Manuscripts Division William L. Clements Library University of Michigan
Finding aid for James Douglas Papers, 1738-1850
Finding aid created by Philip Heslip, April 2010
Title: James Douglas papers Creator: Douglas family Inclusive dates: 1738-1850 Bulk dates: 1738-1787 Extent: 26 volumes and 29 loose letters and documents Abstract:
The James Douglas papers are comprised of letters, letter books, logbooks, account books, and official naval documents relating to the career of Sir James Douglas, a British Admiral who was active in European and Caribbean waters and participated in the 1745 Siege of Louisbourg.
Language: The material is in English and French Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave. The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190 Phone: 734-764-2347 Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.
James Douglas Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
This collection is organized into two series:
Series I: Letter Books, Logbooks, and Account Books
Series II: Correspondence and Documents
Each series is ordered chronologically with undated items in the end.
British naval officer James Douglas (1703-1787) was born to George Douglas of Friarshaw, Roxburghshire, and Elizabeth Scott. He entered the Royal Navy in 1715 and by 1738 was an officer stationed in the West Indies. He sailed with Admiral Vernon in the expedition against Cartagena (1741) and served with Commodore Peter Warren, as captain of the Mermaid , at the Siege of Louisburg. He sat in Parliament for Orkney and Shetland, 1754-1768, during which time he served as a member of the court martial that tried and convicted Admiral Byng, in 1757. He was absent from Parliament on active service during the Seven Years War, during which he participated in the Rochefort expedition (1756) and the British victory at Québec (1759), and serving as commander of the squadron which captured Dominica (Martinique) in 1761. In 1762, he served with George Brydges Rodney at Martinique and with Sir George Pocock at the Siege of Havana. Douglas was promoted to rear admiral and served as commander in chief of the West Indies, 1763-1765. He returned as commander in chief at Portsmouth and Spithead, 1773-1776 where he relayed news about the war in America to the Secretary of the Admiralty Sir Philip Stephens. Douglas was made admiral in 1782 but retired from active service shortly after the appointment (see Additional Descriptive Data for a timeline of Douglas' service career).
Douglas married Helen Brisbane, daughter of Thomas Brisbane in 1753. They had 4 sons and 2 daughters. Helen died in 1766 at age 38. Douglas married again in 1768 to Lady Helen Boyle, daughter of John Earl of Glasgow.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The James Douglas papers are comprised of letters, letter books, logbooks, account books, and official naval documents relating to the career of Sir James Douglas. Douglas rose to the rank of admiral and was active in European and Caribbean waters, and participated in the 1745 Siege of Louisbourg. The collection contains 7 letterbooks, 10 logbooks, 1 orderly book, 7 prize and account books, 1 book of sailing instructions (with notations by Douglas), 10 letters, 17 financial and official documents, and 2 genealogical documents (for an itemized list of the collection, see Additional Descriptive Data).
The Letter Books, Logbooks, and Account Books series contains the collection's bound volumes.
The letter books are comprised of copies of over 1,000 letters and orders to and from Douglas and his fellow naval officers. The letter book from Jamaica (1738-1745) includes letters and orders from Edward Vernon, Sir Chaloner Ogle, Thomas Davers, and Commodore Charles Brown, mostly addressed to naval store keeper George Hinde, concerning repairing and outfitting ships. The 1755-1759 letter book contains observations on ship movements and encounters, and letters from him to other naval officers, largely concerning European waters. The letter books from 1775 to 1777 hold copies of letters from Douglas, written when he was commanding the naval base at Spithead during the Revolutionary War. The letters are primarily addressed to Sir Philip Stephens, Secretary of British Admiralty, regarding naval administration and military news during the war in America (August 6, 1775-May 27, 1777).
The collection contains logbooks for the following ships:
Tilbury , 1741-1742 (kept by Thomas Lempriere)
Vigilant , 1745-1747
Anson , 1755
Bedford , 1755-1759
Alcide , 1757
Dublin , 1760
SterlingCastle , 1760-1762
Cruzer , 1770 (kept by Midshipman James Douglas, Jr.)
Cerberus , 1770 (kept by Midshipman James Douglas, Jr.)
