Addenda: February 1669

Pages 589-594

Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 17, 1699 and Addenda 1621-1698. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1908.

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February 1669

Feb. 28.
1,113. Nicholas Blake to the King. The masters of ships that come over hither generally report that the seamen are not paid their wadges nor owners of ships their hire, nor the carpenters their wadges, and indeed they set forth your Majesty as a bad paymaster every way, although, say they, many taxes are continually levied. Now although I am very confident that those who speak thus are Fanaticks and in their hearts do hate Monarchie, yet considering that many otherways your Majesty's good subjects (yet of shallow understanding) may be prepossessed, I propose some expedients for remedy; (i.) The appointing all seamen, carpenters, etc., to be fully paid for what is past. If your Majesty find that this scandal accrues by any of the paymasters or other officers, let them be made sensible of such great errors. (ii.) I propose that your Majesty would cause a little book to be drawn out wherein may be set down all your incomes, as well for rents of lands, quit-rents, customs, as for everything else that is fixed, and an accompt of your settled expenditure. By this means your Majesty may at an hour's warning at all times come to know the estate of the major part of your affairs. (iii.) One principal care would be to put knowing and withal very honest and serious men as chief officers and overseers in the yards, and above all that the Check be such a one. If you order to repair to you privately one Mr. John Packwood, living near Wapping dock, sometimes Check in Wolwitch Yard, he will be able to shew you that the Master Carpenter will crave allowance for about 20 men at work the whole year, and yet half of those shall not have wrought six months. And so for other officers, which if the Check will join with them it might be very profitable for him, but very chargeable to your Majesty. (iv.) If any officers of trust and profit are known to be disaffected to kingly government, it may not be amiss to use Eumenes his policy, who had many secret enemies, and, to prevent their plots, he borrowed considerable sums of money of them. If your Majesty pay interest for half a million of pounds so borrowed for some few years, you may more than save it other ways by paying ready money for things bought, by which means you should have all things as cheap as any Marchant whatsoever, and that saying would be revived which was usual in men's mouths in their bargaining, that their pay should be as sure as checker pay; so it seems the time was that the Checker bare away the bell for currant payment.
Recommends the appointment of two Accountants, one for maritime and the other for home matters. Other suggestions for economy, raising the coinage, etc.
The Island of Barbados is of pleasant situation, the clime very temperate, so cool as a man may very well endure to go as thick clothed all the year as in England in summer time; the days and nights in the remotest or nearest being of the sun never differ past two hours. 'Tis of length 28 miles, of breadth about 13 miles; the form oval, shaped like an egg. The place hath been, and still in many parts is fruitful in extremity, and with good husbandry may continue so to the world's end. This happy island is peopled with about 60,000 souls, white and blacks, small and great, of which the one third part or thereabouts are white people, and of those may be esteemed about 10,000 men, the most part able to bear arms; the rest women and children. 'Tis esteemed here that the Customs of the sugars of this place cannot render your Majesty less than £40,000 sterling per annum, which if so, then every one that liveth here are worth unto your exchequer a mark per head, and if in lieu of the 4½ per cent. now taken here, which is a troublesome thing to levy, you would please to take an establishment of 12 pence per £100 on Musdo. sugar and 2s. per hundred on white sugar, I think it would be £20,000 more yearly. This is to show that your care and bounty is not ill employed in sending over arms and ammunition in so plentiful a manner, as also the sending that noble commander Sir John Harman, who did such good service in these parts.
A great part of the Sugar Plantations begin to want wood to boil off their crops, so that we must of necessity make use of Newcastle or Welch coals, which if they come unto us at too dear a rate, we cannot afford to buy them, and so we shall make sugar in far less quantity than formerly. It is humbly desired that the duties which are levied at home upon coals may be remitted for all such as are taken aboard the ships bound for Barbados; and that the Custom of goods hither from England be taken off: those of New England have had that favour long, and we think we have as much reason to enjoy that privilege as they. Besides, as we are Englishmen, if we were in England, though we were drones and did nothing for the good of a nation, yet we should pay no customs for the stuff which cloths are made of, and yet being here and continually employed like the industrious bee, bringing continually honey to the hive, yet our cloths must still cost us dearer.
