New Haven. February 5, 1767. pp. plus integral docketing leaf. Folio. Silked. Small paper loss to top of sheet, affecting a few words of text. A few minor losses at edges. Lightly soiled. Good. In a red half morocco and cloth clamshell case, spine gilt. Item #WRCAM42590
Written complaint lodged with the New Haven Customs House in which two sailors, Rutherford Cooke and Caleb Comstock, protest the treatment of their ship at port - a ship of which Benedict Arnold was captain and owner. The two men attest that the sloop Charming Sally, Benedict Arnold captain (not present), sailed for the West Indies and thence to Amsterdam, where they met Arnold on business, and then back again to the West Indies. The complaint reads:
"Be it known and made manifest to all persons whom these presents shall come...before me Daniel Lyman, Esqr., one of His Majesty's Jus[tices] of the Peace for the county of New Haven...personally came and appeared Rutherford Cooke, Mate of the good sloop Charming Sally and Caleb Comstock, mariner, and on oath depose and say that on the fifteenth of July last they sailed in sd. sloop from the island of St. Croix in the West Indies to Holland whereof was Master Benedict Arnold of New Haven where we arrived on the thirtieth of August following and having there discharged our cargo took on board a freight for sd. St. Croix on account of Mr. Daniel Cromeline, merchant at Amsterdam, at which place we left our Capt. sd. Benedict Arnold on shore on the fifth of October and from there arrived at sd. St. Croix on the fifteenth of Novemr. and after disposing our cargo sailed on the twenty- third of the same month in a sett of ballast for New Haven, where we arrived the tenth of January not having our Capt. on board.
"And the Dept. the Mate further says that thereupon he applied to his Majesty's Custom House in sd. New Haven with the register of sd. vessel & her papers in proper office hours for entering the same, but being required he left his papers with the officers thereof for a time in which the said sloop might be searched by a waiter for that purpose, which was accordingly done; but nothing found on board or in any other place tho search has repeatedly been made; and that afterwards the sd. Mate applied to sd. office for the entry of sd. vessel & her papers but was refused tho tending to give oath as the Acts of Parliament require. And especially as the Dept. further say on the fifth of inst. February, and was denied the entry of the vessel & her papers after an attendance of near three weeks."
It is signed by Rutherford Cooke, Caleb Comstock, and Justice of the Peace Daniel Lyman.
Not a great deal seems to have been known about Arnold's early business ventures hitherto - the material available, for example, to Arnold's principal modern biographer, Willard Sterne Randall, being comparatively scant. Arnold first entered business in 1761, and initially seems to have been successful. He visited London the next year, where he acquired stock on credit, then set up shop on Chapel Street in New Haven under the famous sign (still preserved at the New Haven Historical Society): "B. Arnold Druggist / Bookseller &c. / From London / Sibi Totique." Later he also acquired a sloop and undertook trading voyages to the Caribbean and Canada. Most of these voyages, however, were devoted to smuggling rather than upstanding trade. "Benedict Arnold's business was secret by definition. To keep accurate records would have been self- destructive, yet not to engage to some degree of smuggling was all but impossible if such a business was to survive increasingly stringent British trade policies" - Randall (p.42). Despite these various enterprises, Arnold went bankrupt, owing some £16,000 when his business failed in the summer of 1766.
Given the smuggling activities in which Arnold was engaged, and his business failure, the Customs House may have had good reason to be suspicious of his vessel, despite the lack of supporting evidence aboard ship. It is also possible that he had made enemies of the authorities, as in January 1767 he was involved in a notorious case of beating up a colonial tax collector. Willard Sterne Randall, BENEDICT ARNOLD: PATRIOT AND TRAITOR (1991).