Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Pirate Trials and Wasting Precious Paper!

Fallout with Iron Gall ink use.
Iron gall ink is the typical ink used on older documents, especially official documents. The long-term mal-effects have only been noticed decades or centuries later, such as the acidic properties that eat holes in the paper where the ink was applied - as you can see in the document to the left. As a paper conservation specialist, I can tell you that there is a relatively easy solution to neutralizing this acid and preventing "fallout" or "lacing."

Most useful, however, is its waterproof qualities. If you got a deed to some property, you might walk the property with deed in hand to see where your boundaries were. You may also drop your deed into a creek, or leave it on a stump under a rock when a rainstorm came along. Either way, and without modern waterproof amenities, you could lose the legal document giving you rights to that land. Thus, iron gall ink was used to prevent the loss. 

Iron-gall ink was used routinely, especially in court documents and other important papers, like Admiralty Court records. 

I have made iron gall ink before. It's not hard, really. You need a source of iron, like rusty nails - in my case, I used an iron vitamin supplement - can't beat the modern age! Put said iron into a bottle with a little water and tannic acid, easily obtained by crushing one of those round oak galls you find on tree branches. The round, odd-looking galls are created by wasps interacting with the tree and they're loaded with concentrated tannic acid (see? wasps do have a purpose!). Of course, you could also buy some tannic acid in powder form from a chemical supply house. It's a mild acid, like vinegar - not controlled - so you won't need a license and you could even get it on you with no ill effects.

Still, in the 18th century, tannic acid was easy to produce. The hard part was the paper...

Once made, you have to have something to write on with your iron gall ink. You could write on animal skin or parchment, but for the daily routine, mundane, boring, work of the colonial scribe who went through a lot of paper, he used cloth-made paper. Yeah, I said "cloth." You thought I was going to say "wood pulp," didn't you?

As Roseanna M. White tells in her description of paper-making, "Paper, in Colonial days, was like most things: precious, and coming as a result of much toil." If you've ever been to Colonial Williamsburg, you probably saw a demonstration about paper-making, with giant vats of bleach water and cloth pulp, wood and metal screens that you run through the water to collect the pulp, drying and pressing, etc. - a lot of messy, messy work!

You wouldn't want to waste this paper - would you? 

 So... 

What's up with the clerk or clerks of South Carolina's Vice-Admiralty Court!? I say "clerk or clerks" because the style varies a bit. Charles Hart was the clerk of the general court and Marshall Thomas Conyers may have helped out as clerk for the Vice-Admiralty Court. It would make sense - especially because of his age.

Conyers was one of those gentlemen who participated in the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth in 1685 against then king, James II. At the time, Conyers was 47 years old, born in Barton St. Mary, York, England to Johannes Conyers. For his impertinence, the anti-Stuart rebel Conyers was cast out of England, 3,000 miles away to America, ironically filling with Jacobite, or Stuart-loving rebels - like many pirates. 

By the time of Richard Worley's pirate sloop's condemnation trial 17-30 Dec 1718, he was 80 years old! And, this particular clerk, who may have been Conyers, wrote "mencõn" for "mention" or "intentõn" for "intention" and such older 17th-century Latin styles in the trial records. Conyers may not have written these, but an older gentlemen most likely did. 

Moreover, these clerks wasted paper! Most scribes, clerks, and other officials wrote long, drawn-out passages in their deeds and official records that we call "legal-eeze," but this particular older clerk excelled at it! This must have been the most boring guy in America! Maybe it isn't Conyers - I just can't see him picking up a pistol and pike to fight in a rebellion! 

Check out this passage:

Example of Conyer's style. Note the "bleed-through" of the iron-gall ink that can make transcriptions pure hell!
Mr. Hume then moved that Doctor Hutchinson might enter into the Usual Recognizances which was don.

Mr. Allein then moved Interogatories on the part of the Captors Arthur Loan &t and the Depositions of Nathaniel Oade and Thomas Willard might be read & filed which was Ordered Accordingly

Mr. Allein then moved that the Judge would pronounce the Decree which Decree is as followeth.

