Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Volume 41, 1734-1735. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1953.
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THE Text of this Volume was prepared, and the Introduction to it written, by the late Dr. A. P. Newton, D. Lit., F. S. A., Emeritus Professor of Imperial History in the University of London, and Fellow of King's College. The MS. Material for the Text, which was drawn from the several Colonial Office Classes of Original Correspondence and Entry Books of Correspondence for the American and West Indian Colonies, had been accumulated by Mr. Cecil Headlam, the previous Editor of the Series; and this was edited and passed through the press by Dr. Newton, during the Deputy Keeperships of Mr. A. E. Stamp, C.B., and Sir Cyril Flower, C.B., between 1937 and 1940. The Headlam.
The papers dealt with in this volume cover a period of eighteen months from January 1734 to June 1735, in distinction to the immediately preceding volumes, each of which covered only a year. As mentioned in the volume for 1733 there were only 473 abstracts for that year, whereas for 1731 there were 595. For 1734 the number is still smaller, being only 435 (Nos. 1–434 and 614), while for the period from January to June 1735 there were 179 (Nos. 435–613), so that for eighteen months we have only a little greater bulk of material than was collected in the twelve months of 1731. The papers from July 1735 to December 1736 will be included in our next volume.
The Committee of Council for Plantation Affairs.
In the Introduction to the preceding volume the relations between the Board of Trade and the Committee of the Privy Council for Plantation Affairs were dealt with at some length, and it was emphasised that the effective power of decision in colonial matters rested with the latter body. There are no regular records of the proceedings of the Committee such as were preserved in the Journal of the Board of Trade, but among our abstracts there will be found certain items called "Minutes of the Committee of the Council for Plantation Affairs." They come from a miscellaneous collection of papers from the Council Office (C. O. 5/36), including draft minutes, rough notes of meetings and a few fair copies in proper minute form. There are also a few letters from the Clerk of the Council to the Secretary of State. These draft Minutes come from 1731–2, the fair copies from 1735, and the rest of the papers consist of a group for 1746–7 and many dating after 1783 from the office of the Committee for Trade and Plantations. This explains how papers really belonging to the Privy Council have come into the C. O. series.
The long Minutes from 1735 show something of how the business of the Committee for Plantation Affairs was conducted (590, 608). Thomas Fane, sixth Earl of Westmoreland, resigned from the Presidency of the Board of Trade and Plantations in May 1735, and a new commission was issued in which the Earl of Fitzwalter took the first place (Journal, 1734/5 –1741, p. 17). Thenceforward he was the channel through which the communications of the Board were presented to the Committee (e. g. 608) and he took the leading part in the discussion of colonial affairs in the House of Lords until his resignation in 1737 (Journal, p. 203). In the minutes the members of the Committee for Plantation Affairs were called the "Lords of the Crown" in distinction from the members of the Board who were called "Lords Commissioners." The two bodies on occasion met in the same place, the Plantation Office (169), the Secretary of State, the Duke of Newcastle, being sometimes present at the meetings of the Committee (169). The meetings recorded in these minutes date from June 1735 and were held in the Council Chamber, Whitehall. At the first of them it is stated that the Lords Commissioners for Trade "attended" to receive the recommendations of the Committee, which is a definite indication of their subordination to the Lords of the Crown (590). It was impossible for them to communicate direct with other Boards, while the Committee could give orders to the various offices, as, for example, when they "ordered" the Board of Ordnance to take certain action (590).
Reports of the Board of Trade and Plantations to Parliament.
