Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 35, 1726-1727. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1936.
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The years 1726, 1727, whose papers are calendared in this volume, were comparatively uneventful in the British colonies, and most of the important subjects that are dealt with had appeared first in earlier years, so that we have here only the sequel of previous events. The time was one of steady material progress, and there is no doubt that in most of the colonies there was an increase of well-being which absorbed a greater part of the energies of the colonists than before and made them less ready to engage in the factious disputes which fill so large a place in many of the earlier volumes of the Calendar.
Depredations of the guarda-costas.
Though Great Britain and Spain were nominally at peace, none of their long-standing disputes had been settled; the South Sea Company found it impossible to secure the privileges that they thought they had won under the Treaty of Utrecht, and there were interminable wrangles with the Spanish colonial Governors. These disputes do not fill a large place in these papers, for their effect in the colonies was only incidental; the bulk of the material concerning them is to be found in the State Papers, Foreign, Spain, where the reports of the negotiations in London and Madrid are collected. But the parallel disputes about the depredations of the Spanish guarda-costas find repeated mention, for it was largely upon the shipping of the colonies that the burden fell. The guarda-costas were practically pirates in a very thin disguise, and more than one extract shows that the Dutch had to suffer from them like the British. The Governor of Curaçao wrote that a Spanish sloop under the command of a Frenchman, Captain Nicole, who had formerly been a pirate, with a crew of 170 men had taken nine sloops belonging to the Dutch at Curaçao who were trading on the coast of Caracas. He had murdered nearly all those he found on board, and the Dutch Governor was taking action to capture him. When Nicole found any vessel that he could overpower, he hoisted the black flag and acted like a pirate, but if he met any ship of war or others that were too strong for him, he produced a commission from the Spanish Governor as a Guarda de la Costa to the irreparable damage of all vessels trading to the West Indies. Nicole's brutalities were worthy of his piratical experience, for finding two Jews on one of the Dutch sloops in his barbarous mirth he had them cut into very small pieces, saying that the Spaniards would not be at the trouble of sending them to the Inquisition at Mexico (360).
Estimate of English losses.
So serious were the depredations of the guarda costas both upon English shipping and on the coasts of the colonies that the merchants of London in May 1726 presented a formal petition to the king asking that letters of reprisal against them should be granted, such as the French Government issued. They estimated that the damages sustained by British subjects in this unlawful manner since the Treaty of Utrecht amounted to above 300,000l. Notwithstanding all the applications that had been made to the Spanish Governors, they had not been attended with any manner of redress. The dilatory, unfair and expensive proceedings in their Courts of Judicature rendered all attempts of that kind exceedingly difficult and even impracticable, so that many of the aggrieved merchants had quitted their claims rather than follow them from Court to Court and at length be compelled to leave their affairs in America and go to Madrid where their solicitations might be in vain. The merchants complained bitterly of the evasiveness of the Spanish authorities and strongly represented that nothing but reprisals in accordance with the fourteenth article of the Treaty of 1670 could secure them justice. (152).
Admiral Hosier off Cartagena and Porto Bello.
The Government had already taken action to try what pressure would do without an actual declaration of war against Spain, for which they were not anxious in Europe. Admiral Hosier was ordered to cruise off Cartagena and Porto Bello, and we first hear of him in these papers when the Duke of Portland, Governor of Jamaica wrote that he had received a letter from the Admiral dated 11 May 1726 stating that he was already on the Spanish coast and was about to carry out his instructions (159). It was not until August that Governor Hart of the Leeward Islands learned from the Dutch at St. Eustatius that Hosier had sailed from Jamaica (256), and this illustrates the delay in the communications between the various British colonies, for already in July the President of Jamaica, in writing to inform the Board of Trade of the death of the Duke of Portland, had told them of Hosier's operations. He was lying at the Bastamentas off Porto Bello and had given notice to the Spanish Governor that the galleons were not to sail without his express permission, in accordance with orders from England (217). This was the first explicit news among these documents of the beginning of the celebrated blockade, but thenceforward there are many mentions of Hosier's operations.
In October the squadron was still lying at the Bastamentas (303), but in November Hosier drew off and nearer to Cartagena for a change of air (338), since his crews were suffering seriously in health. In December the President of Jamaica wrote that the squadron had arrived from Porto Bello in a very distressed condition owing to the great sickness and mortality among his men (374). Hosier was determined to sail again immediately with five or six ships, for, as he told the Council of Jamaica, the whole peace of Europe depended upon his preventing the galleons from sailing (317 i). He asked for permission to press half the crews of all the ships in the harbours of Kingston and Port Royal, and having received it was able to sail again for Porto Bello on December 29 (p. 212). He was back again in Jamaica on February 8 with fresh demands for men, but this time the Council was reluctant to supply him, for the pressing of the 1,000 seamen he had already taken had raised a considerable opposition among the merchants of the island (433, 438, 438 i). Men had been taken out of all the ships coming from the Northern colonies except those from New York, and the Council feared that this would lead to a dearth of provisions by the discouragement of their voyages, and requested that Hosier should be supplied with seamen direct from England (438, 438 i). In July 1727 Jamaica reported that all that they had heard recently of Hosier's movements was that he was still lying off Cartagena (639), but a report that came from Governor Hart at St. Christopher's must have caused the Government considerable anxiety as showing that the blockade had failed of success.
Escape of the Spanish treasure.
A small Spanish vessel coming from Havana had been wrecked at Barbuda, and her master informed the Governor that he had sailed in company with Admiral Castinetto with eight ships of the flota, which were said to have sixteen millions of pieces of eight on board. According to him, as soon as Hosier arrived at the Bastamentas before Porto Bello, the galleons were unladen and the treasure on board them was carried by land to Cartagena and various other Spanish ports whence it was despatched in small vessels to Havana and the flota was made up there. Castinetto sailed for Cadiz on February 25, and Governor Hart sent the information home by the very first ship sailing for England from the Leeward Islands, his letter of March 5 being received by the Board of Trade on May 15. The succession of dates is of interest as showing how slow was the transmission of news even of urgent importance. (464, p. 230).
War with Spain without a formal declaration.
The Governor of St. Domingo had already begun to issue commissions to Spanish vessels for attacks upon the English islands and ships (464, 503) and in April Governor Hart informed his Councils that he believed that war was unavoidable in view of the King's Speech to Parliament, of which he had just learned; in fact that it had already begun with the siege of Gibraltar. (p. 246). President Middleton of South Carolina heard of the siege of Gibraltar via Madeira early in May, but the Council of Antigua was of opinion that as no advice of a formal declaration of war had been received, a state of peace still prevailed. (503 vi). A circular letter to the Governors of the colonies was prepared by the Board of Trade in May 1727 informing them that we were in a state of war with Spain (575), but it was not sent, as we learn from its endorsement, and though we have complaints from the Governor of various colonies during the autumn of the evil effects of the war upon their trade (e.g. 649, 661, 699, 807), there does not appear to have been any formal notification of the state of war that is included among these documents.
Relations with France.
Relations with France were generally less uneasy than they had been in the immediately preceding years at the time of the Indian War, and the points of difference that arose were confined to individual colonies and will be considered in later sections.
Decline of the functions of the Board of Trade.
