Bermuda Prize

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On January 7, 1806, HMS Driver chased and apprehended the ship John Jay in the mid-Atlantic on her western return passage from the East Indies. The British naval officer seized the ship John Jay, and escorted her to Bermuda, where the ship and her valuable cargo were condemned as a prize at the Bermuda Court of Vice Admiralty. The Providence mercantile firm of Brown and Ives, through their legal counsel, appealed the case to the High Court of Admiralty in London. In late 1807, the High Court of Admiralty overturned the Bermuda Vice-Admiralty decision.

DeCesare’s ongoing research project, “Bermuda Prize” is a part of a larger micro-history of the ship John Jay’s 6th voyage (1804-1806). This component examines the Bermuda framework. Set against the backdrop of global imperial conflicts, the John Jay affair was costly on many levels, and ensnared Brown and Ives in a legally contentious triangle between United States, British, and Bermudian jurisdictions. Although issues of trade, neutral rights, prize cases, appeals, impressment, and questions of citizenship were murky and contentious, a core Anglo-American legal tradition and framework remained intact. Brown and Ives maneuvered within a British Imperial judicial system. This project illuminates this shared Anglo-American legal framework within the context of global imperial conflict.

Generous support from the URI Center for the Humanities enabled a summer research trip to the Bermuda Archives to examine documents pertaining to prizes captured by the British Royal Navy during the early 19th century. DeCesare’s talk will share her research results and a project progress report.