Plattsburg, 1815, Thomas Kemp

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Plattsburg, built by Thomas Kemp, owned by Isaac McKim and, later, Thomas Sheppard

The case of the Plattsburg is remarkable.  Justice Story sat on two Plattsburg cases.  In the first he gave the death penalty to four of the sailors who hijacked the schooner  on its maiden voyage, and stole the cargo of silver, etc. which was on its way to Smyrna to purchase opium (good old Isaac McKim).  That case was criminal and ended at the circuit court level as a piracy case.  Story next wrote the opinion in the second case  for the Supreme Court in which the Plattsburg was caught off Africa engaged in the slave trade (McKim denied any knowledge or ownership, although Mr. Ruiz will find that he incriminated Thomas Boyle.)   By the Bye, the Plattsburg was a sister ship to the Chasseur and was built along the same lines by Thomas Kemp.    Ruiz should have an interesting paper

816/1825 The Plattsburg: mutiny/piracy and slave trading

The Plattsburg was built by the 9th of October, 1815,  by (Thomas) Kemp & Gardner, Fells Point, Baltimore,   or Isaac McKim.  According to the  Carpenter’s certificate (MS 2306), its dimensions were 74’ 3” x 23’ x 10’4”,  185 and 60/95 tons (carpenter’s measure).

On its maiden voyage (July 1816) the ship was taken over by members of the crew who had been sorely tempted by the large amount of silver coin on board,  and sailed to Norway where McKim’s representative later recovered it and some of the cargo.  McKim’s losses were covered by insurance. including the specie (coin).  Four of the alleged  pirates were captured in their flight from Norway, and sent to Boston for trial where three were convicted and sentenced to hang by Justice Story.

The Plattsburg’s ownership after the piracy and conviction of the three pirates was disputed. It would appear that the McKim sold the ship to Thomas Sheppard and others and that in 1818, after a voyage to the West Indies, it was purported to have been sold to Spaniards who sent it to Africa for slaves destined for Cuba. The Plattsburg was taken off the coast of Africa by an American Cruiser enforcing the Constitutional provision against Americans engaging in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  The ship was condemned by the District Court in New York where the Plattsburg was sent as a prize, and the condemnation appealed to the Supreme Court which in 1825, affirmed the lower court decision.  In his testimony at the New York Trial, Isaac McKim suggested that Thomas Boyle of Chasseur fame was an owner at the time of its capture.  The purported Spanish owners argued that they were the sole owners and that the ship was Spanish engaged in a perfectly legal slave trade to Cuba. The Supreme Court found otherwise.

The ebook contains the case papers for the prize case as they were delivered to the Supreme Court.  They are a transcript of the originals which also have been microfilmed by the National Archives;

Appellate Case Files of the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, 1793-1845. National Archives Microfilm, M855. reel 3, case number  42,   Manuel Gonzales and the Schooner Marie, alias  Plattsburgh v. United States and the Officers and Crew of the Ship of War Cyane, 1821

The ebook is taken  from the National Archives microfilm of the case file 1214 which is noted on the court docket as having been received on February 4, 1823.  The case was heard on March 9, and 10, 1825.  Justice Story delivered the opinion of the court on March 14, 1825.

There are a few pages missing from this edition of the case file transcript  because of a mal-function of the microfilm scanner at the National Archives.  In due course the missing pages will be added and this note will disappear from the introduction. At the beginning of the ebook following the cover sheet will be found the court's index to the papers in manuscript form.  The original pagination of the transcript is to be found in the left center of the numbered pages.  

The original report of the New York prize case is to be found in 10Wheaton33, and the opinion (with typographical errors) is free on line at:

The subsequent history of the Schooner Maria, alias Plattsburg, is unknown.

For the criminal trial of the pirates (1818) see:

Transcript (contemporary): page.db