The Duke of Newcastle, being Secretary of State for the Southern Department, was in general charge of colonial business, and, as was remarked in our previous Introduction, the papers that remained in his hands and are now preserved in the British Museum are an essential complement to the documents in the Public Record Office which alone are calendared here. Newcastle was steadily gathering colonial patronage into his own hands, and the Board of Trade and Plantations was losing power and being thrust into the background. The Commissioners acted merely as agents for the transmission of representations from the colonial Governors to the Secretary of State or to the Lords of the Treasury, as for example when Governor Burnet of New York and New Jersey asked them to apply to the King for orders concerning the encouragement of undertakers for the discovery of gold and silver mines in New Jersey. They replied that until they had laid the Governor's representations and the proposals of the undertakers for working the mines before the Lords of the Treasury they were unable to make any motion in the matter (456).
Many of the letters that were sent to beg for Newcastle's favour show that the suppliants had reason to believe that he might waive the strictness of official rules on their behalf (57). He secured the appointment of his clients to offices in the colonies that they had no intention of executing in person (e.g., 106), and frequently intervened to recommend the favourable consideration of petitions that, strictly speaking, should have been the subject of judicial decision (e.g., 174, 236). That he often carried out business without informing the Board of Trade of what had been done is shown by a complaint of the Commissioners in which they represented that they had sometimes found themselves under difficulties for want of being informed of such Commissions, Orders or Instructions as might have passed in the Secretaries, Offices for persons and matters relating to the Plantations. They therefore prayed the Duke to issue directions that proper notice should be given to the Board of all such Commissions, Orders and Instructions for the advancement of the King's service (682). At the command of the King the Board forwarded an account of its establishment and business (600), but this has not been printed here in extenso.
The Colonies and the Accession of George II.
The correspondence with the colonies that followed the accession of George II to the throne in June 1727 fills a large place in the latter part of the volume. George I died on June 11, and a fortnight later the Board of Trade was ordered to see that letters for proclaiming his succession be forthwith conveyed to the several Governors by two vessels appointed for that service (611). The circular letter ordering the public proclamation was signed and despatched to the various colonies on July 11, and it provided for the continuation of all officers in their employments until further notice. (634). The actual proclamation took place in different colonies on varying dates which were sometimes much delayed. Thus in Maryland Lieutenant-Governor Calvert had upon the advice of his Council read a proclamation of his own in Annapolis and in several of the counties on September 14 and succeeding days, but he did not receive the first packet enclosing the orders from the Board until November 5 and its duplicate until three days later. Calvert asked the Board to pardon the irregularity of his forwardness, for New England, New York and Pennsylvania had proclaimed before Maryland, and the colonists did not wish to be backward in professing their allegiance. (839). This letter was not received in London until 5 March 1727/8 and was not read until May 8, another exact illustration of the long delays that prevailed even in important but quite uncontroversial matters of colonial business.
Festivities at the Accession Proclamation.
There are accounts of the festivities accompanying the proclamation of the accession of the King in most of the colonies, and the celebrations in St. Christopher seems to have been typical. The orders for the proclamation were received on September 21 and two days later Lieutenant Governor Mathew met the Council and all the principal inhabitants on Brimstone Hill, above 400 persons in all. The three Companies of Foot stationed in the island were drawn up under arms, and while the proclamation was being signed by the Council and two hundred of the principal inhabitants (fn. n1) the flags were at half-mast and 140 minute guns were fired as a melancholy duty to the deceased sovereign. At noon the flags were hoisted to the top of the staff, the proclamation was read, all the cannon in the island were fired off simultaneously, and the three companies of Foot fired volleys amid the acclamations of the assembled crowds. The Governor entertained as many to dinner in his house as it would hold, and the rest sat down in arbours built around. The afternoon was spent in drinking health and prosperity to the Queen and all the Royal Family, and at dark a very great English bonfire was lit on the hill and as many fireworks were discharged as the slender resources of the island could furnish. Similar festivities attended the proclamation in Nevis and Montserrat on September 26 and in Antigua on the 30th, where 200 persons were entertained to dinner at the public expense. The bonfire there had been prepared in the market-place in the town of St. John's, but the night proved stormy, and it was feared that it would endanger the safety of the town, which was mostly timber built. The diversions therefore ceased at nightfall. The poor inhabitants of Anguilla could not afford so elaborate a celebration, but decent ceremony was employed on October 7 to accompany the reading of the proclamation. Tortola and Spanish Town, the remaining occupied English islands of the Leeward group, had to carry out their ceremonies without the presence of the Governor (737).
Barbados and prayers for the Royal Family.
Barbados was rather pedantic in its proceedings when the proclamation reached the island in the middle of October. The orders were not accompanied by any direction for altering the form of prayers for the Royal Family, and as by the Act of Uniformity no alteration could be made in the service without lawful authority, the clergy prayed for King George in the prayers that had regard to him, and in others for the Royal Family, though in their prayer before the sermon, to which the Act of Uniformity did not extend, they prayed for King George, Queen Caroline and the rest of the Royal Family all together. (p. 377). The Assembly told Governor Worsley that according to the proclamation for continuing persons being in office at the death of the late King, they could not sit after December 11, and that after that date there could be no Government in Barbados and the island must fall into anarchy, an interesting indication of the political theories prevailing in the colonies at the period, that all government must depend upon the exact terms of legal instruments. However, the Governor was not unduly alarmed, for, as he pointed out, on the decease of Queen Anne the same question had been raised, but for nine months the government was continued without trouble. Upon the death of Charles II and upon the accession of William III the proclamations had been in somewhat different terms and the difficulty did not arise, (p. 379).
New seals for the Colonies.
New seals had to be prepared for each of the colonies, and in November 1727 John Rollos, his Majesty's seal cutter, received a warrant to commence the work, each of the new seals being particularly described. (791).
Colonial business in the office of the Secretaries of State.
According to the agreement for the division of business between the two Secretaries which has been mentioned in previous Introductions, practically all colonial business was dealt with by the Duke of Newcastle as Secretary of State for the Southern Department, but there was no formal division of function, and upon occasion Lord Townshend, the Secretary of State for the Northern Department, countersigned commissions or gave orders to the Board of Trade and Plantations (e.g., 602, 603, 663, 677). The Secretary of State was assisted by two Under-Secretaries, and we find Charles Delafaye and Temple Stanyan described as "the two Chief Secretaries to the Duke of Newcastle" (p. 171), while upon another occasion Temple Stanyan was spoken of as "his Grace's Secretary for H.M Plantations" (p. 173). We know that Stanyan was also serving as Clerk of the Privy Council, while Delafaye acted as Secretary to the Lords Justices. It is clear that there was at this date no exact division of function within the offices of the Council and Secretariat. The group of officials (or, as we should now call them, civil servants) serving the Council and the Secretaries of State were as undifferentiated in function as they had been in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Committees of the Privy Council.
There are very frequent mentions of Committees of the Privy Council as discussing colonial affairs without any specific title being attached to them, but reference to the Acts of the Privy Council, Colonial Series, 1720–1745 shows that there were two such Committees of the Council at this period, and that they were doing a good deal of work. The first was called the Committee for Plantation Affairs and its discussions and orders referred to much the same sort of business concerning trade and plantations in general that were dealt with by the Board of Trade (e.g., A.P.C. Col., p. 153). There was a Committee of the Council for Appeals during the reign of George I, but on the accession of his successor it was re-appointed more formally by an explicit Order-in-Council (5 July 1727). The whole Privy Council or any three of them were appointed a Committee for the Affairs of Jersey and Guernsey, for the hearing Appeals from the Plantations, and for other matters referred to them. A little later, (20 September 1727), a similar committee was appointed to hear appeals from sentences in prize cases in the Admiralty Courts of Great Britain or in the Plantations in America (A.P.C, Col., pp. 158, 159). Special matters were sometimes referred to Committees appointed ad hoc, and it is necessary when a committee is mentioned in the documents calendared in this volume to refer to the Acts of the Privy Council to ascertain which of the various committees was actually dealing with the matter.