We are often alarmed with rumours of invasions intended against us. If your Majesty would permit we might have a free trade with Scotland, we should from thence be quickly recruited with lusty and able men, which would be a great strengthening to the place, and be better to us than soldiers, being the one are workers and help to maintain themselves when out of martial employ, but the others are lazy all the year round and must rely for maintenance on the sweat of other men's labours, which will at the long run gnaw the people to the bone. Besides in 4 or 5 years after their being here this place will so abound that it will be most convenient for the supernumeraries to fix on some other island near, which might in few years become fruitful and beneficial as this, provided the first Adventurers both in purse and person may have encouragement for the first seven years, the want of which and the settling present taxes before the land be possessed or in the least settled spoileth all laudable designs. Did we not lose 1,500 able men upon this score at Sta. Lucia about 4 years past, who, if they had been encouraged, might by this time have been in a good forwardness to have brought it to so good perfection as to have been esteemed a second Barbados? if any such islands should for the future be planted by your subjects, it might seem not amiss if your Majesty should retain on each 2,000 or 3,000 acres, which may be handed by delinquents, such as for crimes, under murder, the Law condemns to death, may be reprieved and sent over as your Majesty's servants for some years, and then to be free; which, after a settlement, will not only bring a good revenue to your Majesty, but also may be a means of making such poor people become good Commonwealth's men, as I have seen the experience of it here by some.
This place makes store of good cotton yearly; if it could be brought to pass that people could get it spun very small, as in the East Indies, we might introduce the making of calicoes as well as they do. From my observation of the work of Spanish women and girls in Biscay, I would infer that the next Governor should be instructed to cause people to set their children to work, the boys to pick and the girls to spin, for in great quantities they lie idle and do not learn to get a penny, and that for their better encouragement the Governor should settle some expedient to have what they shall so spin taken off their hands in a price according as it shall be well done.
It is not to be doubted but that the spices of the East India would grow here, if we had them to plant. I have heard how a certain public-spirited Commander of a ship did undertake that design, but death prevented him. 'Tis pity but it should be set on foot again, but there is small hopes unless your Majesty be pleased to countenance the thing.
This noble island wants a money trade, for here all things are bought and sold in the way of truck or permutation to the much damage of the inhabitants. The Kings of Spain and Portugal have not any island inhabited but hath a money trade. I can see no way to keep our monies in the country but by having coin of a lesser valuation than that in England: seven half-crowns in England should be coined into eight half-crowns or 20 shillings to go current for so much here, by which will be £18,000 gotten to your Majesty upon £100,000 so coined, and the island, as I can make it out by reason of the advantage of the exchange from this place to England, will not be a looser by it in the least.
The 4½ per cent. is very pernicious to be levied here and I do not know anything that makes the people sad more than that. 'Tis scarcely to be believed the vexation it gives both to sea and land men. The people had much rather your Majesty would impose at home an additional custom of 12d. per cent. on Muscovado sugar and 2s. or 2s. 6d. per cent. on white sugar.
Here hath been a clamorous pretence of a long time concerning 10,000 acres of land, which in the infancy of this island's settlement the Lord of Carlisle did allot unto certain merchants of London, covenanting that they shall have a Governor of their own and should be free from the other ordinary duties, which others paid, being a certain rate for each servant, and some other privileges; in lieu whereof the merchants were to pay him five p. c. of the net produce, but because in those times at every year's end the land produced nothing clear of charges, but did still bring the undertakers more in debt, as all new settlements will, the Lord of Carlisle was weary of that delay and brake his compact, took away their privilege of having a Governor of their own, and ranged them into an equality with the rest of the Island, making them pay all taxes and duties as they did, and so they have continued ever since; yet the late Francis Lord Willoughby had a pretence upon the inhabitants of these 10,000 acres and began to put people in trouble, contrary to equity, reason or conscience, and to the extreme regret of the whole island, for the most part of this pretended 10,000 acres is now possessed by those who have paid the full value for what they bought, besides there was no failing on any side but my Lord of Carlisle's, and they which planted there did all along bear the burden of the day as much as the rest of the island. Lord Wm. Willoughby made some inspection into this, but finding it not to be feasible waived it, only declaring his willingness to have taken £2,000 and confirm their lands unto them, which they will not hearken unto in the least, nothing doubting but that your Majesty will condemn the pretention and manumise this spot, making it equal in freedom with the rest, which act will be exceeding grateful, the Governors, who should be watchful for the good of the country, not putting a helping hand unto it, but rather using their endeavours to get out all they can per fas aut nefas.
This country swarms with lawyers, the people are much given to law, to their great impoverishment and the others' enriching, who suck out much of the fat and marrow of the country and all to little purpose; they are for the most part but dablers in the law and very ignorant. It might be of great ease to the country if your Majesty would give the Governor order and power to find out some expedient for lessening law suits; one might be the authorising the choosing of three men yearly in every parish, who, or any two of them, might have power to hear all small differences of 1,000 lbs. of sugar or under, and that no lawyer do plead on either side, they for the most part darkening rather than clearing the truth; the judges' sentence not to be appealed from, and this to be without any charge to the parties.
