[REVOLUTIONARY WAR]. An Explanation of the Case relating to the Capture of St. Eustatius. London: For J. Stockdale, 1786.

$ 900.00

8vo., (8 ½ x 5 3/8 inches). 1 (of 3) Advertisement page (title page professionally repaired, some spotting throughout). Modern navy blue half calf, marbled boards, the smooth spine lettered in gilt (head of the spine worn with loss).

Second edition, first published in 1783. This slim volume recounts the case against Admiral Sir George Rodney and General John Vaughan, who were accused of privateering after the capture of the island of Sint Eustatius during the Revolutionary War. In the late 18th century, St. Eustatius, a Dutch-controlled island in the West Indies, served as a crucial entrepot for supplying the Continental Army with gunpowder and other supplies. A British blockade had made it difficult to transport supplies directly across the Atlantic Ocean to the American colonies, so various Caribbean islands, including Martinique, discreetly traded supplies to the revolutionaries. In 1776, St. Eustatius became the first foreign port to salute the flag of the United States, firing eleven guns in response to the thirteen fired by American brig ‘Andrew Doria.’ The ship had been sent to purchase supplies as well as to present the Dutch governor of the island a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

This friendly relationship with the thirteen colonies made St. Eustatius a target for the British navy, who blamed the trade between them for Britain’s failure to quickly win the war. On January 30, 1781, Admiral Sir George Rodney set out with 30,000 British troops to capture the island of St. Eustatius and put an end to trade with the colonies. Rather than launching an immediate assault, Rodney sent word to Governor Johannes de Graaff asking for a peaceful surrender. De Graaff agreed and by the next day the nearby islands of St. Maarten and Saba had also surrendered to the British troops.

Rodney and General John Vaughan had signed an agreement whereby all confiscated goods would go to the British Crown, and they in turn expected to receive a significant percentage upon their arrival in England. Rather than delegating the task of appraising the plunder, Rodney and Vaughan did it themselves, holding a public auction of the seized goods, including naval and military stores, open to buyers of any nationality. This included the French and the Americans, who were able to purchase goods from the British for about half the price they would have paid had they bought them from the Dutch. When the British caught wind of this, Rodney and Vaughan were charged with privateering.

Additionally, St. Eustatius at the time was a vibrant, multicultural community that included African slaves, British citizens, American loyalists, and a significant Jewish community. “The Jews suffered the harshest treatment even though some of them were British. The Jewish community at St. Eustatius was made up of some 350 Sephardic and Ashkenazim members. With the support of their brethren in Curacao and Amsterdam, they had built a synagogue, which they called Honen Dalim, meaning ‘the one who is merciful to the poor,’ of which there are still remains in St. Eustatius…

“The conquest of St. Eustatius was ‘a day of desolation to the community at large & Jews in particular.’ The Jews shared in the common ‘Loss of their Merchandise, their Bills, their Houses, Clothes, [and] Provisions’ but they alone suffered the separation of families and the banishment of their men who were not even told the destination of their exile. They ‘petitioned, intreated, implored, [and] remonstrated against so hard a sentence, but in vain.’ They were not allowed to keep their personal possessions, in contrast to the Americans, Dutch, and French. Those found withholding petty cash were set apart for punishment. The 101 adult male Jews were assembled under guard and had the linings of their pockets ripped open and their ‘cloaths torn in pieces to search for concealed money’ before thirty of them were ‘hurried off the island, destitute of everything, to solicit the cold charity of Antigua, and St. Kitts.’ The rest were locked in a weighing house for three days; they were released just in time to witness the auction of their belongings” (O’Shaughnessy, “An Empire Divided: The American Revolution and the British Caribbean,” pp. 218-219). Sabin 75201; ESTC N17262.

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