British American Trade, is a perpetual object. It is no temporary object or Expedient, it has lasted these 60 Years, and I hope will last 1000 longer.
3. For the Encrease of Shipping and of Seamen, for the Purposes mentioned before in the Preamble, is another End of this Law. Now shipping and seamen are usefull and necessary to a commercial Nation, in Times of Peace as well as War.
4. Some Clauses in this statute are in their Nature temporary, and limited to the Duration of the War. §2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. &c.7 Others are expressly limited to the Continuance of War as §14. “during the Continuance of the present War”8 and §19. during the Continuance thereof9 and §21.10 But §9. and §2o,11 are not by the Nature of them limited to War. They are not expressly and in Terms limited to Years, or to War.
5. If it is not now in force why is it bound up in the statute Book? And why was not the whole Act limited to Years, or to War.
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If it is once established as a Fact that Lt. Panton acted in the Character of an impress officer, not in that of an officer of the Customs; and if it is also established as Law that no officer has a legal Right to impress a seaman; our next Enquiry must be what the Rules of the civil Law are, relative to Homicide in Cases of Self Defence. Self Preservation is first Law of Nature. Self Love is the strongest Principle in our Breasts, and Self Preservation <the most important Duty,> not only our unalienable Right but our clearest Duty, by the Law of Nature. This Right and Duty, are both confirmed by the municipal Laws of every civilized Society.
2. Domat. 638. §6. “He who is attacked by Robbers, or by other Persons, that are armed in such a manner, as to put him in Danger of his Life, in Case he does not defend himself, may kill the Robber or the aggressor, without any fear, of being punished as a Murderer.”12
Woods Inst. civ. Law. 270. “Necessary Homicide is when one for the Defence of his own Life kills the Aggressor. This may be done without expecting the first Blow, for that may make him incapable to defend himself att all. But this ought not to exceed the Bounds of self defence.13 The manner of self Defence, directs that you should not kill, if you can by any means escape,” &c.14
Cod. Lib. 9. Tit. 16. 2. “De eo, qui salutem suam defendit. “Is qui aggressorem vel quemcunque alium, in dubio vitae discrimine constitutus occiderit, nullam ob id factum, calumniam metuere debet. “3. Si quis Percussorem, ad se venientem gladio repulerit, non ut homicida tenetur: quia defensor proprise solutis in nullo peccasse videtur. “4. Si, (ut allegas) latrocinantem peremisti: dubium non est, cum qui inferendae caeedis voluntate prascesserat jure caesum videri. “Liceat 46 cuilibet aggressorem, nocturnum in Agris, vel obsidentem vias, atque insidiantem praetereuntibus, impune occidere, etiamsi miles sit: melius numque est bis occurrere, et mederi, quam injuria accepta vindictam perquirere.”
“Note 46. Homicida non est, qui aggressorem, in vitae discrimine constitutus, interficit nec primum ictum, quis expectare debet, quia irreparabilis esse potest.”15
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Gail. Page 503. Poena homicidii corporalis, nunquam habet locum, nisi in Homicidio voluntario, quando homicidium, ex proposito, destinata voluntate, et quidem dolo malo commissum est. Debet enim verus et expressus intervenire dolus, &c. Et hoc usque adeo verum est, ut etiam lata culpa, non aequiparetur dolo, &c. Dolus non praesumitur regulariter, &c. Quapropter dolum allegans, eum probare debet, &c. Natura enim bona est, a suis Principiis. Ex hac principali Regula, quod videlicit Poena ordinaria, in Homicidio requirat dolum, multa singularia, et quotidie usu venientia inferri possunt. Et primo, quod Homicidium, cum moderamine inculpate tutelar commissum non sit punibile puta, si quis provocatus se cum moderamine inculpate tutaelae defendat, et aggressorem occidat: talis enim Homicida non puniri, sed plene absolvi debet, idque triplici ratione confirmatur. Primo quod Defensio sit Juris naturalis, et omni Jure permissa. Deinde quod Aggressor, sive provocans, non ab alio, sed a seipso occidi videatur. Et per consequens, quod provocatus non censeatur esse in Dolo. Tertio, quia occidens ad sui defensionem, non committit maleficium, cum vim vi repellere liceat, et ubi non est Delictum, ibi Pcena abesse debet.
Et regulariter ex communi opinione, Aggressus, praesumitur omnia facere ad sui defensionem, non autem ad Vindictam Necessitas, Doli Praesumptionem excludit, &c. &c. Ratio, quia necessaria Defensio, omni Jure, etiam divino permissa et sine peccato est. Defensio autem moderata, sive cum moderamine inculpatae tutelar dicitur, quando quis non potuit aliter se ab offensione tueri &c.
Praesumitur autem in Discrimine Vitae quis constitutus, eo ipso, quod ab alio, armata manu, et Gladio evaginato aggreditur, terror ille armorum aliquem in Vitae Discrimen adducit, &c.
Sed quid si provocatus modum inculpatae tutelae excedat, et Aggressorem in fuga occidat, an Poena ordinaria legis Corneliae &c. plectendus sit? Minime, sed extra ordinem, Judicis arbitrio, ratione excessus puniri debet, &c. Ratio, quia ut paulo ante dictum, in provocato non { 328 } praesumitur Dolus, et animus occidendi, aut Vindictae studium, sed potius Defensionis Necessitas. Nee etiam fugere tenetur, si fuga ei Periculum Vitae adferret. Provocatus enim tanquam intense dolore commotus, non est in plenitudine Intellectus: metus improvisus, instantis Periculi tollit Rectum ludicium, et consilium deliberandi, et ideo dicunt DD. quod provocatus non habeat Stateram in manu, ut possit dare ictus, et Vulnera ad Mensuram &c. Puniendus igitur provocatus pro isto excessu, non ut dolosus, quia provocatio praecedens a dolo excusat, sed ut culpabilis, &c.
Adeo autem defensio favorabilis est, ut etiam tertius, puta, Amicus, provocati, si intercedendo, aggressorem occidat, excusetur a Poena ordinaria.16
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Page 509. Sexto infertur, quod Homicidium Calore Iracundiae perpetratum, non puniatur Poena ordinaria, quod est intelligendum de Iracundia lacessita, quando quis ab alio verbis injuriosis, ad Iram provocatur, nam eo casu ita excusat Poena ordinaria &c. quo pertinet, quod supra dictum est, hominem intense dolore permotum, non esse in Plenitudine Intellectus, &c.17
Maranta Page 49. Pars. 4 Dist[inctio] 1. 77. Hoc patet, quia Homi• { 330 } cidium commissum per culpam, dicitur crimen extraordinariam, et punitur poena arbitraria, &c. Ubi si maritus occidit uxorem deprehensam in Adulterio, non punitur poena mortis, sed alia poena corporali mitiori; et ratio est, quia tale Homicidium dicitur culposum, et non dolosum, ex quo difficile fuit temperare justum dolorem cum ergo ex proedictis appareat, quod homicidium culpa commissum puniatur poena arbitraria et extraordinaria; sequitur de necessitate quod non potest Judex imponere Poenam mortis, quae est poena ordinaria; &c.18 Sed vid. Ld. Ray. 149619 and Barringtons Observations on the Statutes page 54, bottom, Note.20
So much for the Distinction between Homicide with Deliberation and without Deliberation, according to the civil Law, which [is] analogous to that of the common Law between Murder and Manslaughter.21 But, the Case of these Prisoners does not require this Distinction. I am not contending for the Sentence of Manslaughter, against my Clients. I think they are intituled to an honourable Acquittal. They have committed no Crime whatever, but they have behaved with all that Prudence And Moderation, and at the same Time with that Fortitude and Firmness that the Law requires and approves.
Mr. Panton and his Associates and Attendants, had no Authority for what they did. They were Trespassers, and Rioters. The Evidence must be carefully recapitulated, their Arms, Swords, Pistals, &c. their Threats and Menaces. Pantons orders for more Men, his orders to { 331 } break down the bulk Head. Their Execution of these orders, their fetching the Adz and the Crow, but above all their Discharge of a Pistal, right in the face of Corbit, which tho loaded only with Powder, wounded him so badly in his Lip, these Circumstances are abundantly sufficient to shew who was the first Aggressor, and to shew that the Lives of the present Prisoners were in danger. What could Corbit think? when a Pistol had been presented at his Mouth and discharged, loaded he knew not with what. It had wounded him, he knew not how badly. <He had reason to suppose> He saw a desperate Gang of armed Sailors, before him, other Pistals, cocked and presented at him, and his Companions, their Heads and Breasts, drawn swords in the Hands of some, continual Threats to blow their Brains out, could he expect any Thing but Death? In these Circumstances what could he do? but defend himself, as he did? In these Circumstances what was his Duty? He had an undoubted Right, not merely to make a push at Lt. Panton, but to have darted an Harpoon, a dagger thro the Heart of every Man in the whole Gang.
If Mr. Panton came as a Custom house Officer, and it may be true that he came in Part, to search the Ship for uncustomed Goods, he had a fair Opportunity to do it. He <ordered> asked and was told, that the Hatchways were open. He ordered the Lazaretto open and it was done, and after this instead of searching for uncustomed Goods he proceeds directly to search for Seamen.
The Killing of Lt. Panton was justifiable Homicide. Homicide se defendendo.
1. Hawkins 71. §[14], middle. “The Killing of dangerous Rioters, by any private Persons, who cannot otherwise suppress them, or defend themselves from them, inasmuch as every private Person seems to be authorised by the Law to arm himself for the Purposes aforesaid.”22
Same page §21. “A Woman [who] kills one who attempts to ravish her, may be justified.”23
Page 72. §23, towards the End, “It seems that a Private Person, and a fortiori an officer of Justice, who happens unavoidably to kill another in endeavouring to defend himself from, or suppress dangerous Rioters, may justify the fact, inasmuch as he only does his Duty in Aid of the public Justice.”24
§24. “I can see no Reason why a Person, who without Provocation is assaulted by another in any Place whatever, in such manner as { 332 } plainly shews an Intent to murder him, as by discharging a Pistall or pushing at him with a drawn sword, may not justify killing such an Assailant.”25
Page 75. §14. “Not only he who on an assault retreats to a Wall, or some such Streight beyond which he can go no further, before he kills the other, is judged by the Law to act upon unavoidable Necessity: But also he who being assaulted in such a manner and such a Place, that he cannot go back without manifestly ind[ang]ering his Life, kills the other without retreating at all.”26
Keyling. Page 128. Bottom. “It is not reasonable for any Man that is dangerously assaulted, and when he perceives his Life in danger from his Adversary, but to have Liberty for the Security of his own Life, to pursue him that maliciously assaulted him; for he that hath manifested that he hath Malice against another is not fit to be trusted with a dangerous Weapon in his Hand.”27
Keyling. Page. 136. Top. Buckners Case. Imprisoned injuriously without Proscess of Law, &c.28
Page 136. 3. Bottom, “sdly. If a Man perceives another by force to be injuriously treated, pressed and restrained of his Liberty, tho the Person abused, doth not complain,29 &c. and others out of Compassion shall come to his Rescue, and kill any of those that shall so restrain him, [that is] Manslaughter.”30
Keyling. 59. Hopkin Huggetts Case, who killed a Man in attempting to Rescue a Seaman impressed without Warrant.31
2. Ld. Raym. Queen vs. Tooley & als. The Case of the reforming Constables. Holt. 485.32
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Holt. 484. Maugridges Case.33
Foster. 312. 316. Vid. Foster 292 the smart &c. for Manslaughter. Also 296.34
A Question has been started by Sir Francis Bernard, whether, (as there is no Distinction between Murder and Manslaughter, in the civil Law,) the Court can allow Clergy, if they find the Prisoners guilty of Manslaughter? i.e. whether the Court can do any Thing but pass sentence of Death and Respite Execution, and recommend them to Mercy? He said he had formerly attended at the Admiralty sessions in England, and had heard it said by the Court, that Clergy was expressly taken away by these statutes from Manslaughter, and the Court could not grant it.