The question of Colonial Appeals was one of great importance and had frequently been considered in earlier years, but it is possible that the reform just mentioned was accelerated by a very cogent representation from the Council and Assembly of Virginia in 1726. In a mercantile case arising, in the colony judgment in favour of the defendants, who were resident in Virginia, was given by the General Court, but the Privy Council reversed this judgment on appeal, after referring the account in the case to four London merchants for examination and report. They had stated their opinion that the items of interest and insurance that were in dispute were fair and reasonable according to the usage of merchants trading to the Plantations. But the Virginians maintained that there was no such usage in their colony, "but that in actions at the Common Law no plaintiff hath any other allowance of interest but such as a jury shall think fit to assess in damages, who by the laws and customs of England (to which our proceedings do, as near can be, conform) are the only proper judges thereof." The examining by merchants of the judgments of the General Court given according to the rules of the Common Law had never been allowed or established, "but the King's subjects in the colony have always without interruption had and enjoyed the benefits of a legal trial by juries in all actions at the Common Law." If in like cases coming before the "Privy Council by appeal the reports of merchants, who are under no obligation of an oath and are ever inclined to favour one another, be admitted to overrule the verdicts of legal juries, [the colonists]will be liable to whatever charges and impositions their factors and correspondents in Great Britain think fit to load them with." The petitioners therefore prayed his Majesty "to establish for the future such a regular course for examining and reforming the judgments given in the Supreme Court [of the colony] that his subjects of this Dominion may still enjoy the benefits of trial according to the laws and customs of England under which the Colony was happily planted and which they account one of their most valuable privileges." (216 i, p. 117).
Courts of Vice-Admiralty.
It will be remembered that in the constitutional disputes after the middle of the century the Courts of Vice-Admiralty which sat without a jury were regarded by the colonists as a serious grievance, but in 1726 they were apparently not used to any great extent. In a description of the Courts of Virginia supplied by Lieutenant-Governor Drysdale he said that "the chief business of [the Court of Vice-Admiralty] is prosecutions of ships for breaches of the Acts of Trade and suits for mariners' wages. It is a Court that has very little business, and perhaps the less, because its jurisdiction is as little known as the methods of proceedings therein. Yet it is to be wished that some certain forms were established for the better regulating thereof, it being a judicatory absolutely necessary for the better putting in execution of the Acts of Trade." (183, p. 90).
In Massachusetts the judges of the Supreme Court prohibited the proceedings of the Vice-Admiralty Court in relation to seizures for breach of the Acts of Trade. They declared that the matters laid in the said informations ought to be tried in the Courts of Common Law, the contention that was to be so frequent during the next fifty years. (59, 59 i and ii).
Enforcement of the Acts of Trade.
Questions in relation to the enforcement of the Acts of Trade occupied much of the attention of the Board of Trade, but they were generally of a similar character to those referred to in earlier volumes of the Calendar. One point came up, however, that seems to have been new. Certain Deputy-Governors who were serving in the colonies in the place of absentee Governors had not taken out the bond that was required by the Acts of Trade, but the Board insisted that they should do so and provide two securities of 2,000l. each that they would not during their tenure of office act as merchants on their own account or serve as factors for others (92, 105).
The preparation of Governors' Instructions to fit the diverse circumstances of individual colonies was an elaborate process that demanded much discussion by the Commissioners, for they were regarded as fundamental instruments in each colony's government. (97, 467, 487, 496). In the case of absentee Governors this gave rise to difficulties. The Earl of Orkney had long been Governor of Virginia, but was non-resident, and the actual duties were carried out by a series of Lieutenant-Governors, The Commissioners desired that his Instructions should be regularly given to every succeeding Lieutenant-Governor until a new Governor was appointed. In addition, the Earl of Orkney's commission ought to be delivered to the Lieutenant-Governor and entered in the Council books in Virginia, for it was the only warrant for the President of the Council taking upon him the Government in case of the death or absence of the Lieutenant-Governor (496). George II on the nomination of Lord Townshend re-appointed Orkney as Governor of Virginia, and this afforded an opportunity for the re-casting of his commission and Instructions to be handed to his deputy. (Journal of Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, 12 August 1727, p. 347). New Instructions had recently been prepared for Major-General Hunter as Governor of Jamaica (vide Hunter), and those for Col. Montgomery as Governor of New York and New Jersey were being dealt with at the same time, (vide Montgomery). It is interesting to note how the Board of Trade discussed the provisions of one Governor's Instructions in relation to those of the Governors of others colonies, and how much correspondence was involved between the Secretary of State and the Board. Some of the letters are of considerable length (e.g., 825 i), and read in conjunction with the Journal they indicate how assiduous the Commissioners were in the performance of this important part of their work (97, 467, 487, 496, 718, 726).
Offices served by deputy.
Unfortunately, however, this cannot be said of much of the colonial administration. The evils of permitting offices in the colonies to be served by deputy were rampant, as we have noted in earlier Introductions. The patentees were not always absent from the colonies, but were usually resident on the spot though executing their duties by deputy. In Virginia there was only one absentee patent officer, the Auditor-General of the Plantations, whose office must always be thus exercised, since the several parts of his province being so remote from another, it was impracticable for the Auditor-General to act in all places in person. (p. 91). But the patent system was growing, and the evils of patronage were biting deeper and deeper into the body politic. The Secretary of the Colony of Virginia had always been appointed under pleasure and was very much dependent on the Governor and assistant to him in the service of the Crown. But with the Earl of Orkney as an absentee and the rapid succession of Lieutenant-Governors the Secretary took advantage to get his patent made into one for life. As he had the absolute disposal of no less than 28 clerkships of counties which were held only during his pleasure, he had great political influence. He could get each of his clerks returned one of the burgesses for the several counties or gain one burgess in each county by the gift of the clerkship and so have one half of the lower House of Assembly entirely in his interest and ready to vote as he directed, (p. 91). The vices of parliamentary patronage were clearly no monopoly of Newcastle and his clients in England.
Deputy Secretary of the Board of Trade rewarded by a patent office.
Though the Board of Trade knew of the evils of the patent system and were constantly urging the Governors to check them, they were not themselves immune. When Alured Popple was appointed to succeed his father as Secretary of the Board in 1722, the Commissioners had protested against the passing over of Benjamin Wheelock, their Deputy Secretary. Five years later six of the Lords Commissioners wrote to the Duke of Newcastle, "as private gentlemen and not as Commissioners for Trade," recommending that as a recompense Wheelock should be appointed to the office of Clerk of the Markets of St. Jago de la Vela and Port Royal in Jamaica, "so inconsiderable an office that it has never yet been granted under the Great Seal." (192). It was clearly impossible for Wheelock to perform the duties of the office in person, and the Commissioners were therefore proposing a further extension of the patent system which led to such unfortunate abuses. However, the appointment went through in due course, and Wheelock received his patent. (561, 581).
Abuse of fees in the Colonies.
The appointment of deputies to exercise patent offices in the colonies not only led to inefficiency in the performance of the service of the Crown but also to much abuse by the charging of exorbitant fees. The Assembly of Barbados, for example, presented an Address to the Governor protesting against the "severe and unparalleled grievances and oppressions [occasioned by] the Patentee Officers farming out their offices to persons generally of but small fortunes who have taken an unlimited power in exacting exorbitant fees contrary to the laws" (808 i), but although the Governor by his Instructions was directed to take special care to regulate the officers' fees and to see that no exactions be made upon any occasion, he advised the Duke of Newcastle not to take any action upon the Assembly's Address. By another item in his Instructions he was directed to countenance all Patent Officers in the enjoyment of their legal and accustomed fees, and he told the Duke that he had always favoured their deputies and supported them in their rights. (808). Fees were, in fact, regarded as property, whether they were paid to patent officers or their deputies, and the sacred rights of property were pre-eminent, whether the duties of the office were properly performed or no.
