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ELIZA RUSSELL AND LITTLE PENN CLAIMS. The Eliza Russell and the Little Penn claims of the British government against the Republic of Texas grew out of incidents of 1837, when ships of the Texas Navy seized cargoes of the two British vessels as prizes of war. When the Little Penn, carrying a cargo belonging to F. de Lizardi and Company and destined for Tabasco, ran aground on a shoal, its cargo was saved by the Mexican vessels Paz and Abispa. The Texas warships Brutus and Invincibleqqv captured the Abispa and sent her to Matagorda, and then stripped the Little Penn of everything of value before wrecking the vessel. Lizardi and Company claimed, through the British foreign office, damages of over 3,640 pounds sterling, but Texas never recognized the claim. In January 1838 the British brought the claim to the attention of the Texas chargé, James Pinckney Henderson, but Texas claimed that Lizardi and Company were London agents for the Mexican government and that a prize court had already decided the case. In February 1845 the republic still refused to pay the claim.

The Eliza Russell, a schooner owned by Capt. Joseph Russell, was captured by Texas vessels off the Campeche coast on August 3, 1837, and was sent to Galveston, despite orders that ships carrying neutral flags were to be respected unless they were carrying contraband and bound for an enemy port. She was ordered released but was delayed and injured by storms in Galveston Bay, and Russell subsequently presented to the British government a claim for 865 pounds sterling because of the seizure and delay. The Texas government acknowledged its fault in the Eliza Russell case but postponed payment until September 1843.

The claims were relatively insignificant as to size and consequence, but they occupied much of the diplomatic correspondence of the republic and accounted for a brief period of unfriendliness between the two governments. At one time Lord Palmerston of the British Foreign Office threatened to send a British warship to take all action necessary to enforce payment of the claims. However, British representatives in Texas reported that Texas did not have resources to pay but intended to pay the claim for the Eliza Russell. The claim for the Little Penn was never vigorously pressed by the British. See also DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS.

Ephraim Douglass Adams, "British Correspondence Concerning Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 19 (October 1915). Asa Kyrus Christian, Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1922). Alex Dienst, "The Navy of the Republic of Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 12–13 (January-October 1909; rpt., Fort Collins, Colorado: Old Army Press, 1987). J. L. Worley, "The Diplomatic Relations of England and the Republic of Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 9 (July 1905).

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Handbook of Texas Online, "Eliza Russell and Little Penn Claims," accessed November 24, 2017,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.