Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Volume 16, 1697-1698. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1905.
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THE present volume opens at the day immediately following that whereon the news of the Peace of Ryswick was announced to the various Colonies. The cessation of arms was not unexpected, indeed hostilities had already well nigh ceased in anticipation of it; but there were two military expeditions whose issue was not yet fully known nor explained at the time when the Treaty was signed; and it will therefore be convenient to dispose of them before entering into the details of the Colonial administration.
The first of these expeditions was that committed to the charge of Admiral Nevill which, as related in the preface to the preceding volume, had ended in an abortive cruise and in the death of its commander. Nevill, however, had found time before his death to pick a quarrel with Sir William Beeston, the Governor of Jamaica, and to endeavour to saddle him with the failure of the enterprise (57). To this most unjust insinuation Beeston replied with a series of indignant disclaimers (74, 90), setting forth that, but for the money which he had patriotically expended from his own pocket, the King's ships would never have been able to keep the sea at all. The Council of Trade loyally supported him against all the attacks of the naval officers (92), and were able to assure him of their undiminished confidence in his zeal and integrity. With his justification, therefore, the whole incident of the expedition came to an end. Beeston's anxious mind was set at rest, and the matter need trouble us no more (269, 551).
The second expedition was that despatched to recover Newfoundland from the French, the narrative of which was duly set forth by Colonel Gibsone at the end of November, 1697 (75). From this it appears that Gibsone and Commodore Norris found the harbour of St. Johns evacuated by the enemy, and thereupon proceeded to place it in a state of defence. After a stay of some weeks two French fleets, jointly of superior force to the English squadron, appeared before the haven, but sailed away without venturing to attack; whereupon Gibsone left nearly three hundred men under Major Handasyd to hold it and returned home. Long before he reached England, one-third of this unhappy garrison had perished, whether of cold or scurvy or exposure or epidemic disease there is nothing to show (51). However, from that moment Newfoundland became one of England's fortified stations beyond sea, and a factor in the problem of Imperial defence.
But this problem was only one of many which demanded solution at the hands of King William now that, for the first time since his accession, he had some leisure to devote to Imperial concerns at large. The war for the moment had ended owing to the general exhaustion of the combatants, but the so-called peace was but a truce—a short breathing-time before resumption of the fight—and it was of the last importance to turn every moment of it to account. For there was very much amiss that needed to be set right. The Acts of Trade and Navigation had been absolutely set aside while hostilities lasted, and it was necessary, by the help of the new Act of 1695—1696, to enforce them with all possible stringency. But this could only be effected by the King's ships, encouraged by the utmost zeal on the part of the Governors of all Colonies, whether in the hands of Proprietors or directly subject to the Crown; and there were dark complaints not only of illegal trading but of absolute piracy against practically the whole of the British Colonial possessions excepting Jamaica. New York, the Bahamas and Pennsylvania were specially marked out as the worst offenders, their Governors being openly accused of encouraging pirates for their own emolument. These two questions of defence and trade were alone sufficiently difficult to tax all the powers of the Council of Trade and Plantations; and accordingly we find that they form the main subjects of the papers in the present volume.
The principal trouble that arose at home at the end of the war was the payment of the disbanded troops; the English treasury being empty and the disorder of the public finances extreme. It is therefore not surprising to find that the Government sought at once to satisfy the demands of the discharged soldiers and to strengthen the armed force of the Colonies, by sending some of the veterans of the war across the sea and rewarding them with grants of land. The measure was the more obvious inasmuch as the defence of the West Indies depended, apart from the fleet, entirely on the militia, which was composed of white servants imported by the planters and indentured to them for a term of years. This system, however, had failed during the war owing to the enormous demand for recruits for the operations in Ireland and in Flanders, where the mortality had been unusually heavy. Schomberg's first campaign of 1689 had been particularly wasteful; and thousands of men had died, not from the sword but from disease and exposure due to the helplessness and, in many cases, corruption of the officers, and to the disorganisation of the military departments in London. The fighting in Flanders had been also most costly in the lives of men, Steenkirk having been one of the bloodiest actions on record, and Landen neither more nor less than a complete rout after a very long and stubborn engagement. Even later, when the successful siege of Namur had revived William's drooping laurels, the losses of the British Army had been enormous; and the Navy, it must be added, had suffered little less heavily than the Army.
In the West Indies likewise, owing to a succession of deadly seasons, the mortality among the white men had been very great. Barbados at the opening of the war had cheerfully sent her militia to the reconquest of St. Kitts; but before its close her battalions had been so much thinned, that it had been necessary to send a regiment from England for her protection. In plain words the old system of defence by white servants had broken down; and a new system was required to take its place. The English Government, however, was quite unable to devise, much less to execute, the necessary measures. It had offered bodies of convicts to the whole of the Colonies as white servants, but was met everywhere, except in the Leeward Islands, not only with refusal but with very decided objections (1); and it seems for a time to have contemplated even the total abandonment of transportation as a punishment (65). But disbanded soldiers promised a far more desirable population to the Colonies, and therefore a sounder foundation whereon to build a new system of imperial defence. "New York," answered the agents for that province, "will hold a greater number of men than the King will think fit to send"; but, though apparently all the Colonies were prepared to receive them, not one was ready to pay the expense of their passage. Lord Bellomont advised that a certain number of soldiers should be sent out as a regular body in the King's pay, and gradually disbanded as they found employment in their new home; but this meant a heavy drain upon the exhausted English Treasury (4, 5, 7). Enquiry in other Colonies showed that white labourers were badly wanted in one and all, and that, if the difficulty of their passage over the sea could be overcome, the soldiers could find not only good wages but, in due course, grants of lands also. It was hardly to be expected that impoverished communities like Virginia and Maryland could furnish the necessary funds for the importation of immigrants; but it was reasonable to expect at best that the wealthy planters of Barbados, Jamaica and the Leeward Islands might make some effort. In all three of them, while the war lasted, the local governments had offered a bounty upon every white man brought into the different islands; and Jamaica in particular had tendered to immigrants very favourable terms. "But," observed the Council of Trade, "their fears being dissipated, it is not to be expected that they will be very willing to comply with this Act, though it remains in force." Here the true British character comes out. The immediate peril being over, there was no occasion to profit by past experience or to take precautions for the future. Altogether the Council of Trade could only report that, if the King would be at the expense of transporting the soldiers to their destinations, the Colonies would be graciously pleased to receive them; if not, no doubt the Colonial merchants would be ready to take such as were prepared to sell themselves into servitude (25). The entire project therefore fell to the ground, and the King was fain to take refuge in an order, that the Governors of the Colonies should take care that the Acts enjoining the importation of white men were rigidly enforced (218, 238, 311). Since the execution of these Acts depended entirely on the goodwill of the planters, the order was no more than a pious hope, not worth the paper upon which it was written.