Both Houses of Parliament continued to show that, thirst for information concerning the colonies to which we have referred in earlier Introductions. The reports prepared by the Board of Trade under the instructions of the Committee in reply to them are of very great value, not only as summarising the position in 1734–5 but also as historical resumés of what had taken place in earlier years. The contents of certain of the reports will be referred to later, but it may be convenient here to list some of the principal subjects upon which enquiries were made. In June 1733 the House of Lords had presented an Address to the Crown praying for an account of the laws made, the manufactures set up and the trade carried on in H. M. Plantations in America, and the Board of Trade through their President, the Earl of Westmoreland, laid their lengthy report before the House in January 1733/4 (20). It was ordered to be printed and was referred to a Committee of the whole House for consideration (21, 22). The Minutes of that Committee (77) show that the Earl of Westmoreland took the leading part in the debates upon the representation in March 1733/4, and upon his motion further addresses were presented to the Crown praying that the Board of Trade should be ordered to prepare and lay before the House in the next Session of Parliament "a state of the British Islands in America with regard to their trade, their strength and fortifications with their opinion what may be further necessary for the encouragement of their trade and [the] security of those islands" (122 i). Also that the Board of Trade should be directed to "revise and consider the several proposals that may at any time have been laid before them relating to such encouragements as may be necessary to engage the inhabitants of the British Colonies on the Continent of America to apply their industry to the cultivation of naval stores and likewise of such other products as may be proper for the soil of the said colonies and do not interfere with the trade or produce of Great Britain" (123 i). The Addresses were forwarded by the Duke of Newcastle to the Board of Trade with orders for their compliance; their report was prepared and presented to the House in January 1735/6 (457) and we shall refer to it later.
The House of Commons presented Addresses to the Crown in May 1735 praying for a variety of information of a very detailed kind. They desired copies of all representations made or letters written by the Board of Trade to the Secretaries of State since 25 March, 1715, relating to the state and condition of any of the British colonies in America or in relation to their trade and commerce, and of the danger the said colonies have been or are apprehended to be in from the growing power of the French in America (581 ii). Copies of any representations etc. made to the Crown, the Secretaries of State or the Admiralty or Board of Trade concerning the depredations of the Spaniards in America since 25 March, 1725 were also required, together with copies or extracts of any letters concerning them addressed to or written by the Governors of the colonies, the commanders of ships of war and British consuls in Europe (580 i). The Commons also asked for detailed information as to what laws were in force in every colony in 1731 and what laws had been passed since then concerning duties or impositions laid on the trade or shipping of Great Britain, as also of the instances in which those laws had been disapproved by the Crown and the steps taken to enforce that disapprobation (581 ii). An account was also desired of any duties or impositions laid in any of the British Colonies and Plantations in America on the importation or exportation of negroes and any goods, wares and merchandise, in detail according to particular colonies (581 ii). Jamaica, Barbados and the Leeward Islands were specially singled out by another Address, and particulars were required of the yield of the duties over a period of ten years (581 i).
Objections to Parliamentary interference in colonial affairs.
The work of getting together such a mass of information called for unremitting effort by the Board of Trade and within a month after receiving orders from the Duke of Newcastle for it to be undertaken they despatched circular letters to all the colonies (including Rhode Island and Connecticut, which were specially mentioned) directing the immediate collection of the particulars required (598, 600). To the members of the Board of Trade as to their hard-worked officials this new inquisitiveness of Parliament was very unwelcome. Mr. Bladen, perhaps the most active of all the Commissioners, expressed this opinion about Parliamentary interference in strong terms to the Duke of Newcastle. "It would seem by the vast number of papers called for at the latter end of the Sessions that some gentlemen fancy they should be able to make wonderful discoveries or at least to bring the whole economy, of the Plantations out of their ordinary channel under the immediate inspection of Parliament. But no neglect in matters relative to the Plantations can justly be imputed either to the Board of Trade or to the Administration, and in all probability the more papers these gentlemen call for, the more they will be convinced of their error. Though it is really impossible their orders should be complied with for some years to come, if the utmost diligence were employed in procuring proper returns to them. These enquiries however should remind the King's Servants [i. e. the Cabinet ministers] of taking the lead in all things necessary to the security and welfare of the Plantations" (592 ii).