This island contains completely 100,000 acres of land, which if equally laid out would make 24 parishes, and, paying but 6d. per acre to the ministers, would be for each minister £100 per annum, which with a house and some glebe land and other perquisites for marriages etc. might make a contentive livelihood; now we have but 11 or 13 parishes, and they are so great, though the ministers' means hardly so much as I have exposed that some people in most of the parishes come 4 or 5 miles to church, and this great distance is the cause that many people scarce come to the church four times in the year, and people become very untoward and ill-behaved and much uncivilised. Indeed the next generation do run the hazard of turning heathen. If we had 24 parishes and in every one a godly Minister, who should also undertake to teach school, it would be an addition to his means and the children would have education. If things run much longer in the course it now goeth, there will soon be apparent a greater number of fanaticks, nonconformists, etc. than a loyal and truly religious interest, and therefore it is much to be desired that your Majesty would order some good form to be put unto this thing, and that your Governors from time to time do make it a part of their business, for this place is a receptacle of all opinions; the chief Church is mostly Presbyterian; the Independents have their conventicles; the Quakers are erecting a house for their ceremonies; the Jews have their sinagogs; others are mere Athiests, and never come to Church or any other meetings, and the most part of those may well and rightly be concluded to be fanaticks; truly all joined together are far more numerous than those that are not; and what is as bad as all the rest, places of trust, both military and civil, are put into such men's hands. The increase of an orthodox ministry here is the best remedy.
I believe that the Assembly in their address unto your Majesty have desired to have a Governor that is a Proprietor and hath his chief interest here, thinking that then he will attend the good of the country more cordially and solicitously. The motion might do best so for the Island's good, and not be at all the worse for your Majesty's interest, but then it should not be as I have been told they would have it, viz. to have one every year and to reduce the whole island in the mode of a Corporation, to have liberty to choose them yearly themselves as New England doth, and that they shall bear their own charges and have nothing of allowance towards it. To have a Governor for one year only is to have him commit some errors in his first year and not give him time to rectify them; and to make a kind of a Corporation of the whole island, there would be but two Burgesses in the Assembly. If we should have liberty to choose our own Governors without having first your Majesty's approbation, it would derogate too much from your authority. If they should always bear their own charges, then none but rich men must be elected. But if your Majesty would establish a Governor every three years, which is the manner the King of Spain useth for his Government; and order that the names of three or four persons freeholders be every three years returned to your Majesty, one of which to be chosen by you, and also that the Governor during his time may have 300,000lbs. of sugar allowed him yearly out of the excise here levied upon wines and other liquors, with other incident perquisites, this, with the help of his own plantation, will maintain the incident charges of the place, and enable him in all points to do justice to your people. Our late Governor, the Lord Wm. Willoughby, went from this place some months since for England, taking the Leeward Islands in his way: he is a gentleman of excellent endowments, and doubtless for his abilities is fit for higher matters than these parts can afford and which also may be more suitable with his genius, for indeed the Island have esteemed themselves more unfortunate the Lord Francis' Government and his than in many years before, and they undertake to enumerate the number of misfortunes, which have attended all their actings. Much talk there is of extreme covetousness and ill management of affairs at St. Xopher's, Mevis, etc., but I think a great deal is rumour which increaseth in the telling. Peradventure things did not succeed so well because, the Government being dispierced, things could not be so well ordered as if the Governors of the other Islands had had their commissions immediately from your Majesty, being that this Island alone will employ the full endeavors for one man to govern well; those who, from other Islands, are to give an accompt to your Majesty only and not to any superior here, will doubtless endeavour to act more prudently and vigorously. If St. Xopher's had not a weak Governor, though other ways proud enough, that Island would have been still in the English hands, which being so foolishly lost and afterwards as poorly attempted by us, was the ground of our vexations, troubles and losses in these parts; and this is the fruit of putting men in such important places through favour, or some by respect, that have not a capacity to manage them. My Lord Willoughby hath left for his Deputy Governor here Col. Xopher Codrington, a stout and well resolved gentleman. I can think of very few in the Island that may be fitter for the place.
We have still continual rumours concerning some invasion from the French. They have lately arrived at Martinico, about 6 men of war, the most part of good force; one frigott was sent up hither lately with a frivolous errand, to prefer the restoring of St. Xopher's but it may be to spy what strength we are of. As for their compliment of restoring the English Plantations so ruined and destroyed, and without stock either of negroes or cattle, but the bare lands, they had as good have offered nothing, for a new settlement may be made upon any other uninhabited island as easily as there. Less of St. Xopher's Island than the whole cannot make amends unto your Majesty. If peace be not made at home, but the French King will molest your subjects here, there is no course to be taken but one, to send 10 or 12 stout men of war under such a resolute gentleman as Sir Jno. Harman, with a full regiment of soldiers.
I wish that the next Governor made have order to cause the oath of Allegiance and Supremacy to be administered over the whole Island, that it may be known who may be confided in at a time of need, for here are many persons in place of trust that at times will talk at an odd rate. Moralises at length. Signed, Nicholas Blake. Brief abstract on back. 15 closely written pp. [Colonial Papers, LXV., No. 95.]