Apr 14, 2015 - Sale 2380

Sale 2380 - Lot 160

Price Realized: $ 4,750
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 4,000 - $ 6,000
(MASSACHUSETTS.) Clapp, William. A Cape Cod man takes a stand against lawless smugglers and whale scavengers. Autograph Letter Signed to Paul Dudley, Attorney General of Massachusetts, in Boston. One page, 12 1/2 x 7 3/4 inches, plus integral address leaf, docketed; minor wear and three ink blots; partial embossed ex-libris stamp of J. Wingate Thornton. Cape Cod, MA, 13 July 1705

Additional Details

At the beginning of the 18th century, the Outer Cape was still a largely lawless region, with little interaction with the central Massachusetts government. This letter was written by a mariner who found himself stranded on the cape and remained for four years. Beached whales were technically the property of the Crown, but Clapp noticed that they were being recovered for profit by the locals. French and Portuguese smugglers operated without fear of reprisal. Clapp saw an opportunity to secure a commission to protect the Crown's interest: "I have liveed hear at the Cap this 4 year and I have very often every yar sien that Har Majesty has ben very much wronged of har dues by thes contry. Peple and other whall men as coms hear awhalen every year which tacks up drift whals which was never killed by any man, which fish I understand belongest to her magiesty, and had I had power I could have seased severl every year and lickwies very often hear is oportunyty to seas vesels and goods which are upon a smoglen acompt. I believe had I had a comishon so to do I could have seased a catch this last week which had most of thar men, out landish men I judge porteges. She lay hear a week and asloop I beleve did thar bisnes for them. . . . Hear are a gret meny men which goues fishing at this harbor and som times the French coms hear and then every one rons his way becas they have no one to leed them. I my selef have ben a souferar since I liveed hear being cared a way by a small sloop and hear was 130 men and severl grand sloops and no hand a cept about 12 miles distance, but we may be all tacken at the Cap and he no nothing of it."
The docketing on verso shows that Clapp's request was approved, and that he was appointed a water bailiff. We don't know how well his new commission was received by the smugglers of Cape Cod--but we can guess he was not the most popular man on the Cape. Provenance: Libbie's John Wingate Thornton sale, 16 October 1878, lot 1391 (see also lots 106 and 107). Published in Bangs, Old Cape Cod, page 120; and Braginton-Smith, Cape Cod Shore Whaling: America's First Whalemen, page 66.