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Lot Number: 168
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May 2, 1780 Very Rare Continental Congress

Broadsheet Instructions To Privateer Ships

Published by David Claypoole, Philadelphia

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May 2, 1780-Dated Revolutionary War Period, Original Printing of the Continental Congress Instructions for American Ships Commissioned as Privateers, Signed on page 2: “Extract from the Minutes, Charles Thomson, Secretary.”, (Published by David Claypoole, Philadelphia, 1780) in Broadsheet Format, Choice Very Fine.

May 2, 1780-Dated Revolutionary War Period Printed Document, “Instructions to the Captains and Commanders of Private Armed Vessels, Which shall have Commissions or Letters of Marque and Reprisal.” This list of instructions is in very nice condition, complete, with 1 vertical and 3 horizontal folds, and some light soiling in the left and right margins. There is 1 pinhole in the center, but no other holes or tears have been noted. Printed on both sides of a 12.5” x 8” sheet, 12 Roman numeral Instructions are presented, and this Broadsheet document is signed in huge print by “CHARLES THOMSON, Secretary.” The first item reads, in part:

“You may by force of arms, attack, subdue, and take all ships and other vessels belonging to the Crown of Great Britain, or any of the subjects thereof, on the high seas ... except the ships or vessels together with their cargoes, belonging to any inhabitant or inhabitants of Bermuda ... And you may also annoy the enemy by all means in your power, by land as well as by water ...”

Further instructions provide that captured ships and their cargoes should be brought to some American port to be sold (or put to use in the American navy) and divided, and that a written report of the capture and contents of the ships be sent to the Board of Admiralty. The officers or masters of captures ships should be sent to appointed judges to be interrogated. Murder and torture of captured crews and passengers is explicitly prohibited, as is holding them for ransom.

Item 8 is somewhat puzzling: “One third at least, of your whole company, shall be land men.” A very rare important historical document for American Naval History and Revolutionary War History. See: Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, Volume 18: “May 2, Instructions for Privateers. #330. In Congress.” A copy is in the Papers of the Continental Congress, No. 37, folio 511.

*Note: A Later produced re-issued copy of this Original (published at Philadelphia : David Claypoole, 1780). An Imprint from Livingston. Probably printed about the end of April, 1781. Cf. Livingston, L.S., that was printed by Benjamin Franklin: “Franklin and his Press at Passy,” France. See: page 84-86. That later Franklin copy is known with a footnote printed in italic at bottom of page 1, reading: “*This exception is taken away by an ordinance of Congress, of March the 27th, 1781, which see.” Evans 17021

Provenance: Collection of Ambassador J. William Middendorf II.
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Lot Number: 168
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