Scots and Scotland invested heavily in the West Indies and the enslaved labors who worked plantations on Jamaica, Barbados, and other Caribbean islands. Lowland merchants and Highland landowners alike derived wealth and power from the West India trade, tying distant places like Glasgow, the northwestern Highlands, the Gold Coast of Africa, and Kingston together. As in the Chesapeake, temporary Scots migrants to the Caribbean found work as plantation overseers, in company stores, or managed their own estates. Cargo ships transported enslaved people through the Middle Passage and among the Caribbean islands in exchange for sugar and other commodities. Profits generated by West Indian slavery allowed some Scots to build fine homes and purchase enormous swaths of land in Scotland.
The cases offered here illuminate Scots' and Scotland's extensive ties to the West Indies. No matter whether litigants had a direct or tangential connection to the region, their experiences testify to the reciprocal relationship between Scotland and Britain's most important American colonies.
|Competition Among the Creditors of Macfarlane||Dec 1766||Debt, Arrestment, Shipping||This case was a dispute among the creditors of David Macfarlane, a merchant of St. Christophers (St. Kitts). In 1764, Macfarlane sent a shipment of sugar from St. Croix to Port Glasgow, consigning it to James King. Macfarlane instructed King to sell the sugar and apply the proceeds to pay certain of Macfarlane’s creditors, who were set forth in a list. When the sugar arrived in Scotland, however, some of Macfarlane’s creditors sought an arrestment. This led to a competition among Macfarlane’s creditors. In the course of the proceeding, the Lord Ordinary ruled that the consigned sugar could not be arrested, and a group of joint petitioners sought review. In August 1766, the Court of Session ruled against them. In November 1766, Messrs. Greenshiels and Wardrope petitioned the court again, this time on their own, arguing that they should be treated differently from other creditors because they did not receive notice of the shipment. In December 1766 the Court adhered to its earlier interlocutor.|
|John Steven and Company v. John Douglas||20 Dec 1774||Insurance, Deviation||Defender John Douglas provided an insurance policy to pursuer John Steven and Company for a shipment of goods on the Belfast Trader. The planned shipment route was from Belfast to Greenock or Port Glasgow. Before the ship set sail, however, merchants in Stranraer requested that the ship transport some goods from Belfast to Stranraer. The owner of the Belfast Trader agreed to transport these goods. In the course of trying to reach Stranraer, the ship encountered a storm and sank off the coast of Girvan in Ayrshire. Douglas refused to reimburse Steven and Company. Douglas claimed that the voyage taken by the Belfast Trader was different than the voyage provided for in the insurance policy. Steven and Company sought reimbursement, arguing that the voyage to Stranraer on the way to Greenock or Port Glasgow was not a significant deviation from the original route.|
|Scrimgeour and Son v. Alexander and Sons||15 Jun 1769||Contract, Affreightment, Ships||In March 1765, Edinburgh merchants Alexander & Sons contracted with the Borrowstounness merchant house of James Scrimgeour & Son to freight the ship the Duke of Athol for a voyage to Grenada—after considering a trip to Maryland or Virginia—with a cargo of herring, staves, and green linens. Due to a variety of accidents, the ship did not make it to Grenada until after the end of sugar season. Having no sugar to collect and bring back to Scotland, the agent at Grenada for Alexander & Sons convinced the ship’s captain to sail for (North) Carolina. Within days of the ship’s arrival in Wilmington, protests broke out over the Stamp Act, delaying the ship’s loading and departure for months. When the Duke of Athol finally returned to Leith, Alexander & Sons brought a legal dispute against James Scrimgeour & Son over the respective financial obligations of the parties due to the ship's delay.|
|Andrew Ross and Others v. John Glasford and Company||22 Feb 1771||Charter Party, Sailor's Compensation, Ships||In the summer 1759, Charger Andrew Ross and others were sailors aboard the Ingram, a ship owned by suspender John Glassford. The planned route was Clyde to Newfoundland, then to Spain, Portugal, or any port in the Mediterranean, and then back to Clyde. During its voyage from Lisbon, Portugal to Clyde, the ship was captured by a French privateer (the Belleisle privateer), commanded by Thurot. The sailors on the Ingram, including Ross, were dropped off in Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. When the sailors finally returned to Glasgow, they applied for the wages due to them at their arrival in Lisbon. These wages would cover the voyage from Clyde to Newfoundland, and then to Lisbon. Glassford refused to pay the sailors' wages. Glassford maintained that sailors were not entitled to their wages when the ship is taken or wrecked in its homeward voyage. Ross et al. disagreed, and argued that it was a custom among merchants in many places to compensate sailors, even in a situation where the ship is taken.|