The lengthy Representation prepared by the Board of Trade in pursuance of the Address of the House of Lords of June 1733 was completed in January 1733/4 and forms a comprehensive survey of the legal and economic situation in the colonies, which is of considerable interest (20, pp. 11–25). It commences with a survey of the constitutional relations of the colonies with the Crown (pp. 11–12), which is of interest as showing the special points that attracted attention in 1734. The colonies immediately depending upon the Crown were first enumerated and the two remaining Proprietary colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland, the Carolinas and the Bahamas having passed to the Crown. The three Charter Governments demanded more notice. Of the chief of them the Province of Massachusetts Bay, commonly called New England, the Board wrote:—"The constitution is of a mixed nature, the power being divided between the King and the people, in which the people have much the greater share; for here the people do not only choose the Assembly, but the Assembly choose the Council also, and the Governor depends upon the Assembly for his annual support; which has too frequently laid the Governors of this Province under temptations of giving up the prerogative of the Crown and the interest of Great Britain." Connecticut and Rhode Island are characterised as Corporations with almost the whole power of the Crown delegated to the people with their annually elected Assemblies, Councils and Governors. "As their charters are worded, they can and do make laws even without their Governors' assent and directly contrary to their opinions. As the said Governors are annually chosen, their office generally expires before the approbation [of the Crown] can be obtained or any security can be taken for the due observance of the Laws of Trade and Navigation." The Board of Trade remarked that both Connecticut and Rhode Island held little or no correspondence with their office, and this accounts for the very few letters from those colonies which appear among the documents here calendared. It was not surprising, said the Board, that the Governors appointed there should be guilty of many irregularities in point of trade and in other respects (p. 12).
Submission of Acts to the Crown.
The Report contains a useful summary of the practice in various colonies as to the submission of Acts to the Crown for confirmation where there were variations from the general rule. Pennsylvania was only obliged to deliver a transcript of the laws to the Privy Council within five years after their passing and, if the King did not think fit to repeal them within six months after their delivery, it was not in the power of the Crown to repeal them afterwards. The laws of Massachusetts were not subject to disallowance after three years from their presentation; Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island were not under any obligation to submit their laws for approbation or disallowance, and in the two latter colonies their laws were not subject to disallowance by the Crown, and they were valid unless it could be shown that they were repugnant to the laws of England (p. 12). The Board complained strongly of the frequent pernicious practice, as they called it, of the Assemblies tacking proposals repugnant to the laws of England or the interest of Great Britain to the annual revenue Acts or to Acts of a temporary continuance, so that they had their full effect before the Board could acquire due notice of them. They reported that many such laws had been repealed and attempts made to stop the practice of tacking, but without much effect (p. 12).
Duties on British goods.
The enquiry of the House of Lords was specially concerned with the Acts that had been passed in the colonies since the accession of George I laying duties on British goods. In their reply the Board set out with explanatory comments the relevant laws colony by colony, and their exhaustive search of their files was carried right back to the Restoration of 1660. It appeared from the dates in the laws mentioned that most of them had been passed before 1715 "and might very probably be thought reasonable at the time when they were enacted as encouragements to such as should be disposed to transport themselves and lay out their small fortunes in America" (p. 16). For this reason no complaint seems to have been made against them until the petition of the Merchants of London in 1731. The representation of the Board in reply to that petition (21 January 1731/2) contains many matters pertinent to the House of Lords enquiry and should be read along with the present document (C. S. P. 1732, No. 36, pp. 25–7).
Manufactures and trade in the colonies.
The reply concerning the manufacture and trade in the colonies was based upon the answers sent in by each Governor to the general queries addressed to him by the Board periodically since 1719. The answers have been included in the successive volumes of this Calendar, but the present report furnishes a useful summary of them colony by colony. The state of the colonies being naturally subject to frequent variations in their trade, manufactures and other particulars, it is noticeable how uniform the answers from almost every colony appear. There were no manufactures of any importance save in New England, and what small industries there were supplied only a small part of the demands of the people and caused no diminution in the quantity of goods imported from Great Britain. There was, however, certainly the nucleus of a manufacturing industry in New England and an export thence to other colonies of wooden furniture, chairs, hoes, axes and other iron utensils which might compete with British trade and demand the attention of Parliament (p. 21).
Governors' Instructions concerning the Acts of Trade.
