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Lot 223: Important Revolutionary War Archive Regarding the English Navy's PRIZE Policies!
29 October 2016
Rancho Santa Fe, CA, USALive Auction
American Revolutionary War Archive of Ten Letters by future New York Loyalist Governor Andrew Elliot to His Majesty's Lords Commissioners Surrounding The English Naval Prize and Various British Treasury Policies
1778 to1780-Dated American Revolutionary War, Important Historical Content Ten (10) Letter Archive, by (future 1783) New York Loyalist Governor Andrew Elliot, to "Provincial" New York Colonial Governor (1779 to 1783) James Robertson, regarding British Navy Captured Ships "Prize Policy" and other important proceedings, all Ten Letters Choice Extremely Fine.
This original, historically important Archive contains Ten bound Letters being retained contemporary, period, True Copies from (future) Provincial New York Loyalist Governor Andrew Elliot while serving as British Loyalist Collector of Customs for New York. Elliot penned the first Letter, dated September 12, 1778, to the "Lords Commissioners of His Majesty's Treasury." The reverse side of the final page has a written Docket reading, in full: "Letters and Papers referred to in a Letter from Mr. Elliot to His Excellency Governor Robertson." This original Revolutionary War written Archive is kept intact, being the official retained copies presented to the then Acting Provincial New York Colonial Governor, James Robertson.
These Letters pertain to the Prohibitory Act, as well as various other rules surrounding the taking of "Prize Ships" and paying of official Duties on those Prize Ships which were captured or "taken" during the American Revolutionary War. This Archive of his Letters are string bound and impressively organized as being an official retained file. It reads, in part:
"The Prohibitory Act passed the 16th of His present Majesty's Reign entirely suspending the powers of the Revenue Officers, in America and no subsequent act, having restored them, as Collector of New New [sic] York, I have therefore carefully avoided acting in any one instance since the passing the above Act; but prompted by a wish to serve the Revenue as sell as from a Sentiment of Duty; I beg leave to lay before your Lordships a state of what relates to the Duties on Prize goods brought in and condemned at this Port... I never was called upon as Collector by either Agents or any other persons till September 1777, when the Court of Admiralty opened... the Judge of the Admiralty has in every case ordered the Agents to retain the Duties in their hands... Should your Lordships chuse [sic] me to receive from the Agents of Prizes, the amount of Duties in their hands, which must now be considerable, it will be necessary that I have Powers sent out for that express Purpose, with directions to the Judge of the Admiralty to make returns of all the Agents names, as also lists of Cargoes condemned, and to give orders to the Agents to make out their accounts on Oath to be delivered to me."
It was typical European practice was to sell the contents from Captured Enemy Vessels and then split up the resulting "Prize Money" with Captains and Crews, thereby supplementing meager British naval salaries. The fourth Letter is dated November 13, 1779 and it reads, in part:
"... as to the lists of Cargoes it was not in the Power of the Admiralty to give them, as most of the papers were generally for private vessels but two, have agreed to pay duties, as they say they retained none in their Hands, and could not repeal the Intercourse act and till that is repealed, the Acts of Parliament relative to Trade set aside the Navigation Act (the Basis of all Acts of Trade relative to the Colonies)... by these licenses before the War, French and Spanish wines &c&c&c were landed here directly... The Officers of the Navy will loudly complain of paying Duties that they alone are saddled with. The Adventurers in private Ships attempting to make them pay Duties on what they got by risking their lives and fortunes in distressing his Majesty's Enemies, when they see the cautious, cold, sure trader landing free... as the Duties on the American Trade seems a point on which Government will regulated by future Events, and whatever way the present Rebellion may End, the real object of Duties will be real object of Duties will be the means of regulating the Power of Great Britain to disappoint [sic] the Attempt - The accidental events in Europe threw such Wealth into America, in a few years, that the Americans themselves were deceived, and imputed to Situation, what what [sic] was brought by Chance; but the vast Sum in Specie that this Rebellion has drawn from the Great Britain has given real Wealth to America."