But see a Paragraph in Foster to the Contrary. 288.35
In this Case, I shall not make a Question whether Corbit and others are guilty of Murder, or of Manslaughter. I am clear they are guilty of Neither. All that they did was justifiable Self Defence, or to use the Expressions of most Writers upon Crown Law, it was justifiable and necessary Homicide, se defendendo. This will be fully shewn, by a particular Examination of the Law, and of the Evidence.
But it may not be amiss to consider, the observation of Sir Francis, in order to remove the Clouds from his Brain, 1. It is total Ignorance to say there is no Distinction between Murder and Manslaughter, in the civil Law, as appears abundantly, already.†36 2. I say that Clergy is not expressly taken away by the statutes, from Manslaughter. By the 28. H. 8. all Felonies are to be tryed according to the Common Course of the Laws of this Land. What is the common Course of the Laws of the Land, relative to Manslaughter, which is a Felony? It has its Clergy. It is true the Word Manslaughter is once mentioned in the statute of H. 8. Every Indictment found, &c. of Treasons, Felonies Robberies, Murthers, Manslaughters, or such other offences, &c. then such, order, &c. Judgment and Execution, shall be had, as { 334 } against such offences upon Land.37 What is the Judgment vs. Manslaughter upon Land? They have their Clergy. §3. For Treasons, Robberies, Felonies, Murthers, and Confederacies done at sea, the offenders shall not have Clergy. Here Manslaughter is dropped. So that Clergy is not taken from Manslaughter by this Act.
By 11. and 12. W. 3. Piracies, Felonies and Robberies, are mentioned, but Manslaughter is not. The Word is not in the whole statute. It was needfull to mention it in that of H. 8. because the Tryal was to be by the Law of the Land, and it clearly has its Clergy. But by this statute the Tryal, and Judgment and Sentence were to be all by the civil Law, where the Offence that is called Manslaughter by the common Law, is never punished with death. But it is observable that Clergy is not taken away by this statute from any Crime.
By 4. G. c. 11, §. 7. any Pirate Felon or Robber, within the 11. and 12. W. may be tryd in the manner and Form of 28. H. 8. and shall be excluded Clergy.38 We see that whenever the Tryal is to be by a Jury and the common Law, Clergy is excluded, from such Crimes as were not intituled to it upon Land, and the Reason was because it is a known Rule of Law, that when the Legislature creates any new felony, it shall be intituled to Clergy if not expressly taken away. Doubts might arise, whether making Crimes at sea Felonies, was not creating new felonies, and so they would be intituled to Clergy. To avoid this the Clause was inserted.
† Sed vid. Ld. Ray. 1496.39 And especially Barringtons Observations on the Statutes page 54, bottom. Note.40
Barrington. 54. “By the Law of Scotland there is no such Thing as Man Slaughter, nor by the civil Law; and therefore a criminal indicted for Murder, under the Statute of Henry the Eighth, where the Judges proceed by the Rules of the civil Law, must either be found guilty of the Murder or acquitted.”
Ld. Ray. 1496. “From these Cases it appears, that though the Law of England is so far peculiarly favourable (I use the Word peculiarly, because I know no other Law, that makes such a Distinction between Murder and Manslaughter) as to permit the Excess of Anger and { 335 } Passion (which a Man ought to keep under and govern) in some Instances to extenuate the greatest of private Injuries, as the taking away a Mans Life is; Yet in these Cases, it must be such a Passion, as for the Time deprives him of his reasoning Faculties;”41
Foster 288.42 If taking general Verdicts of acquittall in plain Cases of Death per Infortunium, &c. “deserveth the Name of a Deviation, it is far short of what is constantly practised at an Admiralty sessions, under 28. H. 8 with Regard to offences not ousted of Clergy by particular Statutes,43 which had they been committed at Land, would have been intitled to Clergy. In these Cases the Jury is constantly directed to acquit the Prisoner; because the Marine Law doth not allow of Clergy in any Case, and therefore in an Indictment for Murder on the high seas, if the fact cometh out upon Evidence to be no more than Manslaughter, supposing it to have been committed at Land, the Prisoner is constantly acquitted.”
Observations on Statute 422. Note (z). “I have before observed, that by the civil Law, as well as the Law of Scotland, there is no such offence as what is with us termed Manslaughter: The Scotts, therefore might have apprehended, that if not convicted of Murder they should have been acquitted.”44
1. In JA's hand, in his Admiralty Book, Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 184, continuing Doc. II. Printed in 2 JA, Works 528–534. It is impossible to say accurately how much of this document is JA's notes for actual trial use and how much is his subsequent embryonic report. See text at note 24 above. See also note 1250 above.
2. This contention is subject to qualification: “It is quite certain that the Crown had the power to impress mariners for the navy. The statutes of the Long Parliament which provided for their impressment practically assume this. There is no recital in them that impressment is contrary to the liberty of the subject; and . . . they would have contained such a recital, if Parliament had thought the practice illegal.” 4 Holdsworth, History of English Law 329. “[T]he compulsion of men to go beyond or upon the sea, or otherwise imprisoning them, or compelling men to take prest money, or otherwise imprison them hath been, I Confess, a practice long in use.” 1 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 678. And, for a thorough contemporary review of the law, see Rex v. Broadfoot, Foster, Crown Cases 154 (Recorder's Court, Bristol 1743). Mr. Recorder (later Mr. Justice) Foster admitted that he knew “of no Statute now in force, which directly and in express Terms impowereth the Crown to press Mariners into the Service. And admitting that the Prerogative is grounded on immemorial Usage, I know of no Necessity for any such Statute.” Id. at 168. Authority to impress was usually conveyed by Admiralty warrant issued pursuant to Orders in Council. Id. at 154–155. No warrant in the name of Panton, or Captain Caldwell of the Rose has been found. Since the Crown did not urge the warrant as a basis for Panton's actions, there may have been none.
3. “An act for the encouragement of the trade to America” (1707). The emphasis is JA's. Quotation marks supplied.
4. JA omits: “from such ship of war belonging to her Majesty at any time after the fourteenth day of February, one thousand seven hundred and seven.”
5. Dudley Ryder (1691–1756) was attorney general of England, 1737–1754; John Strange (1691–1754) was solicitor general, 1737–1742. DNB. In 1740, they signed a joint opinion: “We have perused the several clauses in the American Act, and by comparing the several clauses together, it seems to us, that the Act is not now in force, but expired at the end of the war.” Chalmers, Opinions 232. See also Clark, “The Impressment of Seamen in the American Colonies,” in Essays in Colonial History Presented to Charles McLean Andrews 198, 212 (New Haven, 1931). In 1716, Sir Edward Northey, the attorney general, had given an identical opinion. Chalmers, Opinions 232.
6. JA omits: “for the further encouragement of her Majesty's ships, and private ships of war, the annoying and diminishing the wealth and power of her Majesty's enemies in those parts, and for the encrease of shipping and of seamen for these and other services.”
7. These sections concern prize procedure.
8. §14 concerns privateers.
9. § 19 relaxes “during the continuance of this present war, and no longer,” the requirement of the Navigation Act, 12 Charles 2, c. 18, §1 (1660), that privateers and trading ships must have a British master and a crew three-fourths British.
10. §21 relaxes “during the continuance of the present war” the requirement of the Navigation Act, 12 Car. 2, c. 18, §1 (1660), that all British ships be British-built.
11. §20 concerns naturalization of foreign seamen serving in British ships.
12. 2 Domat, Civil Law 638. Quotation marks supplied in this and following citations by JA.
13. JA omits: “Now those bounds may be observ'd with respect to the manner, the time and the cause.”
14. Wood, New Institute of the Civil Law 270. JA omits: “for you are bound to fly if it may be without danger. Neither is such flight ignominious even in a Soldier.”
15. Justinian, Codex, bk. 9, tit. 16, “§2. Of those who defend their own safety. He who, when in danger of his life, kills his aggressor or anyone else, should have no fear of prosecution on this account. “§3. When anyone kills another who attacks him with a sword, he should not be considered a homicide, for the reason that the defender of his own life is not held to have committed an offense. “§4. If (as you state) you have killed a robber, there is no doubt that it will be decided that you have lawfully killed him who had the intention of depriving you of life.” See 15 Scott, Civil Law 29–30.
The editors have translated the material following “Liceat” as follows:
“It is lawful (46) to kill with impunity one who attacks by night in the fields, or blockades the highways, and lies in ambush for passersby, even if he be a soldier. For indeed it is doubly better to attack, than for an injury suffered to be healed, and to seek vengeance.
“Note 46. He is not a murderer who, in peril of his life, kills an attacker, nor ought anyone to wait for the first blow, because it might be irreparable.”
16. Andreas Gail, Practicarum observationum tam ad processum judiciarum praesertim imperialis camerae quam causarum decisiones pertinentium 503–506 (Cologne, 1721). The editors' translation follows; passages omitted by JA, except omitted citations, appear in brackets:
Corporal punishment of homicide never takes place except in the case of voluntary homicide, when the homicide is perpetrated by design, deliberately, and also with malicious intent. A genuine and express evil intent ought to appear [in such a case, for the punishment of the Lex Corneliae on murder to apply]. And this is always true—to such an extent that even gross fault is not equated to evil intent. [And this is the first extension of this original rule. Secondly, it is extended so that it may apply to statutes imposing capital punishment for homicide, which statutes receive an interpretation at common law. Therefore, they are to be understood to concern homicide committed with evil intent. Hence it is considered the rule in offenses requiring evil intent, that in the absence of evil intent an offense is not committed, at least for purposes of corporal or ordinary punishment.] Evil intent, [moreover,] is not regularly presumed. Therefore he who alleges evil intent ought to prove it [since one is clearly presumed to be lacking in evil intent until the contrary be proved]. For nature lacks evil intent from its origins, [and as its origins are, so its later development is presumed to be. Moreover, evil intent is proved by various circumstances—by place, time, type of weapons, violence itself. And evil intent is regularly presumed from an illegal act—when someone does an illicit thing by that fact alone he is judged to be of evil intent.] From this first rule, that plainly an ordinary penalty in homicide demands evil intent, many unique things which are becoming matters of practice can be inferred. And the first of these is that homicide which has been committed with the excuse of guiltless self-defense is not punishable: for consider the case where a person is provoked and defends himself with the excuse of guiltless self-defense and kills the aggressor—such a murderer ought not to be punished but fully absolved, and this is confirmed on three grounds: First, because defense belongs to natural law and is permitted by every legal system, [which we share with dumb animals.] Secondly, because if the aggressor is the provoker, he is considered slain by his own hand and not by another [and consequently the provoked party is not judged to be of evil intent]; thirdly, because the person killing does not perpetrate an evil deed in defense of himself, since it is lawful to meet force with force, and where there is no offense, then there should be no punishment.