The fortification of the Colonies went the same way as the scheme for the immigration of disbanded soldiers. There were three officers of Engineers employed in the work when peace was signed, and their task was by no means completed; but none the less the Office of Ordnance, grudging the drain upon its funds, demanded that they should be recalled, quite irrespective of all questions of defence. In short the only department in which some precaution was taken against a recurrence of war was the Admiralty, which, upon the representation of the Council of Trade, provided a squadron of five ships for the West Indies (32, 198, 1,056). At the same time, looking to the difficulties incurred by naval commanders in obtaining money during the war, the Council of Trade recommended that the Admiralty should appoint its own Agents or establish its own depots in the West Indies, for the supply of the King's ships with provisions and stores (427).
A far more troublesome matter was the appointment of a permanent garrison for Newfoundland. The Office of Ordnance, as usual, at once demanded that all the gunners should be recalled, or the expense of their maintenance charged upon the Colony, according to precedent (239). That Newfoundland was not a Colony and that there was no one there to bear the expense, were matters which it never thought of considering. Colonel Gibsone, however, set forth in plain language that unless England was prepared to accept the ruin of the fishery and of all her interests in Newfoundland upon every outbreak of war, due provision must be made for the fortification of St. Johns and for the organization of the bodies of scattered settlers, which had planted themselves permanently in the different harbours of the island (286, 293). Captain Norris of the Royal Navy also gave advice as to the defence of St. Johns (301); and at the end of March the Council of Trade submitted a definite proposal for the fortification of the place, and for the establishment and victualling of a permanent garrison of fifty men, upon an increased rate of pay (333, 337, 338). Instructions were also issued for the exclusion of interlopers of foreign nations from the fishery (306, 339, 340). A very curious correspondence followed with the Victualling Board, which is of some interest as showing the allowance of food upon which the British sailor lived in those days (375, 384—386, 388—390, 437, 438, 443). The Ordnance Office also made a second protest against this additional charge upon their funds unless a proportionate additional allowance were made by the Treasury—an appeal which the Treasury could meet only with promises. However, in June, 1698, Commodore Norris received his instructions to sail with the armed convoy to Newfoundland and to establish the new garrison (498, 539—541, 573, 586—588); and on the 10th of August he reached St. Johns. In the previous year he had left there 299 men. Of these 214 had died in the course of the winter from cold and exposure (1,041). Of the survivors an independent company was formed, and Gibsone in his reports upon the settlements (787, 852, 990), gave the number of permanent inhabitants as 1,416. Thus Newfoundland at last began to attain to the dignity of a Colony instead of a mere fishing station, at the trifling cost of two hundred soldiers frozen to death. Rarely has a great tragedy been summed up in as few words as in Lieutenant Colonel Handasyd's account of the hardship which "cost most of the poor men their lives" (1,041).
There remained one more garrison, that of New York, which, being the most directly exposed to the attacks of the French, demanded above all others particular attention. A new governor, Lord Bellomont, had been appointed to that Colony; and, for preliminary relief to the four companies which were entrusted with its defence, an iniquitous deduction of 30 per cent. from their pay was abolished (29,44). But their wages were still heavily in arrear, and they were in extreme want from lack of clothing (48) Worse than this the number of the settlers at Albany had been seriously diminished by death and removal during the war; and worst of all the Five Nations of Indians, which had formed the great bulwark against the aggression of the French from Canada, had been reduced from 2,800 to 1,320 fighting men (387). This was perhaps the most serious result of the whole war to the British; but, since the entire question was left for settlement by Lord Bellomont upon his arrival at New York, it will be more convenient to consider it later, when treating of his administration.
I turn now from Imperial Defence to the two questions of trade and of piracy, which are so closely intermixed that it is impossible to deal with them separately. Illicit trade flourished in the whole of the North American Colonies without any exception, and always with the connivance of the Colonial, if not also of the Imperial, officers. In Virginia the method for reading the Acts of Trade seem to have been of the simplest and most primitive, accompanied by undisguised corruption (655, 684); but the evil began and ended with simple smuggling, and even this was checked, both there and in Maryland, by the energy of the Governors, Andros and Nicholson. The greater, therefore, was the indignation of these provinces, and particularly of Maryland, at the report that illicit trade and piracy alike were winked at by William Penn's deputy at Philadelphia. Some allowance must be made from the fact that Maryland was furiously jealous of Pennsylvania's energy and consequent prosperity, and had actually imposed special duties to damage her trade. It appears further that Governor Nicholson had sent an armed party over the Pennsylvanian border to arrest certain men who were accused of piracy and of harbouring deserters; which had likewise brought the King's Navy into violent collision and most unedifying correspondence with the Pennsylvanian authorities (76). But there seems none the less to be abundant evidence that Governor Markham at Philadelphia countenanced not only illegal trade but piracy, and that with little or no concealment (401—404). With great ingenuity the Assembly of Pennsylvania endeavoured to legalise this illicit traffic by removing questions of trade from the jurisdiction of the King's officers (633); but its defence of itself against the charges of Edward Randolph and others is not, in face of the evidence, very conclusive (759, 759). Moreover in spite of all warnings the Pennsylvanians persisted in the practices complained of, adding further to them the evil, which two generations later brought them into serious trouble, of refusing to allow their outlying settlers to organise themselves for defence against pirates and Indians (786, 796, 811, 827, 907). After every allowance made for the vexatious and oppressive nature of the Acts of Trade, there is something repellent in the picture of the Quaker settlement which is presented by these documents.