Then the Court Adjourned till further Sumons

In the name of God Amen Whereas at a Court of Vice Admiralty holden before me Nicholas Trott Esqr. Judge of the Said Court the Seventeenth day of December In the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighteen at Charles Town in the Province of South Carolina Arthur Lone Comander of the Ship Mediterranian Galley &c; John Mason Quarter Master and Agent for the Said Ship's Company John Watkinson Comander of the Ship King William & Lyonelle Wood Quarter Master and Agent for Same Ship's Company, John Masters Comander of the Sloop Revenge and John Smith Quarter Master and Agent for the Said Sloop's Company and ffayrer Hall Comander of the Sloop Sea Nymph and John Howard Quarter Master &c
[Masters and Hall, with Col. William Rhett, also captured Stede Bonnet a few months earlier]; Agent for the Said Sloop Sea Nymph's Company in behalfe of themselves and all other the Offics. and Marriners of the Same Ships and Sloops Exhibited

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their Libell by Richard Allein their Lawfull Procurator against a certain Pyrate Sloop Named the New Yorks Revenge of the burthen of ffifty Tonns or thereabouts now lying in the Harbour before Charles Town whereof Richard Worley a Pyrate was late Comander and against certain Negro and Indian Slaves Goods and Merchandizes found on board the Said Sloop the New Yorks Revenge the Particulars whereof are menconed in a Schedule to the Said Libell and this Decree Annexed and by their Said Libell did Sett forth and alledge that they the Said Arthur Lone John Watkinson, John Masters and ffayrer Hall about the Eleventh day of November last were comissioned by the Honble Robert Johnson Esqr. Governour of the Province aforesaid to take certain Pyrates which lay off the Barr of Charles Town aforesaid and obstructed all vessels going out and coming in to the said Harbour and that about the Thirteenth day of November aforesaid they proceeded over the Bar of Charles Town aforesaid and came up with the said Sloop the New Yorkes Revenge about halfe a league xxxxxxxxxxx paper missing xxxxxxxxxxxxx then comanded by the Said Worley with about fforty Men and Six Gunns mounted who attacked the said Captors under a black fflagg and that She had at the Same time in her Company a Pyrate Ship Named the New Yorkes Revenges Revenge which the said Worley had taken some short time before and Manned with a great Number of men and Six Gunns mounted and that after a ffight and Chase of ffour Hours the Said Pyrate Sloop the New York Revenge Struck and was taken and brought as Prize into this Province by the Captors aforesaid and Prayed that the Said Pyrate Sloop the New Yorks Revenge and the Negro and Indian Slaves and Goods and Merchandizes menconed in the Said Schedule to the Said

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Libell and to this Decree Annext might be Adjudged and Condemned as Lawfull Prize to the Captors aforesaid in the Said Court of Vice Admiralty relacon thereunto being had more fully and at large Appear All which Matters Allegacons and things in the Said Libell contained were duely proved in the Said Court to be true by the Oaths and Deposicons of Persons of Good credit to certain Interrue?? Exibited in the Said Court in the Cause aforesaid as in and by the Said Interryes and Deposicons Otherwise remaining filed and of record in the Said Court of Vice Admiralty relacon thereunto being had Doth and may more fully and at large Appear And whereas there hath duely issued out of the Said Court of Vice Admiralty ffour Severall Monicon to Notify all Persons haveing any Claime Right Title Interest or Property in the Said Sloop the New Yorks Revenge to the Negro and Indian Slaves Goods and Merchandizes menconed in a Schedule to the Said Menicons and this Decree Annext to be Appear at the Said Court of Vice Admiralty at the Severall days hours & Places wherein is menconed and all Since past and to Shew Cause if any they could wherefore the Said Sloop the New Yorkes Revenge and the said Negros and Indian Slaves and Goods and Merchandize menconed in the Said Schedule Should not be Adjudged and Condemned as lawfull Prize to the Captors aforesaid on which ffour Severall Monicons. Thomas Conyers Marshall of the Said Court of Vice Admiralty make his Severall Returns that he had duely Affixed the Same at the Publick Watchhouse in Charles Town A?in and by the Severall Monicons and Returns remaining filed and on Record in the said Court of Vice Admiralty doth Appear and all and Singular the Said Persons So generally cited & monited did not or do take are to Appear to make any Claime to the Said Sloop the New Yorkes Revenge or to the Negro and Indian Slaves or Goods & Merchandizes menconed in the Said Schedule to the Said Libell monicons of this Decree Annext (other thant as hereinafter is menconed but contumaciously have & do Absent themselves thereby incurring four defaults as in & by the Said Severall Monicons and Schedules duely returned into

