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Browsing: Legal Papers of John Adams, Volume 2


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.

Docno: ADMS-05-02-02-0006-0008-0001

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.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/