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CS228Court of Session: Unextracted processes, 1st arrangement, Adams-Dalrymple office1664-1868
Country code GB
Repository code 234
Repository National Records of Scotland
Reference CS228/A/3/19
Title Provost William Alexander, merchant v James Colhoun and Company, merchants, Glasgow (late owners of the ship 'Neptune' of Glasgow): Payment & Damages. Case produced before the Court of Admiralty.
Dates 1762
Access status Open
Location Off site
Description The inventory of papers (dated 1762) produced by William Alexander in the process against James Colhoun & Company appears to be the only court papers surviving relating to this case with this date. The other papers in the process are from a much earlier date and appear to relate to an earlier case brought, perhaps between the same two parties. The actual incident which started the case did occur in the early 1730's and it is unclear what happened with the case in the intervening period. The inventory list of 1762 does not fully relate to the numbered papers in the process and many are not present Most papers do have their own numbering sequence yet there is no other further inventory to detail them. The inventory does have annotations upon it up until 1869 as the papers were continually being borrowed by clerks. It is unknown what was the final outcome of the case.

The owners of the 'Neptune' of Glasgow were James Colhoun & Company. The main merchants involved were William Gordon & Company, merchants, Glasgow and John Wilson, merchant in Glasgow. The Commanders of the 'Neptune' were James Maxwell who died in May 1730, after this Thomas Smith and then James Lyon. They mainly dealt with merchants in Barbados trading under the name Stirling & Thomas.

From the Commission of 1729: the ship was to leave from Leith for Rotterdam with a cargo of tobacco owned by the owners of the 'Neptune' and delivered to the order of John Wilson: it was then to load goods to be bought by John Wilson fit for purchasing slaves upon the Coast of Guinea: then to Dover to pick up goods sent from London by John Wilson: then to Cork in Ireland to pick up provisions for the voyage: then directly to the Coast of Guinea to sell the cargo and purchase slaves, gold dust and elephant teeth: then to any of the Leeward Islands belonging to Britain or Barbados or Jamaica to dispose of the slaves: then finally to purchase sugars and cotton and bring them back to Scotland.

The 'Neptune' visited various parts of Africa (Cape Appollonia, Axem, Bonanoe, Manna, Supies, Cape Coast, Anambo, Cape Loho, Sarreleon and Guinea). The ship docked in Barbados but there are also some papers for the ship docking in Rotterdam. The ship also traded in New England (see a ledger extracted into series CS96/3814) but mainly operated between Africa and Barbados transporting slaves, elephant teeth and gold dust. There is much information on what was being traded on the ships that operated in these areas, who they were selling to and for what return. There is also information in the papers on the sailors on the 'Neptune' and their wages.

There is much also much information to be gleaned about the slave trade. Accounts and letters detail how many slaves are being bought and sold, to whom and for how much. There is detailed information on the buyers and sellers of the slaves and on the current state of the trade. There is much written about the health of the slaves on the ship as the traders protect their interests.

The legal proceedings started when Captain James Maxwell died off the Coast of Guinea in May 1731. The men who took the ship over were accused in one letter of practising piracy. The main problem though centred on the private adventure of Captain Maxwell and what claims were made on this adventure once he had died. The family of Captain Maxwell, the owners of the Neptune and various traders all layed claim to the adventure and there was much disagreement as to the ownership of the ship's cargo in the months after the Captain's death. These claims were still being made many years later.

Highlighted papers:

(4) A copy of the Commission to James Maxwell for the 'Neptune' - August 1729

(28) Letter from John Stirling (Barbados) to William Gordon & Company, merchants, Glasgow. He writes about the aftermath of the death of Captain Maxwell. He has been enquiring about the 'Neptune' and its whereabouts. He says that the current Commander Thomas Smith is a villian and suggest that he may be pirating. - January 1731

(32) Letter from Bleney Harper (in Barbados) to William Gordon & Company, merchant, Glasgow. Harper is visting the ship 'Neptune' on the request of John Sterling. He writes about the unfit state of the slaves on board the ship 'Neptune' and how it would be difficult to receive any money for these slaves. He suggests that the slaves be sold here in Barbadoes because if they travel any further, more will die. - May 1731

(33) Letter from Thomas & Stirling, merchants, Barbados to William Gordon & Company, merchants, Glasgow. He writes about number of slaves arriving in Barbadoes, amount of gold dust and elephants teeth. He writes of the illness amongst the slaves and how it is proving difficult to sell them in Barbadoes. - May 1731

(40) Letter from Thomas & Stirling, merchants, Barbados to William Gordon & Company, merchants, Glasgow. Contains sundry amounts on board the 'Neptune'. Letter gives opinions of the current state of the slave trade and details what kind of slave sells best and from what location He goes on to say that traders are selling slaves to the French for their colonies. - July 1731

(41) Accounts of Stirling & Thomas, merchants, Barbados - July 1731. Includes lists of whom slaves were sold to and for how much.

(43) An account from Doctor Andrew McDowall (in Barbados) on the purchasing of slaves including the seller, numbers of slaves involved, purchasing cost, the number of slaves dying and of what illness. - August 1731

(50) Certificate of declaration by Andrew Ramsay & other merchants in Glasgow. Concerns the agreement made in 1729 by Glasgow merchants with the owners of the 'Neptune' and its Captain James Maxwell. The death of the Captain caused the problem because there was left a private stock and claim was made to this by the family of Captain Maxwell, the owners of the 'Neptune' and the merchants. As a result a legal case was started. The merchants end the declaration still wanting compensation for the loss of their goods - June 1739

(54) Mr Alexander's memorial and answers by the late owners of the 'Neptune'. Gives a full description of the grievances of the pursuer William Alexander (nd)
Level File
Arrangement As the 1762 inventory does not relate directly to the papers and there appears to be another uncomplete numbering sequence present, the processes have been arranged in date order, with the inventory placed at the beginning. The papers have been numbered sequentially (54 items) with a few notable ones highlighted.
Related record CS96/3814

National Records of Scotland, H.M. General Register House, 2 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3YY; email: [email protected]