And the rule of common opinion is that a person who has been attacked is presumed to do everything in his own defense and not for revenge: necessity rules out the presumption of evil intent. The reason is that necessary defense is allowed by all law—even the divine—and is without sin. Moreover, defense is considered reasonable if with the excuse of guiltless self-defense, when a person could not defend himself from mishap in any way other [than in the manner by which he defends himself, as, for example, if, having been placed in peril of his life, he defends himself in the best way that he can, the one who challenged him is not slain unjustly]. Moreover, someone is presumed to have been placed in a position of peril when he is attacked by another man who has arms in hand and his sword unsheathed by this very fact, that fear of weapons puts anyone in such a position.
[Therefore, in order to obtain absolution or withdrawal of the accusation of the homicide committed, the person provoked ought to plead clearly the two most important items, namely the provocation and the necessary defense, and prove them by way of purgation and innocence.]
But what if once provoked he goes beyond the manner of guiltless self-defense and slays the attacker who is in flight? Would he then have to be punished by the ordinary punishment of the Lex Corneliae [concerning murderers]? Certainly not— rather, he who has exceeded reason ought to be punished by the decision of a judge in a manner other than that laid down by the law. The reason is that, as stated a while ago, evil intent and the intent to kill are not presumed to exist in the person provoked, nor is an eagerness for revenge presumed, but rather the need for defense. Nor is he even bound to flee, if flight would bring him in danger of his life: for a person provoked, just as one moved by intense vexation, does not have complete possession of his faculty of understanding: unexpected dread of impending danger removes correct judgment and prudent deliberation: and therefore the commentators say that the man provoked does not have scales in his hand to measure blows and wounds.
[Wherefore it is relevant, that when it is a matter of excusing wrongs, a principle —and not a conclusion—is sought.] Therefore the provoked person ought to be punished for that excess, not as a person of evil intent (since the previous provocation excuses him from evil intent) but as one guilty through fault [(since he exceeded the reasonable limits of guiltless self-defense)].
Moreover, defense is likewise favored, as even where a third party, for example, a friend to the provoked man, is excused from the usual punishment if he intercedes and slays the attacker.
17. Gail, Practicarum observationum 509. The editors' translation follows; passages omitted by JA, except omitted citations, appear in brackets:
Sixthly, it is inferred that homicide committed in the heat of anger is not to be punished in the ordinary way because inquiry must be made as to wrath which has been provoked, when someone is provoked to anger by another man because of damaging language: for in that case he is thus excused from the ordinary punishment. [And it is necessary to investigate what was the nature of this proneness to anger which has deprived the wrongdoer of reason: for angry men are wholly upset in the mind and lack the use of reason and know not how to speak and cannot use their senses, and have so much trouble speaking that they are consequently presumed to lack evil intent, and the will to inflict harm arises from an excessive proneness to anger, which an armed wrath, so to speak, feeds.] Wherefore it is relevant, as stated above, that a man who has been spurred by intense vexation is not in full possession of his understanding. [Further, it is most difficult to control righteous vexation of the mind.]
18. Robertus Maranta, Praxis, sive de ordine judiciorum . . . vulgo speculum aureum et lumen advocatorum 51 (Cologne, 1614). The editors' translation follows; passages omitted by JA, except omitted citations, appear in brackets:
This is evident, because homicide perpetrated by fault is said to be an offense which the law does not cover and is punished with discretionary penalties. Whenever a married man slays the wife he has caught in an act of adultery, he is not given the death penalty but another milder corporal punishment; and this is because this sort of homicide is said to have been committed through fault, but not with evil intent, since it occurred in a situation in which it was difficult to control righteous indignation. [For in his guilty frame of mind there was an element missing due to the justification, and so he is punished more mildly than the man with a guilty frame of mind.] Therefore, since it appears from the aforesaid that a homicide perpetrated through fault is to be punished by a penalty that is discretionary and out of the ordinary course, it necessarily follows that a judge cannot impose the death penalty, which is the ordinary punishment [for in his discretionary judgments a judge can never impose a punishment like an ordinary punishment for a similar wrong].
19. Rex v. Oneby, 2 Ld. Raym. 1485, 1496, 92 Eng. Rep. 465, 472 (K.B. 1727). Held: Killing after aroused passions have had reasonable time to cool is murder.
20. See text at note 40140 below.
21. JA made this point at somewhat greater length, citing the authorities in notes 15–20115–120 above, in a footnote to the published version of his argument in the trial of the British soldiers. See No. 64, note 41218. He also used this argument again before a Special Court of Admiralty in Rex v. Nickerson, No. 57.
27. Reg. v. Mawgridge, Kelyng 119, 128, 84 Eng. Rep. 1107, 1111 (Q.B. 1706).
28. The Protector v. Buckner, Style 467, 82 Eng. Rep. 867 (U.B. 1655), cited in Reg. v. Mawgridge, Kelyng 136, 84 Eng. Rep. at 1114. Held: Stabbing upon provocation of false imprisonment is not within the Statute of Stabbings, I Jac. 1, c. 8 (1603), and hence the prisoner is entitled to clergy.
29. JA omits: “or call for Aid or Assistance.”
30. Reg. v. Mawgridge, Kelyng 119, 136, 84 Eng. Rep. 1107, 1114 (Q.B. 1706).
31. Rex v. Hugget, Kelyng 59, 84 Eng. Rep. 1082 (Newgate Gaol Delivery 1666). Held: Killing while attempting to rescue man impressed without a warrant is manslaughter.
32. Reg. v. Tooley et al., 2 Ld. Raym. 1296, 92 Eng. Rep. 349; sub nom. The Case of the Reforming Constables, Holt K.B. 485, 90 Eng. Rep. 1167 (Q.B. 1709). Constable arrests a woman without a warrant; prisoners attempt to rescue her; constable calls deceased to aid him; one of the prisoners kills deceased. Held: Manslaughter, because constable was not acting within his authority, and the prisoners had sufficient provocation to attack him. “[I]f one be imprisoned upon an unlawful authority it is a sufficient provocation to all people out of compassion; much more where it is done under a colour of justice, and where the liberty of the subject is invaded it is a provocation to all the subjects of England.” 2 Ld. Raym. at 1301, 92 Eng. Rep. at 352; see also Holt K.B. at 489, 90 Eng. Rep. at 1169.
33. Reg. v. Mawgridge, Holt K.B. 484, 90 Eng. Rep. 1167 (Q.B. 1706).
34. Foster, Crown Cases, discusses, at 312 and 315–316, Reg. v. Tooley, note 32132 above; at 292, Reg. v. Stedman (unreported) (Old Bailey 1704), in which one who killed a woman after she struck his face with an iron patten was held guilty of manslaughter only, because of the “smart” of his wound; at 296, Reg. v. Mawgridge, note 27127 above. At this point in the MS appears the narrative set out in text following note 150 above.
35. Foster, Crown Cases 288–289; JA sets out the text at note 42142 below.
36. See text at notes 15–21115–121 above. The dagger appears in the MS, and refers to the text at notes 39–44139–144 below.
37. An accurate condensation of 28 Hen. 8, c. 15, §2 (1536).
38. 4 Geo. 1, c. 11, §7 (1717). See text at notes 14–1552–53 above.
39. Rex v. Oneby, note 19119 above.
40. Barrington, Observations upon the Statutes 54 note (k). The text appears in JA's next paragraph. JA used this and the passage from Lord Raymond in a footnote to the published text of his argument in the trial of the British soldiers. See No. 64, note 41218. Quotation marks have been supplied here and below.
41. See note 19119 above.
42. Foster, Crown Cases 288–289. JA has paraphrased Foster's opening: “I therefore think those Judges who have taken general Verdicts of Acquittal in plain Cases of Death per Infortunium . . . have not been to Blame. They have, to say the worst, deviated from antient Practice in Favour of Innocence.”
43. Foster cites, among other examples, 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7 (1700) and 4 Geo. 1, c. 11 (1717).

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0003-0001

Editorial Note

On 28 November 1772 Adams wrote in his diary, “The Conversation of the Town and Country has been about the strange Occurrence of last Week, a Piracy said to have been committed on a Vessell bound to Cape Cod, 3 Men killed, a Boy missing, and only one Man escaped to tell the News—a misterious, inexplicable Affair!”1 The later trial of Ansell Nickerson, the “one Man escaped,” for the alleged murder, with Adams and Josiah Quincy Jr. as defense counsel, was only to deepen the mystery.
{ 336 }
Nickerson had sailed on 14 November from Boston for Chatham as passenger aboard a small fishing schooner under the command of his cousin Thomas Nickerson. In the crew were Sparrow Nickerson, brother to Thomas; their brother-in-law, Elisha Newcomb; and William Kent, a boy of thirteen. About ten o'clock in the morning of Sunday the 15th, Captain Joseph Doane Jr., of Chatham, having sailed from that harbor, sighted the schooner between Chatham and Nantucket, flying a signal of distress. On boarding her, Doane found only Nickerson, “who appeared to be in a great Fright,” but who was able to report that about two o'clock that morning those aboard the fishing vessel had seen “a Topsail Schooner, who brought them to, and sent a Boat on board, and after questioning them returned again—Soon after four Boats with armed Men came back from the Schooner.”2
Nickerson, “fearing he should be Impressed, got over the Stern and held with his hands by the Taffarill,3 with his Feet on the Moulding, under the Cabin Windows. That whilst he was thus hanging over the Stern he judges by what he heard that the Master, with his own Brother, and a Brother-in-Law, named Newcomb, were murdered and thrown overboard, and a Boy named Kent, carried away alive, as they said, in order to make Punch for them—That he heard a Talk of burning the Vessel, but it was finally agreed to leave her to drive out to Sea with her Sails standing. That after perpetrating this inhuman Deed they plundered the Vessel of a considerable Quantity of Cash,4 knocked out the head of a Barrel of Rum, and after wasting the greatest Part of it, went off with the money and other Booty; tho' they left behind a Quarter of fresh Beef & a number of small Stores.—That when they left the Vessel, he came upon Deck, he found none of the Crew, but saw the Marks of blood, and supposes they were murdered.”5
{ 337 }
Doane apparently brought the schooner into Chatham, and then sent his account of the episode to Edward Bacon, a justice of the peace in Barnstable. Bacon forwarded Doane's report to Governor Thomas Hutchinson in Boston, and went himself to Chatham on the 16th, where, with another justice, he formally examined Nickerson, who had returned from some unexplained wanderings (Document II). Bacon then dismissed him with the consent of the father of the two deceased Nickersons. In the meanwhile, the Lively man-of-war was sent out from Boston to search for the supposed pirate.6 On the 19th Bacon's examination reached Hutchinson, who, finding “Every part of the passenger's [Nickerson's] account . . . incredible,”7 consulted with “such of the Commissioners for the trial of Piracies, &c. as were in Town,”8 and issued a warrant for Nickerson's apprehension. This order reached Barnstable by express at midnight on the 20th. There Nickerson was in jail, the local justices having had second thoughts about his story. He had been taken into custody again, re-examined, and committed, “in order to receive Directions from the Governor.” Finally, on the 22d, Nickerson was brought under guard to the Province House at Boston, where Hutchinson, Admiral John Montagu, Lieutenant Governor Andrew Oliver, and Secretary Thomas Flucker, all Commissioners for the Trial of Piracy, examined him from seven until eleven in the evening, and ordered him held for trial.9
The Lively returned after a fruitless search,10 and a Special Court of Admiralty for the Trial of Piracies was thereupon convened. There were some, according to Hutchinson's later account, who “were ready enough to charge the piracy and murder to a king's schooner, then expected from Rhode Island,” and the Sons of Liberty “professed to make no doubt of its being a man of war schooner; and the governor was charged in the publick prints with too critical and severe an examination of the prisoner, whose innocence, it was said, would appear.” The old cry that an Admiralty trial deprived the accused of his right to a jury was also raised,11 but the Commissioners were not deterred. On 16 December, at a sitting of the Special Court, “an Information was filed and exhibited by Ezekiel Price appointed Register of the said Court, against Ansell Nickerson, a Prisoner in his Majesty's Goal, for the murder of Thomas Nickerson, jun., on the High { 338 } Seas on the 14th of November last.” Nickerson pleaded Not Guilty, and, upon motion for time to prepare his defense, he was remanded to jail, and the court adjourned until 2 June 1773.12
When the day set for trial arrived, the court did not convene, according to one account, because “some matters of greater importance,” presumably the investigation of the burning of the Gaspee, “employ at present the time of several members.”13 Nickerson was again examined, however, on the basis of new evidence which was said to militate against him.14 Finally, in the middle of July trial was set for the 28th of that month.15
According to Adams' later recollection, “I was of counsel for Nickerson, but was not engaged till the trial came on, when he requested the court to appoint me.” This arrangement seems to have been made sometime after 28 July 1773,16 when the proceedings actually began. A contemporary account relates that witnesses on both sides were examined from that day until the evening of Friday the 30th. The court then adjourned until Tuesday, 3 August, when Samuel Fitch, Advocate General, after examining several additional witnesses for the Crown, made his opening argument (Document II).17 Fitch first argued that Nickerson was properly before the Special Court, though charged with murder, since that offense, as well as taking the vessel, constituted piracy. Then, after citing authorities on the nature of circumstantial and presumptive proof, he launched into an extensive review of the evidence. The burden of his argument was that the inherent improbabilities of Nickerson's account were a strong indication of its untruth; that the facts would as well support the Crown's version of the affair; and that the accused had had ample time to bring ashore unobserved the money, theft of which was supposed to have been the motive of his acts.