|Robert McNair v. James Coulter||13 Feb 1772||Policy coverage, Insurance Claim||Charger Robert McNair and his son James were merchants involved in West Indies sugar trade. James traveled from Scotland to Barbados and Virginia on business. Robert McNair obtained an insurance policy from suspenders James Coulter and John Cross for cargo aboard the ship Jean, which was to carry James McNair and the goods from Barbados to Virginia. The cargo contained corn, pork, livestock, and other goods. The ship was lost near Bermuda on July 2, 1750, but James McNair and the crew survived. Coulter and Cross, suspenders, alleged that McNair overstated the value of the cargo on board. They also alleged that James McNair purposely wrecked the ship to fraudulently obtain the insurance proceeds.|
|Jacobina Macfarlane v. Alexander, Richard and Janet Spence||1770||Contract of marriage, Succession||Archibald Marcfarlane married Elizabeth Spence as a result of a contract entered into between both spouses and Elizabeth's father William Spence. Archibald Macfarlane became bound to provide for his wife and future children. Archibald Marcfarlane made a further settlement of his estate, with a disposition in favor of his wife and children, and failing of them, to the petitioner Jacobina Macfarlane, his only sister. When Archibald Macfarlane died, Elizabeth Spence, his widow, took the whole of her husband's writs into her possession. When Elizabeth Spence died, Jacobina Macfarlane, pursuer, claimed that by Spence's death the right of succession devolved upon her. However, Elizabeth's brothers and sister, Alexander, Richard and Janet Spence, seized the writs and confirmed themselves executors. Thus, the pursuer claimed her right to be the heir of her brother and alleged that defenders have no foundation to alter the effects of her brother's disposition.|
|Earl of Dalhousie v. Wilson||1 Dec 1802||Property rights, Lease, Assignment, Possession||Charles Wilson was a farm tenant in Millholm, which was originally leased to his father, William Wilson. The landlord of the property was the pursuer, Earl Dalhousie. The lease was then assigned to John Wilson, son of Charles Wilson, who did not reside in the farm, but hired a servant or a manger, James Keddie, to cultivate the land. John Wilson moved to Jamaica. The Pursuer brought an action to remove John Wilson and James Keddie from the possession of the farm, alleging that it has been subleased without his written consent as the proprietor. The Court concluded that John Wilson must be held as having abandoned his lease, and as the farm remained without a tenant, the landlord was entitled to enter to the possession.|
|Walpoles v. John Walker||10 Mar 1778||Reduction of a Trust Deed, Fraud, Commission of Bankruptcy In England||This case concerns a trust disposition granted by William Alexander to John Walker in September 1775, shortly before an English commission of bankruptcy was awarded against the former. The largest English creditors of William Alexander held mortgages on two Grenada estates jointly owned by him and his brother. They brought an action to have the above-mentioned trust-deed reduced. In January of 1778 Lord Monboddo assoilzied (absolved) the defender. The pursuers petitioned the Court to alter this decision. They argued that the trust was voided by a petition for a sequestration brought before Lord Gardenstone by William Alexander in April 1777. In addition, the pursuers argued that the trust-deed failed under the statutes 1621 (relating to conjunct and confident persons) and 1696 (regarding diligence), "or, at least, that they ought, without hesitation, to be reduced, on the head of fraud, at common law." Regarding this charge of fraud, the pursuers claimed that they had an indisputable claim to the proceeds of the Grenada plantations, but that the Alexander brothers, aided by the defender, went through elaborate lengths to conceal these profits from their creditors. They further accused William Alexander of sending his trunk of papers to Edinburgh, so as to prevent the pursuers from discovering this fraud. The Court altered Lord Monboddo's interlocutor, sustaining the reasons of reduction. William Alexander then petitioned the Court to alter this interlocutor, which it refused. Similarly, the defender petitioned the Court to either allow the trust to subsist in the person of another trustee, or to declare as bona fide his prior actions as trustee.