The Council of Trade, however, was not disposed to pass lightly over this defiance of the Imperial authority while William Penn lay open to pressure in England. Among the provisions of the Act of 1695—6 for regulating the Plantation Trade was a clause that the Governors of Proprietary Colonies should take the oath to execute the Acts of Trade, and that their appointments should not be valid unless confirmed by the King. This clause had been generally evaded by the Colonies in question (p. 183); but it happened that the House of Lords had passed a resolution, that security should be required of the Proprietors themselves for the good behaviour of the Governors of their choice. The Council of Trade plied Penn among other Proprietors with this resolution, and Penn visibly writhed under it. He urged that the security should be required of the Governor himself by the King, forgetting that it could with better reason be required by the Proprietor; but it does not appear that the Council of Trade was disposed to relieve him of his responsibility. In truth he was inclined to excuse his Agents for all their malpractices, which increased the wealth of the settlement and presumably added to his own profits; and the course of his career, as revealed by these and former documents that have come under my notice, does not incline me to expect scrupulous honesty of the man. However at the last he yielded, though with no very good grace, so far as to disallow the Act passed by the Assembly of Pennsylvania for the neutralizing of the Imperial Act for regulating the Plantation Trade (1,060). To judge by the entry in the journal of the Council of Trade, his was not a very dignified submission (1,061).
Still greater difficulty was found in another Chartered Colony, Rhode Island, where Quakerism was again made the pretext for refusal to obey the law. The Governor declined not only to take the oath to execute the Act for regulating the Plantation Trade, but even to recognise the King's Commission appointing a judge of the Admiralty Court within the province (282). To the grave charges of illicit trade and connivance with piracy the Colony returned a vague and evasive denial (423, 434); but the evidence as to the dealings of the Governor, Walter Clarke, with pirates was too strong to be overlooked; and the Council of Trade, in reviewing the whole matter, recommended that Lord Bellomont should not only be required to examine and report upon the misdeeds of Rhode Island but should be armed with a quo warranto so as to vacate its charter (1,071). At this point the documents relative to the case in the present volume come to an end; but it is well known that Rhode Island remained a Chartered Colony to the end. Apparently the statesmen of King William the Third could never muster up courage to do away with Proprietary Colonies altogether, and bring the whole of them under the Crown; and this was a grave blunder; for their anomalous position forbade all unity of imperial policy and administration.
Of the other Colonies, Connecticut was as freely accused as the rest of traffic with pirates (p. 183), though her Governor and Council absolutely denied it (194, 628). Carolina, though there are no documents concerning her in the present volume, had long enjoyed a bad reputation as a hot-bed of piracy, and with the best of reason. Even worse than Carolina were the Bahamas, which belonged to the same Proprietors and were equally uncontrollable. There the charges against the Governor, Nicholas Trott, were of the gravest, for it was alleged that he had not only trafficked with Every alias Bridgeman, the most notorious pirate of the day (928), but that he had played the part of a common wrecker (1,034). There can, I think, be no doubt that Trott was a great scoundrel, though it is hard to say whether he was worse than the Quaker Governors, Markham of Pennsylvania and Clarke of Rhode Island. But the most serious offenders of all, to all appearance, were the merchants of New York, abetted almost openly by the King's Governor, Colonel Benjamin Fletcher. It will presently be necessary to follow Fletcher's career in detail; but first it will be instructive to see what was the range of the pirates which so greatly occupied the attention of the Council of Trade in 1698.
In former volumes of this Calendar we have seen little of pirates, privateers or buccaneers except in the Caribbean sea; and the Colony which was chiefly concerned, first in encouraging and lastly in suppressing them, was Jamaica. To all intent it may be said that these old buccaneers had come to an end in 1697; but a new race of pirates had carried their depredations into another quarter, the Red Sea. The complaints of their ravages came no longer from Spanish and English Governors but from the East India Company, which viewed them not only with indignation but with the greatest alarm. The first account before us narrates the capture of seven ships belonging both to native owners and to the Company in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, John Hore being the captain of one of the piratical craft, manned chiefly by Englishmen. It was alleged that her crew had shared as much as £700 a man (115 I). A second letter (201) gave a further account of Hore and his consorts; and a relation of an Englishman, who was actually captured by the pirates; affords an interesting account of their methods, mentioning also the name of Glover as one of the pirate-captains (224). By February, 1698, the matter was judged to be of such weight that the great officers of State as well as the Council of Trade were summoned to deliberate upon it. Fresh evidence kept pouring in (234, 235), all bearing witness to the havoc wrought by these ruffians upon the commerce of the East Indian seas, and to the terror of the East India Company lest the native princes, in wrath at their losses, should avenge themselves upon their factors. The pirates invariably sailed under the British flag, and had consequently brought the British name into general detestation. Moreover it was absolutely certain that these predatory vessels were equipped by British Colonists at various American ports, but chiefly from Rhode Island and New York. The Council of Trade therefore recommended that a squadron should be fitted out without delay to root these plagues out of their base at Madagascar, but added that, unless the Proprietors of the Proprietary Colonies were required to give security for the good behaviour of their Governors, they saw no prospect of putting an end to the evil. The King approved of the recommendation as to the squadron, and ordered also that a circular should be sent to all the Colonies (309), requiring them to pass a stringent Act, on the model of Jamaica, for suppression of piracy (265, 267). A severe bill for the same end was also drafted from England (338).
