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French Spoliation Claims Records

French Spoliation Claims Records

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Open Finding Aid



Processing and conservation of this collection were funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Huntington & Fitz (Salem, Mass.)
Title:French Spoliation Claims Records
Quantity:2.5 linear feet (5 boxes)
Abstract:The French Spoliation Claims Records, 1796-1928, contain United States Government printed material and attorney's manuscripts from the Salem office of spoliation claims attorneys, Arthur Lord Huntington and Ulysses Grant Haskell.
Collection Number:MSS 160

Series List

SERIES I. Government Administration Reports
SERIES II. Vessel Files
SERIES III. Estate Files
SERIES IV. Attorney's Papers

Scope and Content Note

The French Spoliation Claims Records, 1796-1928, contain United States Government printed material and attorney's manuscripts from the Salem office of spoliation claims attorneys, Arthur Lord Huntington and Ulysses Grant Haskell. The collection traces spoliation claims from initial determination of claimants' heirs to final opinions and settlements made by the U.S. Court of Claims. The Records are divided into four series.

Series I. Government Administrative Reports contains printed materials, published by the United States government between 1886 and 1913, which provide an overview of the spoliation claims process. Included are the rules of the Claims Court, docket books, court opinions, and volumes listing claims allowed or dismissed. Also found here are volumes enumerating the French claims of 1803 and 1831, and the Spanish claims of 1819. These claims were not covered by the Congressional act of 1885.

Series II. Vessel Files is arranged alphabetically by ship and is comprised of government printed court documents: petitions, briefs, statements, evidence, and conclusions. Appendix I provides an index to the files, listing vessel, voyage and date of capture, master, owners, and claimants. Known Salem vessels are also marked, including those of such notable Salem merchants as Pickering Dodge, Dudley L. Pickman, Samuel, John, and Elias Hasket Derby, William Orne, Clifford Crowninshield, and Joseph Peabody.

Series III. Estate Files are arranged alphabetically by original claimant's surname. Appendix II lists the estates and the vessels mentioned in each file. Some files contain more than one individual, the claimants being associated through a particular vessel named in the papers. Included is correspondence with claimants' heirs, genealogies, copies of ships' papers, legal papers, and financial papers reflecting settlement figures and attorney's fees. Of interest in the William Appleton file is a letter which describes Arthur Lord Huntington's activities as a spoliation claims attorney. The James Dunlap file includes Dunlap's will of 1800.

Series IV. Attorney's Papers, 1796-1928, contains correspondence, legal papers, lists of Essex County cases, and original ships' and claims' papers. The bulk of the correspondence is to Salem attorneys Arthur Lord Huntington and Ulysses Grant Haskell from their Washington counterparts, C.W. Clagett, Edward Lander, and M.T. Hitchcock. These letters mention the status of many Essex County cases. The correspondence also includes letters with the heirs of miscellaneous claimants. The legal papers contain documents settling the percentages of attorney's fees and powers of attorney or estate administration. The original ships' and claims' papers consist of protests, insurance policies and masters' correspondence (see Appendix III for a list of vessels found in these papers). Also included are papers relating to the Salem insurance office of John G. King which paid out a number of insurance claims in the early 1800's on spoliation cases. The memorandums include miscellaneous genealogies and notes of ships or estates. Also found here is a 1901 publication on claims relative to lands in the Fiji islands.

Historical Sketch

In 1885, the United States Congress passed an act which allowed American citizens to file French Spoliation Claims with the U.S. Court of Claims. This was an attempt to reimburse the heirs of the U.S. merchants, ship owners, and insurance underwriters whose vessels or cargo had been captured and condemned by the French from 1794 to 1801. The United States assumed the claims of its own citizens as part of the treaty made with France in 1800. In this treaty, France relinquished their claim on the United States for violations of the cooperative treaty of 1778. In return, the United States assumed the costs of American citizens' French Spoliation Claims.

The firm of Tuckerman Huntington & Fitz, 256 ½ Essex Street, Salem, Massachusetts, handled the spoliation claims of many Salem area residents. It appears that circa 1900, the firm's primary claims attorney, Arthur Lord Huntington, passed his cases on to Ulysses Grant Haskell, who worked in the same office. The Salem attorneys were responsible for determining the heirs of original claimants, a task which often involved considerable genealogical investigation. They also attempted to garner as much substantiating shipping documents as possible to serve as evidence in the claims cases. Although the Salem attorneys made initial contact with heirs and performed background investigation, the actual prosecution and collection of claims was left to Washington lawyers who satisfied the Claims Court's strict qualifications.

A number of printed volumes in this collection contain a description and history of the French Spoliation Claims. See, for example, the preface to the Court Opinions volume in box 1 folder 7.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Appleton, William, 1786-1862
Balch, John, 1742-1798
Barr, John, 1758-1832
Beckford, Ebenezer
Boardman, Benjamin
Brown, Thomas, 1785-1862
Carter, Joshua
Chever, James, 1752-1839
Clagett, C. W.
Collins, John
Crowninshield, Benjamin, 1758-1836
Crowninshield, Clifford, 1762-1809
Derby, John
Derby, Samuel
Dunlap, James
Glover, Jonathan
Goodhue, Benjamin
Haskell, Ulysses Grant
Hitchcock, M. T.
Hovey, Amos
Huntington, Arthur Lord
King, John G.
Lander, Edward
Lander, Peter
Lane, Levi
Little, Edward
Little, Jacob
Marquand, Philip
Norris, John
Orne, William
Peirce, Jerathmael
Perkins, Thomas
Reed, Henry
Rogers, John
Ropes, John
Safford, Ebenezer
Scobie, James
Smith, George
Toppan, Enoch C.
Toppan, Joseph
Toppan, Joshua
Wellman, Timothy
Wells, John
West, Benjamin
West, Benjamin, Jr.
Huntington & Fitz (Salem, Mass.)
Administration of estates
Capture at sea
Marine insurance
United States--Court of Claims
United States--History--Spoliation claims


Restrictions on Access

The mold-damaged and brittle acidic original documents in box 5, folders 5-7 are restricted from general use due to their extremely fragile condition. Photocopies of these materials are located in the main body of the collection.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

French Spoliation Claims Records, MSS 160, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The French Spoliation Claims Records are an integration and reorganization of 2 boxes and 4 envelopes of manuscript and printed material. The source of the collection is unknown. Removed from the records are duplicates of U.S. Government printed materials and blank acidic envelopes (see Separation Sheet for listing).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, December 1984. Updated by Catherine Robertson, March 2015.

Related Material

Appendix I

Appendix II

Appendix III

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