Scope and arrangement
The New York Court of Vice Admiralty records, dating from 1753 to 1770, comprise one volume recording decisions chiefly on prize cases, with memoranda on commissions for privateers, at the Court of Vice Admiralty for the Province of New York. The bulk of the cases date from the Seven Years' War (1756-1763). Cases were heard before Judges Lewis Morris, Jr. (tenure 1738-1762) and Judge Richard Morris (tenure 1762-1775), in New York City or places convenient for Lewis Morris at the end of his life. Records for the years 1755, 1765-1766, and 1768-1769 are not present; those entered 1753-1754 concern a prize case from 1745.
Proceedings are chiefly prize cases, adjudicating the condemnation and public sale of captured ships and cargo brought in by privateers and, to a lesser extent, the Royal Navy, during the Seven Years' War. Captured ships are mostly French, taken at points ranging from the coast of Newfoundland to the West Indies. A few cases concern the seizure of ships and smuggled goods by customs officers, and claims for wages by seamen. Reports on prize cases include the "lybell" (libel) or pleading of the captor for lawful seizure, recounting the capture and location at sea; any further proceedings; and the Court's decision. In some cases the ship's company or crew included slaves, considered as captured property. The volume concludes with the case against William Dean of Windsor, Cumberland County (Vermont) for the unlicensed cutting of white pines, 1770, brought by John Wentworth, Surveyor General of His Majesty's Woods in America, followed by a suit for items salvaged from a wrecked ship at Rockaway, and an incomplete entry. The records also include memoranda recording the stipulated payment of parties seeking commissions to act as privateers, mostly New York City merchants. Memoranda identify the names of the partners, the ship, and its captain, and the date the commission and instructions were issued by the Court. Commissions and instructions are given in full for the ships Hardy (1756 August), Anne (1756 December), and Prince of Brunswick (1762 April), cited by subsequent entries.