New information now arrived as to the fortified base from which the piratical expeditions were despatched, at St. Mary's Island off Madagascar (279). It was under the command of an old pirate named Baldridge, and was regularly furnished with supplies and stores by Frederick Phillips or Flypse, a merchant of New York and a member of Council. Then came letters reporting that the Arabs of Muscat had caught the trick of plundering British vessels from the British pirates (383). Then came a long despatch from Edward Randolph giving fresh evidence of the friendly feeling towards pirates in Carolina, Philadelphia, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey (451), and of the profits made by the Governor of Rhode Island by his connivance with them (521). Then arrived a fresh batch of letters from the East India Company setting forth the misdeeds of a still more notorious pirate, Captain Kidd, with hints that, besides the merchants of New York and Rhode Island, those of New England were also in co-operation with him and his peers, and that the Governor of Barbados held shares in the venture (723 I. –VIII). The impudence and also the cowardice of these sea-robbers is well set forth in the narrative of an Englishman who was a prisoner on board one of their vessels. But the profits that they made were enormous (734). Fresh evidence followed hard upon this (742, 743), a part of it gravely incriminating Governor Fletcher of New York. Incidentally there was given a curious example of the manner in which these thieves settled a difficulty that had arisen out of the division of their gains. Fourteen pirates on arriving at Madagascar found that their booty was insufficient to reward them all, and therefore separated themselves into two bodies of seven to fight for what they had taken. The contest must have been severe, for all seven of one party were killed and five of the other, so that two men finally enjoyed the whole of the booty (771).
Meanwhile the Council of Trade was busily advising with the East India Company over the voyage of the squadron which was to put down these pirates, making such progress that early in March they were able to lay definite proposals before the King (304, 327). Comparatively little was known about the navigation of the East Indian seas, and accordingly it was necessary to call upon the few skilled navigators who had experience of them for information. Captain Thomas Warren was the first of these (694), and later on a more famous sailor, Captain William Dampier, was summoned (851). After much discussion the instructions of the Commodore in command of the squadron were determined (783, 788, 797, 806, 832, 882); a fifth-rate frigate was added to the force originally proposed (703); and all was ready for the deliverance of British East Indian Trade from the piratical attacks of the British Colonies.
It remained next to assail the true source of the evil in the Colonies themselves, which duty was assigned to Richard Coote, Earl of Bellomont, the newly-appointed Governor of New York and New England. He had sailed for New York in the winter of 1697, but, being driven off the coast by a gale, found himself in January in Barbados, having parted company from every ship of the little squadron that had sailed with him (158, 159, 181). The winter was unusually severe, and many of the American harbours were frozen up, so that perhaps he was fortunate in being blown off the coast (326, 348). He did not leave Barbados until the 9th of March nor reach New York until nearly a month later, being finally sworn in upon the 2nd of April (347, 472). Upon his arrival he found the Council very backward in offering information or assistance; and their attitude did not become more friendly when he opened his reign by the seizure of several vessels that were engaged in illicit trade. "I see by their carriage," he wrote, "and by their resentment of the "seizure [of an illegal trader] that the discharge of my duty "has given them an unaccustomed disturbance." Further enquiry revealed a large trade between Madagascar and New York, and that three notorious pirates held Governor Fletcher's commission. Moreover it appeared that Captain Tew, one of the worst of them, had been publicly entertained and caressed by Fletcher, and had given to the Governor, to his wife and to his daughter large sums which could only have been gained by piracy. There was evidence also that William Nicoll and Nicholas Bayard of the Council acted as Fletcher's brokers in his dealings with pirates at large (473). Moreover a captain of one of the King's ships showed such reluctance to seize the crew of a piratical ship that Bellomont was obliged to suspend him from his office. Lastly Mr. Chidley Brooke, the Collector of the King's revenues and a member of Council, announced that "the giving protection to "pirates had not formerly been looked upon as so great a "matter, and that all the neighbouring Governments had done "it commonly." To this Bellomont answered that they might think it a peccadillo, but that the King regarded it as a high offence. Thereupon he decided that Fletcher should be sent home a prisoner to be dealt with by the King, and that William Nicoll also should be suspended from the Council and tried in the province (433). At the same time Bellomont discovered that there had been great abuses in regard to illicit trade, and that, although the city of New York had increased greatly in wealth, the receipts from the King's customs remained stationary (501, 513). Before long he judged it necessary to suspend Chidley Brooke and William Pinhorne, as well as Nicoll, from the Council (593), Brooke having connived at the introduction of East India goods from Madagascar into New York, under the Governor's very nose (593 IX, XII).
So far the evidence produced by Bellomont against Fletcher, Nicoll and Brooke fully justified his action; but very soon he lost sight of his true objects, namely the suppression of illegal trade and piracy, in the delight of persecuting Fletcher and his associate. In the madness of party-spirit which prevailed at the time, he was not content with preparing punishment for genuine evil-doers, but must needs espouse the cause of the deceased ruffian, Jacob Leisler, and revive all the old animosities which had been aroused by his usurpation of power and his subsequent overthrow. Before he had been at New York six weeks he recommended several adherents of Leisler and bitter enemies of Fletcher as fitting persons for Councillors (472 VI); and he suspended William Pinhorne from the Council on the most flimsy evidence of Jacobite sympathies (502 I, II. 593 VII). Moreover he exhausted himself in collecting proofs that everything that Governor Fletcher had ever done in New York was wicked and felonious. The documentary evidence of Fletcher's dealings with pirates was quite serious enough; but Bellomont, although there were hundreds of more important matters that urgently demanded attention, now took him to task for his manner of announcing the signature of peace to the Governor of Canada (394, 504), for passing an Act injurious to the town of New York (593 I–III) and finally for shameful treatment and defrauding of the King's troops (p. 283), and for neglect of the defence of the province. Then followed further accusations of wrongful grants of land and of selling the Governor's garden (622, 622 I–XII). Yet in the midst of all this we see, to our amazement, Captain Adam Baldridge, the commandant of the piratical base of operations at St. Mary's, Madagascar, moving freely about New York, with the reputation of a sober respectable man, obtaining free access to the Governor, and actually proposing to him the settlement of a Colony at St. Mary's itself, which Bellomont in his innocence recommended to the Council of Trade (622). The natural inference is that Bellomont was more zealous than wise, which indeed seems to have been the fact.
