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 Lawsuits Against Officers and Seamen 
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Post Lawsuits Against Officers and Seamen
I have recently found a couple of interesting examples of officers being sued in civilian courts over matters related to the navy. So I thought I'd start this thread dealing with lawsuits.

We know Nelson had trouble with the merchants he dealt with while he was a captain in the West Indies. Any other examples you can come up with?

Here's one bit I found in The Annual Register (Volume 84, 1842). It's from the obituary of William Shield.

"Mr. Shield was First Lieut. of the Saturn 74, in 1792, when an action was brought against him for having violently raised (by means of a rope) a refractory young midshipman to the masthead, whither the youngster had refused to mount upon orders. Lord Chief Justice Loughborough instructed the jury that the custom of the service justified the first order, and rendered it legal; therefore the disobeying such order justified the measures taken to enforce it. The jury returned a verdict for the defendent..."

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Sun Mar 05, 2006 6:42 pm
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Post Ned Myers being sued
In "Ned Myers" by (as told to) James Fenimore Cooper, Ned relates two incidents of being sued by another sailor.

About 1826, Ned shipped aboard the American merchant ship " Rebecca Simms" as her second mate on a voyage from Philadelphia to St. Jago de Cuba. During the trip, "… on one occasion, in bad weather, he [the cook] neglected to give me anything warm for breakfast. I took an opportunity to give him a taste of the end of the main-clew-garnet, as an admonisher; and there the matter ended, so long as I remained in the ship…. He bore the matter in mind, and set a whole pack of quakers on me, as soon as we got in [to Philadelphia]. The suit was tried and it cost me sixty dollars, in damages, besides legal costs."

A few years later, aboard the merchantman "Amelia" as an ordinary seaman, "an Irish boatman called me a ‘Yankee son of a _______," and I lent him a clip. The fellow sued me, and contriving to catch me before I left the vessel, I was sent to jail, for the first and only time in my life." Later, Ned's captain & landlord bailed him out. Ned eventually settled with the Irishman, costing Ned all his wages from that voyage.

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Fri Feb 15, 2008 5:04 pm
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From the Naval Chronicle (Volume 30):

"A VERDICT, damages 1,000l. was lately given upon the execution of a writ of inquiry, before the Sheriffs of London, and a Jury of Merchants, against Kenneth Mackenzie, Esq. captain of his Majesty's frigate Venus, for impressing fourteen men from the Hawke letter of marque privateer, John Phillips, commander, who were regularly protected by an Admiralty protection.... The conduct of Captain Mackenzie in impressing the men was very properly discountenanced by the Lords of the Admiralty, who ordered such of the impressed men as had not afterwards volunteered to be discharged, and left the captain to defend himself at his own expense."

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susan


Thu Apr 03, 2008 11:20 am
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From the Hampshire Telegraph (2 Jul 1804):

"On Wednesday, in the Court of King's Bench, One Smith, a black, servant of Capt. Mandeville, obtained a verdict of 20l. against Capt. Mc. Namara, of the navy, for an assault in Berkley-street."

I wonder if this was the same M[a]cnamara of duel over dogs fame?

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Tue May 20, 2008 6:59 am
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From The Times of September 28, 1812:

" ..... on Wednesday last, two Sheriff's Officers, belonging to Deptford, father and son, of the name of Copeland, went on board a ship at Woolwich, to execute a writ on the Purser for 400l(£). The succeeded, and had got him in custody in a boat, when part of the crew followed in the ship's boat with fixed bayonets, and rescued the prisoner from the officers, after wounding them, and stripping them almost naked. The case is laid before the Board of Admiralty ..."




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Wed May 21, 2008 10:47 am
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Mil Goose wrote:
The case is laid before the Board of Admiralty ...

I wonder if the purser was eventually taken into custody?

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Wed May 21, 2008 6:34 pm
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From the Portsmouth Telegraph (19 Dec 1803):

"In the Court of Common Pleas, on Monday, a crim. con. cause was tried, wherein Colonel Shee was plaintiff, and Capt. [Pulteney] Malcolm, late commander of the Victorious of 74 guns, was defendant. The criminal intercourse took place on board the defendant's ship, in which the Colonel and Mrs. Shee were passengers from India. The judge was of opinion, that the plaintiff had not used due diligence to prevent her, strong as her tendency to vice appeared to be, from throwing herself into the arms of the defendant. The jury, after a short consultation, found a verdict for the plaintiff—Damages 40s."