In reply to the latter part of the Lords' enquiry as to the orders and instructions which had been given to discourage such trade as competed with that of Great Britain, the Board gave an interesting summary of such orders as related to the Acts of Trade and their development. The earliest Instructions to Governors that in 1734 were extant among the Board's records were those prepared in 1686 by a Committee of the Privy Council with the assistance of the Commissioners of the Customs. There had been former Instructions concerning the Acts of Trade, but they were not to be found among the records (p. 22). Special instructions were not drawn up for issue to every Governor, but such modifications as were necessary were made in the general form. "It hath been a constant practice for the Crown to give a set of Instructions to every Governor in the Plantations relating to the Acts of Trade and Navigation which have always been formed at this Board with such additions to those of 1686 or such variations from them as the circumstances of each Province respectively or the ordinary vicissitudes incident to subjects of this nature may have rendered necessary." The Governors were ordered to endeavour to prevent the exportation of wool or woollen manufactures from one Province of H. M. territories in America to another, to prevent frauds in the importation of tobacco, to prevent clandestine trade to the East Indies, Madagascar etc. and to prevent the unlawful importation of East India goods (P. 23). "These principal Instructions are supported by several others, which are distinct rules, contrived to enforce the observation of the former. The several Governors are strictly enjoined to put them in execution under the penalty of being deprived of their offices, of forfeiting the sum of one thousand pounds, and of incurring the displeasure of the Crown: and Proprietors of Provinces are laid under the same injunctions upon the penalty of forfeiting their grants" (p. 23).
Unsatisfactory observance of the Instructions.
Such was the system on paper, but the correspondence that is gathered in this Calendar shows how many loopholes there were in the system and the members of the House of Lords who had moved for the Report must have been more interested in the actual working of the system than in its paper symmetry. The Board of Trade admitted that they had before them many particular grievances and complaints from incorporated bodies or private traders which "from the variety of accidents attending trade to the several Governments of America have been very frequent." To meet them special instructions had been devised in particular cases, but no examples of them are given in the report.
Treaty of Neutrality of 1686.
In connection with this matter special remark was made of the instructions to Governors to observe in time of peace the Treaty of Neutrality concluded between Great Britain and France in November 1686 which still, fifty years later, played an important part in the life of the Caribbean colonies. The flames of colonial rivalry were rising more fiercely, but this treaty concluded under such different circumstances was appealed to as of full validity (p. 24). Where small and intensely jealous communities of different nations were jostling side by side in the extraordinary conditions of the West Indies and all were dependent upon the free passage of the sea, questions of neutrality and neutral rights were of interest during peace, but they became of first-rate importance if war broke out in Europe. It was against this danger that the colonists strove to guard by local agreement. The English in the Leeward Islands heard with great uneasiness that a new treaty of neutrality had been concluded between the French and Dutch colonists in the group in July 1734. It referred especially to the islands of St. Martin and St. Bartholomew in which planters of the two nations were living side by side. As soon as he got word of the conclusion of the treaty Governor Mathew asked the Dutch Governor of St. Eustatia to disclose its terms, which he did without reluctance and Mathew sent off the information at once to the ministers (425 i).
Treaty of Neutrality between French and Dutch, 1734.
The treaty provided that in the case of war between France and Holland the inhabitants of the islands, both French and Dutch, would remain neutral; if they were attacked by another nation, they promised to render each other mutual assistance (312, 425 ii). To the Governor it seemed that the treaty was not one of neutrality as it claimed to be, but really of defensive alliance against the interests of Great Britain (614). Both St. Martin's and St. Bartholomew afforded admirable bases for French privateers, and in case of a rupture between England and France they would form snug Dutch lurking places from which to attack any vessel sailing for Great Britain or Ireland from St. Christopher's, Nevis or Montserrat. French, Dutch and Danes in those parts had a fondness for one another that the English found particularly menacing. They were all alike interested in clandestine breaches of the Acts of Trade with the British colonies in peace time and in privateering enterprises during war (614).