In July, Fletcher arrived in England and surrendered himself to the King's pleasure (657); and meanwhile Bellomont paid the annual visit to the Five Nations, which was the time-honoured method of renewing friendship and alliance with them. Here finding fresh matter for accusation against Fletcher for corrupt disposal of Crown lands, he cancelled all the grants that he had made (822). A month or so later he sent an agent, Mr. Weaver, to England, loaded with evidence against the late Governor (846, 859, 860); and in October the Council of Trade made its first representation to the Lords Justices upon the whole matter, supporting Bellomont's action throughout. Pursuing his investigations he proceeded next to suspend the remaining members of Fletcher's Council (p. 487); and it is somewhat amusing to find that Abraham Depeyster, one of Leisler's warmest partisans, who was now appointed both a Councillor and a Judge, was, like his opponents, suspected of complicity with illegal trade (879). It would be wearisome to go into detail of Bellomont's further charges against Fletcher, which will be found on Nos. 921, 929, 944, 978, 980, 981, and 988. There can be no question of his energy, and he was not a little disappointed that, in spite of all his voluminous despatches, he remained for six months without a word from the Council of Trade (992). However, the Council was far from idle, for in November it formulated its charges against Fletcher in seventeen articles (1,007). To these he returned a reply which was certainly more effective than could have been thought possible (1,077); the explanation being, as already mentioned, that Bellomont, in excess of Anti-Jacobite zeal, foolishly tried to turn every action of his predecessor into a crime.
At this point this extraordinary story of rascality closes, so far as the present volume is concerned; and it is difficult to say whether it reflects more discredit upon the Colonies or on the Mother Country. There can be no doubt that New York contained some of the greatest scoundrels in the world, who were not, however, without their peers in other of the Colonies. On the other hand it cannot be questioned that the Acts of Trade exerted a most demoralising influence, and were mainly responsible for the cynical immorality with which the Colonial merchants made good the losses which the war had brought upon them. Had trade been free and open, they could have carried on their traffic with the East Indies and the Dutch Colonies with perfect honesty; but being hampered on every side by restrictions imposed upon themselves and by privileges granted to their more fortunate neighbours, they were almost compelled to subterfuge and violence to procure to themselves any commerce whatever. The legislation which sought to ensure close trade within the empire was the root of all the evil; and, from the perusal of the documents in the present volume alone, it is easy to see that the system, if persistently followed, could not fail to bring about a rupture between the Colonies and the Mother Country.
From the general consideration of Imperial concerns I turn now to more particular treatment of affairs in each Colony. In New York itself, as may be imagined, the advent of Lord Bellomont and the oversetting of the easy methods which had reigned before his coming, caused considerable tumult; but there remain one or two other points which are deserving of mention. Of these, the most important was the attitude of the French. Frontenac, an extremely able and ambitious man, was not disposed to abandon the advantages which he had gained over the Five Nations during the war, and was pursuing them steadily until Bellomont's arrival. Bellomont, however, to his credit, saw the danger, took especial pains to conciliate the Indians and, in a very sharp letter, gave Frontenac to understand that the British troops would advance against him instantly unless he left the native allies of England in peace (822 v.). This bold attitude was the more necessary inasmuch as the French were inclined to encroach upon British America from every side. The delimitation of the boundaries under the Peace of Ryswick offered a good opportunity for them to press their pretensions; and John Nelson, who was better informed than any other man as to the ways of the French, was urgent that the Council of Trade should be upon its guard, lest they should contrive to oust the British from the fisheries on the coast of Nova Scotia (21, 82, 948). To strengthen the hands of the Council the old claimants to Nova Scotia produced for the fiftieth time the musty deeds and grants upon which they founded their proprietorship (151). Nor were the fears of Nelson groundless, for the French at once demanded wider boundaries than they had any right to claim, and actually banished British fishing vessels from a part of the coast (922, 986). In Hudson's Bay again they showed signs of attempting to monopolise the fur-trade, without waiting to fulfil the agreement required of them by the treaty (449, 486–488). This, of course, was the traditional policy of the French monarchy, which was continued for yet another sixty years before the British finally lost patience and rooted them out of the continent. Since Bellomont was Commander-in-Chief not only of New York but also of New England, the adjustment of boundaries with the French was in itself almost a sufficient occupation for him; and he showed not only spirit but good sense in threatening to curb Frontenac from the very first by force.
Another matter which concerned New York City very nearly, was an attempt on the part of New Jersey to set up Perth Amboy as her commercial rival. In consideration of her position as the frontier of the British territory towards the French, New York had received the privilege of being the sole port in the Hudson River, and, when New Jersey contested her monopoly, the Council of Trade decided that the privilege must be upheld (2, 69). This decision, however, was by no means satisfactory to Governor Basse of New Jersey, who, in defiance of the King's order, persisted in asserting the right of his province to a free port at Amboy. Not content with this, moreover, he refused to extradite two pirates, who had been arrested in New Jersey, to the Admiralty Court at New York. This contemptuous behaviour put Lord Bellomont upon his mettle at once, and he wrote Basse a letter in terms so sharp that the two prisoners were given up without more ado (622, 622 XII.). In the matter of the port at Amboy, however, Basse persisted in his defiance, with the result that the whole matter was again referred home to the Council of Trade (695, 1,073). These were the petty squabbles which kept the Colonies divided against themselves even in the presence of urgent danger, and which the King had no power to compose. He might pass judgment upon a dispute, but he could not execute it; and the various provinces, fully aware of the fact, never hesitated to reject his authority when it suited their purpose.
Of the rest of the northern provinces there is little to be said. Massachusetts, under the rule of Lieutenant-Governor Stoughton, was singularly quiet and peaceful, though none the less she worked quietly and stealthily for emancipation from the Acts of Trade. To evade the new Act for regulation of the Plantation Trade the Assembly had passed an Act for Courts, providing that all issues should be tried by a jury, and thus striking at the root of the new proviso, that all offences against the Acts of Trade should be tried by an Admiralty Court, where there was no jury. This was precisely the same shift as had been tried in Pennsylvania, and it met with the same fate—the royal veto. Another difficulty was that the King had lately allowed to the officers of his Customs and Admiralty Courts the right of appeal to him in Council. If the Acts of Trade were to be enforced, this was unquestionably necessary, for no Colonial Court would condemn seizures made by the King's officers; but, on the other hand, it was an undoubted hardship that those officials should have the power to put the Colonial authorities to the expense of a re-trial of their cause, possibly on frivolous grounds, in London, three thousand miles away. The Council of Trade was much puzzled by this dilemma, for the new charter of Massachusetts certainly favoured the Colony's contention against this power of appeal; and yet it was obvious that the failure to make provision for these cases under the Acts of Trade was an oversight (677, 725). But in spite of these controversial matters, any mishandling of which by the Council of Trade would have raised an uproar, the condition of Massachusetts was enviably quiet.