Topics of note include: an account of the British attack against the Spanish at Cartagena ( Tilbury logbook, 1740-1741); the British capture of Dominica and Martinique, and the Siege of Havana, while Douglas was commander and chief of the Leeward Island Station (1760-1762 logbook); and a logbook for a captured French ship (1760-1761). The logbook of a French ship captured in the West Indies (December 16, 1761-May 1, 1762) contains sketches on the insides of the front and back covers. Depicted are fish and sea creatures; crude portraits of men and women, dressed in finery; silhouettes of faces; and drawings of two stately homes.
Account books constitute four volumes:
Ledger of Douglas' private accounts (1770-1771).
Two notebooks accounting for prizes taken by British ships in 1759 and 1762.
A sederunt book of the trustees, relating to the settlement of Douglas' estate, created sometime after his death in 1787.
Also of note is a printed copy of Sailing and Fighting Instructions, heavily annotated by Douglas.
The Correspondence and Documents series contains 29 letters and documents, including: 8 letters concerning naval matters; 4 letters concerning Douglas' will, estate, and genealogy; Douglas' marriage agreement; 7 signed naval promotions on vellum; Douglas' appointment as baronet (1786); 3 memorials and petitions; 2 essays; 1 speech; 1 receipt; 1 legal disposition; and two genealogical items. Genealogy records include a family tree of Douglas' ancestor Douglas of Friarshaw (d. 1388) and a facsimile of the genealogical chart of Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane's ancestors going back to the 13th century.
Great Britain. Admiralty.
Great Britain. Army--Colonial forces.
Great Britain. Navy Dept.
Havana (Cuba)--History--Siege, 1762.
Leeward Islands (Federation)
Louisbourg (N.S.)--History--Siege, 1745.
Masts and rigging.
Newfoundland and Labrador.
Ouessant Island (France)
Portsmouth (England)--History, Naval.
Prince de Soubize (Ship)
Prizes (Property captured at sea)
Spithead Channel (England)
Sterling Castle (Ship)
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--British forces.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Naval operations.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Participation, German.
Subjects - Visual Materials:
Anson, George Anson, Baron, 1697-1762.
Boscawen, Edward, 1711-1761.
Boyle, Helen, Lady.
Brown, Charles, d. 1753.
Buller, John, 1722-1786.
Clevland, John, 1706–1763.
Cust, John, Sir, bart., 1718-1770.
Davers, Thomas, d. 1746.
Douglas, Henry, 1758-1839.
Douglas, James, Sir, 1703-1787.
Douglas, James, 1755-1840.
Douglas, John James Scott, 1792-1836.
Duckett, George Jackson, Sir, 1725-1822.
Forbes, John, 1710-1759.
Fox, Charles James, 1749-1806.
Harland, Robert, Sir.
Hawke, Edward Hawke, Baron, 1705-1781.
Hay, George, Sir.
Holburne, Francis, 1704-1771.
Keppel, Augustus Keppel, Viscount, 1725-1786.
Knowles, Charles, Sir, 1704?-1777.
Melville, Henry Dundas, Viscount, 1742-1811.
Ogle, Chaloner, Sir, 1681?-1750.
Palliser, Hugh, Sir, 1723-1796.
Palmerston, Henry Temple.
Sandwich, John Montagu, Earl of, 1718-1792.
Stanley, Hans, 1720-1780.
Stephens, Philip, Sir, 1725-1809.
Tod, Thomas, 1726-1800.
Vernon, Edward, 1684-1757.
West, Temple, 1713-1757.