On edit: It was certainly an eventful voyage. :D From Malcolm's bio in Marshall:

"On her passage to Europe in 1803, the Victorious was found to be in so bad a state, that on encountering a gale of wind in the Bay of Biscay, it was with the utmost difficulty she could be kept afloat till she reached the Tagus, where she was run on shore and broke up. Captain Malcolm, with his officers and crew, returned to England in two vessels hired at Lisbon for their conveyance."

And here is the man himself: Sir Pulteney Malcolm

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Mon May 26, 2008 9:46 am
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susan wrote:
From the Portsmouth Telegraph (19 Dec 1803):

"In the Court of Common Pleas, on Monday, a crim. con. cause was tried, wherein Colonel Shee was plaintiff, and Capt. [Pulteney] Malcolm, late commander of the Victorious of 74 guns, was defendant. The criminal intercourse took place on board the defendant's ship, in which the Colonel and Mrs. Shee were passengers from India. The judge was of opinion, that the plaintiff had not used due diligence to prevent her, strong as her tendency to vice appeared to be, from throwing herself into the arms of the defendant. The jury, after a short consultation, found a verdict for the plaintiff—Damages 40s."

On edit: It was certainly an eventful voyage. :D From Malcolm's bio in Marshall:

"On her passage to Europe in 1803, the Victorious was found to be in so bad a state, that on encountering a gale of wind in the Bay of Biscay, it was with the utmost difficulty she could be kept afloat till she reached the Tagus, where she was run on shore and broke up. Captain Malcolm, with his officers and crew, returned to England in two vessels hired at Lisbon for their conveyance."

And here is the man himself: Sir Pulteney Malcolm





Thanks, Susan; very amusing....I don't suppose that the aforementioned captain had "a tendency to vice" at all! :D He looks a "likely lad" even in his maturer years. It would be fun to know more about him, and Mrs Shee, and, also what her husband was like.

Thanks for sharing....fun.


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Tue May 27, 2008 10:57 am
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From Frederick Hickey's bio in Marshall:

"In 1815, when returning from Canada, through the United States, Captain Hickey was arrested at the suit of a Yankee skipper, whose schooner had been accidentally run down by the Atalante, so far back as the year 1810. The sum thus unexpectedly demanded of him was no less than 40,000 dollars, for which he was obliged to find bail before he could leave the country."

The trial was eventually held in New York in 1820. Hickey was sentenced to pay $38,000, but the plaintiff agreed to accept $20,000. Hickey was lucky as the Admiralty recommended that the Lords of the Treasury reimburse him out of the droits of Admiralty.

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After the abolition of the slave trade in England, the Preventive Squadron of the Royal Navy was established to intercept slave ships. In the years until slavery was finally abolished, 165,000 captured people were rescued from slavery at a cost of 17,000 British seamen's lives, the majority dying of disease off the notorious 'White man's grave' of West Africa.

The slave traders used all sorts of ruses to evade capture, even, horrifically, throwing the slaves overboard on occasions. The rules of engagement were strict and traders used every legal device to obtain recompense from captains whose response to the traders was deemed excessive. Poor Captain Wills of HMS Cherub was sued and was ruined when he was forced to pay £21,180 in compensation.

See 'Sweet Water and Bitter' Sian Rees's study of the Preventive Squadron (Chatto, 2008, £20)


Wed Jul 29, 2009 3:41 pm
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Post Re: Lawsuits Against Officers and Seamen
Related to my post about compensation for unjust sentences, there is the following:

"Upon application made by Lieutenant Frye, Sir John Willes, Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, issued his writ of capias against Rear-Admiral Mayne and Captain Rentone, two of the members who had sat at the above court-martial. On the 15th of May, 1746, while Admiral Mayne presided, and Captain Rentone sat as a member of a court-martial, at Deptford, for the trial of Vice-Admiral Lestock, they were both arrested, at the breaking up of the Court, in consequence of the above writ. The arresting of the president highly offended all the members of the Court..."

From: A Treatise on the Law and Practice of Naval Courts-Martial (1851) by William Hickman.

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Fri Aug 06, 2010 7:20 am
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Post Re: Lawsuits Against Officers and Seamen
The sequel being that the members of the Court Martial addressed a remonstrance to the Admiralty which was laid before the King. The Court of Common Pleas was not amused and ordered that all of the members of the Court Martial be taken into custody. The matter was defused in the end by the members of the Court Martial making an abject apology to the Lord Chief Justice.


Fri Aug 06, 2010 10:18 pm
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Post Re: Lawsuits Against Officers and Seamen
Thanks for the follow-up details, Peter. It's quite amusing to picture all the officers having a hissy-fit.

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Sat Aug 07, 2010 7:17 am
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