wages, five involving wrecked and salvaged ships, charges of a pilot, and vessel appraisements. The most turbulent years
of the North Carolina vice-admiralty court were those from the time of Edmond Porter’s commission as judge in 1728
until his discharge from office in 1732. Of early provincial recovery cases, five of these cases were between the governor
and John Lovick of Bath. The other recovery cases dealt with whale oil. (Admiralty court summary Ubbelohde 1954)
In addition to the Navigation Acts Carolina merchants and shippers were subject to both British and North Carolina trade
laws and regulation. The British trade laws were more strictly enforced than the colonial regulations since British naval
officers and district custom collectors were appointed from London to each port of entry. After 1723 five a perpetual
board of local Port Bath commissioners was additionally appointed. See below table for division of duties related to port
officials enforcing Colonial and British trade laws.
Colonial Trade Law British Trade Law
Duties & fees collected for Pilots to
Records of Imports & Exports
for channel marking, dredging, buoys Lists of all Ships clearing & entering
Inspection of Export articles Examine Certificates of Bond
Duties levied on rum, wine, rice Examine vessel registry papers
MERCHANTS CONDUCTING TRADE IN THE MAJOR PORTS
Two large New England and two large mid Atlantic ports developed into major centers of colonial commerce: Boston,
New York, Philadelphia and Charleston. Port of Bath vessels cleared customs coming and going from all four. Boston
was the farthest northern port and closest to England. New York and Philadelphia were grain markets. New York quickly
became a slave market as well as Charlestown, closest to the British West Indies. These ports were hubs through which
passed everything: passengers, mail, and cargo. Commodities and naval stores went out and manufactured goods and
furniture from England came in.
Merchants, vessel owners and plantation owners would advertise, posting announcements at the courthouse or
marketplace, on the docks or wharves, in the weekly and bi-weekly newspapers and gazettes of the time. Bath residents
eagerly awaited copies of Williamsburg and other colony gazettes and mail brought in by inter-colonial vessels and their
captains. Gazette announcements included customs clearances, incoming vessels, available passage bookings on
outgoing vessels, goods for sale, selling land, houses, finding crew, stolen horses or runaway slaves and servants. Abroad
family and investors would seek news of Carolina vessels in coffeehouses, wharves, and in the London Gazette’s
announcements of ship landings and departures from the key ports of the day. In the first half of the eighteenth century,
the Lloyd’s list announcing port exit/entries had not yet come into being.
British trade law also dictated a percentage of duties collected should be donated by the customs collectors in support of
Greenwich Seamen’s Hospital outside London. The following amounts for donations by Port Bath are recorded for the
period 1735-1751 in Pounds, Shillings (s) and Pence (d)
1735 1 13s 10d 1736 2 3s 6d 1737 6 1s 8d 1739 1 11s 11d 1740 1 0s 6d
1742 3 1s 6d 1743 5 9s 4d 1745 15 15s 5d 1746 4 4s 0d 1747 4 4s 0d 1751 11 0s 6d
Weights and measures of merchant goods were monitored by each precincts parish vestry in accordance with General
Assembly legislation to prevent fraud in bills of lading and sale to consumers. For example in 1703 vestry from St. Paul’s
of Chowan met in a parish members home Mrs. Sarah Gilliam to agree to order a set of brass scales and weights and other
items from a Boston merchant, cost 17 pound sterling including 1 shilling vessel porterage.
See image of St. Paul’s Chowan receipt below, Capt. Thomas Blount was present.
The vestry of St. Thomas Parish in Bath Towne was ordered to do the same in a legislative act of 1715.