A glaring example of this appeared in Virginia. Colonel Jennings held the office of President of the Council, but he was afflicted by a palsy which for two years deprived him of his memory and understanding, and he had fallen into a low estate by reason of great debts in which he had become involved. The office of President of the Council was very important because, in the incapacity of the Lieutenant-Governor by reason of illness or absence, the President was called upon to exercise the government of the colony. Colonel Jennings was notoriously incapable of exercising his functions, but Lieutenant-Governor Drysdale could not compel him to resign and only determined to suspend him with very great trepidation, probably because Jennings' creditors would raise an agitation against the measure as likely to deprive them of their hold upon his salary and perquisites. (p. 113, and nos. 228, 230). The danger that Drysdale foresaw eventuated, for he died before Jennings was removed from office, and it was only by a fortunate chance that the suspension had come into effect and the government of the colony passed into the hands of Robert Carter, who was capable of exercising it, and not into those of a patentee who had for years been incapacitated by age and infirmities but, holding his office by patent for life, could not be removed. There can be no doubt that much of the inefficiency of colonial government arose from this ancient but vicious system.
Purchase of places.
Places were bought and sold without concealment, although, as the Assembly of South Carolina resolved, "the buying and selling of places relating to the Courts of Justice is of the utmost ill consequence and very much to the dishonour of his Majesty" (32). Arthur Middleton, President of South Carolina, administering the Government in the absence of Governor Nicholson, suspended the Clerk of the Crown and the Vendue Master and sold their offices. He tried to obtain 400l. for the office of Provost Marshal, but only succeeded in getting 200l., (22) and when the scandal was reported to England, he frankly admitted it and practically claimed that he was within his rights. Couliette, the extruded officer, who had held the office of Clerk of the Courts of Common Pleas, petitioned the Assembly against Middleton's action, and the President acknowledged that he had taken money as alleged. His defence casts a livid light on the sort of thing that went on. As Couliette was unfit for his post, he wrote, "I thought that if I did turn him out, whoever had it should give something for it. This I did openly and not underhand, and I received a present of 200l. for it, and that without asking for, and this is the great crime the Assembly [complains of]. This place and the Marshal's place have been always looked upon as perquisites to the Government, and something has been always given for them, and how it now comes to be a crime in me, I can't tell." (33). Middleton admitted that Governor Nicholson did not sell places, but that was his own goodness and he spent many thousand pounds in the colony more than he got, and obviously one who could not afford it could hardly be expected to be so scrupulous (33, 393). Middleton's excuses were apparently accepted, for he was still administering the Government a year later (698), and no reproof from the authorities in England appears to have been administered to him.
Constitutional disputes in the Colonies. Tacking.
Turning from this unpleasant topic of corruption in the colonial service to matters of constitutional interest we find the papers filled as usual with accounts of disputes between the different authorities. Faction was rife everywhere, and especially in the Southern colonies and the West Indies the violence of the incessant quarrels that went on was remarkable. The Assemblies in almost every colony were constant in their accusations against the Governors and their Councils. Barbados was particularly noticeable, and the attempt of its Assembly to have their way by "tacking" clauses to money bills is of constitutional interest far beyond the limits of that colony. Governor Worsley explained the pretensions of the Assembly to the Duke of Newcastle in a long letter (655) that is full of interest, but we need only quote one passage. The Assembly proposed to "tack" certain provisions to an Excise Bill, "whence they will assume to themselves not only the power of raising money and appointing the uses of it, but may create as many offices and officers as they shall think fit in their Excise Bill, and if the Governor and Council should not give their consent to it, the only money bill for the support of the Government must be lost. They talk also of passing a self-denying bill and of tacking that to their Excise bill. In one word, this part of the world is infected with the maxims of the representatives in New England; they put themselves upon the very same foot with the Parliament in Great Britain. If I mistake not, H.M. Commission and Instructions to me are the foundation of this Government in which H.M. commands me to let them enjoy the privileges which the English have by the Magna Charta and Habeas Corpus Acts, which commands would be unnecessary if they had otherwise a right to them. Nor do I find any power there is of holding Assemblies in [Barbados] but by H.M. Commission, nor do I conceive any right they have of forming any rules to themselves that can in the least tend to an encroachment upon H.M. prerogative, which the Crown has always asserted in Great Britain. I am sure the proceedings of these people here, if some stop be not put to them, must in time weaken their dependence on the Crown of Great Britain."(pp. 325–6). The echoes of constitutional controversies from the seventeenth century had certainly not yet died away in the colonial assemblies.
The Colonial records.
Points of interest concerning the preparation and preservation of the colonial records are frequently to be noted. Maps and plans were prepared and sent to England for the information of the Government (e.g., 18, 23), and references are given in the Calendar to the places where certain of those maps have been reproduced. The others are separately preserved among the records and afford admirable material for the study of the historical geography of the Empire. With the irregularity of communications, especially with the smaller colonies, and the length of time of transit the Governors were often uncertain whether their letters had safely reached the authorities in London. Seeing the long delay that frequently elapsed before the letters were read to the Board of Trade and answered, as we can judge from the entries in the Journal, the haphazard character of the correspondence was not remarkable. But sometimes there was wilful interference with the letters, as Governor Hart reported from St. Christopher. (151). He begged that a special notice of the receipt of his letters might be sent at once, for certain designing people had held up letters from and to him until they had secured their own ends. The Duke of Portland also gave evidence of this abuse and of similar leakages of official correspondence in England. As he wrote "I myself have seen whole paragraphs copied out of my letters to your Lordships that have been transmitted to private persons [in Jamaica] from England, and agree almost verbatim with the originals."(p. 81). It was impossible for the Governor to write confidentially where such abuses occurred, and the Duke implied that the Board of Trade ought to exercise a stricter control over its officers.
The Commissioners were constantly dunning the Governors for statistics, and the more trustworthy of them had often to reply that their own records were necessarily so imperfect that they could not supply complete data. Doubtless the calculations of the Board give a fair average conspectus of the trade movements that were going on, but it is certain that it would be unsafe to make deductions from them in detail. There were, for example, serious discrepancies between the accounts of the furs exported from New York as reported by the Governor and the returns of the Custom House. When the Board of Trade looked into the matter, it turned out that the statistics were kept upon a different plan, and direction had to be given that the Custom House method should be adhered to in both cases. (177, 178). The principal statistics specially asked for by the Board during the period related to the importation of negroes and these are referred to later.
Inordinate demands for papers.
The Governors frequently complained of their difficulties in supplying the incessant appetite of the Board of Trade for papers. They could send their own letters in duplicate to guard against the uncertainties of transport, but they found it almost impossible to supply duplicates of all the papers that were asked for; the copying in duplicate of transcripts of the records of the various Councils and Assemblies must have imposed incessant labour upon their clerks (359, 771). In the newer and still unorganised colonies like the Bahamas there was a complete lack of precedents, and this had to be supplied direct from other colonies (170). The records of the Bahamas, however, were steadily accumulating, and the Governor reported that the Council book was swelled to a large folio. The clerk had no assistant, and the task of making two copies each for the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State's offices was so formidable that it was impossible to keep up with it (23). However, many of the duplicates survived, and this accounts for a great deal of the repetition that characterises the files of documents now preserved in the Public Record Office. In the West Indies the losses of papers during recurrent hurricanes were sometimes serious (e.g., p. 146) and they explain many of the gaps that now exist, especially among the statistical papers. The general impression left by the collection is that of an anthill of incessant industry in quill-driving, and the difficulty of the historian is rather that of forming a comprehensive, synthetic view of what was occurring than of finding documentary material to explore.
