James Madison Papers

Board of Admiralty to Messrs. Hewes, Smith, and Allen, 7 April 1780

Board of Admiralty to Messrs.
Hewes, Smith, and Allen

FC (NA: PCC, Marine Committee Letter Book, fols. 275–76).

April 7th. 1780


We received by the last Post your letters of the 1st. January and the 6th of March last,2 giving us an Account that on the 25th of December some villans with false keys had entered the ware House where the public Canvass was stored and carried away the whole except three Bolts—that they likewise3 carried away a large Quantity of Salt from you; that you had found out some of the Offenders had hanged two and were in pursuit of a third. The hanging all that were concerned in perpetrating this Villany would indeed be a poor compensation to you or to us for any losses we have sustained. Perhaps by writing to Virginia to some proper persons you may discover with whom the goods were lodged there for Sale, and may be able to recover a part & perhaps the whole value of them. Doubtless there was a gang concerned in this business and part of it reside in Virginia.

As you are interested in this matter we trust that you will take the best measures for the detection of these Robbers and the recovery of the Goods or the value of them.

Considering the circumstances of this Roberry we cannot forbear taxing you with neglect, but we have still a greater reason to blame you when we consider that if you had complied with requisition made for the Canvass in pursuance of the Commercial Committees Order by William Bennett of Edenton, who writes to Francis Lewis Esquire then of the Commercial Committee, now of this Board in his Letter dated Edenton Decemr. 1779, “I applied to Messrs. Hewes Smith & Allen for the 37 pieces sail Duck, but they could give me no account of them till they had overhawled their Books” the Duck would have been safe.4 That overhawling of Books could be necessary in Order to the delivery of the 37 Pieces of Duck we cannot conceive when by a return of the Continental Stores that have been received by Hewes, Smith & Allen, made by Hewes Smith & Allen dated Edenton Augt. 28th. 1778 and rendered in October 1779 it appears that they were in your possession. If the Duck had been delivered to Order which you ought to have complied with, it would not have been lost.

If you thought it was not our property when demanded you will not, we hope, think it our loss now it is stolen. We should be glad upon an explanation of this dark business to have reason to continue that confidence we once placed in your constant Attention to Public Charges.

We desire you will transmit to us by the first safe opportunity the balance of your Accounts with the Marine & Commercial Committees being

£2493.13.4 } £6447.1.9 No. Carrolina Currency

agreeably to accounts furnished & settled by your Mr.[?] Hewes

I am Gentlemen Your Hble servant    By Order

J. Brown Secy

1Joseph Hewes (1730–1779), of Edenton, N.C., merchant-shipowner and signer of the Declaration of Independence, had been prominent in naval affairs when in Congress (1774–1777, 1779). He had left instructions in his will that the firms of Hewes and Smith and of Hewes, Smith, and Allen were to be dissolved upon his death. Robert Smith wrote George Washington on 3 March 1780 that Hewes, Smith, and Allen had been dissolved, but Hewes’s name was still used by the other firm as late as 1785 (Edward W. Sikes and Samuel A. Ashe, eds., Biographical History of North Carolina [8 vols.; Greensboro, N.C., 1905–7], III, 172–80; Walter Clark, ed., The State Records of North Carolina, 1777–1790 [16 vols.; Winston and Goldsboro, 1895–1905], XXII, 632; North Carolina Historical Review, XII [1935], 153). One of his partners, Robert Smith (d. 1787), was a brother of James Smith of Kirkcudbright, Scotland, a friend of John Paul Jones (Samuel Eliot Morison, John Paul Jones: A Sailor’s Biography [Boston, 1959], p. 27). The third partner, Nathaniel Allen (d. 1805), a nephew of Hewes and executor of his estate, was a member of the North Carolina Convention of 1788 which rejected the United States Constitution (North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, I [1900], 517 n.). The partners had served as continental agents.

2Not found.

3Word is “likewisewise” in document.

4At this time William Bennett (d. 1801) was the commissioner to buy provisions for troops in the Edenton district; earlier he had been an army contractor (State Records of North Carolina, XIV, 12–13; XV, 200; XVI, 1019). Francis Lewis (1713–1803) had emigrated from Wales in 1735 to establish mercantile houses in New York and Philadelphia. He had served as a New York delegate to the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. As a member of the Continental Congress, 1774–1779, he signed the Declaration of Independence. In 1779 he became a commissioner of the Board of Admiralty. The letter from Bennett has not been found.

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