Jared Shattuck, Merchant of the Danish West Indies

by Philip Shaddock

There is a wonderful story found on the website Justia about Jared Shattuck, who eventually became a west Pennsylvania resident but as a young man made his fortune as a merchant in the West Indies. The story is told as part of a commentary on an early 19th century Supreme Court decision. The story is set in 1800 when there was a "Quasi War" between the USA and France. Wikipedia: The Quasi-War was an undeclared war fought almost entirely at sea between the United States of America and the French Republic from 1798 to 1800. After the toppling of the French crown during the French Revolutionary Wars, the United States refused to continue repaying its debt to France on the grounds that it had been owed to a previous regime. French outrage led to a series of attacks on American shipping, ultimately leading to retaliation from the Americans and the end of hostilities with the signing of the Convention of 1800 shortly thereafter." Justia picks up the story from here:


A pair of early 19th century schooners

On or about 10 April, 1800, the schooner, now called the Charming Betsy but then called the Jane, sailed from Baltimore in the District of Maryland, an American bottom duly registered according to law, belonging to citizens of and resident in, the United States and regularly documented with American papers; she was laden with a cargo belonging to citizens of the United States; her destination was first to St. Bartholomew, where the captain had orders to effect a sale of both vessel and cargo, but if a sale of the schooner could not be effected at St. Bartholomew, which was to be considered the "primary object" of the voyage, the captain was to proceed to St. Thomas with the vessel and such part of the flour as should be unsold, where he was to accomplish the sale. Although a sale of the cargo, consisting chiefly of flour, was effected at St. Bartholomew, yet the vessel could not there be advantageously disposed of, and the captain proceeded, according to his instructions, to St. Thomas, where a bona fide sale was accomplished by captain James Phillips on behalf of the American owners for a valuable consideration to a certain Jared Shattuck, a resident merchant in the Island of St. Thomas.

Jared Shattuck was born in Connecticut before the American Revolution, and he had removed long before any differences with France, in his early youth, to the Island of St. Thomas, where he served his apprenticeship, intermarried, opened a house of trade, owned sundry vessels, and, as was said, lands, which none but Danish subjects were competent to hold and possess. About the year 1796, he became a Danish burgher, invested with the privileges of a Danish subject and owing allegiance to his Danish Majesty.

It did not appear that Jared Shattuck ever returned to the United States to resume citizenship, but constantly resided and had his domicile both before and at the time of the purchase of the schooner Jane at St. Thomas. Although the schooner was armed and furnished with ammunition on her sailing from Baltimore, and the cannon, arms and stores were sold to Jared Shattuck by a contract separate from that of the vessel, she was chiefly dismantled of these articles at St. Thomas, a small part of the ammunition, and a trifling part of the small arms excepted. The name of the schooner was at St. Thomas changed to that of the Charming Betsy, and she was documented with Danish papers as the property of Jared Shattuck. So, being the bona fide property of Jared Shattuck, she took in a cargo belonging to him, and no other, as appeared by the papers found on board and delivered to this Court.

She sailed with the said cargo from St. Thomas on or about 25 June, 1800, commanded by a certain Thomas Wright, a Danish burgher, and navigated according to the laws of Denmark, for aught that appeared to the contrary, bound to the Island of Guadaloupe.

On or about 1 July last, 1800, she was captured on her passage to Guadaloupe by a French privateer, and a prize master and seven or eight hands put on board, the Danish crew (except captain Wright an old man and two boys), being taken off by the French privateer. On the 3d of the same July, she was boarded and taken possession of by some of the officers and crew of the Constellation under the orders of Captain Murray, and sent into the port of St. Pierre, in Martinique, where she arrived on the 5th of the same month of July.

The cargo of the schooner was sold by order of Captain Murray at Martinique, and she was ordered to the United States for adjudication. After her arrival in the port of Philadelphia, a libel was filed in the district court.

A claim to the vessel was filed by Jared Shattuck, and he also claimed damages for the capture and for the sale of the cargo at Martinique.

Jared Shattuck won the court case and was awarded damages. The irony is that Jared Shattuck was born before the American Revolution and had moved to the West Indies as a teenager, before reaching the age of majority. The Supreme Court ruled his American citizenship was immaterial to the matter as his domicile was the Danish West Indies and he had become a subject of the Danish King. The American captain who seized the boat was not entitled to do it because the ship was under the flag of a neutral country (Denmark).

Jared's father, Timothy Shattuck (1750-1807) had been born in Middletown, Connecticut and died in Catskill, New York. He had served in the American Revolutionary War in the fledgling navy. That may have been how Jared got to the West Indies. His father either took him there, or he grew up hearing of the opportunities his father may have witnessed in the Caribbean.

The year 1800 was not a good year for Jared Shattuck, as he lost yet another vessel to the war. The schooner Mercator was seized on May 14, 1800 by the controversial Lieutenant William Maley. Jared Shattuck sued him personally and the case went to the U.S. Supreme court, which found in Jared Shattuck's favor. Apparently the Secretary of the Navy Stoddert wrote to the Secretary of State Pickering on Nov. 25, 1800 that "Lt. Maley is a very ignorant illiterate man and has been dismissed [from] the Service principally for his conduct towards Neutral Vessels." 


Jared Shattuck bought the Mead House, at the head of Water Street in Meadville. Built by General Mead in 1797, it was the finest house in Meadville at the time. After Jared's death, it was purchased by one of his daughter's husband (Selden). It was dilapidated by the time this picture was taken. Jared and his Danish wife had eight children. 

It would not be the last court cases bearing Jared Shattuck's name that ended up being cited subsequently for interpretations of the law. After he died in 1837, Jared Shattuck's land dealings in Meadville in west Pennsylvania showed up in a court case titled "Steward v. Keith." He had sold property to Stewart for six annual payments of $105. He then assigned the debt to Keith. Years after his death a dispute arose about the title to the land. 

Jared Shattuck married into a storied family. According to John W. Jordan, LL.D, in his Genealogical and Personal History of the Allegheny Valley, Pennsylvania (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1913), pp 585-6.

She [Marie Madeleine Sophie de Vincent de Mazade 1784–1832] was a daughter of General Alexandre de Vincent de Mazade, Marechal des Camps, chevalier de St. Louis, Governor-General of Santo Domingo (Haiti), 1787, 1789, under Louis XVI of France, a scion of one of the noblest families of France. General de Vincent de Mazade married Marie Therese Sophie de Chappotin, descended, through her mother, from a very ancient family of Burgos, members of the Castilian nobility-The Velasco-in the Kingdom of Castile and participants in the various historical events in Spain (one of her forebears was at the siege of Granada in 1492, another was Rodrigo Diaz, “The Cid”) and a descendant of Jean de Chappotin, a captain in the service of Francis I of France, who distinguished himself at the battle of Marignano in 1515. For his bravery and his serv­ices he received letters of nobility from that monarch. General de Vincent de Mazade was descended from one of the noblest families of France, an ancient house, of which there is record as early as the eleventh century in Languedoc and Dauphin, they being instrumental in the Cession of Dauphin to the French Crown.
 
Jared and his wife would eventually settle in Meadville in the Allegheny valley of western Pennsylvania. According to a history of Crawford County, he had a "yellow frame store on the corner of Randolph and Terrce Streets. He was an active, enterprising citizen, and about this time operated a distillery on his farm some three miles northwest of the town." He opened a foundry, along with a distillery and a carding machine on Randolph Street in 1823. 



Comments