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I was looking at Naval Records of the American Revolution: 1775–1788 (1906), which contains a listing of the bonds of the letters of marque.

For example, the bond for Ajax, a brigantine from Pennsylvania, with 8 guns and a crew of 23 was $20,000. The bond for Alexander, a ship from Massachusetts, with 20 guns and a crew of 150 was also $20,000. The Addition, a schooner from Pennsylvania, with 10 guns and a crew of 30, had a bond for only $5000.

Does anyone know why the variation? Was there a formula used to calculate the amount of the bond? Did the colony/state of origin matter? Did the reputation of the owners of the vessels also come into play?

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Sat Jun 28, 2008 5:12 pm
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The British system of sureties for Letters of Marque required three thousand pounds for ships whose crew exceeded 150 and one thousand five hundred pounds for ships with smaller crews.

The US$ was not adopted as the currency for the USA until 1792. Which particular dollar is being referred to in the various State bond requirements?


Sat Jun 28, 2008 11:23 pm
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IONIA wrote:
The US$ was not adopted as the currency for the USA until 1792. Which particular dollar is being referred to in the various State bond requirements?

The book doesn't specify which one. The source is listed as "Papers of the Continental Congress" from the Library of Congress, so I'm assuming that the amount in dollars is original. I had a look about on the web. Maybe Continental Dollars? Or Spanish?

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Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:15 am
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The currency of account during the American War seems to have been based on the Spanish dollar - although the currency in circulation seems to have been a mixture of English pounds, Spanish dollars and Continental Currency. All very confusing.

It had occurred to me that the various States might have been basing their privateering bonds on different currencies (which might contribute to the variances) but that looks improbable.

The exchange rate (for the currency of account) seems to have been somewhere between 4 and 5 to the pound. Whilst two of these privateer bonds seem reasonably priced (vide the British surety rates) that for the AJAX is way out of line which, considering that she hailed from the same State as the ADDITION, is odd.


Mon Jun 30, 2008 3:37 am
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I took a closer look at the listing and found that before 1780, the common figures seem to be $5000 and $10,000. After 1780, $20,000 seems to be the norm. The amount doesn't seem to be related to size, which seems unfair.

For example, the Suffolk (1782) was a boat out of New York with only one gun and a crew of nine. The bond was still $20,000.

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Tue Jul 01, 2008 5:26 am
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