Legal Papers of John Adams, volume 2

Editorial Note

Adams' Argument and Report

Adams’ Notes of Authorities<a xmlns="" href="#LJA02d072n1" class="note" id="LJA02d072n1a">1</a>: Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, May 1769 JA


Adams’ Notes of Authorities: Special Court of Admiralty, Boston, May 1769 Adams, John
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-283vancement 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


Temporary 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


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.


“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.”


John Calvin, Magnum Lexicon Juridicum, 1:406–409 (Geneva, 1734), discusses guilt.


Act of 16 March 1695, 1 A&R 193.


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.”


“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.


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.


18 Geo. 2, c. 30 (1745) extends the Act of 11 & 12 Will. 3, c. 7 (1700) to British subjects committing nautical treason.


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.”


Rex v. Bonnet et al., 6 State Trials 156 (S.C. Vice Adm., 1718).


Possibly 21 Viner, Abridgment 386: “"The Jury is not to inquire of that which is agreed by the Parties.”