Very different was the case in the neighbouring province of New Hampshire. There the long-suffering John Usher was still nominally Governor, without salary, without authority, and without instructions. In the preceding volume of this Calendar was given an account of the usurpation of his Government by three dismissed Councillors; and the first notice of him in the present volume is of his supersession by yet another usurper, Samuel Partridge, in defiance of the King's order that for the present he should retain his post as Governor (108). Usher therefore retired to Boston to await the coming of Lord Bellomont, to whom the question of New Hampshire, as indeed of all other difficulties, had been referred for report (120). Partridge meanwhile announced that he had taken up the reins of government (145), and at once made friends of Usher's chief opponents; while the Assembly, to aggravate the late Governor's mortification, chose "a common drunkard and notorious felon" for their Speaker (186). Stoughton at Boston seems to have been much puzzled as to the duty required of him in respect of New Hampshire, but wisely decided not to interfere (191). The Assembly then sent to the Council of Trade an address of thanks for substituting Partridge for Usher, which as a matter of fact it had never done; and Usher, evidently not unhappy at finding himself comfortably settled at Boston, commented bitterly on the proceedings from a distance (324, 454, 582), with an occasional diatribe against all Proprietary Governments (947). He was presently avenged by the arrival of Samuel Allen, the Proprietor, who assumed the Government, and attempted to oust Partridge and his associates, though without success. He soon found himself in precisely the same position as Usher, utterly powerless despite the King's commission, and thwarted even at Whitehall by the powerful influence of Sir Henry Ashurst, the Agent for Massachusetts (1,022).
From the northern I pass to the middle Colonies, which as usual were enjoying comparative repose. Pennsylvania, as has been seen, was not without her troubles over piracy and illicit trade, but Maryland was reasonably quiet and Virginia positively torpid. Some small excitement, however, was maintained in Maryland by the steady opposition of the lower house of Assembly to Governor Nicholson, apparently by the subornation of one Gerard Slye. Some of the messages which passed between the Governor and the Assembly are extremely ludicrous, though the wrangle at large, which may be followed in the Journals of the House of Delegates, is inexpressibly wearisome. In No. 329 for instance will be found a brisk passage of arms over the payment of a Minister for his sermon to the two Houses; the Council urging that they were as good judges of a sermon as the Delegates, and the Delegates retorting that, since the disbursement of the public money was in their charge, it followed as a necessary consequence that their own judgment was superior. This called down a sharp rebuke from the Governor; and then arose another quarrel about the journals of the Delegates, in the course of which it appears that the House adjourned to the bedroom of the Speaker, who was unwell, and solemnly held at least one sitting there. Meanwhile Gerard Slye found allies against the Governor in John Coode, long a troublesome character, and one Philip Clarke (371); and, being apparently heartened by their moral support, he sent to England a long list of charges against Governor Nicholson. These are worth study (508) as an indication of the means by which an ignorant Colonist hoped to discredit a Governor at Whitehall. Thus the first charge was that he made his chaplain walk bareheaded before him from home to church; the second that at the beginning of the Litany he kicked a worthy member of Assembly out of church; the third that he went to receive the sacrament "in a "military manner with drums beating, sword by side and "flag flying on the house when divine service was said"; the fourth that he "disguised his chaplain in drink," and then held him up to the reproach of the congregation. In very small and primitive communities the mere whisper of such accusations causes a stir, and men quickly take leave of their sense of the ridiculous. Puffed up by his own importance, Slye presently added a fresh list of charges as ludicrous as the first, and shortly afterwards found himself arrested and brought before the Council, when he appears to have behaved himself according to his notion of what was becoming in a village Hampden (651). Before long, however, he was fain to cry for mercy (790), and his allies also found themselves in serious trouble (812). The House of Delegates, however, at once espoused the cause of Philip Clarke, who was one of themselves (925—927), and only after a long wrangle was finally shamed by Nicholson into decent behaviour (975, 976).
The only other documents of any interest are an address from the Council deprecating any restoration of the Government to Lord Baltimore (518 IV.) and a lengthy report by Nicholson upon the condition of the province generally (760). In this last is a remarkable passage giving an account of the French explorations along the Mississippi, and warning the British Government of the danger lest the French should encompass the English settlements on every side. Another passage and an enclosure (760 v.) show that Nicholson had no very friendly feeling towards William Penn (388), and resented very strongly the independent attitude taken up by the Proprietary Colonies, as demoralising both to themselves and to their neighbours. For the rest it must be noticed that in May he was promoted to be Governor of Virginia in place of Sir Edmund Andros, and that Nathaniel Blakiston was appointed to succeed him in Maryland (528, 679). Nicholson seems to have deserved his advancement thoroughly, being a man who thought more of the King's and the Colony's service than his own. There is a pleasant notice of his providing Bibles, a reader, "and a mutton and maize for "thirteen people every Sunday," at some cold springs to which the poor were flocking, owing to the fame of extraordinary cures wrought by the waters (544). Again when the King desired "one hundred mocking-birds for his volery at Loo "and any other birds or beasts that could be sent," Nicholson ordered notice thereof to be given to the poorer people, saying that he would see himself that they were paid (654).