On the afternoon of 3 August, Adams and Josiah Quincy Jr., began their { 339 } argument, which was to last through the next day.18 Quincy apparently opened, probably with a review of the evidence. All that has survived, however, are Adams' fragmentary notes of authorities cited by Quincy, which indicate that the latter concentrated heavily on the quantum of proof needed for conviction where the evidence was wholly circumstantial except for the accused's own statements (Document II). Adams first briefly discussed the information, then made an argument drawn from his experience in Rex v. Corbet, No. 56, that since the court sat in Admiralty it should apply the civil-law doctrine that the crime of manslaughter was not punishable by death. He then launched his main attack on Nickerson's several examinations before various officials, treating them as confessions, in which the favorable as well as the unfavorable must be admitted, and attacking their admissibility generally. Next he proceeded to set out authorities, familiar to him both from Corbet and Sewall v. Hancock,No. 46, requiring that proof be certain and consistent in criminal cases. He closed with observations upon Fitch's treatment of the evidence (Documents I, III).
On Thursday afternoon, 5 August, Fitch “closed the cause,” and the Court, after telling the prisoner that if he had more to say in his defense he could say it the next day, adjourned until the morning of the 6th. When the Court reconvened, Nickerson “express'd his Wishes that certain Witnesses (who he apprehended would testify in his Favor) had been present; and concluded with saying that, 'if I lose my Life, I am innocent of the Crime laid to my Charge.'” The court room was then cleared, and the Court undertook to consider the evidence. After two and a half hours the prisoner was called in, and “the President [Hutchinson], after a solemn Pause, told the Prisoner, 'The Court have considered of your Offence, and they do not think that the Evidence offered to them is sufficient to support the Charge alledged against you in the Information—and therefore adjudge younot guilty.'” On motion by Nickerson's counsel, the Advocate General not objecting, he was discharged. “The Prisoner being informed of it, respectfully bowed to the Court, and said, 'I thank the honorable Court —and GOD—for my deliverance!'” As a contemporary newspaper put it, “Thus ended a Trial, for the most surprizing Event, which has happened in this, and perhaps any other Age of the World.”19
Later accounts by Hutchinson and Adams differ as to the reasons for the acquittal. The newspapers had reported that, the court being divided four and four on the question, “An Acquittal of the Prisoner followed of Course.”20 Hutchinson, who made no bones about his certainty that Nick• { 340 } erson was guilty, confirmed the report of the court's division, but said that the crucial issue was a procedural one. The statute, 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7 (1700), under which the court was constituted, gave jurisdiction in piracies and other “felonies,” excluding murder, according to the opinion of the Crown law officers in England. The information charged Nickerson with piracy only, but alleged the murder to support it. Four of the Court held that to convict of piracy would be to convict of murder, and thus to exceed their jurisdiction.21 Adams' notes show that Fitch argued this point (Document II), and suggest that Adams briefly replied (Document III). Adams did not, however, in his subsequent recollections see this as the critical question. He admitted that he did not know the basis of the acquittal, but guessed that the court was moved by lack of direct evidence, and consequent doubt of Nickerson's guilt, a doubt which he shared himself.22 Either version of the acquittal is supported by the language of the court's decision.
Nickerson himself, who, according to Adams, thereafter “lived many years, and behaved well,”23 did not seem to be overly grateful to his counsel. His comments before and after his discharge at the trial, already quoted, suggest a certain lack of appreciation for their efforts, and a tendency to credit his release to other agencies. Adams later reported that “He had nothing to give me, but his promissory Note, for a very moderate Fee. But I have heard nothing from him, nor received any Thing for his note, which has been lost with many other Notes and Accounts to a large Amount, in the distraction of the times and my Absence from my Business.”24 This note, dated 30 July 1773, for £6 13s. 4d. has been found, too late to enforce payment, and still remains, unreceipted, in the files of the Adams Papers.25
2. Boston Evening-Post, 23 Nov. 1772, p. 2, col. 3. See also, Massachusetts Spy, 19 Nov. 1772, p. 3, col. 3; 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 300. The latter adds the details, presumably from Hutchinson's personal knowledge of the case, that the Nickerson schooner was first boarded “by a large boat, rowed with twelve oars, which came from an armed schooner lying to at a distance.” Doane also figures in Doane v. Gage, No. 43, and appears briefly in the epic of the Lusanna, No. 58. Fitch's account of the evidence (Doc. II) suggests that Nickerson testified that his purpose in going on the voyage was “to get his Cloaths.”
3. That is, the taffrail, the upper part of a ship's stern, sometimes a railing there. The spelling in the text is a corruption of the 18th-century usage, “tafferel” which is derived from the Dutch taferell, a panel. OED. JA, in a later account, referred to this as “some thing, the technical term for which, in naval architecture, I have forgotten.” JA to David Sewall, 29 Jan. 1811, 9 JA, Works 627, 628.
4. Hutchinson described this as “the money which the crew had received at Boston, for the earnings of their vessel the year preceding,” assigning robbery as the motive. 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 301–302. According to one contemporary account, the vessel was returning home after discharging its catch from a fishing voyage at Boston. Massachusetts Spy, 19 Nov. 1772, p. 3, col. 3. Compare JA's comment that “A sum of money of no great amount had been shipped on board by one of the other men, which was not found.” JA to David Sewall, note 3 above.
5. Boston Evening-Post, 23 Nov. 1772, p. 2, col. 3.
6. Boston Evening-Post, 23 Nov. 1772, p. 2, col. 3. See also, 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 300–301; Rowe, Letters and Diary 236.
8. Boston Evening-Post, 23 Nov. 1772, p. 2, col. 3.
9. Boston Evening-Post, 23 Nov. 1772, p. 2, col. 3; Rowe, Letters and Diary 236.
10. In the Boston Evening-Post, 23 Nov. 1772, p. 2, col. 3, the Lively was reported as having returned “yesterday.” Rowe, Letters and Diary 236, reports her return “from a Cruize into Nantasket Roads,” with “No further account of any Pirate,” on 28 November. The discrepancy may be accounted for by the possibility that the vessel made more than one “Cruize.”
11. 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 300, 302. Hutchinson was attacked in the Massachusetts Spy, 17 Dec. 1772, p. 2, cols. 1–2, for his aversion to “fair trials by jury.” Nickerson's arraignment (note 12 below) was reported in the same issue, at p. 3, col. 2.
12. Boston Evening-Post, 21 Dec. 1772, p. 2, col. 3. According to Rowe, the court at this session consisted of “The Governour, Lieut Govr, The Secretary of the Province, The Admirall The Judge of Admiralty, Mr. Fisher the Collector of Salem, Mr. Waldo, The Collector of Falmouth Casco Bay.” Rowe, Letters and Diary 237. Hutchinson's version is that “the counsel for the prisoner moving for further time, and urging that intelligence might probably be obtained of a pirate schooner having been in the bay, and it appearing that a large armed schooner sailed from Boston, bound to the coast of Guinea, at the same time with the fishing vessel, the court thought proper to adjourn the trial for six months.” 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 301.
13. Massachusetts Spy, 3 June 1773, p. 2, col. 4. As to the Gaspee, see p. 104, note 24, above.
14. Massachusetts Gazette, 17 June 1773, p. 3, col. 2; Massachusetts Spy, 17 June 1773, p. 3, col. 2. It was later reported that Nickerson had been examined “on the report of money being found, suspected to be hidden by him.” Boston Gazette, 5 July 1773, p. 3, col. 1.
15. Massachusetts Gazette, 15 July 1773, p. 3, col. 1.
16. JA to David Sewall, 29 Jan. 1811, 9 JA, Works 627, 628; compare 3 JA, Diary and Autobiography297: “He requested my Assistance and it was given.” The note which Nickerson gave Adams for his fees was dated 30 July 1773. See text at note 25 below.
17. Boston Gazette, 9 Aug. 1773, p. 1, col. 2.
18. Boston Gazette, 9 Aug. 1773, p. I, col. 2.
19. The foregoing paragraph is drawn from the account in Boston Gazette, 9 Aug. 1773, p. 1, cols. 2–3. A broadside published after the trial related certain further “circumstances” purportedly establishing Nickerson's innocence. Worthington C. Ford, comp., Broadsides, Ballads &c. Printed in Massachusetts, 1639–1800, 75 MHS, Colls., No. 1678 (1922). The enduring appeal of Nickerson's adventures is attested by Albert Smelco's play, “The Ansell Nickerson Story,” performed at Chatham, Mass., in Aug. 1962. Boston Globe, 3 Aug. 1962, p. 8.
20. Boston Gazette, 9 Aug. 1773, p. 1, col. 3.
21. 3 Hutchinson, Massachusetts Bay, ed. Mayo, 301. For the opinion of the Advocate, Attorney, and Solicitor General, 5 Nov. 1761, upon which Hutchinson apparently relied, see Chalmers, Opinions 525–527.