Drawings (visual works)
Instructions (documents genre)
Ledger (account books)
Container / Location
Logbooks, Letter Books, and Account Books [series]
April 1, 1740-July 29, 1741 (Cartagena)
May 23, 1745-September 1, 1747, and February 25-April 12, 1755 (Louisbourg, Spithead, Gibraltar, St. Helena, Cadiz)
March 26-December 31, 1755 (Gibraltar)
March 26-December 31, 1755 (Gibraltar)
March 26, 1755-June 26, 1759
April 12, 1755-February 6, 1757
January 1, 1756-February 19, 1757
April 4, 1757-March 12, 1758
July 25, 1757 (Portsmouth)
April 4, 1757-September 12, 1759
January 3, 1758
May 22-November 10, 1759
March 10, 1760-September 9, 1762
December 16, 1761-May 1, 1762
1761-1763 and 1767
December 18, 1760-December 31, 1771, and 1766-1767
June 6-September 28, 1770
August 6-November 19, 1775
February 9-June 12, 1776 (Spithead)
November 30, 1776-January 7, 1777 (Spithead)
January 9-March 3, 1777 (Spithead)
March 6-April 13, 1777 (Spithead)
[After November 2, 1787]
Correspondence and Documents [series]
February 18, 1760
June 16, 1762 (Greenwich, Jamaica)
June 17, 1762 (Greenwich, Jamaica)
December 17, 1762 (Admiralty Office)
November 7, 1768
October 18, 1770
October 24, 1770
May 18, 1774
May 19, 1774
August 14, 1775 (Piccadilly, England)
December 7, 1775
January 29, 1778
January 13, 1782
April 8, 1782
August 3, 1786
[August 3, 1786]
October 15, 1829 (Patna, India)
June 22, 1839 (Strand, London)
August 4, 1859
Additional Descriptive Data
Douglas's Service History
1744 Captain in the Royal Navy
1745 Commander of the Mermaid at Louisbourg
1746 Commander of the Vigilant and commodore of Newfoundland
1754-1768 Member of Parliament for Orkney & Shetland
1756 Commander of the Bedford
1757 mMember of the court martial that tried and convicted Admiral Byng
1758 Commander of the Alcide
1759 Knighted for his participation in the capture of Québec
1760 Commodore of the Dublin and commander-in-chief at the Leeward Islands
1761 Commander of the squadron which captured Dominica
1762 Officer in the fleet under George Rodney at the capture of Martinique
1762 Officer in the fleet under George Pocock at the Siege of Havana
1773-1777 Commander-in-chief at Portsmouth
1778 Admiral of the blue
1782 Admiral of the white
Item-Level Collection Description:
Logbooks, Letter Books, and Account Books
Volume A : 1738-1745 (Jamaica): "Promiscuous Disbursements[;] Orders." From Edward Vernon, (1684-1757), Sir Chaloner Ogle, Thomas Davers, Admiral William Pearl, Thomas Trevors, William Campbell, William Morris, and Charles Brown to George Hinde. This volume also contains a crew list and a list of "the King's Negros," though it is made up of first names only (180 pages).
Volume B : April 1, 1740-July 29, 1741 (Cartagena): Logbook kept by Thomas Lempriere on the HMS Tilbury , Commander Robert Long. This volume includes details on the British attack on the Spanish at Cartagena (74 pages).
Volume C : May 23, 1745-September 1, 1747, and February 25-April 12, 1755 (Louisbourg, Spithead, Gibraltar, St. Helena, Cadiz): Journal kept by Thomas Shortland on board the HMS Vigilant under Captain Douglas (286 pages), and a Journal kept by Thomas Shortland on board the HMS Anson , under Captain Robert Man (20 pages).
Volume D : March 26-December 31, 1755 (Gibraltar): Logbook (copy) for the HMS Bedford , under Captain Douglas. The journal includes details on a voyage from England to Gibraltar and mentions taking a French ship bound from Newfoundland to Marseilles (82 pages).
Volume E : March 26-December 31, 1755 (Gibraltar): Logbook (original) for the HMS Bedford , under Captain Douglas. The journal includes details on a voyage from England to Gibraltar and mentions taking a French ship bound from Newfoundland to Marseilles (82 pages).
Volume F : March 26, 1755-June 26, 1759: Letterbook of Captain Douglas's letters with the British Admiralty and Naval Officers. The letters concern routine naval matters and describe attacks on the French Navy in European waters, including lines of battle and flag signals. Recipients include Edward Boscawen, Thomas Broderick, John Clevland, Sir Edward Hawke, Francis Holburne, Sir Charles Knowles, and Temple West (147 pages).
Volume G : April 12, 1755-February 6, 1757: Account book of Captain Douglas concerning food for the HMS Bedford (122 pages).
Volume H : January 1, 1756-February 19, 1757: Logbook (copy) kept for the HMS Bedford , under Captain Douglas concerning travel from Cardiz to Spithead, action against the French near Ushant (now Ouessant Island, France), and repairs to the ship at Spithead and Portsmouth (92 pages).
