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Pennsylvania Council



At a Council held at Philadelphia, on Thursday, 16th February, 1775: Present, the Honourable John Penn, Esquire, Governour, &c˙, William Logan, James Tilghman, Benjamin Chew, and Edward Shippen, Junior, Esquires.

The Governour acquainted the Board that ——— Waterhouse, Esquire, Inspector of his Majesty' s Customs, had represented to him, that one of the Magistrates, and the Sheriff of the County of Chester, had refused their aid and assistance to the Custom House Officers of this Port, in preventing the rescue of a seizure lately made by them in the River Delaware, of the Schooner Isabella, John Ritchey, Master, with contraband Goods, from Dunkirk, and had requested his Honour would call those Civil Officers to an account for neglect of duty, and likewise issue a Proclamation on the occasion; and as a foundation for such complaint, Mr˙ Waterhouse had put into his Honour' s hands, the copy of a Letter from Francis Welch, a Tide Surveyor for this Port to the Custom House Officers, which was laid before the Board, and follows in these words, viz:

Philadelphia, February 8, 1775.

GENTLEMEN: According to your orders, on Wednesday, the 1st instant, I proceeded down the River in the small boat, with four Boatmen, and one Tidesman; coming up with Gloucester Point, I went on board the Schooner Isabella, where I found one John Ritchey, who called himself the Mate of the vessel, with five more persons. I desired to know where he came from. He told me he came from Portsmouth, New England, and that he had nothing in but ballast. I desired that I might search his vessel. His answer was I should not, as the Captain was not on board. I then ordered the people to open the hatches and search the vessel; upon that he directly took out a pistol, and swore the first man that offered to open the hatches, he would blow him to Hell. About five o' clock the same day, one Matthew Strong, whom I found was a Pilot, desired that I would let our boat put him on shore. My answer was, that I should not let the boat go from alongside; they then hoisted out their own boat, and put him on shore, which was about three miles from Town. I then went down into the cabin with said Ritchey; he told me that the vessel and cargo belonged to Captain David Campbell; that he was sole owner, and what was on board was all he was worth in the world. I then desired him to tell me where they were from; he told me from Dunkirk, in France, and was loaded with Dry Goods. I then searched under the cabins, and found a parcel of Kegs, which he told me was Geneva, which I found afterwards was true, and likewise about thirty pounds of Tea, done up in bundles. I then asked him if there was any thing else in the cabin; he then showed me one trunk of Goods, which belonged to the Captain, and another that belonged to a passenger. I then sent Mr˙ Powel to you. About eight or nine o' clock in the evening, Captain Campbell, with the Pilot and two gentlemen from Town, came on board, and ordered the anchor up immediately, and said he was bound to St˙ Eustatia. Soon after


the gentlemen went away. About an hour after there came another boat, with three more gentlemen unknown to me, desiring that I would not pursue the vessel, for it would ruin the Captain; they then presented me twenty-five Guineas, and said they would give me more on shore. I told them that I would not accept of any money; but that I would do, my duty as an Officer as long as it was in my power. They then went away; the vessel being under sail, going down the River. About two o' clock in the morning, on the second instant, I seized the vessel in the King' s name. I then told the Pilot to take charge of her in the King' s name, and if he carried her away, he must stand by the consequences, for she was the King' s vessel. I then ordered one of our people to take the helm, and demanded of the Pilot to take her up to Town. Upon that, Captain Campbell said the King never paid for her. He then put a pistol to the Pilot' s head, and swore by the eternal God, if he did not carry her down, and not run her ashore, he would put him to death. The next tide of ebb, we got down to Chester and came to anchor. I then went to shore, and Captain Campbell with me, to get something to eat, for he had nothing on board but bread; I then inquired if there was any Justice in that place; I was informed there was; I waited on Messrs˙ Francis Richardson and Henry Graham, the only two in the place, and demanded their assistance in behalf of the King. Mr˙ Richardson was sick, and Mr˙ Graham said he had no business to go on board any vessel. I then waited on Mr˙ Vernon, a Sheriff, who told me he would go and get more help and assist me. He went away, and I never saw him any more. I went on board again without any assistance; they then weighed anchor, and went down till they came to New-Castle, and then came to anchor again, as the tide would not serve them any further, which was about seven o' clock in the evening, I went on shore with two of my people, and left two on board, and waited on Mr˙ Montgomery, the Collector, and Mr˙ Maurice, Comptroller, and acquainted them that I was Tide Surveyor of the Port of Philadelphia, and that I had seized a vessel from France, and they had taken her away from me, and was going to carry her off, and I desired them to give me some assistance; they answered they could not; for the Commissioners would not allow them any men. I told them I wanted only their presence, and I would save the vessel; the Collector said he would go if the Comptroller would. The Comptroller asked whether I wanted him to go? I told him I did. He then said he would not go. I then demanded of him in the King' s name, and as an Officer of the Customs, to assist me in holding this vessel. He went into his house and left me. Mr˙ Montgomery, the Collector, then said he could not go himself, but would get me a pair of pistols, which he did. I went on board again. As soon as they found I could not get help, they said it was all their own. They then weighed anchor, and carried us about five miles from the Cape, when Captain Ritchey ordered us into the boat, and that without delay, or he would put us to death. So we were obliged to get into the boat, and they cast us off, which was about one or two o' clock in the morning, although I begged them for God' s sake to let us stay till daylight. After about three hours rowing, we got on shore, and was taken up the next day about three o' clock in the afternoon, by Captain Allen, and brought up to Town.

I am, gentlemen, your most obedient humble servant,


Copy of Register. — "Schooner Isabella, John Ritchey, Master, thirty Tons, built at Boston, 1773, David Campbell, sole owner, dated London, October 6, 1774."

The Governour having thereupon desired the opinion and advice of the Board, the Council, on due consideration of the matter, gave it as their opinion, that the River Delaware not being included in the body of any County of this Province, the jurisdiction of the County of Chester does not extend into the River Delaware, and consequently, that the Magistrates and Sheriff of that County could not legally afford them any such assistance as was required of them, and that, therefore, it would be improper to call those Magistrates and Sheriff to account for any misbehaviour. And further, that as the vessel and her crew were gone to Sea, the issuing of any Proclamation upon this occasion would be useless and improper.