22. JA to David Sewall, 29 Jan. 1811, 9 JA, Works 627, 628; see also 3 JA, Diary and Autobiography297: “I know not to this day what Judgement to form of his Guilt or Innocence.”
23. JA to David Sewall, 29 Jan. 1811, 9 JA, Works 627, 628.
25. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 344.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0003-0002

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1773-07

Adams' Notes of Authorities1

Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, July 1773
Ansell Nickersons Case.
Woods. Inst. 675, middle. “The Confession of the Defendant to private Persons, or to a Magistrate, out of Court, is allowed to be given in Evidence against the Party confessing; but this Confession cannot { 341 } be made use of against any other. But where a Man's Confession is made use of against him, it ought to be taken alltogether, and with that part which makes for him as well as with that which makes against him.”2
Vin. Tit. Evidence, page 95. A. b. 23. “3. In an Information for publishing a Libel, the Defendants own Confession was given in Evidence against him, but per Holt C.J. if there was no other Evidence against him but his own Confession, the whole must be taken, and not so much of it as would serve to convict him. 5. Mod. 167. King v. Pain. Hill. 7. W. 3.” Note. “So if to prove a Debt it be sworn that Defendant confessed it, but withal said at the same Time, that he had paid it, this Confession shall be valid as to the Payment, as well as to his having owed it. Per Hale Ch. J. and so is the common Practice. Try. per Pais 209.”3
Vin. Tit. Evid. p. 96. Top. “4. Confession is the Worst Sort of Evidence.” i. e. &c.4 “6. The Examination of the Prisoner himself (if not on oath) may be read as Evidence against him; but the Examination of others (though not on oath) ought not to be read if they can be produced, viva voce.”5
2. Bac. Abr. 313 “Of the Parties Confession. “But wherever a Mans Confession is made use of against him, it must be taken alltogether and not by Parcells.” 2. Hawk. 4296
{ 342 }
2. Try. Pr. Pais 427. Same as Viner.7
5. Mod. Rex vs. Paine. 165. “If Confession shall be taken as Evidence to convict him it is but justice and Reason, and so allowed in the Civil Law, that his whole Confession shall be Evidence as well for as against him.” Page 167, middle, “if there was no other Evidence against him but his own Confession, the whole must be taken <together>, and not so much of it as would serve to convict him.”8
2. Hawk. P.C. 429. “§5. It seems an established Rule, that wherever a Mans Confession is made use of against him, it must all be taken together and not by Parcells.”9
2. Hale. H.P.C. 290. “Never convict of Murder or Manslaughter unless the Fact be proved to be done or at least the Body found dead.”10
4 Black. 352. Fourthly.11
Dig. Lib. 29. Tit. 5. §24. “Nisi constet aliquem esse occisum, non habui de familia quaestionem.”12
2 Domat. 667.13
{ 343 }
Civil Law.
Woods Inst. 310 “In Criminal Cases, the Proofs ought to be as clear as the sun at Noon day.”14
Cod. Lib. 4. Tit 19. §25. De Judiciis criminalibus. “Sciant cuncti accusatores eam se rem deferre in publicam notionem debere, quaemunita sit idoneis Testibus, vel instructa apertissimis documentis, vel indiciis, ad probationem indubitatis, et luce clarioribus expedita.” Vid. notes also.15
Maranta. page 49. pars 4. dist. 1. 77.16
Gail. Page 503. “debet venis et expressus intervenire Dolus,” &c. “Lata culpa, non aequiparatur dolo.” &c. “Dolus non praesumitur,” &c. “Quapropter dolum allegans, eum probare debet.”17
Page 509.18
Examen Juris canonici 335. 343. Quid est confessio et quid operatior extra judicialis Confession in criminalibus.19
Maranta. Sp. Aur. 313. 114. especially.20 See Calvins Lexicon Tit. confiteri. Capitulum.21
2. Cor. Jur. Can. 118 page of the Inst. De probationibus.22
{ 344 }
Number of Witnesses.
New Institute of the civil Law page 316. 2.23 Dig. Lib. 22. Tit. 5 §12.24
Cod. Lib. 4. Tit. 20. §9. §1. and Notes.25
St. Tryals. V. 8. page 213. Tryal of Captn. John Quelch and others, at Boston.26
St. Tryals. V. 6. 156. Tryal of Major Stede Bonnett at So. Carolina, and 33 others.27
Statutes. 28. H. 8, c. 15. “For Pirates.” 11. & 12. W. 3, c. 7. for the more effectual Supression of Piracy. 4 G, c. 11. For the further preventing of Robbery &c. and for declaring the Law upon some Points relating to Pirates. §7.28
Foster 288.29 Barrington 54, bottom, Note.30
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. Docketed by JA: “Ansell Nickerson's Case. Evidence, Confession, Judication,” the three issues with which these notes deal. Intervals of space indicate space breaks in the MS. JA's outline of his own argument is appended to these notes in the MS, but it is here printed separately (Doc. III), so that the arguments can be presented in the order in which they were presumably given. See note 187 below.
2. The passage appears in Wood, Institute of the Laws of England 671 (London, 9th edn., 1763). JA seems to have cited the wrong page inadvertently. This is the only edition in which there are more than 663 pages, 1 Sweet and Maxwell, Legal Bibliography 38. Quotation marks have been supplied.
3. 12 Viner, Abridgment 95, tit. Evidence, plea A. b. 23, no. 3. Quotation marks supplied. For King v. Pain, see note 833 below. The “note” in the text appears in the margin in Viner; it is a quotation, with very minor discrepancies, from Buncombe, Tryals per Pais 209 (London, 3d edn., 1700). The same passage appears at p. 363 in Volume 2 of the 1766 edition of the latter work, cited below by JA, note 732.
4. 12 Viner, Abridgment 96, tit. Evidence, plea A. b. 23, no. 4. Quotation marks supplied. The passage reads in full, “Confession is the worst sort of Evidence that is, if there be no Proof of a Transaction or Dealing, or at least a Probability of Dealing, between them as in the Principal Case there was, the one being a Sailor, the other a Master of a Ship. Per Holt. 7 Mod. 42. Mich, 1 Ann. B.R. Anon.”
5. 12 Viner, Abridgment 96, tit. Evidence, plea A. b. 23, no. 6. Quotation marks supplied. JA has omitted the citation: “St. Tr. 1 Vol. 169. 780.—2 Vol. 575.”
6. 12 Bacon, Abridgment 313, tit. Evidence, L. Quotation marks supplied. JA has omitted the preceding paragraph, which states that the defendant's confession, whether taken according to law by a justice of the peace or magistrate, “or spoken in private Discourse,” may be used against him. Both this passage and the sentence quoted in the text appear in substantially similar form in 2 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 429, which is cited in the margin in Bacon. See notes 934, 490, below.
7. 2 Duncombe, Trials per Pais 427 (8th edn., 1766). The passage contains several more or less accurate quotations from 12 Viner, Abridgment 95–96, including those cited in notes 328 and 429 above.
8. Rex v. Paine, 5 Mod. 163, 165, 167, 87 Eng. Rep. 584, 585, 586 (K.B. 1695). Quotation marks supplied. See note 328 above. In an information for publishing a criminal libel the defendant had confessed that he had written the libel at another's dictation and then had delivered it to one Brereton by mistake. There was also the evidence of the defendant's servant that the libel had been repeated in a room in the presence of a Dr. Hoyle after the defendant had brought in a writing. The jury gave a special verdict raising the question of the defendant's guilt as composer of the libel, but finding him not guilty of publication. The passage quoted from p. 165 is apparently part of the argument of counsel to the jury that that portion of the confession which indicated delivery by mistake must also be taken into account and read to show that there was no publication. The passage from p. 167 is part of the opinion of the court, conceding that if the confession were the only evidence on the question of publication, the defendant was not guilty. The court went on to state, however, that the servant's testimony was also evidence of publication, if it could be established that the paper brought into the room was the libel. The court adjourned without giving judgment.
9. 2 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 429, §5. Quotation marks supplied. The passage is cited by Bacon, note 631 above.
10. 2 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 290. Quotation marks supplied.
11. That is, 4 Blackstone, Commentaries *352: “Fourthly, all presumptive evidence of felony should be admitted cautiously: for the law holds, that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer.” Blackstone then recites the passage quoted from Hale, note 1035 above.
12. That is, Justinian, Digest, bk. 29, tit. 5, law I, §24, cited by Hale, note 1035 above, a passage construing a senatorial decree which inflicted torture upon slaves of a master who met a violent death. Quotation marks have been supplied. See 6 Scott, Civil Law 320: “Unless it is established that a man has been killed, his slaves ought not to be tortured.”
13. 2 Domat, Civil Law 667, a passage stating the general rule that a confession is to be taken as proof of the fact confessed unless the contrary be established affirmatively. “And this Rule has only one Exception in Accusations of Capital Crimes, where it is not enough that the Party who is accused confesses a Crime which is not proved; but other Proofs are necessary for putting him to Death besides his own Confession, which might be an Effect of Melancholy or Despair, or proceed from some other Cause than the Force of Truth.”
14. Wood, New Institute of the Civil Law 310. Quotation marks supplied. Compare No. 46, note 42119.
15. Justinian, Codex, bk. 4, tit. 19, §25. Quotation marks supplied. See No. 46, notes 47–48124–125.
16. Maranta, Speculum Aureum, pars IV, Distinctio I, §77. Quoted, No. 56, note 18118.
17. Gail, Practicarum Observationum 503, quoted in No. 56, note 16116, from which the passage here was probably extracted. Quotation marks have been supplied.
18. Gail, Practicarum Observationum 509. See No. 56, note 17117.
19. Presumably a reference to Gregor Kolb, Examen Juris Canonici, juxta V. libros decretalium (Vienna, 1728), a work which JA owned. See Catalogue of JA's Library 136.
20. Maranta, Speculum Aureum 313. “114” is presumably an inadvertence for p. 314. See text preceding note 490 below. In JA's copy at the Boston Public Library two passages on these pages are marked. The first states that, even though the defendant's confession contains matter favorable to himself, this must be proved, as in a confession that he killed in self-defense. The second adds the important qualification that on the basis of such a confession the defendant cannot be condemned to death, as for a homicide, but must be given the lesser penalty of banishment.
21. Johannes Calvinus, Lexicon Juridicum Juris Caesarei Simul, et Canonici, tits., Confiteri, Capitulum (Geneva, 1622). It has not been possible to determine exactly the passages under these heads to which JA referred. The title “Capitulum” seems to contain nothing relevant. Under “Confiteri” there are several general statements concerning confessions which JA may have intended. The citation is omitted in the notes from which he argued (Doc. III).
22. Apparently a reference to Institutiones Juris Canonici 118 (Basel, ed. J. P. Lancelottus, 1695), bound with separate paging as part of Corpus Juris Canonici (Basel, ed. J. P. Lancelottus, 1696). At the cited page appears bk. 3, tit. 14, “De Probationibus,” a title beginning with several sections concerning proof by confession of the parties.
