Catalogue description High Court of Appeals for Prizes: Case Books (Printed Appeal Papers)

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Details of HCA 45
Reference: HCA 45
Title: High Court of Appeals for Prizes: Case Books (Printed Appeal Papers)

This series consists of case books of the High Court of Appeals for Prizes.

These case books contain printed copies of prize appeal cases, relating to the capture of enemy and neutral ships by the British. These had been initially tried in the High Court of Admiralty or the colonial Vice-Admiralty courts. Not all appeals were printed (which was done at the cost of the parties).

Most of the printed appeals were from judgments made in the Vice-Admiralty Courts of the Caribbean and the north-west Atlantic, from Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Nevis, St Kitts, St Vincent, Tobago and Tortola in the south, and Newfoundland and Nova Scotia in the north. Other appeals came from the Mediterranean Vice-Admiralty courts (Malta, Minorca and Gibraltar), and from Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Ceylon and the Cape of Good Hope. A few appeals are for the joint capture of places during the course of the wars by HM land and sea forces (Army and Royal Navy), of of ships where multiple captors were in dispute.

The printed appeals outline the history of the capture, and the cases of appellants and respondents, with exhibits in appendices of depositions, examinations, ship's papers, bills of lading, accounts, correspondence etc given in a full transcript translated into English. The reasons for the decisions of the inferior courts are printed in full (these can be lengthy, but provide excellent evidence for the workings of the Vice-Admiralty Courts).

There was a considerable time-lag between capture, decree in the original court, and decree in appeal. Four years from capture was quite usual; some cases lasted a decade. Delays were inevitable when papers on the ownership of vessels, freight and sundry cargo were held in various parts of the world. The date given is the date the appeal was heard, not the date it was submitted, nor the date of capture.

Those from 1793 onwards have been catalogued in detail, thanks to a grant from the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation. As a result these appeals are now searchable by name of ship, master, nationality, lower court, captor, claimant, appellants, respondents, agents, as well as voyage, place, and cargo. A good number relate to ships involved in the slave trade, both before and after the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, 1807. The Prize courts were used for handling captures of slave ships, ans appeals, under this act, until well after the end of the Napoleonic wars, until the establishment of the Slave Trade Commissions from 1819.

From 1793, the outcome of the appeal is generally noted in manuscript on the case paper concerned. Although parties previously put in separate appendices of documents, by the mid 1790s these are usually presented once in a joint appendix. Again from the 1793 onwards, there were clearly more United States printed appeals than from any other nation, with the northern European neutral nations next, including Denmark, Sweden, and Germany - that is, Prussia, Hamburg, Bremen, Danzig, Lubeck etc.

Date: 1750-1818


Related material:

Photostatic copies of some volumes relating to Prize Appeals for c1745 to 1752 in the New York Public Library are in PRO 31/17/36

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

High Court of Appeals for Prizes, 1533-1833

Physical description: 71 volume(s)

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