The Vice Admiralty Court Act placed all trials for smuggling in the courts of the Royal Navy and provided incentives for judges and customs officials to rule against anyone accused of smuggling. The Vice Admiralty Court Act was one of the five Townshend Acts passed by Parliament.
At the Court at St James’s
the 6th day of July 1768
The King’s most Excellent Majesty in Council.
Whereas there was this day read at the Board a Representation from the Lords Commisioners of His Majesty’s Treasury dated the 2nd of this Instant in the words following viz
“We the Commissioners of your Majesty’s Treasury beg leave humbly to represent to your Majesty, that whereas by an act passed in the last Session of the last Parliament intituled An Act for the more easy and effectual recovery of the Penalty’s and Forfeitures inflicted by the Acts of Parliament relating to the Trade or Revenues of the British Colonies and plantations in America. It is enacted that from and after the first day of September 1768. all forfeitures and Penaltys inflicted by any Act or Acts of Parliament relating to the Trade or Revenues of the British Colonies or Plantations in America may be prosecuted sued for and recovered in any Court of Vice Admiralty appointed or to be appointed and which shall have jurisdiction within the Colony Plantation or Place where the cause of such prosecution or suit shall have arisen and that in all cases where any Prosecution or suit shall be commenced and determined for any penalty or forfeiture inflicted by any such Act or Acts of Parliament in any Court of Admiralty in the respective Colony or Plantation where the Offence shall be committed either party who shall think himself aggrieved by such Determination may appeal from such Determination to any Court of Vice Admiralty appointed or to be appointed and which shall have Jurisdiction within such Colony or Plantation or Place—And whereas it will greatly contribute to the due Collection of your Majesty’s Revenue and to the prevention and punishment of Frauds committed against the same and will likewise tend to the more speedy and effectual administration of Justice within the said Colonies and Plantations and be agreable to the Intention of the Legislature in passing the said Act that a sufficient number of such Courts of Vice Admiralty be consituted and established at proper and convenient places within the said Colonies and Plantations.
We humbly submit to your Majesty whether it may not be expedient and necessary for the purposes above mentioned to revoke the Commission appointing one only Court Vice Admiralty over all America and in lieu thereof to establish four other Courts of Vice Admiralty the first at Halifax in the province of Nova Scotia the second at Boston in the Province of New England the third at Philadelphia in the Colony of Pensylvania and the fourth at Charles Town in the Colony of South Carolina: The said Courts to have Jurisdiction within certain Districts to be allotted to them respectively by your Majesty And We humbly lay before your Majesty the enclosed plan of Districts proper to be allotted to the said Courts which we submit to your Majesty’s consideration each of the Judges of the said Courts respectively to be allowed such Salary as your Majesty shall think proper to be paid in the first place out of your Majesty’s Moiety of the money arising from any Penalties and Forfeitures to be levied within the said Colonies and Plantations and if this Fund shall not be sufficient out of the money arising from the sale of old Naval Stores and the said Judges to be expressly enjoined in their Commissions upon pain of loosing their Offices not to take any Fee or Gratuity whatsoever for any Judgment given or “business done in their respective Courts.”
His Majesty taking the same into His Royal Consideration is pleased with the advice of His Privy Council to approve thereof and accordingly to order as it is hereby ordered that a Commission be passed under the Great Seal authorizing the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to revoke the Commission appointing one only Court of Vice Admiralty over all America and empowering them in the lieu thereof to establish four other Courts of Vice Admiralty the first at Halifax in the Province of Nova Scotia, the second at Boston in the Province of New England, the third at Philadelphia in the Colony of Pensylvania and the fourth at Charles Town in the Colony of South Carolina as proposed by the aforegoing Representation of the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s Treasury and the plan of Districts to be allotted to such Courts hereunto annexed—And the Right Honourable the Earl of Hillsborough one of His Majesty’s principal Secretarys of State is to cause a Warrant to be prepared for His Majesty’s Royal Signature in order to pass such Commission under the Great Seal accordingly.