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).
- 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.
- 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.