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The said Court doth likewise Appear And Whereas afterwards to witt the Thirtyeth day of December aforesaid John Hutchinson Gentl. in behalfe of Richard harrison of Potuxant in Maryland Merchant put in his claims to two Negroes menconed in the Said Schedule to the Said Libell Annext Named Peter and Hary and thereby Alledged that the said Two Negroes Peter and Harry (whereas informed) being on board a Shallop bound for Philadelphia were both taken by the Said Richard Worley the Pyrate then Comander of the Said Sloop New Yorks Revenge about the month of September past and Continued on board the Said Pyrate Sloop untill they were taken out of the possession of the Said Pyrate by the Said Pyrates and brought into the Harbour of Charles Town at Such time and in Such Manner as by the Said Libellants in their Said Libell as Sett forth and Prayed that the Said Negroes Peter and Harry might be released from the Seizure aforesaid and Delivered to him the Said John Hutchinson for the Use of the Said Richard Harrison upon his paying Such reasonable Salvages and Cost and Charges to the Captors aforesaid as to the Court Should Seem fitt and likewise prayed the Court to allow a reasonable time to prove the property of the Said Richard Harrison of in to the Negroes Peter and Harry abovesaid in case the Court Should doubt thereof as in and by the Said Claime remaining filed and of Record in the Said Court relacon thereunto being had may more fully and at large Appear...
I know. I could hardly read it all myself. And, this goes on and on and on.... by the time you're finished skimming/reading it, you will certainly know that Richard Worley was a pirate and his ship was named New York's Revenge and the name of his consort, that he had captured, manned, and gunned, was named New York's Revenge's Revenge.  Real inventive, huh?  

Every single morning of the trial that went on for weeks began with this same nearly exact phrase:
In the name of God Amen Whereas at a Court of Vice Admiralty holden before me Nicholas Trott Esqr. Judge of the Said Court the Seventeenth day of December In the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Eighteen at Charles Town in the Province of South Carolina Arthur Lone Comander of the Ship Mediterranian Galley & John Mason Quarter Master and Agent for the Said Ship's Company John Watkinson Comander of the Ship King William & Lyonelle Wood Quarter Master and Agent for Same Ship's Company, John Masters Comander of the Sloop Revenge and John Smith Quarter Master and Agent for the Said Sloop's Company and ffayrer Hall Comander of the Sloop Sea Nymph and John Howard Quarter Master & Agent for the Said Sloop Sea Nymph's Company in behalfe of themselves and all other the Offics. and Marriners of the Same Ships and Sloops Exhibited...
And, then would follow the same "legal-eeze" as every day as before. It's 29 pages with the same paragraphs that only contain a few sentences of unique material. This was one trial for two slaves, Peter and Harry, taken from New York's Revenge! A key point is that the colony wanted money for salvage and court costs. Go figure!

There are a few trials commencing at the same time, depending on who is claiming what and whether those claimants, their documents, and witnesses have arrived or representatives appointed. And, there's goods from two vessels to consider! Can you tell that these guys didn't have television or the internet... or, most definitely, a mimeograph or xerox machine? And, what about the king getting his copy across the pond? Well, you'd have to write the same 29-odd pages all aver again for each trial!

If I hear the phrase "... a Schedule to the Said Libell and this Decree Annexed and by their Said Libell did Sett forth..." one more time, I think I will sleep for a week! I best go back to working on paper conservation - even the wasps in my oak trees weren't nearly as annoying! 

Imagine the ink and paper wasted when only a few lines would have sufficed? Thank you to my computer with cut and paste, my scanner-printer, and especially thank you, email!



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