When the papers concerning the treaty reached London, they were sent on to the British Minister at the Hague to make enquiries of the Dutch West India Company who had the principal direction of the affairs of the American colonies. It appeared that the people of St. Eustatia also desired to conclude a treaty of neutrality with the French to safeguard their trade, and this was of importance for the island, although it was without water and entirely dependent upon St. Christopher's to provide its vessels, was the greatest emporium of contraband commerce in the West Indies. The Board of Trade, to whom the Secretary of State passed on the papers, unhesitatingly condemned the treaty and recommended that the British Minister at the Hague should be instructed to make a protest to the States General. If the United Provinces and England were jointly at war with France in Europe, it was manifestly unfitting that the people of St. Martin's should be pledged to assist the French to resist an English attack and that all French ships ostensibly bound for that island should thereby be protected from arrest. Again, in previous wars with France the settlers in the weaker English islands had sent their choicest negroes and other valuable effects to St. Martin's as to an asylum in time of danger. The Board believed that the second article of the treaty which forbade this right of asylum was especially directed against Nevis and Montserrat and was designed to tempt the English colonists to remove and incorporate themselves with the Dutch community in St. Martin's and St. Bartholomew (464 i, p. 374). That was a very likely danger among a population which was notoriously fluid and fickle, and where it was not at all unusual for a renegade Englishman to turn Dutchman or Dane if he could derive immediately some profit from his change of allegiance (pp. 56, 236). Governor Mathew was desperately anxious lest there should be this new drain upon the dwindling white population of the English islands. The Danes were particularly anxious to attract experienced English planters who would bring into their new colonies some capital in the form of acclimatised slaves. They had purchased from the French their rights in the island of Sta. Cruz or St. Croix (C. S. P. Col., 1733, pp. xxix–xxx) and Great Britain had been searching for grounds of protest against the cession. But the Board of Trade could find nothing by its historical inquiries to justify English claims to a prior right of possession.
Sale of Sta.Cruz to the Danes.
There is a long and interesting letter of Governor Mathew on the subject among the papers of the present year (83) which confirms that opinion with actual details of what had happened in the Virgin Islands during recent years. There was no doubt that the French had held Sta. Cruz firmly for several years but abandoned it owing to its unhealthiness and removed the settlers to His-paniola. Finding the island empty, about a hundred English wood-cutters landed just as the French did in Sta. Lucia and Dominica and settled there with no form of government, though nominally the commission of the King of France to the Lieutenant-Governor of Ste. Dominique as Governor of Sta. Cruz was continued (p. 57). Governor Mathew had no objection in peace to the possession of the island by the Danes. Their settlements at St. Thomas and St. John's always hurt us more by being at peace with us than at war, for it was the ease with which such nominally neutral islands could be used by French privateers to prey upon our commerce and dispose of their booty that made them expensive to us.
Dangers to British commerce.
"Whilst we are at war with our most dangerous enemy, the French," wrote the Governor, "these neutral friends at St. Thomas have always had their ports open to the French privateers"; this was always a safe retreat to leeward for their privateers and their English prizes when turning up to windward with them for Martinique or Guadeloupe would have thrown them in the way of our station ships that might retake them. Here, too, they found all intelligence of our shipping bound home and when, and worst of all, here our false brethren "even from [the English] islands would supply them constantly at noon day for an advance of but five per cent, with those sea provisions and stores without which half those privateers must have stayed at home" (83, p. 56).This was one of the crucial points in the international history of the West Indies throughout the eighteenth century, and Governor Mathew brought it out as clearly as it appeared to every Admiral on that station from Benbow to Rodney. The danger to British commerce had been bad enough when the Danes held only St. Thomas, but now with St. John's and Sta. Cruz also in their neutral hands it would certainly be worse. But the ministers would not make up their mind to a definite policy to adopt. They preferred to leave the onus on the man on the spot, and all that he was supplied with on appointment was a very ambiguous instruction that he was quite uncertain how to interpret (p. 57). Was he to drive out the Danes as trespassers on St. Thomas and St. John's or was he to render the assistance to suppress the troubles among their negroes for which the Danish Governors were always asking? (p. 57).
Hesitation of the Ministers to interfere.
The Board of Trade received this pertinent enquiry from the Governor in June 1734 and in September they learned from the Secretary of State, Lord Harrington, that the Danish settlement of Sta. Cruz had actually begun (307 i). They hedged cautiously in offering advice to the Crown as to what should be done there, but they were quite explicit about St. John's, concerning which they had received petitions for the recognition of British land purchases by settlers from St. Christopher (88). They recommended that the Governor of the Leeward Islands should be directed to dislodge the Danes from St. John and its valuable harbour if they did not remove themselves, their slaves and effects within a stated time (308, p. 203). However, no explicit orders were sent to the Governor, and he was not prepared to act without them. When Lord Harrington forwarded to the Board the documents on which the French based their title to St. Croix (388, 388 i, ii, iii) and the deed of sale by which they transferred that title to the Danish West Indian Company (388 iv), the Board were convinced. They advised the Committee for Plantation Affairs that both the Treaty of Breda and the Treaty of Neutrality of 1686 applied in the case, and that the British title to the island was so weakly supported that it was impracticable to insist any further upon a protest against its acquisition by the Danes (537).
