Tuesday, June 18, 2024

“Delivered to said linzee two hundred and seven sheep”

In January 1791, Capt. John Linzee, R.N., wrote that in the following month he planned to make his second return to Boston since the end of the American War.

As I described yesterday, Linzee’s wife, the former Susannah Inman, had settled in that port with most of their children in a house left to her by the merchant John Rowe.

According to Royal Navy records, John Linzee resigned from the service in September 1791. (Other sources say he retired after events of the following year, but this looks more authoritative.)

The captain settled in Boston, and Susannah Inman gave birth to a son on 7 Aug 1792.

After that, John Linzee went through a string of hardships.

First, on 30 August, Joseph Tucker of Dartmouth sued the captain for the cost of sheep he had collected back on 1 May 1775. In September, Suffolk County sheriff Jeremiah Allen reported arresting Linzee on a writ, though he let the man go on bail.

At first Linzee argued that he had been and remained “a Subject of the King of Great Britain and not a Citizen of this Commonwealth,” so the case should be handled in the federal system. The Barnstable County court refused.

Ebenezer Meiggs of Rochester provided the most coherent description of the dispute:
I being at one of the Elizabeth Islands Called Peek [Penikese? Pasque?] in Company with Joseph tucker of Dartmouth I heard one John Linzee a Captain of a brittish ship of war bargain with said tucker for two hundred and seven sheep for which he agreed to give two dollars for Each sheep besides or without the wool

accordingly the said tucker delivered to said linzee two hundred and seven sheep on board his ship and as the said Linzee was in a hurry to gett them a board he ordered them to be got aboard before they ware all Shorn Promissing said tucker that he would take his shearers on board the ship next morning and that they might take the wool of them or he would Pay the value of it

accordingly the sheep ware Put on board with the wool on as many as one hundred and I helped get them on board but the next morning the said Linzee hove up and went off without fetching the Shearers on board or Paying for the sheep
Linzee denied ever having made such a deal.

Back on 31 May 1775, islander Elisha Nye had lodged a similar complaint against Capt. Linzee for taking sheep and calves off “one of the Elizabeth Islands, commonly called Naushan [Nashawena].” Like Tucker, Nye felt that he and Linzee had agreed on terms, only for the navy to grab livestock and sail away. That complaint went to the Massachusetts committee of safety and then into a file, and it doesn’t appear to have come up during Tucker v. Linzee.

Undoubtedly in May 1775 Capt. Linzee was acting on behalf of the Crown. His assignment was to collect food for the besieged Boston garrison. By coming to live in Massachusetts with his wife and children, however, the retired captain had made himself vulnerable to a personal lawsuit.

In May 1793, a Barnstable County jury found against Linzee and ordered him to pay Tucker £150 and costs.

According to family historian John William Linzee, “the debt was paid by Captain Linzee out of his own private purse, and there is no evidence that he was ever reimbursed by the English government.” Neither is there documentation in that history of Linzee’s payment, however.

But by 1793 that court case was the least of the captain’s troubles.

TOMORROW: Deaths in the family.

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