AT a Council meeting of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts held on 27 February 1975, Corresponding Secretary Sinclair H. Hitchings proposed that the Society organize a conference “on one period or one aspect of the maritime history of colonial Massachusetts” and, at the same time, graciously suggested I be “persuaded” to undertake that task. As far as the theme was concerned, he further submitted, I should “haul in my own net.”

Somehow, this hard-shelled summons left me with the uncomfortable feeling I was being asked to accomplish the impossible. Nevertheless, little persuasion was actually required, because the need for such a conference was clearly evident. But there was no doubt the topic was a very broad one indeed. How should it be structured? What should be its focus? And who should be asked to contribute papers? For several weeks in several quarters there was a deal of head scratching. Then an answer emerged.

Constantly encountered throughout the eighteenth-century private and official literature of Massachusetts is the phrase “for the protection of the trade and the fisheries.” It was one artfully employed over and over again, particularly in wartime, as a clarion call for good men to stand up and be counted. A form of verbal flag-waving, it was calculated to inspire, cajole, wheedle, and shame dilatory shipowners, commercial merchants, or legislators into taking action upon any one of countless measures designed to secure the Province and its principal livelihoods from enemy depredation.

If such an all-encompassing expression were stretched historically to fit a multiplicity of contemporaneous guises, why not structure conference papers, whenever possible, around it now? “Protection of the trade and the fisheries” opened wide the door to an infinite variety of subjects: ships of the day, how they were employed, means of safeguarding them against man-made and natural disasters, and so on. Potential conference participants were so informed and were given the widest latitude possible to fit their own areas of expertise and research projects in progress. Yet, in casting the net, the plan was to snag the scholarly denizens of the Deep.

Several of the more prestigious, men like Harvard’s Bernard Bailyn and Notre Dame’s Marshall Smelser, unfortunately proved to be too heavily laden with other endeavors to be hauled aboard in season. Walter Muir Whitehill preferred to remain in reserve rather than to become an immediate principal in the cast of characters. Samuel Eliot Morison, despite his keen enthusiasm, was burdened with crushing commitments. And, at this time, he was retrenching visibly under the labors of advancing age, wont to let younger scholars shoulder the load he had borne so well for so long. Six months after the conference, which he attended in Boston its first day, Sam Morison died. Two years after that, Walter Whitehill, the Colonial Society’s guiding spirit, tragically followed in his wake.

Yet in the formative, organizational stages, these last two giants stood poised in the wings to lend staunch support and candid advice if asked for it. Walter nonetheless adopted his usual stance, one of many marks of his extraordinary genius. Once he had settled a task upon a colleague, no matter what its degree of difficulty, his surrogate was fully empowered with command of the helm, free to reef sails or to set stun’s’ls according to his own judgement.

The articles contained in this volume cover a wide range of subject areas within the adopted focus. They begin, appropriately enough, with a discriminating look at the vessel types indigenous to Massachusetts Bay during the colonial era. William A. Baker, Curator of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Hart Nautical Museum, knows the subject intimately, having written numerous books and papers on early American watercraft. He also has been responsible, among other replicas, for the designs of Mayflower II and of the ketch Adventure. Illustrating the venturesome and dangerous life of seafarers and ocean travelers alike, Stephen T. Riley, Director Emeritus of the Massachusetts Historical Society, gives us a vivid account of Abraham Browne’s captivity by North African pirates. For perils nearer home, both natural and man-made, Sinclair H. Hitchings, Keeper of Prints at the Boston Public Library, has superbly reconstituted the colorful life of the indefatigable adventurer-seadog-surveyor Cyprian Southack, while Donald F. Chard, a contributor to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, examines an other side of the coin: unorthodox trade between traditional enemies during wartime and peace.

No man is more supremely qualified to discuss the advances in cartography as it affected the New England coast than Professor William P. Cumming of Davidson College, Davidson, North Carolina. His superlative work for this volume helps immensely to bridge a gap of yawning proportions. Richard C. Kugler, Director of the New Bedford Whaling Museum and a widely recognized expert on the history of the whale fisheries, clarifies a little-known aspect of the colonial trade in whale oil. My own survey of the ship King George solidified as a spin-off from other research but gives a not atypical picture of a provincial engine of war during the eighteenth century. Lastly, Father Joseph R. Frese, retired Professor of History at Fordham University, provides a delightful overview of the perennial fisticuffs between the shadowy smugglers of late colonial days and their arch nemesis, the combined arms of the Royal Navy and the Customs service.

As volume editor, I am extremely grateful to all conference participants for their help in seeing this book through the press. I should also like to acknowledge the cooperation of Augustus P. Loring, whose listing of views from The Atlantic Neptune was not part of the official gathering but was urged upon him as an informal slide presentation at the conclusion of the first session.

Further thanks are due to Frederick S. Allis, Jr., current Editor of Publications, who carries on the grand traditions of Walter Muir Whitehill in an exemplary fashion; to Andrew Oliver, President of the Society; to Council member Sinclair H. Hitchings; to Harry Milliken of The Anthoensen Press of Portland, Maine; and to all the institutions, mentioned elsewhere, which have generously granted permission to make use of their various holdings for this book. Finally, for their secretarial assistance, I gratefully thank Grace Vanner Fairfield and Tracey A. C. Eve.

Philip Chadwick Foster Smith

Associate Editor of Publications


March 1980