[copy Of Warrant Addressed To The Duke Of Dorset, Vice Admiral Of The County Of Kent, From The Admiralty, On The Detention Of Spanish Vessels, 1796, Sent To The Mayor Of Margate Kent ].







Item Description

MANUSCRIPT LETTER. 4to. 7.75 x 12.75 inches. [4] leaves, folded. Copy of manuscript warrant folded and sent as letter to the Mayor of Margate complete with the signature of Dorset and Sevenoaks postmarks. Traces of seal. A very good example of this document. This Admiralty warrant, dated 22 September 1796 relates to retaliatory action against Spanish vessels in British ports following the detention of British vessels in Spanish ports. The context of this order was the increasing state of hostile relations between the signing of the Treaty of San Ildefonso (19 August) in which Spain joined the First French Republic as an ally against Great Britain, and the Spanish declaration of war against Britain (5 October). Formerly Britain and Spain had been uneasy allies against the young French republic in the War of the First Coalition of 1793-95,the first conflict of Britain's involvement in the French Revolutionary Wars, 1792-1802. Spanish defeats on land led her to make peace with France in 1795, while French successes in Italy under Napoleon was a factor in inducing the Spanish to change sides. Naval hostilities between Spain and Britain in the Mediterranean soon followed. The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty had sent the warrant to the Duke of Dorset (Lord Lieutenant of Kent, 1769-97) in his capacity as Vice Admiral of Kent (this post was part of a series of Vice Admiralties of the Coast, who had responsibility for the naval administration of their district, including the pressing of men for service, salvage, and the judging prizes claimed by privateers). Dorset had the warrant copied and sent with a covering note, dated Knole, 30 September 1796, which he signed and presumably sent to the mayors of relevant Kent ports, in this case Margate, to carry out the action against Spanish ships if appropriate. John Frederick Sackville, 3rd Duke of Dorset (1745-99) had served as British Ambassador to France, 1784-89. His seat was at Knole near Sevenoaks; hence the letter bears the characteristic curved townstamp in use in 1796 (see Donald, The Postmarks of Sevenoaks in Kent, 1792). The warrant was sent under the name of Evan Nepean (1752-1822), former naval clerk and purser, who served as Secretary to the Board of Admiralty, 1795-1804, Tory MP for the rotten borough of Queenborough, Kent, 1796-1802, later created a baronet and made Governor of Bengal. Copies were made to three admirals who were all members of the Board of Admiralty at the time, Admirals Henry Seymour (1759-1801), James Gambier (1756-1833) and William Young (1751-1821). Scarce survival of a document which illuminates the political, naval and postal history of the 1790s.

[Stock No. 26457]

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