In the sixth Letter is dated July 3, 1780. Here, Andrew Elliot reminds his superiors that, in part:
"the Intercourse Act being still in Force, the Acts of Trade and the Powers of the Revenue Officers are of Course still dormant here...". In the seventh letter, also dated July 3, 1780, Elliot explained that he had, in part: "... Hints that I think may be usefull [sic] before a general Settlement with America takes place...".
In the eighth Letter which is dated July 3, 1780, Elliot writes to Sir Grey Cooper (1726-1801) an English politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1765 and 1790 and was Secretary to the Treasury under various administrations, in part:
"... hints that may be necessary before a general Settlement with America can take place, as every controverted Point almost, in the commercial Line is immediately renewed the Moment any Place is declared at His Majesty's Peace, as the Laws of Trade and Revenue officers then immediately take place and resume their former Powers... Since these Proclamations have expired under Sir Henry Clinton, I have conducted the matters of Trade, in such a way as has prevented any bad Consequences happening..."
The tenth and final Letter in this remarkable Archive is a of an order by the "Viscount Howe" as Vice Admiral of the British Navy, allowing Robert Stewart, Master of the Ship Molly, to proceed on a cruise with supplies for the Royal Navy...". The reverse side of the final page has a central docket which reads, in full: "Letters and Papers referred to in a Letter from Mr. Elliot to His Excellency Governor Robertson."
These impressive, well crafted Letters provide a historic and fascinating insight to English Naval policies, as written during the heat of the American Revolutionary War. This Ten Letter Archive is bound with period paper to form a spine at left. All of these Letters are in excellent, well preserved condition. They are well written, extremely legible, and absolutely worthy of attention towards further research scholarship. Personal inspection prior to auction is recommended to attain a full appreciation of its importance. This is a museum quality archive deserves serious consideration. Each Letter is likely worth several thousand dollars on an individual basis for their historic content. This Archive is kept intact, being the official retained copies presented to the then Acting New York Colonial Governor, James Robertson.
Andrew Elliot (1728-1797) took over from James Robertson as the 41st acting Colonial Governor of the Province of New York in 1783.
He was born November, 1728 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the son of Gilbert Elliot. He arrived in Pennsylvania in 1746 as an apprentice and established himself as a trader. In 1762, he was elected a member of the board of trustees of the College of Philadelphia. In 1763, he was appointed collector of the port of New York and receiver general of New York. In 1764 he was appointed to the Province of New York executive council.
During the American Revolution he remained a Loyalist. A few days after the declaration of independence he left New York City for Perth Amboy for his safety. He returned to New York City after the British reoccupation. On May 1, 1777 he was appointed the head of the military court of police and on July 17 the superintendent of all imports and exports. In 1780 he was appointed lieutenant governor of the Province of New York. In 1783 he was part of the delegation that met with George Washington. He was the acting governor from April, 1783 to November. Elliot left for Scotland in December, 1783.
When he returned to Scotland he held no public office. He died at home on May 25, 1797 at Mount Teviot, Jedburgh.
General James Robertson (1710-1788) was the 40th Civil Governor of the Province of New York from 1779 to 1783.
He was born in Fife, Scotland about 1710. He came to the American colonies in 1756 as a Major of the royal American troops. He became a lieutenant colonel on July 8, 1758. He was for many years barrack master in New York. He was promoted colonel and was the commander of the 60th Regiment of Foot on January, 1776. He commanded a brigade at the Battle of Long Island. He was commissioned a Major General in August, 1777. He was appointed civil governor of New York in 1779 and arrived in New York City in March, 1780. He was replaced as commandant of New York City was Major General James Pattison. He was made a lieutenant general November, 1782 and returned to England in April, 1783. He was replaced as governor by Andrew Elliot in 1783.
He died in England, March 4, 1788.