Petitions to the Crown.
Minor topics of interest are numerous and we can only quote a few. The Governors had often to forward petitions to the Crown with which they did not agree, for it was the rule that all applications to the Throne from the Plantations must pass through the hands of their Governors. The Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia customarily sent copies of such applications to the Secretary of State and forwarded the originals to the absentee Governor, the Earl of Orkney, for him to pass on (216). In July 1726 he forwarded in this way a supplication from the Reverend Mr. Blair, President of William and Mary College, for the Royal bounty to the College, and added that Mr. Blair would also call upon the Duke of Newcastle and would doubtless find how great happiness it was to that good work that so great a patron of learning as his Grace was entrusted by His Majesty with the care and protection of the Plantations (216).
Spelling and shorthand.
Among the many peculiarities of spelling that are to be found here and there among the documents, the letters from the Earl of Orkney are unique among those from men of education. In one of his letters to Newcastle we find "tack" for take, "phesetians" for physicians at the Bath, "your very good freend Sir Robert Walpoole," "colloney" and "a generall loss to loose soe worthy a man." Such spellings may have been either careless or merely old-fashioned, but in 1726 they were unusual in polite letters (139). Spelling had, in fact, settled down to something not very different from the modern form. Shorthand is mentioned as being used upon one occasion in a colony, when the Deputy Secretary of Barbados wrote that he had taken down certain examinations word by word by himself in shorthand while his two clerks were writing them in longhand. (131).
Many references to paper currency in the colonies occur as in earlier volumes, but there were no new measures of especial importance taken to deal with them. The shortage of specie throughout the Plantations was such as to render difficulties in regard to the currency chronic. (See especially, 143, 181, 366, 377, 426, 431). Wood's "halfpence" were little more welcome in the Plantations than they had been in Ireland. Governor Worsley of Barbados wrote that Wood's deputies, having bought a quantity of the coins to the value of 400l. sterling, proposed to the Deputy-Postmaster of the island that he should put them off at pences, twopences and threepences. But although the currency of Barbados was badly depreciated, the new coins could not be put into circulation at that rate, and the Deputy-Postmaster had to suggest that they should be circulated as farthings, halfpence and pence only (111). However, Newcastle was pressing for assistance to Wood in his project and the Governors had to promise to do the best they could (111, 171).
As a relief from the incessant tales of disputes between Governors and Assemblies it is refreshing to find Governor Nicholson writing from London to one of his supporters in South Carolina "I have given Captain Massey [who is going out to the colony] two guineas, as I have done two others to Mr. Splutt to drink with yourself and the Honourable Gentlemen of the Commons House of Assembly, and when it is doing, to be present with you would be acceptable to [me]. I hope the Burton ale I sent by Mr. Clarke for you proved good." (356).
THE AMERICAN COLONIES.
Newfoundland. Heads of Enquiry.
The usual Heads of Enquiry were sent to the Commodores on the Newfoundland station. Captain Bouler, the Northern Commodore in 1726 and 1727 practically repeated the answers to the enquiry of 1725 (306, 553, 743), and the only notable fact during his period of service was his attempt to check an abuse that was a serious cause of complaint among the fishing merchants of the Western ports. They sent out annually experienced seamen with their boats in charge of the "green" hands who were new to the fishery. During the course of the season the masters of the New England ships that were visiting Newfoundland to fish or to carry on trade with the fishermen tempted away the English sailors with the promise of high wages or a larger share in the profits than the English shipowners paid. In order to put a stop to this practice which, it will be recalled, was such a constant irritant in Anglo-American relations at the end of the century, Commodore Bouler compelled the New England shipmasters to enter into bonds of 500l. each not to carry away men without his express permission. (553 i).
Troubles at Placentia.
Commodore John St. Lo's replies to the Heads of Enquiry for 1727 for the South Coast of Newfoundland are more illuminating (721). The outstanding event of St. Lo's commodoreship was his attempt to bring about order and discipline in the Placentia settlement. In February 1727 the merchants of Barnstaple and Bideford trading to Newfoundland petitioned the King for redress against the malpractices of Samuel Gledhill, Lieutenant-Governor of Placentia. Though by his commission he was forbidden to intermeddle with the fishery, he had made arbitrary exactions for rent for fishing stages, had taken all the business of the town into his own hands and discouraged all substantial planters from settling there. By his encouragement of public, disorderly houses he had debauched and impoverished the fishermen and misused his power as Governor to imprison and oppress any who opposed him. (451 i). The Board of Trade had already had many complaints against Gledhill, as appeared in our previous volume, and they now expressed the opinion that he should be at once recalled (478 i). Commodore St. Lo was instructed to enquire into the matter, and in August he sent to the Board copies of the correspondence that had passed between him and Gledhill which is marked with a careful restraint on the part of the Commodore and abusiveness from the other that amplified proof of the justification of the complaints against him. (674, 674 i–viii, 721). St. Lo was not daunted by Gledhill's abuse, but attempted to settle new planters at Placentia and bring the settlement into good order so that the valuable fishery that went on from it might be improved and fully exploited (786). He recommended the abandonment of the fort and garrison as a useless expense that cost 20,000l. loss to the revenue. The settlement was the scene of a great deal of illicit trading, especially in wine and brandy, between the New Englanders and the French from Cape Breton (pp. 364, 365), while the favouring of French fishermen destroyed all chances of success for the new fishing enterprise at Canso in Nova Scotia, which suffered gravely from New England competition (p. 364).
The Canso fishery. The Acadians in Nova Scotia. Scheme for the civil government of Nova Scotia.
Canso was, in fact, a very unsuccessful enterprise, for not merely did its fishery suffer from French, New England and Newfoundland competition, but its communications suffered from the attacks of pirates who preyed on the ships in the Gulf with impunity because the convoy man-of-war from Newfoundland never appeared off the settlement till the beginning of September when the Nova Scotia fishery was over and the fishing vessels had departed (51). Lieutenant-Governor Laurence Armstrong endeavoured to encourage the Canso fishery as far as possible in the face of this discouragement and the tendency of London merchants to purchase their supplies of fish in New England, (p. 123), but he was also very much busied with the ratification of the peace with the Indians at Annapolis and the raising of funds to provide presents for the tribes to ensure their observance of their engagements and the reservation of their fur trade for British merchants in place of the French in Cape Breton to whom they had formerly sold their furs (p. 123). Armstrong was also much troubled about the French inhabitants of Nova Scotia who steadfastly refused to take the oath of fealty to the British Crown. They were firmly resolved not to give way and would rather leave the Province, in fact many of them had already migrated with their cattle to Cape Breton. The French Governor was surveying the Isle St. Jean (i.e., Prince Edward Island) in order to attract the Acadians to farms there and was using the Jesuits and other missionary priests as his go-betweens. (232). Armstrong, too, had heard through New England from Albany that the Indians on the frontier were again restless, and he feared that there would be a revival of the war. In face of this double danger he pointed out the defenceless condition of Nova Scotia and asked for reinforcements (387). But it was in vain, for the Government was not prepared to spend more on the development of the Province, and it remained with but a handful of British settlers among the French. However, a Committee of the Privy Council examined the question when the appointment of Colonel Philipps as Governor of Nova Scotia was decided upon in February 1727, and the Board of Trade was directed to prepare a scheme for the civil government of the Province and make suggestions for its better settlement and the preservation of its woods to supply timber for the Navy (440, A.P.C., p. 152). The Commissioners accordingly considered the questions at length, took evidence (see e.g. Journal, pp. 331–2), and in June presented an elaborate report (586, pp. 297–301) to the Committee which gives a clear and detailed account of the conditions in Nova Scotia and also affords a valuable conspectus of the prevailing ideas as to the best means of promoting colonisation. No decision upon the proposals of the report had been taken before the end of the year, but one important decision was taken when Colonel Philipps was simultaneously appointed to be Governor of Nova Scotia and the town of Annapolis Royal and Governor of Placentia, thus having power to clear up the misgovernment of Gledhill (602, 603). Lieutenant-Governor Armstrong forwarded a long account of conditions in the colony in November to the Duke of Newcastle, and the Government therefore had full information on which to make their decision (789, 789 i–xi).