The circumstances surrounding this case are covered extensively in Jacob M. Price, France and the Chesapeake. In particular, see volume 2, pages 691-700.
|Earl of Selkirk v. Robert Nasmith||17 Jan 1778||Estate Settlement, Bargain||In 1756, upon the judicial sale of the late James Naesmith's property, the Earl of Selkirk agreed not to bid against Naesmith's son, Robert, for the estate of Glenley. This was in exchange for future right of first offer. In 1762, Robert Naesmith expressed his intention to sell Glenley. For the next ten years Selkirk periodically lent Naesmith money that was understood to be deducted from the final price of Glenley. In 1772, shortly after Naesmith and Selkirk agreed upon two arbiters to decide on a price for Glenley, Naesmith died with his affairs in disorder. Robert Naesmith's son, Robert, brought his father's lands to a judicial sale, but a few days before it was to take place, Selkirk petitioned the Court to have Glenley struck from it. He argued that he and Robert Naesmith's had completed a bargain. Robert Naesmith, James Naesmith (brother to the late Naesmith), and other creditors of the late Robert Naesmith, then petitioned the Court to refuse this request. After the Court ruled in favor of Selkirk, James Naesmith petitioned the Court to strike an Edinburgh dwelling-house, of which he claimed to be the rightful owner, from the sale. The Court ruled in his favor. Other creditors of Naesmith and Selkirk then asked the Court to adjudicate on various issues related to the final price of Glenley.|
|James Edmonstone v. William Jackson||1 Feb 1780||Abandonment, Ships||In April 1776, John Walker & Company freighted the Duntreath with a load of coal, deliverable to Alexander-John Alexander of Grenada. Upon the Duntreath's arrival in Grenada, Bartlet, Campbell, & Company freighted it for a journey to Florida. In August 1776, after stopping on the St. Johns River, the Duntreath's captain James Edmonstone was captured by rebels and carried to Savannah. Now under the command of James Crichton, on its journey back to Grenada, the Duntreath was captured by the privateer ship Tyrannicide, but then recaptured and brought to New York for repairs. In January 1778, the Duntreath set out for Grenada again, but was captured by another rebel ship, the Three Sisters, before being recaptured and brought to Grenada. When no appearance was made to reclaim the Duntreath, Grenada's Vice-Admiralty Court had it auctioned. The owners of the Duntreath then made a claim to its insurance underwriters for a total loss, however the underwriters argued that because the auction money was deposited with Grenada's Vice-Admiralty Court, it was merely a partial loss. After the High Court of Admiralty found their case ineffectual, the ship's owners appealed to the Court of Session. Lord Gardenstone reported their bill, but the Court ruled it outside of their jurisdiction. Their bill was later remitted to Lord Braxfield, however, who reported it again; the Court then determined that the pursuers could only claim a partial loss.|
|Marshall, Hamilton, and Company v. John Crawford and John Barns||15 Nov 1786||This case was about the interpretation of two insurance policies taken out by Messrs Marshall, Hamilton, and Company on the ship Ceres. One of those policies covered the Ceres and its freight until the ship reached its “port or ports of discharge in the West Indies”; the other policy covered the Ceres and a subset of its freight, a load of fish, until the ship reached “a market in the West Indies.” In Spring of 1784, the Ceres sailed from Greenock, Scotland, carrying beef, coal, and dry goods. The ship went first to St. John’s, Newfoundland, where it picked up the load of fish, and subsequently to the Caribbean, where it discharged the fish. The shipmaster, George Jamieson, then began taking steps to obtain a return freight to Britain. In the course of his efforts to obtain a return freight, Jamieson sailed to Jamaica and moored the Ceres in Morant Bay. There, the ship was wrecked in a hurricane. At the time of the wreck, the Ceres still contained beef, coal, and dry goods. Based on these facts, a dispute arose between Marshall, Hamilton, and Co. and its underwriters about whether, prior to the hurricane, the ship’s outward voyage had terminated under the terms of each insurance policy.|
|The York-Buildings Company v. Alexander Mackenzie||8 Mar 1793||Documents available. Full description in progress.|