23. Wood, New Institute of the Civil Law 316, §2, set out in No. 46, notes 29–30106–107.
24. Justinian, Digest, bk. 22, tit. 5, §12, set out in No. 46, at note 31108.
25. Justinian, Codex, bk. 4, tit. 20, §9, §1, set out in No. 46, at note 32109.
26. Reg. v. Quelch et als., 8 State Trials 205, 213 (Boston, Ct. of Adm., 1704). Quelch and his crew had taken over a privateer when the master died, and had preyed on friendly shipping in the South Atlantic. The cited page contains a series of objections to the evidence by Quelch's counsel. JA's use of the passage in his argument (Doc. III) indicates that he here referred to an argument that the civil-law rules for accrediting witnesses should apply. This contention, like all the others made for Quelch, was rejected by the court. Quelch and several of his accomplices were ultimately condemned and executed on 30 June 1704.
27. Rex v. Bonnet, 6 State Trials 156 (S.C. Vice Adm., 1718). See No. 56, at note 1654.
28. See 28 Hen. 8, c. 15 (1536), set out in No. 56, at notes 2–540–43; 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7 (1700), set out, id., at notes 2–544–49 (see also note 257 below); 4 Geo. 1, c. 11, §7 (1717), set out, id., at notes 14–1552–53.
29. See Foster, Crown Cases 288–289, indicating that there is no crime of manslaughter in Admiralty, set out in No. 56, at notes 42–43142–143.
30. See Barrington, Observations upon the Statutes 54, stating that there is no crime of manslaughter under the civil law, set out in No. 56, at note 40140.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0003-0003

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1773-08-03 - 1773-08-04

Adams' Minutes of the Argument1

Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, 3–4 August 1773
Fitch. Not charged with Murder. But as the Killing constitutes Pyracy.
{ 345 }
11. & 12. W, c. 7, §9.2
Petit Treason at common Law. 25. Ed. 3. defined Treason.3 Confining the Master, and taking Vessel into Possession and robbing him is Pyracy.
Evidence presumptive. No Witnesses who saw the Transaction.
1. Domat. 413. T. 6. That a Proof which convinces the Mind.4 414. Signs, Tokens, Conjectures, and Presumptions.5
2. Sorts of Presumptions, 1. Proofs. 2. Only conjectures without Certainty. A necessary Connection.6
{ 346 }
430. §4. Presumptions of 2 Kinds. Conjectures leave doubt.7
2. Domat. 666.8
Wood civil Law. page 302. Proof—plena, 2 Witnesses. 2 half proofs make one whole one.9
305. 6. Confession, not conclusive alone. Ought to admit the whole. —See this by all Means.—Defence must be proved.10
Appeal to the human Mind that it is impossible to divide his Confession.11
{ 347 }
The 4 Persons were on board and said12 with Prisoner. Neg[atu]r.
All 4 kill'd.
Prisoner's own Account. Blood spilt, where they came up.
All 4 Missing 9 Mo.13 No Account of them.
What supposition can be made, consistent with common sense.
Prisoner found alone on board. All staind with blood, the decks reeking with blood.
In Possession of Vessell, and evry Thing, disposing as he thought proper.—Mem. signal of distress.14
Woman delivered alone.15
Goods taken with the Maner.16
His Account improbable, incredible. Therefore makes vs. him not for him. Improba[bi]lities.
His Design in going only to get his Cloaths. Cost him much to come back by Land.
No Wind he says.
No Ax. Crowl17 says there was. They were to [ . . . ][boards?].
Does not know the Boys Name.
None of the other Vessells saw this Schooner.
None heard the Gun but him.
Incredibility that there should have been a Pirate Vessell. Boats could not board.
He said the Box was gone, tho he said he had not been down the Hold.
Rum on the Boards therefore not carried off.
Fresh Meat, Butter, Cyder, Roots, &c. not taken.
The Pirates must have trod in the blood, and left the Marks in Cabin, hold &c.
{ 348 }
Where was the Prisoner for fear of Impress. Hanging on the Stern.
Is it possible he should have hung there a Minute.
Why did not they discover him, when on the deck and when they came under the Stern.
The Paint clean, not bruised nor broke.
Manner of getting in incredible, impossible.
Account of Coll. Doane different.18
If the Prisoner guilty would not every appearance have been as they were.
Liquor, Cyder and Rum in the Pail, and the [Cantien?] he gave, shews they were made drunk and then butch[ere]d.
Conduct after he came ashore—wandering God knows where. No Account can be given of him. An opportunity to bring <it> ashore, the Money.
Confident he should be discharged.
Went a little Way, felt poorly, when he came back. The Witnesses say he could not go on board the Vessell then, but he might go where the Money was hid.
All Night absent going to his Grandfathers. He pretended he was lost.
Went to the Hay Yard to the End of the Stack, to get hay for his Horse.
7 Months after, an handkerchief found.
Otis Lorings Account—dont tell me, where[.]
J. Quincy. Altogether presumptive.
Wood civ. Law 276.19
Hawk. P.C.20
Viner. Ev. p. 95.21
Dig. 42. Tit. 2.22
{ 349 }
Cod. 7. Tit. 59.23
1. Domat. 430. Thus in a criminal Action, &c.24
2. Domat. 668. 9. Consequences from certain facts, known and proved. The natural and necessary Connection between the facts proved, and those inferred.25
2. Domat. 618.27
1. Ld. Bacon. 251.28
2. <Hawk.> Hale P.C. 289.29
{ 350 }
Ayliff 447. 8.30
1. In JA's hand. Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 185. The notes have been dated from a contemporary newspaper account. See text at notes 17, 18, above.
2. 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7, §9 (1700):
“And be it further enacted, That if any commander or master of any ship, or any seaman or mariner, shall, in any place where the admiral hath jurisdiction, betray his trust, and turn pirate, enemy, or rebel, and piratically and feloniously run away with his or their ship or ships, or any barge, boat, ordnance, ammunition, goods, or merchandizes, or yield them up voluntarily to any pirate, or shall bring any seducing messages from any pirate, enemy, or rebel, or consult, combine, or confederate with, or attempt or endeavour to corrupt any commander, master, officer, or mariner, to yield up or run away with any ship, goods, or merchandizes, or turn pirate, or go over to pirates, or if any person shall lay violent hands on his commander, whereby to hinder him from fighting in defense of his ship and goods committed to his trust, or that shall confine his master, or make, or endeavour to make a revolt in the ship, shall be adjudged, deemed, and taken to be a pirate, felon, and robber, and being convicted thereof, according to the directions of this act, shall have and suffer pains of death, loss of lands, goods, and chattels, as pirates, felons, and robbers upon the seas ought to have and suffer.”
3. 25 Edw. 3, stat. 5, c. 2 (1350), defined petit treason as “When a servant slayeth his master, or a wife her husband, or when a man secular or religious slayeth his prelate, to whom he oweth faith and obedience.” Fitch may here have been quoting or paraphrasing 1 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 98, c. 37, Of Piracy, §2: “It is said that before 25 Ed. 3. this Offense [Piracy] was punished at Common Law as Petit Treason, if committed by a Subject, and as Felony, if committed by a Foreigner: However it seems agreed, that after that Statute by which all Treason is confined to the Particulars therein set down, it was cognizable only by the Civil Law.” Compare 4 Blackstone, Commentaries *71.
4. 1 Domat, Civil Law 413, bk. 3, tit. 6, Of Proofs, and Presumptions, and of an Oath: “We call that a Proof which convinces the Mind of a Truth.”
5. 1 Domat, Civil Law 414:
“But if it [the identity of the murderer of one killed alone on the highway at night] is discovered, it will be only by Proofs that may be drawn from circumstances which shall happen to be linked together with this Crime, and which will depend on Events that have happened by accident, such as the casual rencounter of some Witnesses, and such signs and tokens as there may happen to be, conjectures, and presumptions.”
6. 1 Domat, Civil Law 415:
“It may be gathered from these Remarks, that there are two sorts of Presumptions: Some of which are drawn by a necessary consequence from a Principle that is certain; and when these sorts of Presumptions are so strong, that one may gather from them the certainty of the Fact that is to be proved, without leaving any room for doubt, we give them the name of Proofs, because they have the same effect, and do establish the truth of the Fact which was in dispute. The other Presumptions are all those which form only Conjectures, without certainty; whether it be that they are drawn only from an uncertain Foundation, or that the consequence which is drawn from a certain Truth is not very sure.
“It is because of the difference between these two sorts of Presumptions, that the Laws have appointed some of them to have the force of Proofs, and have not left the Judges at liberty to consider them only as bare Conjectures, because in effect these sorts of Presumptions are such, that one sees in them a necessary connexion between the truth of the Fact that is to be proved, and the certainty of the Facts from whence it follows.”
7. 1 Domat, Civil Law 430, bk. 3, tit. 6, Of Presumptions, §4: “Presumptions are of two kinds, some of them are so strong, that they amount to a certainty, and are held as Proofs, even in Criminal Matters. And others are only conjectures which leave some doubt.”
8. 2 Domat, Civil Law 666, presumably a reference to a passage on the cited page describing the four ways of proving facts in court: “The Confession of the Party, the Testimony of Persons who know the Fact, the Evidence which arises from Deeds and Writings, and the Knowledge of certain Facts, which are linked in such a Manner with that whereof we search the Truth, that one may gather the said Truth from the Connection there is between the Fact in question and those of which the Truth is proved.” Immediately following in the text is the passage cited by JA, note 1338 above, and cited by him in argument, text following note 490 below.
9. Wood, New Institute of the Civil Law 302 (London, 4th edn., 1730): “Proof is either (plena) a full proof, as by two Witnesses or a publick Instrument; or (semiplena) an half proof, as one Witness or a private Writing; so that two half proofs being joined together (though of a different nature) make one full proof.” Note that the edition cited here and in note 1065 below by Fitch is that of 1730. JA's citations to this work in this case and elsewhere are to the first edition of 1704.
10. Wood, New Institute of the Civil Law 305 (London, 4th edn., 1730):
“But all Confessions are not to be esteemed a discovery of the Truth, if there are no other corroborating Circumstances. For sometimes Fear or a weariness of Life, or some other Reason hath induced Men to make Confessions of those Things which they were never guilty of. . . . But when the Confession is regular, and admitted by the other Party, he ought to admit the whole as it is qualified, and when it is extended to other matters which are done at the same time; unless there is a presumption against that part. As when one confesses that he kill'd Titius in his own defense; the killing shall stand by it self as confessed, and the qualification must be proved, because the Law presumes design, and throws the proof upon the Criminal.”
The phrase between dashes in the text is presumably JA's insertion.
11. This is apparently a reference to the language of Wood, New Institute of the Civil Law 305–306, which follows the passage quoted in note 1065 above:
“But if the Sentences are distinct, where there is no presumption, the qualification afterwards comes too late, and infers that the Acts are done at different Times.” Then follows an example in which “The Libel charges that you receive 100 l. of me. You answer, That you did receive 100 l. of me which I ow'd to you, and no other Sum; this is but one Sentence, and cannot be divided; for with one Breath I do as it were absolutely deny the Charge. But where the Sentences are divided, there the Confession shall be divided, and part accepted and part rejected. As if you had answer'd, That you did borrow the 100 l. but that you have since repaid it: Or that I have promised not to demand it 'till seven years were past. The latter part of this answer must be proved, else you will be condemned.”
JA may have noted the argument for his own later use, since the statement would seem to cut against the Crown.