Massachusetts. Governor Shute's arrears. New Hampshire.
Turning to New England, we find that Samuel Shute, Governor of Massachusetts was still engaged in his long dispute with the Assembly concerning the payment of his salary and arrears. He had come to England on leave of absence, and in March 1726 petitioned the King for definite orders for his payment (65). The Board of Trade recommended the issue of the orders prayed for and advised that Shute should be sent back to New England at the public charge to convey the orders and the royal sign manual to the Assembly in person. The Board obviously had no great hopes of their compliance, for they wrote that if the people of New England would not comply with his Majesty's directions, no other method could be so effectual to reduce them to compliance as to lay a state of the Province of Massachusetts before Parliament (237). New Hampshire, of which Shute was also Governor, should receive a similar recommendation to pay his arrears and to settle his salary for the future. As that Province was more immediately dependent on the Crown than New England, there were better hopes that the Council and Assembly would comply. A Committee of the Privy Council considered the matter at length, and in February 1727 they reported that the General Assembly of Massachusetts should be commanded to give immediate compliance to the royal order for the establishment of a fixed and honourable salary for the Governor amounting to at least l,000l. per annum, and similarly for New Hampshire 200l. per annum. (A.P.C., p. 106). An Order-in-Council was accordingly issued (495), and Governor Shute was commanded to acquaint the Councils and Assemblies of Massachusetts and New Hampshire with its contents. "If they shall not pay a due and immediate regard to our Royal will and pleasure" said the sign manual, "we shall look upon it as a manifest mark of their undutiful behaviour to us, and such as may require the consideration of the Legislature in what manner the honour and dignity of Our Government ought to be supported in those Our provinces for the future." (502).
The threat, however, was entirely without effect, and Shute remained in London while William Dummer continued to act as Lieutenant-Governor of the Provinces and was in incessant conflict with the Assembly on other matters. It was decided in November to appoint William Burnet, the able and determined Governor of New York to replace Shute (773), and in December the Board of Trade set to work upon the preparation of his commission and Instructions (773, 831, 849, Journal, pp. 363, 371). They were not finally approved until the end of March in the following year, and Burnet was still acting as Governor of New York when 1727 closed, for his successor, Colonel John Montgomery had been delayed by stormy weather (834, 842).
Disputes with the Massachusetts Assembly.
Among the many matters of dispute with the Massachusetts Assembly it is difficult to single out those which were of especial significance during these years. The pacification after the Indian war gave rise to much correspondence but without much divergence of opinion (95, p. 123, 276, 673). The question of the boundary with New Hampshire, however, led to controversy, and maps were submitted to the authorities in England to support the claims put forward on either side (95, 257 iii, 297, 300, 324, 325). The Commissioners appointed to carry out the delimitation on the ground were unable to agree (257 i), and when Massachusetts demanded the appointment of fresh commissioners, New Hampshire refused point blank on the ground that so many commissions had failed already (506, 506 i). Clearly their fellow colonists found the Massachusetts men no easier to do business with than did their Governors or the Secretary of State.
The Explanatory Charter relating to their power of appointing a Speaker, for which the Massachusetts Assembly had petitioned, was received by Lieutenant-Governor Dummer in December 1725 and formally promulgated by him to general satisfaction (4, 5, 11). Feeling on church matters still ran very high, and Episcopalians and Presbyterians alike suffered at the hands of the riotous Boston mob, as some anonymous correspondents informed Lord Townshend (424). The General Court denied to a very considerable body of Irish immigrants liberty to erect townships on the Massachusetts frontier because, although they were good Protestants, they were not Congregationalists (424). The Episcopal clergymen sent over as missionaries by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel were denied any opportunity of carrying on their work peaceably, and actual mob violence was used against them when they refused to contribute to the support of the Independent ministers and their meeting houses (p. 316). They forwarded a long petition to the king to complain of the oppressions practised against them (638) and protested that although by the Charter free liberty of conscience was expressly granted to all sects and denominations of Christians, (Papists only excepted), the Independents who held the Government took away by the Acts passed in the Assembly all liberty of conscience and the security of religion and invaded the civil liberties and properties and the rights and privileges promised to all Protestants by the said Charter (p. 317). The petitioners expressed their belief that if the passage of such Acts were prevented, the members of the Church of England would receive a daily increase and many flourishing Churches would be very soon effectually established in the Province, but this the Independents were determined to prevent by every means, even though they were repugnant to the Laws of England, (p. 318).
But it was against the jurisdiction of the Vice-Admiralty Courts that agitation was most riotously directed (424), as was stated in the Introduction to our preceding volume. The riots and prohibitions that were there mentioned resulted in a peremptory order from the Secretary of State to Lieutenant-Governor Dummer on the representations of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty for the discovery of the offenders and protection against further like disorders (504, 504 i–iv).
Connecticut and Rhode Island boundary.
The final decision of the Board of Trade in the dispute between Connecticut and Rhode Island as to their boundaries, which was referred to them in 1723, was reached in January 1726 and forwarded to the Privy Council, together with a map, (18). The decision of the Board and the action taken by the Committee of the Privy Council thereupon are set forth at length in the Acts of the Privy Council, (pp. 10–16) where the map is also reproduced. (Appendix V at end of A.P.C. vol.).
The dispute between North Carolina and Virginia as to their mutual boundary was amicably settled, and an Order-in-Council promulgated putting the decision into effect (279, 281, 494 and A.P.C., pp. 135–7, where the arrangement is set out at length).
Pennsylvania. Palatine immigrants.
There was an echo of a long-standing question concerning the boundaries of the proprietary colony of Pennsylvania when Patrick Gordon received the royal approbation as Lieutenant-Governor in succession to Sir William Keith. Mrs. Hannah Penn and Springett Penn as representing the Proprietors were required to sign declarations that his appointment as Deputy-Governor of Pennsylvania and the Three Lower Counties upon Delaware River should not be construed to diminish the right claimed by the Crown to the said Three Lower Counties (403, 61, 62, 74). Gordon's appointment in Pennsylvania was accordingly approved without limit of time and in the Three Lower Counties during pleasure (113 and A.P.C., p. 124). The Penn family were dissatisfied with Sir William Keith's later actions during his tenure of office, and his successor complained that his remaining in the Province was causing difficulty and disputes (802). The people of the colony were apprehensive of the many ill consequences that might attend the transporting thither from Holland of the great number of Palatines who daily arrived at Philadelphia (367), while the Customs officers complained that certain of the ships that brought them, under colour of transporting the emigrants were illicitly bringing in goods from the East Indies contrary to the prohibitions of the Acts of Trade. (844).