Volume I : April 4, 1757-March 12, 1758: Logbook for the HMS Alcide , under Captain Douglas, concerning travel along the French and Spanish coasts (84 pages).
Volume J : July 25, 1757 (Portsmouth): Survey book kept for the HMS Alcide , partly printed, with a list of rigging, masts, yards, ground-tackle, sails, and supplies, under Boatswain Maurice Fitzgerald, Carpenter Samuel Eccles, Captain Douglas (44 pages).
Volume K : April 4, 1757-September 12, 1759: Account book of the HMS Alcide , partly printed, documenting wages for the crew and food store records (100 pages).
Volume L : January 3, 1758: Prize list and crew list for the HMS Alcide, entitled to share in Captain Douglas' capture of the French ship Prince De Soubize (22 pages).
Volume M : May 22-November 10, 1759: Account book of the prizes taken from the Amelia , kept by Mr. Hogg, along with accounts for stores delivered to the garrison at Louisburg, the sloop John , and the schooner Fish Hawk (12 pages).
Volume N : March 10, 1760-September 9, 1762: Logbook of the HMS Dublin with brief records of the Woolwich , Falkland , Levant , Repulse , Sterling Castle , Sutherland , Centurion , and Culloden . Entries concern action at Dominica (June 1761); a conflict at Martinique, when Douglas was commander in chief of the Leeward Island Station (January 1762); Douglas assisting the British fleet during the Siege of Havana (July 1762); (272 pages).
Volume O : December 16, 1761-May 1, 1762: Logbook of a French ship captured in the West Indies (45 pages).
Volume P : 1761-1763 and 1767: Account book (16 pages) containing a list of prizes sent to Benjamin Southwell captured by the Actaeon and Falkland ; Douglas' account with Southwell; account of prizes settled at Jamaica; Alexander Willson's accounts of 1767.
Volume Q : December 18, 1760-December 31, 1771 and 1766-1767: Ledger and private accounts of Captain Douglas and copies of 9 letters from William Brisbane (70 pages).
Volume R : June 6-September 28, 1770: Logbook of the HMS Cruizer (19 pages) and a journal for the HMS Cerberus (57 pages), signed by Captain James Douglas, Jr., (1755-1840).
Volume S : August 6-November 19, 1775 (Spithead): Letter book (labeled No. 2) kept for Captain Douglas on board the HMS Barfleur . The letters are largely addressed to the secretary of the admiralty, Sir Philip Stephens, relaying news of the war in America (54 pages).
Volume T : February 9-June 12, 1776 (Spithead): Letter book (labeled No. 4) kept for Captain Douglas. Letters are largely addressed to the secretary of the admiralty, Sir Philip Stephens, relaying news of the war in America (82 pages).
Volume U : November 30, 1776-January 7, 1777 (Spithead): Letter book (labeled No. 6) kept for Captain Douglas, dealing with naval affairs at Spithead, and containing copies of orders from the Admiralty. This volume also contains a list of marines embarked at Portsmouth (70 pages).
Volume V : January 9-March 3, 1777 (Spithead): Letter book (labeled No. 7) kept for Captain Douglas. The letters are largely addressed to the Secretary of the Admiralty Sir Philip Stephens, relaying news of the war in America. Included is an item of American naval intelligence dated January 13, 1777 (80 pages).
Volume W : March 6-April 13, 1777 (Spithead): Letter book (labeled No. 8) kept for Captain Douglas. The letters are largely addressed to the Secretary of the Admiralty Sir Philip Stephens, relaying news of the war in America. Also included is information on incoming and outgoing ships, some of them bound to New York with German troops (80 pages).
Volume X : 1777 (Spithead): Letter book (Labeled No. 9) kept for Captain Douglas. The letters are largely addressed to the Secretary of the Admiralty Sir Philip Stephens, relaying news of the war in America (80 pages).
Volume Y : : Printed sailing and fighting instructions, heavily annotated by Douglas. These contain day signals, night signals, and instructions for younger captains (34 pages).
Volume Z : [After November 2, 1787]: Sederunt book of the trustees of Douglas' estate. This includes accounts on the settlement of Douglas's estate (72 pages), and copies of letters from trustee Thomas Tod and others concerning settling the estate (34 pages).
Correspondence and Documents
1750: A disposition from Mrs. Jean Kerr to Douglas concerning a transfer of land.
