In 1752, a wounded Spanish ship—laden with gold, silver, indigo, and other valuable goods—wrecked along the Connecticut coast. This episode initially appeared to be a tale of Samaritans rescuing the crew and safekeeping their payload. Such hospitality yielded to avarice as the loosely guarded cargo was plundered. This article looks closely at the county court in New London, Connecticut, to examine how judges, jurors, and local legal officials shouldered the burdens of securing some sense of justice for Spanish officials and British colonists ensnared in what became known as “The Spanish Ship Affair.” It highlights the importance of local colonial courts in maintaining peace, not only in their respective communities, but also in greater imperial contexts. This was especially important in the wake of ineffective responses from the governor, colonial assembly, and vice-admiralty court—institutions purportedly designed to handle inter-imperial conflicts. Emphasis on this county court reveals a flexible judiciary creatively punishing unredeemable criminals, merciful jurors willing to forgive repentant neighbors, and the resultant long-term changes in Connecticut’s political landscape and its legal approaches to shipwrecks.


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pp. 699-734
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