After the conclusion of the Indian war matters were much quieter upon the frontier of New York. There were complaints that the French were building a fort at Niagara (361, 362) and Governor Burnet replied with a British fort at Oswego. The Acts prohibiting the trade to Canada and encouraging trade with the Indians of the far interior were so ineffectually put into execution by the people of Albany's screening and concealing one another, that the Governor introduced instead differential duties on goods going to Canada from those going to the shores of Lake Ontario, a plan that he found more effective than prohibitions (164). There is an interesting remark of Burnet's which shows how New York still remembered its Dutch beginnings. In his negotiations with the Indians at Albany in October 1726 their speeches were always interpreted into Dutch and then had to be translated into English before they could be recorded by the Governor (307).
Cosmopolitan New York had no objection to offer to the numbering of its people which showed that there were 34,375 white inhabitants and 6,205 negroes (164 i), but Governor Burnet hesitated to carry out the census in New Jersey, for the people there, being generally of a New England extraction and thereby enthusiasts, would take it for a repetition of the sin that David committed, which would bring down like judgments. (164).
In Maryland, on the other hand, there were complaints of the machinations of the Jesuits among the Roman Catholics, and Lord Townshend received an anonymous letter of warning of the dangers of Spanish interference in the colony that would arise if Benedict Leonard Calvert, an educated Roman Catholic, were accepted for appointment as Lieutenant-Governor (501). However, no attention was paid to this prejudiced protest and Calvert duly received the office (see Journal).
In Virginia, as we have already remarked, the Earl of Orkney, the absentee Governor, was continued in office. Hugh Drysdale, his Lieutenant-Governor died while holding the appointment (231), though permission had been secured for him to go on leave to Bath in the hope of restoring his failing health (196, 215, 221 etc). William Gooch, his successor, received his appointment in January 1727, but there were long delays in preparing his Instructions and he did not reach Virginia until September (707), the government in the interim being carried on by Colonel Robert Carter, the recently appointed President of Council on Jennings' suspension (214, 225, 298). Before his death Drysdale had sent a long and valuable account of the duties and rights of the various officers in Virginia to the Board to supply their usual enquiries (183). He strongly protested against the grant of his office to the Secretary by patent for life, as we have already mentioned above.
South Carolina. Swiss emigrants.
The sale of offices in South Carolina has also been referred to. Governor Francis Nicholson, having done a great deal to quiet the factions in the colony, was permitted to return home on leave, and the Government was left to be administered by Arthur Middleton, President of the Council. The Lords Proprietors demanded the right to appoint a Governor in place of Nicholson, who, they maintained, had only been appointed ad interim to deal with a particular situation (354 i, xii etc). This right was strongly contested by those who wanted a strong royal Governor (354 vi), but no decision was taken during our period and General Nicholson remained in office and was in constant communication with the Board of Trade and the Duke of Newcastle on colonial affairs. There can be no doubt that in him and William Burnet, the outstanding Governors of the time, we can see first-rate administrative officials who would do credit to the colonial service at any period. There are many references among the papers to the unfortunate Swiss settlers who had been recruited under Pury's scheme. They got out to the colony at last, but little thanks to the projector. From Neuchatel news came that a hundred persons, who had been waiting there for a month, having spent their money, wandered up and down the streets, not knowing where to find a dinner nor a bed to lie down upon. Their fury was such that Pury absconded, but the magistrates of the town took pity upon them and enabled them to go further on their way to America, each with a small sum of money in his pocket (356, xxxvii, xxxviii etc.)
The Spanish frontier.
The fort upon the Altamaha River, Fort King George, which had given rise to so many disputes with the Spaniards, had been burned out by accident and abandoned before the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, and there were no land operations undertaken by the Spaniards against the colony, though they did their best to stir up the Creeks and Senecas against the English (354 xi).
THE WEST INDIES.
Jamaica. The constitutional crisis.
The long-dreaded crisis had at last been reached in Jamaica without any compromise being arranged in the quarrel between the Assembly and the Government over the Revenue Bills. The period for which the laws of the island had been enacted had run out, and theoretically Jamaica was without laws of any kind. Everything was dependent upon the emergency powers of the Governor and he found the responsibility a very heavy one. "I have hitherto," he wrote in January 1726 "for above a quarter of a year since the expiration of the laws taken all proper measures to conduct affairs so as to prevent inconveniences or complaints, and could I be satisfied that the distresses of the Government would not increase or the distraction of the people grow worse, I could continue in the same method and wait with patience for instructions from Home" (p. 10). He believed that he could count upon the countenance and support of the Secretary of State, but it was essential that matters should as soon as possible be put upon a permanent legal footing, for "justice [was] at a stop and people's demands (particularly of those in business from other parts of the world) suspended, if not lost, by persons dying or daily removing or going off and using means to defraud their honest creditors; besides considering the general temper of the common people who are pleased to be freed from the restrictions of any laws and are not within reach of being made sensible of their error, may be liable to create the utmost irregularities, and irregularities so as might call for what might be thought unwarrantable severities to be corrected and set to rights again." This was a dangerous situation, and particularly so because the Governor suspected that those from whom he ought to look for aid were the very persons who underhand were the fomenters of the danger. (16, p. 11).
In April Portland wrote a very long and interesting despatch to the Board of Trade (107, pp. 44–55) which is well worthy of study for the light it throws upon the constitutional theories of the time and for its anticipation of the disputes of forty years later that preceded the American Revolution. The tone and arguments of the Assembly are identical with those at the period of the Stamp Act and they go to prove that many of the troubles from which the Governors suffered were inherent in the situation of a colonial empire and could only be solved by prolonged experiment.
Death of the Duke of Portland.
The Assembly's method of dealing with the lawless state of the colony was to pass a perpetual revenue bill, while the Governor was instructed to secure an annual bill untill all the points of disagreement were removed. But the malcontent leaders "resolved and insisted never to give in to a practice of being yearly tenants for their rights and privileges, but rather venture to sink than to depart from any attempt to have them perpetual, not doubting but by this to confound matters so as to make everything desperate" for the Governor. They gratified and deluded "the populace with the specious notions of rights, liberties and privileges" and thus obtained "a sort of tribunitial authority." "They have inculcated the strongest prejudices and jealousies against Instructions in general, where the least restitution appears, as if intended by degrees to introduce precedents by which they may in time be deprived of all rights or liberties."(p. 48). Out of all the various factions a kind of Association or Con-juration was formed not to depart from their claim for a perpetuity bill, and in the end Governor Portland thought it best to assent, while reserving the bill for the consideration of the Home Government. At the end of the despatch of April 11 he besought approval for what he had done in this difficult emergency for which his Instructions had not provided. On June 1 he repeated this request (159, 160) in what proved to be his last despatch. The strain of the long and embittered conflict had worn him out and at the beginning of July 1726 the Duke of Portland died after a brief illness of only six days. (217). The government of Jamaica passed into the hands of John Ayscough, President of the Council, and it was fortunate that there could no longer be any contention that the island was without laws, since the new Revenue Act to which Portland had assented was in operation. Ayscough's administration of the Government saw something of a lull in the constitutional disputes, though no settlement could be reached (519, 520, 639).
In February 1727 Major-General Robert Hunter was appointed to the Governorship (435) and work was begun upon the preparation of fresh Instructions to deal with some of the disputed points (462 i, 588, 641, 658, 726, etc.). Hunter did not go out until the following year and during the interim the bulk of the correspondence from Jamaica was very much less than it had been under Portland; in fact, from October 1727 to the end of the year no despatch thence was received either by the Secretary of State or the Board of Trade.