12. Thus in MS, but quite possibly an inadvertence for “sailed.”
13. That is, nine months between the date of the incident in Nov. 1772 and the time of the hearing in Aug. 1773.
14. Probably JA's reminder to himself that Nickerson's signal of distress was not consistent with a criminal intent.
15. Probably a reference to an example given in 1 Domat, Civil Law 415, following the passage quoted, note 661 above, which recounts Henri II's edict of 1556 that if a woman was brought to childbed without witnesses and there was no subsequent christening or public burial, there should be a presumption that she had murdered the child.
16. That is, “Manor” ? The reading and allusion are unclear. This may be a reference to a presumption as to the title to chattels remaining on the land at the time of conveyance.
17. Probably a witness, but not identified.
18. Probably a reference to Capt. Joseph Doane, who found the schooner (note 2 above), although the title, “Coll.” suggests Col. Elisha Doane, one of JA's wealthy clients. See Nos. 52, 58.
19. Wood, New Institute of the Civil Law 276 (London, 4th edn., 1730): “Homicide with Deliberation is when one kills another upon a premeditated design, and in cold Blood. If the design cannot be proved directly, it may be learnt from circumstances, as when there was Enmity between the Parties, providing Arms, lying in wait, &c.”
20. Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown. The page reference cannot be determined from the context.
21. See the materials quoted in JA's notes, notes 3–528–30 above.
22. Justinian, Digest, bk. 42, tit. 2, De Confessis. A series of eight laws, most of which deal with the confession of civil obligations, stating the general proposition that confession of a debt is the equivalent of a judgment for that amount. Quincy may have been drawing an analogy to the provisions that this rule does not apply where the amount of the debt or the nature of property in question is uncertain. Id., L. 6, L. 8.
23. Justinian, Codex, bk. 7, tit. 59, De Confessis, §1: “Confessis in jure pro judicatis haberi placet. Quare sine causa desideras recedi a confessione tua, cum et solvere cogeris.” See 14 Scott, Civil Law 202: “It has been decided that confessions made in court have the effect of judgments, therefore you have no right to revoke your confession, as you will be compelled to make payment.” A better translation of the first clause might be: “confessions in law have the effect of judgments.”
24. 1 Domat, Civil Law 430:
“Presumptions are consequences drawn from a fact that is known, to serve for the discovery of the truth of a fact that is uncertain, and which one seeks to prove. . . . Thus in a Criminal Affair, if a Man has been killed, and it is not known by whom, and if it be discovered that he had a little while before a quarrel with another person, who had threatened to kill him, one draws from this known fact of the quarrel and threatning, a Presumption that he who had thus threatned him, may have been the Author of the Murder.”
25. 2 Domat, Civil Law 668:
“There is likewise a fourth Kind of Proofs which are called Presumptions, that is to say, Consequences which are drawn from certain Facts that are known and proved, whereby to guess at or infer the Certainty of the Fact in dispute, and of which the said known Facts are Marks and Signs; and these sorts of Proofs are called Presumptions, because they do not demonstrate the Fact it self which is to be proved, but prove the Truth of other Fact, the knowledge whereof discovers, points out, and gives room to conjecture and presume the Fact in question, because of the natural and necessary Connection between the Facts that are known, and those which we want to know the Truth of.”
26. That is, 2 Domat, Civil Law 670. The precise passage intended cannot be determined from context.
27. 2 Domat, Civil Law 618, a passage stating that the three bases for differentiating between crimes are (1) the degree of heinousness; (2) the motive, whether premeditation, passion, or imprudence; and (3) the circumstances in which the crime is committed.
28. Probably a reference to Francis Bacon, Works, 1:251 (London, 1750), a section of the eighth book of his De Augmentis Scientiarum, entitled “De exemplis et usu eorum,” which deals with “examples, from which justice is to be derived when the law is deficient,” that is, examples of human experience not common enough to have been reduced to custom or law. See 5 Bacon, Works 92–94 (London, transl. and ed. Spedding, Ellis, Heath, 1877).
29. 2 Hale, Pleas of the Crown 289. Presumably the reference is to this passage: “In some cases presumptive evidences go far to prove a person guilty, tho there be no express proof of the fact to be committed by him, but then it must be very warily pressed, for it is better five guilty persons should escape unpunished, than one innocent person should die.” Hale then gives the example of a man executed for theft of a horse, only to have the true thief later confess that he had given the innocent victim the horse to walk just before his apprehension. There follows on p. 290 the passage quoted by JA, note 1035 above, and cited by him in argument, text following note 490 below.
30. Presumably John Ayliffe, Parergon Juris Canonici Anglicani 447, 448 (London, 2d edn., 1734), a long passage on the sufficiency of proof, containing such statements as, “In the Business of Proof, a Judge ought first to have a great Regard to the Probability thereof” (p. 447), and, “As in all Criminal Causes Evidence or Notoriety of Fact is full Proof, so likewise in such Causes all manner of Proofs ought to be clearer than the Light of the Sun at Noon-day.” (p. 448). That this work was available in Boston appears from the Harvard Law School's copy, which bears the signatures of Jeremy Gridley, Samuel Sewall, and Christopher Gore. For another use of Ayliffe by JA, see p. 104 above.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0008-0003-0004

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1773-08-04 - 1773-08-05

Adams' Notes for His Argument1

Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, 4–5 August 1773
By what Rule is Prisoner to be tryed? Answer by the civil Law.
Statute 28. H. 8, c. 15. 11. & 12. W. 3, c. 7. 4. G, c. 11, §. 7. then
Foster 288. Barrington 54, bottom Note—notwithstanding St. Tr. V. 8, page 213.
It has been customary to look into both Laws, here, as it seems they do in London, at the Admiralty sessions.3
But the Principal Rule of Law upon which our defence is grounded is common to both Laws, that the Confession shall be taken alltogether.
Woods Inst. 676. Vin. Evid. page 95 A. b. 23. 3. 5. Mod. 165. 2. Hawk. 429.
Examen Juris Canonici. 335. Maranta Sp. Aur. 313. 314 especially.
{ 351 }
2. Corp. Juris canonici 118 of the Institute de probationibus. This is no more than an extrajudicial Confession. Phillip & Mary.4
We must therefore throw all his Confessions and Examinations into the fire, and consider the Case without them.
But then by what Rules? Wood Inst. 310. Cod. Lib. 4. Tit. 19. §. 25. Maranta page 49. pars 4, dist. 1 77 Gail 503. 2. H.H.P.C. 290. 4. Blackst. 352. Dig. Lib. 29. Tit. 5. §. 24. “Nisi constet aliquem esse occisum, non habui [Familia] quaestionem.” 2. Domat 667.
Then consider Mr. Fitches Observations upon the Evidence—his Improbabilities, Incredibilities, Absurdities, Inconsistencies &c.
1. In JA's hand, following, after an interval of space, his notes of authorities, printed as Doc. I. See note 26 above. Only authorities not cited by JA in Doc. I have been annotated in Doc. III. The notes have been dated from a contemporary newspaper account. See text at notes 18, 19, above.
2. That is, the information or libel containing the articles of the charge against Nickerson. No copy of this document has been found.
3. That is, into both the common law, and the civil law, which was traditionally used in Admiralty. Compare No. 56. In the English practice, the jury and other features of the common law were made applicable by statute, but certain civil-law rules, such as the lack of the death penalty for manslaughter, applied. See No. 56, Doc. VI; p. 275, notes 2, 3, above. The argument seems to be JA's means of getting around the decision of the Boston Special Court of Admiralty in Quelch's Case (1704), that common-law rules controlled the admissibility of evidence. See note 51 above. For his difficulties with the same problem in the Vice Admiralty Court, see No. 46.
4. Presumably a reference to the statutes 1 & 2 Phil. & Mary, c. 13 (1554), and 2 & 3 Phil. & Mary, c. 10 (1555), which provided that justices of the peace should examine persons accused of manslaughter or felony, either when admitting them to bail or upon commitment, and should certify the examination to the next court of general gaol delivery. According to 2 Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown 429 (cited by JA to another point, note 934 above), confessions taken on such occasions could be given in evidence, as could those “taken by the Common Law upon an Examination before a Secretary of State, or other Magistrates for Treason, or other Crimes, not within those Statutes, or in Discourse with private Persons.” Compare note 631 above. JA's point seems to be that Nickerson's examinations before Edward Bacon and the Admiralty Commissioners (text at notes 6–9 above) met none of these requirements.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0009-0001-0001

Editorial Note

Until comparatively recent times the valor of naval crews was stimulated by the prospect of a share in the proceeds of enemy vessels and goods captured as prize. The complicated questions of property and the law of war which this system of hazard pay produced were adjudicated in every country by special tribunals, administering a more or less common body of international law. From its 14th-century origins the English Court of Admiralty had exercised a jurisdiction in such matters. By the beginning of the 18th century, when Admiralty's powers in other fields were on the wane, the prize side of the court had become virtually a separate institution, with sessions, rules, and records distinct from the ordinary civil, or “instance” side. Although this jurisdiction was called upon only in time of hostilities, the warlike nature of the times meant a steady demand for it, so that a substantial body of prize law developed and the Admiralty was saved from the extinction which might otherwise have been its fate.1
In the colonies, the seat of much of the warfare, there was great need for a similar forum, since trial of colonial prizes in England was impracticable. After 1660, captures were tried first in the courts established by the governors under their powers as Vice Admirals, then in the Admiralty courts created in 1697 for enforcement of the Acts of Trade. Confusion over the source of these courts' power to sit in prize was laid to rest by an Act of 1708, which provided for trial in Admiralty under a precise and simple procedure and established fixed formulas for the division of proceeds among the captors.2 Under this statute the colonial Vice Admiralty judges, empowered by special Admiralty warrant, exercised the jurisdiction through all the wars of the 18th century. One authority suggests that this branch may have amounted to as much as a third of the courts' total business.3 Although it may be assumed that the Massachusetts Vice Ad• { 353 } miralty Court sat in prize until the cessation of hostilities in the Seven Years' War in 1763, John Adams had no prize cases before it, as far as is known.
At the outbreak of the Revolution the colonists soon found that, whatever their feelings about the Admiralty had been, the prize jurisdiction was a necessary element in naval warfare. Despite the efforts of advocates of seapower, including Adams, a Continental Navy was slow to develop. George Washington put a fleet of four vessels into action off Massachusetts, and the individual colonies established small navies of their own; but privateers, vessels fitted out at private expense and commissioned by Congress or a colony to sail against enemy shipping, were the substitute upon which the colonists chiefly had to rely.4 Since profits were even more important to the privateers than to regular naval vessels, Massachusetts as early as 1775 established its own maritime court to exercise jurisdiction in prize matters. The other colonies soon followed suit, and the hated royal Admiralty courts were succeeded by a system of state courts, which, however, were usually limited to prize cases and sat with a jury.5 Congress was also quick to recognize the need for its authority in this field. In November 1775 it adopted the report of a committee of which Adams was a member, establishing regulations for privateers, defining the objects of capture, recommending that the states establish prize courts, and providing that appeals from all cases of prize in those courts would lie to the Congress. Under this measure appeals were referred to special committees, until in January 1777 a Standing Committee on Appeals was created.6
{ 354 }
Adams was appointed to the Standing Committee in March 1777 and served until November of that year, when he left Congress for good. Despite a busy schedule, he managed to participate in much of the Committee's work.7 Its surviving file papers reveal that of eleven appeals decided during Adams' tenure, he sat on at least five. In five others the appellate papers are incomplete, so that the members of the Committee who sat cannot be determined. Thus Adams may well have been involved in additional cases.8 The papers show that the Committee, which on at least one occasion took the style “Court of Commissioners of Appeals for the American States,” viewed itself, and was viewed by Congress, as a judicial body. Thus, its procedure included provisions for notice, payment of costs, and the like, reflecting the legal background of its members. Its decisions were based on a full record of the trial below, as well as upon oral argument. These decisions were handed down with oral opinions, were in the form of judicial decrees, and were accorded the legal effect of such decrees.9
{ 355 }
The Court of Commissioners, and Adams' role in it, deserve a full analysis, which cannot be undertaken here. Despite the limitation of the court's jurisdiction to matters of prize, it foreshadowed the United States Supreme Court as the earliest permanent judicial body with a national jurisdiction. Equally important, the court, and its successor, the Court of Appeals in Cases of Capture, provided an opportunity for the development of an appellate procedure and jurisprudence, and a bar experienced in these matters, which permitted the Supreme Court to undertake its duties in 1789 unencumbered by the need for awkward experiment. Adams, who had had to resign from the chief justiceship of Massachusetts before he could enter upon the duties of that office, was thus finally enabled to serve on the bench in a much more significant way.10 He was, if briefly, a member of what was in effect the first Supreme Court of the United States; as such, he participated in the establishment of an institution capable of handing on the appellate tradition which it began.