Respecting Virginia the documents in the present volume are of little interest, the most important of them being a revelation of the corrupt practices which prevailed among the Council, and which had already been exposed by Dr. Blair (656). Incidentally the question was raised whether a Scotchman could sit in the Council or Assembly of any Colony under the new Act for regulating the Plantation Trade, for Blair's openness in laying bare the misdeeds of the Virginian Councillors had not gained him popularity in the province. Strangely enough the same difficulty had arisen in Barbados also, but was finally laid to rest by the opinion of the lawofficers of the Crown, that Scotchmen, being in law natural born subjects of England, were Englishmen within the meaning of the Act (608, 950, 951). It may be noticed that by the royal instructions to Governor Nicholson the immunity of Councillors of Virginia from civil process was abolished and other of their privileges abridged; and indeed it was high time (819). For the rest, it appears that Governor Andros, probably under the influence of some Councillor, protected John Coode, the most troublesome of Nicholson's firebrands from Maryland, in a fashion which was anything but friendly; and it is pretty clear that after more than twenty years of work in the Colonies the old Guardsman was unfit for his place (952). The only other document of interest is an appeal from the merchants of Virginia and Maryland to the King to make fresh intercession with the Tsar for admission of their tobaccos to Russia (202).
Leaving now the continent of America I turn to the West Indies, and first of all to Barbados. The first document worthy of attention is an anonymous letter addressed to the Agents complaining of the maladministration of justice and of the diminution of the white men, which last is attributed not a little to the "covetous desires of persons in the greater "plantations to engross all the little ones and lay them to their own" (52). Anonymous letters are rarely worthy of notice. But this is an exception, since it takes some notice of the needs of the Colony generally for defence, as well as of the needs of the planters only for profit. Under the feeble rule of President Bond, however, little initiative of any kind was to be expected; and although in the course of 1998 he was superseded by the appointment of Ralph Grey to be Governor, there was not sufficient time for the new administrator either to enter upon any measure or to report upon the general condition of the island before the close of the year.
In the Leeward Islands matters were far more lively. During Admiral Nevill's stay at the islands while on his way to St. Domingo he had received an anonymous letter, bitterly complaining of Governor Codrington's tyranny and oppression; and the same story with many additional accusations was now brought forward by a planter named Edward Walrond. The charge upon which Walrond laid most stress was that Codrington had shielded one Captain Arthur from prosecution for treasonable language against King William. because he had himself employed Arthur in conducting illicit trade for his own profit (31). Codrington at once answered with an angry denial (219), and the Assemblies of Montserrat and Antigua came forward to vindicate his good service to the Government (293, 376 III.). But Walrond returned to the charge with fresh allegations of the Governor's connivance at illegal trade, supported by long and voluminous documentary evidence (431); and, whether these were true or false, Codrington now gave him a further opening by carrying on a relentless persecution of one John Lucas of Antigua, who had been the author of the anonymous letter to Admiral Nevill (765). Lucas, who seems to have been a most contemptible character, bewailed himself loudly to his relative Lord Lucas; and his cause was of course warmly embraced by Walrond (605, 616, 626), who now appeared upon the scene in England and became extremely busy in plying the Council of Trade with documents in support of his charges (639, 640). The Council, though fully alive to the patriotic services of Codrington during the war, could not justify his conduct towards Lucas, and ordered him peremptorily to release him at once from the confinement in which he held him, and to allow him to return to England (649).
Meanwhile Archibald Hutcheson, who had been Codrington's secretary in the West Indies and was now his Agent in England, drew up many letters to the Council of Trade in his defence (658–660, 669) and apparently not without success; for Walrond addressed indignant remonstrances both to the King and to the Council of Trade, protesting that his patriotic endeavours to bring a great criminal to justice were defeated by official procrastination (671, 676). A fresh lament from Lucas enabled him to resume his attack upon Codrington, after which he waited for a month and then made a second angry protest to the Council of Trade. "The "particulars of Captain Arthur's case have been before you "for ten months, and Governor Codrington's answer for four "months, yet no report has been made . . . I expected to "have met in England with encouragement suitable to the "services I had endeavoured to render by detecting villanies "injurious to the public, but I can say that no man ever had "less" (682, 722). This was on the 3rd of August, and on the 10th he wrote once more in frantic indignation: "Governor "Codrington has reached to that pitch of injustice that if all "the ill practices of the Governors of the West Indies since "their first settlement were summoned up together, they "would not be tantamount to his" (741). This is the language of baffled vindictiveness; but the man was a good hater, and after showering yet a few more depositions upon the Council of Trade (774, 775, 779, 785) he was at last gratified by the appearance of its report upon the whole case. It was not complimentary to either side, but upon the main issue the Council could not but come to the conclusion that Codrington had not behaved as his duty required him either in respect of the treasonable language used by Arthur, or in his arbitrary persecution of Walrond and Lucas. Hutcheson attempted still to prolong the controversy; for Walrond was about to follow up his success by carrying his complaint against Codrington to the House of Commons, when a week later all further proceedings were stayed. Codrington had been dead for two months, having breathed his last on the 20th of July (692, 834); and Walrond's triumph was only over his corpse.
It is melancholy that the career of such a man should have had so mean and sordid an end. Codrington had done very great service to the State. He had taken over the administration of the Leeward Islands when their strength was paralysed by internal divisions, and their courage damped by a successful attack of the French. He assumed command of the disheartened little communities with a firmness which instantly restored confidence, organised their forces, drove the French from St. Christophers and, with little or no help from England but chiefly by the resources of his own purse, preserved them against further mischief from the enemy and kept hope and courage alive in them. Yet he was a true West Indian planter, and could not resist the temptation of adding to his already enormous wealth and influence in the various islands. The Acts of Trade and Navigation furnished an opportunity for making very large illicit gains. Every man who possessed any capital was enriching himself by such gains, and he, possessing larger sums than any, was able to enrich himself more than others. Welcomed at first as the saviour of the Leeward Islands, he was able to exert almost despotic power, and, from using it wholly for the public service, soon began to abuse it for his own profit. It was not possible that he should fail to make enemies in such a position; and when these became formidable, he endeavoured to crush them by arbitrary exercise of his powers. Then he was beaten. He had stooped to the level of his brother-planters, and they dragged him down to ruin. It is abundantly evident that Walrond's motives in prosecuting him before the Council of Trade were governed by no thought of the public service. He was simply wreaking personal spite upon a man whom he had once courted; but he had right upon his side, and the Council of Trade, though evidently reluctant to blame Codrington, with great integrity upheld him. Happily this miserable story has been forgotten, and Christopher Codrington is remembered only by the library which he founded at All Souls' College, Oxford, and the Theological College which bears his name at Barbados.
