ferries being operated. If an 18th century businessman died it was acceptable for his widow to operate river ferries, inns
and taverns.
A new farmer or plantation owner with water access might start out with just one small boat or raft then upgrade over time
to a sailing pirogue, sloop or schooner. Raw goods and commodity products from smaller coastal ports like Bath were
delivered by agent or small merchants to larger ports like Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Charleston. Larger
merchants or agents then exported consolidated cargo to the West Indies where they were traded for molasses, sugar, gold
coins, and bills of exchange (credit slips). New England factories turned raw sugar into granulated sugar and molasses
distilled into rum. The gold and credit slips were sent to England where they were exchanged for manufactures, which
were shipped back to the colonies and sold along with the sugar and rum to consumers. British, French, and Dutch
merchants or companies with investors had larger sailing vessels making three-stop voyages (triangular trade) sailing from
West Europe to Africa to West Indies and back again or from New England to West Indies to Africa and back again, or
various combinations.
(Ed. Information below about admiralty and vice-admiralty courts in early Carolina retrieved, Ubbelohde 1954 article,
see references.)
The most important civil court held in Bath was conducted by the justices of the peace of Hyde and Beaufort precincts,
known as the precinct or county court and more formally as the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions. They met four times
a year at Bath. Another important maritime law court, the Court of Vice-Admiralty was held at Bath and other towns, as
occasion required: it was presided over by a Judge or Deputy-Judge of Vice-Admiralty who heard cases involving the
ocean and coastal commerce and other maritime problems like piracy.
British Navigation and Trade Acts (based on mercantilism and bullionism theory) dictated raw goods only exported to the
mother country. Colonial government was expected to enforce both the royal (imperial) and Lord Proprietors
(proprietory) mercantile law. Finished goods imported to the colonies, and export goods tax duties were to be paid in
silver and gold to the mother country where possible. Colonies had to pay taxes on certain “enumerated” inter-colonial
imports as well, but no export or re-export taxes were required on certain listed items in trade between North and South
The colony framework for governing provincial early Carolina on behalf of the Lords Proprietors was hierarchical and
similar to other proprietory colonies. North Carolina was not a royal colony until 1730 but it still had the similar
governor or deputy-governor for the Lords, the Council, the General Assembly and the Common Law courts. The vice-
admiralty court was not as visible, only sixty cases are known from the 1729-1750 period. Some called it a royal court,
but it was very much local administering North Carolina port town law “maritime and civil.” Vice-admiralty cases
concerned all maritime commerce of the province including violations of the British Navigation Acts. Unusual admiralty
cases (like piracy) were tried in the Virginia and South Carolina admiralty courts. (Vice admiralty court summary
Ubbelohde 1954)
As early as 1704 a Bath County sloop, The Pamlico Adventure, was seized at Pamlico for “breaking bulk before entry”, in
other words smuggling to avoid paying taxes on cargo. A petition from the master of the sloop Levi Truewhitt who
happened to be a Bath town official was forwarded to Robert Daniel, Carolina’s governor of the province, who happened
conveniently to have a plantation outside Bath. The sloop master asked that a court of admiralty be called to try his case.
Admiralty court cases were either imperial or domestic and some imperial cases would be referred to higher Admiralty
Court in England. Queen Anne or King George I received one third interest of condemnations of ships and goods, and
one tenth from whale oil and bone seized cargo: fishing grounds known as “fisheries” were considered royally owned. In
other words customs collectors were to collect to one tenth for the crown from any salted fish or whale related products
loaded or unloaded in port. The domestic cases fell into four groups: Navigations Act violations, prize causes (captured
ship liquidation proceeds), recovery of past condemnation moneys, and ordinary mercantile cases such as seamen’s
Previous Page Next Page