In November 1777, when he took leave from Congress for a much needed rest and return to personal affairs,11 Adams was probably little aware of the long-range importance of his recent judicial activities. But he was soon to discover that they were of immediate value. Shortly after his arrival at Braintree he was plunged into a prize controversy between his old client Col. Elisha Doane, one of the richest men in New England,12 { 356 } and certain New Hampshire privateersmen, which brought into play his newly acquired expertise in such matters. The case is of real interest, not only because it marks Adams' last known appearance as an active trial lawyer, but because years later, in the Supreme Court of the United States, it led to an affirmation of the supremacy of the federal courts in a matter in which the states had yielded sovereignty.
The complicated story of the litigation can be pieced together from various contemporary sources, principally the files of the Continental Congress' Court of Appeals.13 It begins in the summer of 1775, when the Cape Cod whaling fleet returned from the South Atlantic, having “proved to be tolerable successful,” and Doane, whose headquarters were at Chatham, found himself with a considerable stock of whale oil on hand. The presence of the British fleet at Boston, and its evident intention to enforce the restrictions which Britain had laid upon New England's commerce,14 meant that there was no local market for the oil. Moreover, like many a businessman whose country is on the verge of hostilities with a former trading partner, Doane had a considerable balance in his favor on the books of Lane, Son & Fraser, London merchants, as well as an unsold shipment of whalebone in their warehouse. He determined to realize upon these various assets before the worsening political situation led to their confiscation.15 Accordingly, he loaded his brigantine Lusanna, already carrying considerable oil that she had herself brought back from the whaling grounds, with additional oil and other goods and arranged that his son-in-law Shearjashub Bourne, a lawyer and recanting addresser of Hutchinson, whose business had virtually disappeared with the closing of the courts, { 357 } should go with this cargo to London and there see to its sale and to the securing of Doane's other interests.16
On 4 September 1775, a week before the effective date of the ban laid on exports to Britain by the Continental Association, the Lusanna, Matthew Wood master, sailed from Wellfleet, having earlier cleared out at the custom house in Plymouth. Her cargo consisted of 101 casks of spermaceti oil and 37 casks of head matter belonging to Doane and consigned to Lane, Son & Fraser; 208 casks of spermaceti oil and 82 of head matter, belonging in part to Doane and in part to some of his whalemen, consigned to Bourne; and a quantity of staves and cord wood, belonging to Doane and also consigned to Bourne.17
The instructions which Doane gave to Bourne and to Lane, Son & Fraser were very broad. To alleviate a shortage of cash in Massachusetts, the Lusanna's outward cargo of oil was to be sold and the proceeds brought directly to Doane by Bourne. If the acts of Parliament restricting New England were repealed, thus leading to the abrogation of the Continental Association, Bourne was to freight the Lusanna home with English goods, bought with Doane's London credits. If the Acts were not repealed, Bourne was to use Doane's funds to send the Lusanna with a cargo to the West Indies to be exchanged there for goods which did not violate the colonial ban on imports. If this was impossible, he was to carry English goods to Nova Scotia, take on a new, nonrestricted cargo there, clear out for the British West Indies, and come directly to Cape Cod. In any event he was to use his judgment in light of all the circumstances.18
Only a week after his departure Bourne met the setback which was to turn his trip from an ordinary if risky commercial venture into an epic voyage of mischance and duplicity. On 11 September, off Sable Island, { 358 } about 200 miles east and south of Halifax, the Lusanna was “met by a violent gale of wind from E, and then shifting to ENE shattered our sails and rigging to a great degree carryd away our foretopmast without any canvas Spread and caused the brig to leak very much.”19 Thus damaged, she was forced to put into Halifax for repairs; on entering the harbor there, she was seized by a boat belonging to the Somerset man-of-war. The Lusanna was held for three weeks, although, according to Bourne, the attorney general at Halifax had ruled that all her papers were in order and that she was not in violation of any Act of Parliament.20 Finally she was released by order of Admiral Graves at Boston, and repairs were undertaken.
When the Lusanna was almost ready for sea, she was seized again on 28 October, apparently by virtue of new orders received by the Admiral from England, requiring all New England vessels to be detained until further notice.21 Bourne at once left for Boston, where he procured the vessel's release, reportedly on condition that he take out a new register in Halifax, listing the vessel as of that port.22 At the time it was rumored that he had also agreed to bring a cargo back to Halifax.23 It is even possible that in his negotiations with Admiral Graves he had adopted the role of fleeing loyalist which he later played in England to his subsequent embarrassment, but there is no evidence of this. Whatever Bourne's tactics, his success is attested by the fact that the Lusanna left Halifax, probably early in January, and arrived in London, “after a tedious passage,” sometime in March.24
Once in England, Bourne set about his assignment. The oil market was not at a desirable pitch in the spring of 1776, but, by October, Lane, Son & Fraser were able to report to Bourne that they had sold a good portion of the oil at a price near that which Doane had wanted, and that they expected little difficulty in selling the remainder.25 Bourne could not yet come home, however. He feared that an American vessel of ambiguous loyalties { 359 } in London at that period would excite a certain amount of suspicion, and he deemed it unwise to hazard apprehension by the British until conditions improved.26 Other affairs kept him busy. Although witnesses later testified that Bourne had refused to charter the Lusanna to the military transport service, Lane, Son & Fraser got her a cargo to Gibraltar, which the evidence indicates was at least in part military stores. After having been registered again, this time as belonging to Shearjashub Bourne “of London,” she sailed for the Mediterranean at the end of September 1776, returning in February or March of the following year.27
Bourne was also charged with establishing correspondence with a London merchant for a new venture in the commission sale of “Oil, Pot and Pearl ashes &c.,” in which he, Doane, and Doane's son Isaiah sought to embark. No details of his “plan” for this enterprise have been uncovered, but he was able to report that he had “settled the correspondence come out for with the best house in England for our interest . . . so that nothing prevents a prosecution but the American war.” At the same time he took advantage of his enforced stay to travel around England, meeting influential merchants and learning as much as he could about manufacturing, markets, and trade, for future commercial use.28
Another matter which concerned Bourne was Doane's claim to a part of the cargo of the brigantine Industry, which had sailed from Wellfleet on 12 September 1775 and was seized off Plymouth on the same day by a British naval vessel. Aboard her were an additional 102 casks of whale oil belonging to Doane, consigned to Bourne or to Lane, Son & Fraser in London. A claim had been entered on behalf of the Industry's owner for vessel and cargo, but on 12 October both were condemned in the Massachusetts Vice Admiralty Court for failure to give bond as required by the Restraining Act of 1775.29 The troubled conditions in Massachusetts had { 360 } prevented Doane from making an appearance in the suit. When Bourne heard of this he procured from Doane a power of attorney to act in the matter, and a certificate of the collector of customs at Plymouth that he had not had the proper forms available when the Industry had cleared.30
Extracts from Bourne's journal, and a memorial which he submitted to the Treasury in England, show that, for this purpose at least, he had assumed full loyalist coloration. He sought and obtained the favor of Thomas Hutchinson in London as he pressed his cause, and in the memorial told a sad tale of his flight from the colonies and his persecution at the hands of the villains who now were running the country. This document, prepared in January 1777, did at least reach the proper committee, but the claim was apparently rejected on the basis of an adverse opinion by Daniel Leonard, formerly of the Massachusetts bar, now solicitor to the American Customs Commissioners in London. Leonard found that Bourne could have had no interest in the voyage, that the owners had probably intended to bring back military supplies to the rebels, and that the collector had cleared her only under duress.31 An unintended result, however, was that journal and memorial were offered in evidence on the subsequent trial of the Lusanna as prize, doubtless contributing substantially to the jury's determination against Doane.32 Unfortunately for Doane and Bourne, Leonard's opinion was not available as a counterweight.
While he was pursuing the Industry claim, Bourne was apparently also seriously considering means of getting home. According to the later testimony of David Smith, a Cape Cod whaling captain who met him in London in February 1777, Bourne had at that date already developed what was essentially the scheme that he would later unsuccessfully attempt to carry out. When the last of the whale oil was sold, he planned to purchase a partial cargo for the Lusanna with £2000–3000 of Doane's funds, then take on other cargo for Halifax to avoid suspicion and clear out for that port. In Halifax he would obtain the remainder of Doane's English funds by negotiating bills of exchange on Lane, Son & Fraser, then clear the Lusanna out for the British West Indies with Doane's goods still aboard and the cash in his strongbox. En route to the latter destination it would be a simple matter to put into a port on Cape Cod or other friendly territory.33
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Whether this was the plan or not, the Lusanna began loading in June 1777 and cleared out at London for Halifax at the end of July. About 20 August, she left London, actually sailing from the Isle of Wight on 13 September.34 Her cargo included various goods to the value of about £2000, consigned by Lane, Son & Fraser to Bourne at Halifax, and provisions and liquors worth about £200 consigned by Bourne to himself or Messrs. Thomas Cochran & Co., Halifax merchants. Witnesses later said that Bourne claimed the ownership of all of these goods. The Lusanna also carried miscellaneous merchandise shipped by eight other English merchants, some of it consigned to Bourne, the rest to specific consignees in Halifax.35 Several passengers were aboard,36 as well as goods belonging to Captain James Shepherd, a Bostonian who had left London aboard the Lusanna after a fruitless attempt to appeal the seizure of his ship at Halifax a year earlier. Shepherd had been forced to remain at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, when he had been taken sick just before sailing, but his goods stayed aboard, consigned to Bourne.37
Bourne carried with him letters of introduction not only to Halifax merchants, but to Captain William Spry, “Commanding Engineer” there, which recommended him highly and spoke of his intention to remain at his destination, chartering the Lusanna as a transport until the war should end.38 He also carried two letters of credit, permitting him to draw up to £7000 against funds in the hands of Lane, Son & Fraser, in London.39 His own letter of instructions to Messrs. Cochran indicates the somewhat ambiguous nature of his intentions.
He wanted to sell the goods shipped by others for the interest of the shippers. The provisions shipped by Bourne, which he described as “belonging to myself,” w