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Hancock, John (1737-1793) Instructions to the commanders of private ships or vessels of war, which shall have commissions or letters of marque and reprisal, authorizing them to make captures of British vessels and cargoes.

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00038.01 Author/Creator: Hancock, John (1737-1793) Place Written: s.l. Type: Document signed Date: 3 April 1776 Pagination: 1 p. ; 34.2 x 22 cm.

Summary of Content: Printed as a broadside. Signed by Hancock as President of the Second Continental Congress. Contains eleven articles created by Congress authorizing private American ships to capture British vessels. Instructs American captains to bring captured goods, ships, and persons to court in the colonies following capture. Forbids torture of captured persons, demanding civilized conduct. Requires captains to transmit a written account of capture to Congress. Demands that one third, "at the least, of your whole Company shall be Land-Men." Forbids the ransom of prisoners.

Background Information: Hancock served as President of the Congress 24 May 1775- October 1777.

Full Transcript: IN CONGRESS,
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 3, 1776.

INSTRUCTIONS to the COMMANDERS of Private Ships or Vessels of War, which shall have Commissions or Letters of Marque and Reprisal, authorizing them to make Captures ...of British Vessels and Cargoes.
I.
YOU may, by Force of Arms, attack, subdue, and take all Ships and other Vessels belonging to the Inhabitants of Great-Britain, on the High Seas, or between high-water and low-water Marks, except Ships and Vessels bringing Persons who intend to settle and reside in the United Colonies, or bring Arms, Ammunition or Warlike Stores to the said Colonies, for the Use of such Inhabitants thereof permitting a peaceable Search, and giving satisfactory Information of the Contents of the Ladings, and Destinations of the Voyages.
II.
You may, by Force of Arms, attack, subdue, and take all Ships and other Vessels whatsoever carrying Soldiers, Arms, Gun-powder, Ammunition, Provisions, or any other contraband Goods, to any of the British Armies of Ships of War employed against these Colonies.
III.
You shall bring such Ships and Vessels as you shall take, with their Guns, Rigging, Tackle, Apparel, Furniture and Ladings, to some convenient Port or Ports of the United Colonies, that Proceedings may thereupon be had in due Form before the Courts which are or shall be there appointed to hear and determine Causes civil and maritime.
IV.
You or one of your Chief Officers shall bring or send the Master and Pilot and one or more principal Person or Persons of the Company of every Ship or Vessel by you taken, as soon after the Capture as may be, to the Judge or Judges of such Court as aforesaid, to be examined upon Oath, and make Answer to the Interrogatories which may be propounded touching the Interest or Property of the Ship or Vessel and her Lading; and at the same Time you shall deliver or cause to be delivered to the Judge or Judges, all Passes, Sea-Briefs, Charter-Parties, Bills of Lading, Cockets, Letters, and other Documents and Writings found on Board, proving the said Papers by the Affidavit of yourself, or of some other Person present at the Capture, to be produced as they were received, without Fraud, Addition, Subduction, or Embezzlement.
V.
You shall keep and preserver every Ship or Vessel and Cargo by you taken, until they shall by Sentence of a Court proper ly authorised be adjudged lawful Prize, not selling, spoiling, wasting, or diminishing the same or breaking the Bulk therof, nor suffering any such Thing to be done.
VI.
If you, or any of your Officers or Crew shall, in cold Blood, kill or maim, or by Torture or otherwise, cruelly, inhumanely, and contrary to common Usage and the Practice of civilized Nations in War, treat any Person or Persons surprised in the Ship or Vessel you shall take, the Offender shall be severely punished.
VII.
You shall, by all convenient Opportunities, send to Congress written Accounts of the Captures you shall make, with the Number and Names of the Captives, Copies of you Journal from Time to Time, and Intelligence of what may occur or be discovered concerning the Designs of the Enemy, and the Destinations, Motions and Operations of their Fleets and Armies.
VIII.
One Third, at the least, of your whole Company shall be Land-Men.
IX.
You shall not ransome any Prisoners or Captives, but shall dispose of them in such Manner as the Congress, or if that be not fitting in the Colony whither they shall be brought, as the General Assembly, Convention, or Council or Committee of Safety of such Colony shall direct.
X.
You shall observe all such further Instructions as Congress shall hereafter give in the Premises, when you shall have Notice thereof.
XI.
If you shall do any Thing contrary to these Instructions, or to others hereafter to be given, or willingly suffer such Thing to be done, you shall not only forfeit your Commission, and be liable to an Action for Breach of the Condition of your Bond, but be responsible to the Party grieved for Damages sustained by such Mal-versation.

By Order of Congress

John Hancock PRESIDENT.
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People: Hancock, John, 1737-1797

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: PrivateeringGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyContinental CongressPrisoner of War

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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