America and West Indies: February 1697, 26-28

Pages 386-388

Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 15, 1696-1697. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1904.

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February 1697

Feb. 26. The Assembly brought up four bills, to enable Quakers to make affirmation in lieu of taking an oath, to settle the militia, to prevent the escape of white men, negroes or slaves in boats, and an additional bill for quartering the King's soldiers. They also requested that the Act enabling judges to appoint their own clerks might be enforced and recorded in the Secretary's office. [Board of Trade. Barbados, 65. pp. 194–196.]
[Feb. 27.]
768. Extracts of letters from Sir William Beeston to William Blathwayt, of 19 November, 1696, 27 January and 27 February, 1697. These Plantations were begun under difficulties enough to drive most of the people from them, and the rest are so discouraged that they leave it as soon as they have disposed of their interests. Without some better help they must shortly fall into the hands of the enemy from abroad or of the negroes within. This must certainly happen soon, if assistance be not sent, for the people say that if they are not thought worth preserving and are thus left to dwindle, it were better they were plainly dealt with, so that they might sell their negroes and moveable property to the Spaniards and move to some better place. Nor can the island recover unless the Acts of Navigation be relaxed for seven years, which would fill the country with people and trade, and make it past danger of any attempt. If the Customs outward were paid here, the people would willingly pay 2s. 6d. per cwt. on the sugars, and other goods pro rata, which would raise thrice as much custom to the King as it now does, for the King would be at none of the losses and waste of the goods going home. In a short time it would raise £20,000 a year and would daily increase, besides the great advantage of the gold and silver which would be yearly sent home from the Spanish trade. But now, owing to the war and the scarcity of people, there is neither trade nor income, so that I do aver to you it costs me £600 or £700 a year more than I receive by all incomes to support the honour and charges of the Government; and yet for all that I live below the honour and dignity of it, and cannot help it unless I ruin what I have of my own, which I do not think that the King expects of anyone. It may be urged that many of the planters that are left are not only grown free from debt since I came here but rich, and have stocks of money by them. But this is due to the rate at which all their goods are sold here, while the merchants that have bought them have lost them and are undone. Moreover, though the planters that are left are rich, there are none but themselves left to defend it.
27 January, 1697. The Admiralty wrote to me that the King's ships were under my orders, nevertheless Captain Kirkby has additional orders which empower him, on the vacancy of an officer's post in the ships, to fill it with those that are next in course, any appointments by the Governor notwithstanding (though I have not needed to appoint any officers since Captain Wilmot was here). On virtue of this order he issues commissions under his hand and seal, and puts in strangers, which is urged as a blame against me. Thus one man may do what another must not without blame. In his commission he calls himself the Honourable Colonel Kirkby, Commander-in-Chief of all H.M. Ships in this island, and gives orders to the other captains, which is none of his business. But I had the King's orders not to meddle with any of them in future, so they must do what they please, though I think there cannot be two Commanders-in-Chief at one time in one place without prejudice to the King's service, as the miscarriages at Martinique and Hispaniola make manifest. Thus in effect the ships are of great charge here to the King, but do very little service, otherwise I would not trouble myself about them; nor will I say a word to the Admiralty about this, for I know they countenance it. If however you think fit to lay what is necessary before the Council of Trade, I leave it to your judgment, for I will not complain myself if my hands are tied by the Royal Orders not to meddle with the ships. However it is hard, since a small authority to the officers must encourage them to affront any power, that the Governor here must be subjected to their insults. Captain Kirkby believes and says that the Governor has no power here but on land—no not in the harbour. When they do a thing they cannot justify, then they ask my order, but not in anything else. I have always endeavoured to do my duty to the King's service, wherefore I am concerned to see things, contrived by the King for the good of the people, so managed that they do harm. For it is certainly true that the pressing and the carriage of the officers have driven away most of the people. Besides, this makes the Government contemptible, for the people, seeing the Governor's authority disputed and slighted by others, take example from them and are ready to side with them and do the same. Had I not the King's orders not to meddle with them I should not bear it, which they well enough know and gives them the confidence to take the more liberty. Captain Moses has taken the rebel Grubbin, who has been the greatest robber on the out-parts of this island. He shall be brought to justice, which is all the satisfaction which the poor people will have who lost their negroes. I gave Captain Moses public thanks and £100 for his good service. Mons. Ducasse threatens to retaliate on one Captain Price, if Grubbin is brought to justice, but that shall not deter me. I have sent the Duke of Shrewsbury depositions to show how ill the Spaniards treat our people when they meet them and can overpower them, though we always treat their people with respect.
27 February. We have been obliged to retain the Southampton, which was just about to sail, on news of Mons. Pointis. Since we have heard no more of him we guess that he has designs on the galleons or flota. I have an account of five sail seen passing down the North side of this island on the 13th and 14th, which may be part of them going to Havana. If so, our fleet of merchant-ships which sailed the same day will be in great danger of being lost. The soldiers who remain here are very healthy and lusty, and I take care that they have their due pay, but they would earn more money and live better if they were broke, do more service by their labour and trades, and save the King so much money. My sloop has just come in with the intelligence that part of Mons. Pointis's fleet was seen to go into Lugania on the 23rd. A French prisoner, who has been brought in by the sloop, says that the fleet was expected to number twenty-eight in all, but that five sail departed thence a fortnight ago and passed down the Northern coast of this island. I will do my best to defend the place, but this is a force that surpasses my strength. Copy. 4 pp. Endorsed, Recd. Read, 7 June, 1697. [Board of Trade. Jamaica, 8. No. 47; and 56. pp. 95–01.]
Feb. 28. 769. Minutes of Council of Jamaica. Upon intelligence that Mons. Pointis's squadron had arrived at St. Domingo, orders were given for proclamation of martial law, for distribution of ammunition and provisions at various points, for the women and children to be removed from Port Royal, for six fireships to be fitted, for the train of artillery to be made ready, and for Edward Broughton, John Dores, Robert Cotes and John Veale to be aides-de-camp to the Governor. [Board of Trade. Jamaica, 79. pp. 56–58.]