Foreign ships in Jamaican harbours.
As has been noted in earlier paragraphs, Jamaica was closely affected by the disputes with Spain and the beginning of the war. Before it had begun there was a change in the island's traffic that indicated that other nations were affected besides the English. In Portland's despatch of 11 April 1726, he wrote "Dutch, French and other ships, of late come here [i.e., to Kingston and Port Royal] more frequently than formerly and that is manifestly occasioned by the greater strictness of the Spaniards than has heretofore been usual in keeping them off of their coasts. Some of them, disabled by engagements with the Spanish cruisers, and others for the want of wood, water or other necessaries, have been obliged to resort hither for supplying their wants." As it seemed inconsistent with H.M. treaties and the Law of Nations to deny them that access or the relief their necessities required, he allowed them to enter the island's ports but refused them a liberty of selling any goods whatsoever otherwise than by the Naval Officer. Very few of them desired the liberty, for they were mostly provided with ready money. The frequency of their access sometimes gave room to suspect that their necessities might be pretended, and therefore the Governor to prevent illicit trade compelled them in every case to make oath that they would neither sell or permit any part of their ladings to be sold, contracted for or delivered to any of the inhabitants of the island. (107, pp. 54–5).
Barbados. The coffee trade.
Governor Worsley of Barbados was still suffering as usual from the cabals against him (127), but no new points of importance appear in his despatches. A letter of April 1727 gives interesting details of some of the subterfuges attempted to evade the regulations against illicit trade under plea of necessity, and the point also appears that coffee was now being dealt in in very considerable bulk. (509, 540).
The Bahamas. Captain Woodes Rogers.
The Bahamas were still without many of the organs of government and the inhabitants renewed their petitions for an Assembly, or a resident surveyor who should have power to grant valid patents for land, and additional soldiers and supplies for the fortifications of the islands in view of the fact that, as in the late war, they were likely to be among the first objects of the Spaniard's attacks. (516 xiii, xvii). The Proprietors, or as the inhabitants called them, the Bahama Society, had long ceased to send any emigrants or supplies to the islands, and under Governor Phenney the settlement was now practically an ordinary royal colony. (516, xvi). The inhabitants were mainly rough sailors who were almost always at sea among the islands carrying on their trade of wreckers and sponge collectors, and the Governor found it hard to get a quorum for his Council. His recommendation of certain persons to fill vacancies gives a glimpse of a community only just redeemed from piracy. "The persons I have returned are men of fair characters, having never been on any unlawful accounts, yet several of them are very illiterate, which is unavoidable here." (23). Captain Woodes Rogers, who had taken the lead in founding the Bahama colony on a solid footing, had never been able to secure repayment of the moneys he had expended on the account of the Co-partners, and in August 1727 he forwarded a detailed petition to the Duke of Newcastle which Lord Townshend had presented for him to the King praying for redress and setting forth a summary of the colony's history. It was referred to a board of General Officers who recommended that Woodes Rogers be placed on half-pay as Captain of Foot from the time when he was superseded as Governor. He could, however, obtain only a fraction of his money claims from the now bankrupt Bahama Society. (686 ii).
The Leeward Islands.
The old quarrel between Wavell Smith, the patent Secretary of the Leeward Islands and Governor Hart concerning patronage and fees continued (e.g., p. 73 etc.), and the Governor applied for leave to return home and give evidence in person upon the charges that had been made against him before the Board of Trade (p. 73). However, in place of the desired permission for leave it was decided to supersede Colonel Hart (Journal, p. 336), and he was ordered to return to England. The Earl of Londonderry was appointed to succeed him (583), and when Hart arrived in London in November 1727 a long series of hearings of the many complaints from the Leeward Islands began before the Board of Trade (Journal, p. 367 etc.). The Governorship was perhaps the most difficult, though certainly not the most important post in the colonies. The Leeward Islands were over-provided with administrative and legislative machinery, and in such petty communities family connections and ties of interest bound together the few men of substance into cliques who resented all interference by the sole independent official from outside, the Governor. Practically all the other offices were served by deputy, and the deputies being necessarily resident and receiving only small returns for their work, were dependents of the ruling oligarchy (1, p. 3).
The consideration of the draft commission and Instructions for the new Governor occupied the Board of Trade concurrently with the hearing of the complaints against Colonel Hart, and Lord Londonderry and he were still being consulted personally by the Board frequently down to as late as April 1728 (Journal, p. 399). Meanwhile the government of the islands was administered by the Lieutenant-General (i.e. Governor) Mathew who was in command of the garrison at St. Christopher's (610, 612, 805 etc.).
Colonel Hope was superseded as Governor of Bermuda by a civilian, John Pitt (753 ii), to the disgust of one of Newcastle's clients, Captain Paul George, who had petitioned for the place (57), but was instead only confirmed in the Lieutenant-Governorship of Montserrat (751) to which he had been appointed by the patronage of Lord Carteret (57). "Poor Paul," as he called himself, had little scruples about begging but does not appear to have always been successful.
The Neutral Islands.
The Duke of Montagu pressed Newcastle to obtain a more satisfactory agreement from France with regard to the Neutral Islands than had yet been concluded. He especially urged the partition of St. Lucia between himself and Marèchal d'Estrèes which would give to England the best harbour in the West Indies, but he seems to have dropped his designs upon Tobago (574). Horace Walpole, the British Ambassador in Paris was ordered to discuss the matter with d'Estrèes and endeavour to adjust the dispute (627, 654), but no result had been reached before the end of the year. The Governor of Barbados, however, was instructed to maintain British claims in all the Neutral Islands in full vigour and to withstand any attempt by the French to disregard them. (205).
The Royal African Company.
One of the principal matters occupying the attention of the Board of Trade during the period was an enquiry into the affairs of the Royal African Company and the slave trade. In February 1726 the Board received from the Duke of Newcastle a memorial presented by the Company praying for assistance in their difficulties and pointing out the hardships under which their trade suffered (Journal, p. 219). The fact was that the advantages expected from the acquisition of the Asiento by the Treaty of Utrecht had failed to materialise either for the South Sea Company or the African Company, from whom they had contracted to purchase the negroes who were to be sold to the Spanish colonies, and the whole matter illustrates again the essential connection between the history of African trade and the West Indies. The decay of the Company was generally attributed to the competition of separate traders, and it is interesting to note that the leaders of the latter, who were at once called into consultation by the Board on the reception of the petition, were Bristol merchants, the most prominent of whom was Sir Abram Elton. The Board decided that the questions they were bound to decide fell into two groups (1) Whether it was for the public service that the African trade should be carried on by a Company or laid entirely open? (2) What was the state of the British forts and settlements upon the African coast? (63). To these was later added a third upon which the answer to the first really depended, (3) What numbers of negroes were to be found in each of the British colonies and how were they replenished? (Journal, p. 221).
These enquiries led to an elaborate investigation by the Board in which witnesses were called from both the Company and the separate traders and statistics were sought from every colony. The essential conduct of the enquiry is best studied by the use of the Journal where the evidence is set forth at length. The papers calendared here cannot be properly understood without constant reference to the minutes which from the central part of this important controversy. When, however, the two sets of documents are dealt with as complementary, they fall into place and reveal in detail such a picture of the colonial trade of the period as can be found in like completeness very rarely in connection with other branches of trade. It is unnecessary to enumerate the papers on the subject calendared in this volume, and those interested in the question may be advised in the first instance to consult the index to the Journal.