Passing next to leeward we come to Jamaica, where the peace was more welcome to no man than the hardly-pressed Governor, Sir William Beeston. He had guided the island through many misfortunes of war, earthquake and pestilence, and for his reward had received little but hard usage at the hands of Admiral Nevill. But, as has already been told, his good service had won for him the confidence of the Council of Trade, which rightly supported him through evil report and good report. The emptiness of the British Treasury, however, had driven him to great straits. The British fleets had long been kept at sea by the contributions of himself and his brother-merchants; and the latter, growing weary of long delay in repayment and of the receipt of bad tallies in return for good money, would advance no more (90). His vexation was aggravated by the only remedy proposed by the Council of Trade—stringent enforcement of the Acts of Trade and Navigation. "Nothing is so ruinous to the settlement of "these Colonies as these Acts, for we are not supplied [with "European goods] from England nor suffered to be supplied "from elsewhere. So too with our produce, the English send "no ships to take it away and no one else is allowed to take "it away, whereby the people lose their labour, charge and "industry, and the King his customs. It is easy to show that "but for those Acts this island would be settled and peopled "without any charge to the King, and the customs from hence "thrice larger any year than they are now" (91).
It may have been partly from resentment against these commercial restrictions that Beeston hesitated at first to take the oaths imposed upon him for the execution of the new Act for regulating the Plantation Trade. As was seen in the previous volume, he had scruples as to swearing to execute an enactment which in his view—and it was quite correct—was inexecutable. After mature reflection, however, he decided to take it; whereupon two of his enemies in the Council raised objections to its being tendered to him a second time, and talked big of his having forfeited the Government and incurred a fine of a thousand pounds. It is easy to imagine how his tormentors seized the occasion to bully him over this matter; but the Council of Trade took a sensible view of the question and declined to treat him as in the slightest degree guilty of any fault (357; 652). His enemies, however, once raised were not easily quelled, and one of them, Richard Lloyd, finding himself unable to injure the Governor, turned upon one of his friends, Sir John del Castillo, the Agent for the Assiento, which was a business very dear to Beeston's heart. Lloyd, who was apparently a most ill-conditioned man, took offence because Castillo "did not wait on him to his stirrup" at the close of a visit, and with the primitive violence of the time proceeded to break his head. He then called to his aid the Attorney-General, Charles Brodrick, who was the second of Beeston's enemies, and with him contrived a plan for injuring alike the Governor, Castillo and the whole island by dismantling an earth-work, of great importance to the defence of the country, which had been constructed by Castillo at his own expense (547). Beeston interposed to prevent this piece of mischief; and Lloyd and Brodrick then took ship for England to calumniate him at home (636, 704). On reading this repeated story of slander and quarrelling in Colony after Colony, one wonders how these cantankerous little communities ever kept together at all.
For the rest Beeston, like his predecessors, found occasion to complain repeatedly of the harm done to Jamaica by the granting of offices in the Colonies to irresponsible individuals by patent from the Crown (704, 890). He was also driven almost to distraction by a new Act for settling the Royal African Company, which in his opinion bade fair to destroy the slave-trade and to make law and justice to cease in Jamaica (1,028). Here, as in Massachusetts, the chief grievance lay in the fact that any person, by laying an information against an Agent of the Company at Westminster Hall, might put him to the expense of a costly journey and a still more costly suit in London, possibly to defend a demonstrably vexatious action. The African Company since its first foundation had given birth to endless controversies, and Barbados like Jamaica was urgent for the destruction of its monopoly (272). In no volume of this Calendar more clearly than in this are shewn the incessant trouble and friction that were caused by the privileges of monopolist companies and the trammels of the Imperial Commercial Code.
Respecting Bermuda there are few documents in the present volume. Governor Goddard with a bad grace professed submission to the King's orders to release his predecessor and allow him to return home, not however without insinuations that he had been guilty of traffic with pirates (369, 647). It is likely enough that the accusation was true, and by no means impossible that Goddard himself had quarrelled with Richier over the division of the spoil; for with the possible exception of New York and the Bahamas, Bermuda seems to have outdone all the Colonies in its wealth of scoundrels. A new Governor, Samuel Day, was sent out to supersede Goddard and found great disorder on his arrival. "Several of the most eminent persons were in gaol on "account of fines set upon them without trial or process" (899). To judge from the records of Bermuda for twenty years past, the whole population at least deserved imprisonment; and it will be curious to see whether Governor Day succeeded better than his predecessors in keeping it in order.
A few small matters alone remain to be noticed. The first of these is that in the course of the year the Council of Trade took up its quarters in the Cockpit, having been driven from Whitehall by the fire, since which it had occupied temporary premises (162). The second is an amusing offer of an adventurer to admit the entire Council of Trade to a share in his profits, if the members would but order the Governor of Jamaica to advance him five hundred pounds to discover silver mines (1,062). The third is a curious competition of rival companies, one of them headed by Lord Cutts—the soldier whose love of a hot fire had gained him the name of Salamander—for the privilege of coining small money for the Colonies (209, 223, 242, 276). The fourth is a letter from a domestic servant, not a very common document two centuries ago (107 I.). Its chief interest lies in the fact that it begins with the words, "Dear father and mother, my "humble duty presented unto you hoping that these lines "will find you in good health as I am at this present, blessed "be God for it" —a formula which, with little or no alteration, is still in common use among country-folks to this day.
But the most striking feature in this volume, it must be repeated, is the evidence of the general demoralisation propagated through the length and breadth of the empire by the Imperial Commercial Code. Its evils were glaring enough in time of peace, but its true powers of mischief can only be measured by the study of its effects during eight years of war.