February 18, 1760: Douglas' appointment as commander-in-chief of the navy at Barbados and the Leeward Islands, signed by Lord Anson, Sir George Hay, John Forbes, Hans Stanley, and John Clevland.
June 16, 1762 (Greenwich, Jamaica): letter from John Patterson to the Great Britain Victualling Office, certifying a provisions shipment, signed by Douglas.
June 17, 1762 (Greenwich, Jamaica): letter from John Patterson to the Navy Board, signed by Douglas and Robert Cleiland.
December 17, 1762 (Admiralty Office): printed letter from John Clevland to Douglas inclosing a letter from Sir John Cust to the Admiralty (December 9, 1762).
 Extract of a letter "from a Gentleman in the East Convoy from Jamaica." The letter mentions Sir George Pococh (1706-1792).
[After 1762]: Memorial for Douglas (incomplete).
: Memorial for Douglas from the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury.
 Memorial for Douglas.
November 7, 1768: Marriage contract between Douglas and Lady Helen Boyle.
October 18, 1770: Douglas' appointment as Vice Admiral of the Blue Squadron, signed by Sir Edward Hawke, Lord Charles Spencer, Francis Holburne, and Sir Philip Stephens.
October 24, 1770: Douglas' appointment as Vice Admiral of the White Squadron, signed by Sir Edward Hawke, Lord Charles Spencer, Charles James Fox, and Sir Philip Stephens.
May 18, 1774: Douglas' appointment as commander-in-chief of the navy at Spithead and Portsmouth harbor, signed by Lord Sandwich, J. Buller, Lord Charles Spencer, Thomas Bradshaw, and Sir Philips Stephens.
May 19, 1774: A letter from John Montagu, 4th earl of Sandwich, to Douglas.
August 14, 1775 (Piccadilly England): A letter from Samuel Seddon to Douglas inquiring about his 1761 encounter with a capsized ship (with a living dog standing on it) found between Dominica and Martinique, which Douglas sold at auction without looking in its hold for cargo.
December 7, 1775: Douglas' appointment as the Vice Admiral of the Red Squadron, signed by Lord Sandwich, Lord Palmerston, Henry Penton, and Sir George Jackson.
[c.1776]: A letter from Douglas to Richard Howe, 4th viscount and 1st earl of Howe, relating the highlights of Douglas' naval career from 1745-1776.
January 29, 1778: Douglas' appointment as Admiral of the Blue Squadron, signed by Lord Sandwich, J. Buller, Sir Hugh Palliser, and Sir Philip Stephens.
January 13, 1782: A draft of a document entitled "Case of Captain Douglas for the opinion of the Counsel," with the answer from Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville.
April 8, 1782: Douglas' appointment as Admiral of the White Squadron, signed by Augustus Keppel, Sir Robert Harland, Hugh Pigot, John Townshend, Charles Brett, Richard Hopkins, and Sir Philip Stephens.
August 3, 1786: A receipt from William Pollock to Douglas for a payment of fees for Douglas becoming a Baronet.
[August 3, 1786] An account of fees paid for Douglas to become a Baronet.
 An essay entitled "The Three Marys."
October 15, 1829 (Patna, India): A letter from Henry Douglas to his brother Admiral James Douglas, which concerns family relations and genealogy.
June 22, 1839 (Strand, London): A letter from Edward Marjoribanks to Sir Thomas Makdougall Brisbane, concerning Douglas' estate and including a copy of his will.
August 4, 1859: A letter from James Low to Sir George Henry Scott Douglas, concerning the Douglas estate.
 A speech delivered by the secretary of the Guiana Loyal Mechanics.
Undated: Printed genealogy for the ancestors of Douglas of Friarshaw (now Springwood Park).
Undated: Facsimile of a genealogical chart of the ancestors of Thomas Makdougall Brisbane.
The Thomas Gage papers contain 3 letters from Douglas to Gage (July 17, 20, 30, 1767); one letter from Samuel Benbow to Douglas (June 17, 1767); 3 letters from Gage to Douglas (July 6, August 17, and September 27, 1767)
The William Henry Lyttelton papers contain 26 letters from Douglas to Lyttelton (April 8-June 21, 1762)
Ruddock, Mackay. "Douglas, Sir James, first baronet (1703–1787)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.