|Duncan Stewart v. Lieutenant Alexander Graeme||7 Mar 1799||While working abroad in the service of the East India Company, Lieutenant Duncan Stewart remitted £1000 to Scotland. He assigned a power of attorney to William Stewart and John Taylor, allowing them to manage the money. Lieutenant Stewart directed the men to invest his money in heritable securities and give the interest to certain family members. He died in India, leaving a holographic memorandum of a will that provided for the money in Scotland to be “applied in the manner already directed.” Lieutenant Stewart’s executors initiated a court proceeding to determine who was entitled to the £1000. The court determined that the fund was heritable property that should pass to Lieutenant Stewart’s heir-at-law, his sister Elizabeth Stewart Bowman. Bowman then died, leaving the residue of her estate to her natural son Lieutenant Alexander Graeme. Lieutenant Graeme claimed that he was entitled to the £1000 based on Mrs. Bowman’s will. However, Duncan Stewart, Lieutenant Stewart’s cousin in Jamaica, claimed that he was the Lieutenant’s heir-at-law and should inherit the money because the £1000 was a heritable subject and Bowman never made up a title to it. Case documents include a reproduction of Lieutenant Stewart's detailed memorandum disposing of his personal effects.|
|William Baxter v. Bell and Maxwell and Others||17 Dec 1800||The defenders in this case, a group of soap and candle makers, purchased wicks from James Hutchison Jr. In turn, they sometimes sold their goods to Hutchison. Rather than paying separately for each transaction, the merchants periodically settled their accounts and paid the balance in cash or by bill. Unbeknownst to the defenders, Hutchison was selling the wicks on commission from pursuer William Baxter. When Hutchison died, Baxter sued the defenders for the price of certain wicks that they had received. However, the defenders argued that Hutchison owed them a larger sum, and that Baxter must bear the risk of misconduct by Hutchison, his consignee.|
|Samuel Hawkins, and Others, Personal Creditors of the late John, Earl of Glencairn v. Simon Taylor, and Others, Trustees of William Cunningham Cunningham Graham||26 May 1800||This case was about the order in which creditors were entitled to claim rents from the estate of Finlaystone. Finlaystone had belonged to the late John Cunningham, Earl of Glencairn, whose personal creditors attached the rents from the estate. Additionally, the estate secured a heritable debt—similar to a mortgage—that was purchased by William Cunningham Cunningham Graham. Graham’s trustees claimed a preference over the rents, for payment of both the interest and principal of the heritable debt. However, Earl John’s creditors argued that because the heritable debt was secured by the whole estate, it was unnecessary to allocate rents toward its payment; doing so would operate to the prejudice of the other creditors. Earl John’s creditors further argued that if a heritable creditor exerted a preference over the rents, he should also be required to assign them a portion of his security.|
|Jean Colville v. William Lauder||15 Jan 1800||Conflict of Laws||Shortly after marrying Pursuer Jean Colville, David Lauder left Scotland under indenture to work on the island of St. Vincent. He subsequently traveled to New York and then to Canada, where he drowned while bathing in the Saint Lawrence River. Before his death, David sent a bill for £200 to his father, Defender William Lauder, with instructions to secure the money in case of David’s return to Scotland. David wrote that if he was not heard from again, “the money is either at [William’s] or my dear mother’s disposal.” William Lauder kept the money after David’s death, and Jean Colville brought suit to secure a share of it. The legal dispute turned on a choice of law issue: whether the Pursuer’s claim was governed by the law of Scotland or the law of England, which regulated British territories. Under Scots law, Jean Colville would be entitled to half of David Lauder’s moveable estate as her jus relictae—a widow’s right in the movable estate of her deceased spouse. Under English law, a valid will could exclude the widow from any share of the movable estate. The parties agreed that succession was governed by the law of the decedent’s domicile but disputed where David Lauder was domiciled at the time of his death. The pursuer argued that David was domiciled in Scotland, where he intended to return, while the defender argued that David had established a domicile abroad.|
