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Title: The British admiralty court cause book for 1794-1795 : insights into naval and maritime activities during the French revolutionary wars
Authors: Cauchi, Richard
Keywords: Great Britain. Royal Navy -- History -- 18th century
Prize courts -- Great Britain
Admiralty -- Great Britain -- History
Prizes (Property captured at sea)
Issue Date: 2019
Citation: Cauchi, R. (2019). The British admiralty court cause book for 1794-1795 : insights into naval and maritime activities during the French revolutionary wars (Bachelor’s dissertation).
Abstract: This thesis is going to be based on a volume from the British Admiralty Court referred to as a Cause Book for 1794-5. This consists of court cases of ships captured by the British Royal Navy. Capturing ships had to be monitored in some way in order to maintain it within lawful terms and as such this is what is being done throughout the whole volume. The story behind the Admiralty Cause Book for 1794-5 is a mysterious one. Even though it is housed at the Notarial Archives in Valletta, no one knows how it ended up there. Since it focuses on the year 1794-5, that led to the decision to focus on the period of the French Revolutionary Wars. The first chapter opens by giving a brief description, mostly from a British point of view, of what was happening internationally. There was a lot going on especially where the maritime sector was concerned because of the ongoing Franco-British confrontation. Many events had occurred since the onset of the French Revolution of 1789 up till the end of the First Coalition in 1797. The opening chapter will mention the most significant events, like the siege of Toulon in the Mediterranean and the campaigns across the Atlantic Ocean. On this journey we will also be meeting some of history’s most remarkable names such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Horatio Nelson; still quite young at this stage but both seeking to make a name for themselves. This chapter then continues with a brief analysis of the historiography concerned for this particular area in Britain’s naval history. This will outline some of the pioneering works on this subject, as well as more recent contributions. In order to be able to understand how the British Royal Navy functioned, there will be a description of the naval hierarchy starting from the Admiralty Board and going down the naval body reaching the common seaman. The second chapter illustrates how one would end up in one of these prize court cases. It begins with a historical explanation of how prize was used as a military inducement in order to attract men to the Navy. It continues by outlining the three means of obtaining prize money: the basic one, that is capturing ships and then if lawfully condemned its cargo would be sold and the money distributed amongst the captors; Prize Bounty, that is, money paid depending on how many men on the enemy vessel were captured; and finally Freight Money, that is, profit made from the distribution of either public or private merchandise. A brief explanation about privateering and what it entailed is also provided. It sometimes happened that the enemy vessel captured by the British would have on-board cargo of a neutral nation. Here the chapter discusses Prize Law and the issue of neutrality, in particular through the case-study involving a Swedish vessel called the Courier. This chapter also looks at the middlemen involved in representing the party in court, the so-called prize agents. The Admiralty Cause Book sometimes tells some remarkable stories whilst conducting the adjudication of the court cases. One which stood out was of a British vessel called the Mary. The Mary was captured on the 6 September 1794 by the French and the master and the whole crew were killed except a seaman called Jeremiah Manson and a boy called John Colay. The French put aboard four men and they conducted the ship to Dunkirk where she was brought to an anchor about eleven days afterwards. After the said ship had been at anchor for about four or five hours, the said Jeremiah Manson managed to come in possession of a cutlass, a pair of pistols and a hammer whilst the Frenchmen were asleep. He killed the man who was watching him, but the blow and the man’s cries made a lot of noise and alarmed two of the other men. Single-handedly Jeremiah managed to also kill these other two French sailors. Pointing the pistol at the fourth man he offered to spare his life upon condition of him submitting to be secured by him and the boy who by this time was roused from his sleep. This last Frenchmen later offered resistance and Jeremiah, with the assistance of the boy, tied his hands and secured him. The Mary was then brought to Margate along with its cargo to be reviewed by the Admiralty prize court for adjudication. The third and final chapter shifts the focus from the British Royal Navy to take a more global approach focusing for the most part on the economies of Europe and the Americas. It opens up with an analysis of the emergence of newly introduced commodities in Europe brought across from the Atlantic, in particular coffee and sugar. The details contained within the cases listed in the Cause Book were all noted down and put into charts to try and spot patterns that might be useful in conducting this study. The details collected from American vessels along with their cargos were matched with studies about coffee and sugar so that the link could be displayed. From there, the focus shifts towards the Baltic and the North Sea in order to conduct a study on important exports leaving Scandinavia. American vessels reported in the Danish Sound Toll Registers are considered at the heart of this analysis; their cargo was added together and the outcome showed that commodities such as iron and hemp were particularly common. In addition, the mentioned port destinations of the captured ships given in the Cause Book were added together and those with any relation to Scandinavia were put into a chart. From secondary sources a table of the busiest ports in the said area was created and thus compared to the chart from the Cause Book, displaying some interesting links. In the same chapter there is information about departures and destinations, in particular about Bordeaux and Lisbon. Another compelling piece of information taken from the court cases includes the ports at which the captured ships were taken. These varied from local British ones to others under British control or else of allies. Similarly, all of them were put together in a chart to see which occurred the most.
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2019
Dissertations - FacArtHis - 2019

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