|Archbishop of York, and Others v. Haldane||1769||Highways||After purchasing the estate of Airthrey, Captain Robert Haldane sought to close a road that crossed the property. Residents and property owners in the parishes of Callender, Kincardine, Kilmadock, Dunblane, Leckropt, and Logie objected that the road was a necessary public highway that provided the most expedient route to coalfields in the vicinity of Alloa. The case materials refer to many locations in the affected countryside, describe the history of the road, and name numerous deponents who discussed their use of the road and other matters relevant to the case.|
|Gelly and Campbell v. Campbell||1778||Heir and Executor||Alexander Campbell died intestate on December 9, 1769. After his death, an unsigned note was found among his effects, which expressed his intentions regarding the settlement of his estate. His eldest son, John, agreed to execute the terms of this settlement, which bequeathed £600 each on two of his daughters, Isabel and Margaret, who were at the time unmarried. Several years later, after both daughters had married, their husbands brought action against John Campbell for negligence in managing his father's estate. They requested that the estate be placed in the hands of an executor. One of their grievances concerned a three-acre plot in the Broomielaw, which Campbell had purchased from the estate for the price of £50. The pursuers stated that Campbell's unwillingness to grant them this land against their claim of £1200 was evidence that he had purposefully misrepresented its value. The case came before Lord Auchinleck, who authorized the pursuers to name an alternate executor. John Campbell then petitioned the Court to review this interlocutor, stating that the impatience of his brothers-in-law was a result of their ignorance of commercial matters. The pursuers responded that the eight-years delay in the settlement of the estate was in fact the result of gross negligence on his part.|
|Campbell v. Stein||1786||Bribery, Corruption||This case was about a criminal charge of bribery. Distiller James Stein allegedly gave a package containing £500 to a Solicitor of Excise. Stein was prosecuted for attempted bribery. In response, he argued that the charged offense did not constitute a crime at common law. Additionally, Stein argued that the prosecution’s indictment was insufficient to support the charge, because it did not contain any facts demonstrating a corrupt intention.|
|Hammond, Birket, and Smith v. Marshall||1784||Arrestment||Hammond, Birket, and Smith, pursuers, attempted to arrest (legally claim) funds in the hands of Claud Marshall, a writer in Glasgow, on the ground that Claud possessed funds belonging to their debtor William Marshall. William was in Tobago, and he had sent a bill to Claud with instructions to apply it for the support of William’s daughters. Hammond, Birket, and Smith argued that Claud possessed the bill when the arrestment was used. Claud responded that he had sent the bill off to London by that time, and that payment was made to William’s children.|
|Chatto v. Officers of the State, and Potts||1784||Clause, Ultimus Haeres, Substitute and Conditional Institute||While his natural son William was abroad in Jamaica, John Duncanson of Maxpoffle executed a settlement. The settlement granted Maxpoffle to certain trustees for William’s benefit, and failing William, for the benefit of John Chatto. The settlement also provided that the trustees should denude themselves of their right to the land, in favor of William, upon his return to the country. William returned to Scotland after his father’s death, and the trustees transferred Maxpoffle to him. William later died without issue, and his wife Gallacina Potts was advised that the estate fell to the crown. She therefore applied to the Barons of Exchequer for a gift of bastardy. John Chatto intervened, laying claim to the lands by virtue of John Duncanson’s settlement; Chatto was later permitted to bring a declaratory proceeding before the Court of Session. There, Potts argued that Chatto was a conditional institute rather than a substitute, meaning that he was entitled to inherit only if William predeceased John.|
|Mather v. Cunnison||1791||Documents uploaded. Full description in progress.|
|M'Ghie and Attorney v. Forbes and Hay||1794|
|John Court, S.S.C., Common Agent v. Mrs Tierney||1833|
|J. and P. Duguid and Others v. W. Duguid and Others||1827|
|Hugh Rose v. Macleay's Trustees||1837||Case documents digitized and available. Description in progress.|
|Donaldson v. Taylor||6 Jan 1764|
|Grant v. Campbell||11 Nov 1765|
|Alexander Campbell v. John Campbell||3 Dec 1772|