Governor Mathew corrects the Board of Trade.
The last word on the matter rested with Governor Mathew in a letter to Alured Popple, the Secretary of the Board of Trade. He had so often had to accept reproofs from the Lords Commissioners that he must have had some satisfaction in being able to point out a mistake in the historical data which they had supplied to the Ministers. In their first survey of the history of Santa Cruz they had confused the island in the Leeward group with another off the coast of Yucatan. "Between friends, "the Governor wrote, "their Lordships are quite mistaken when they give the discovery of our Sta. Cruz to Grijalva, He indeed discovered an island and called it Sta. Cruz, . . but it lost that name and retains still its own old name Cozumel on the coast of Yucatan above four hundred leagues to the westward of the Caribbee Sta. Cruz. Besides, Grijalva was bound from Cuba westward to discover the Continent. How then should he fall in with an island above two hundred and fifty leagues to eastward of the port he sailed westward from? "(551).
Strength of France in the West Indies.
Mathew repeatedly emphasised in his despatches the fact that we had not in the West Indies either strength within or without the islands to oppose any invasion, and insisted on the risk the nation ran in case of a sudden breach with France. He thought that it was not unreasonable to believe that the defenceless state of our sugar colonies might even prove a temptation to the French to attack them and strike there the first blow which could not fail to inflict great and irretrievable damage (106, p. 68). He had long been trying to obtain exact information as to the strength of the French colonies, and at last he procured and forwarded to Mr. Popple a list of the men able to bear arms in all the Caribbee Islands belonging to them. The person who obtained it for him in return for payment was ready to affirm upon his oath that he had made a copy of it out of the office books at Martinique (602), and it is therefore of some interest. There were in all 13,917 men able to bear arms, from the age of fourteen to sixty, of whom nearly 9000 were in Martinique. There were also 1389 regular soldiers, of whom 1312 were in that island, while there were still about 106 French families in the Neutral Islands of Dominica and St. Lucia, although by the agreements with Great Britain to which reference was made at length in the preceding volumes of this Calendar the French had covenanted to remove all their settlers (602 i).
Defects in the defences of the British islands.
While the fears of the outbreak of war with France were acute, the letters from every West Indian colony were filled with warnings about the defects in their defences and prayers for supplies of arms and munitions from England. The islands, with the exception of Jamaica, abounded with small defensive works to defend them against landing parties, but most of them had fallen into decay and their cannon were ruined by the ravages of the damp, hot climate. The Committee for Plantation Affairs were so disturbed by the representations of the colonial Governors that they ordered the Board of Trade to make an immediate enquiry into the defences of the islands and to present a report and recommendations (137). In the resulting memorandum the Board were quite unable to present up-to-date information, for they had none in their possession. They had to base their account of the fortifications and stores on reports that dated from 1724, ten years before, in answer to the detailed enquiries that were then addressed to the Governors.
In Barbados there were then no fewer than 22 castles and forts and 86 batteries mounted with 463 pieces of ordnance but there were about 100 pieces of ordnance wanting to complete the fortifications. When Lord Howe made his requests for further ordnance in 1734 (1), most of those which had been enumerated ten years before must have become useless. Their carriages rotted and decayed and the metal of the guns was honeycombed so that the pieces were unusable (256, p. 177). Similar conditions existed in the Leeward Islands, and the fortifications of Nevis and Montserrat were entirely ruined, so that the islands seemed to be incapable of putting themselves in a position of defence even against raiding parties such as had attacked them during the last war twenty-five years before (p. 178). The only fortifications of which the Board of Trade gave a better report were Monks Hill Fort in Antigua, which mounted 42 pieces of cannon guarding the main magazine of the islands, and the fort erected on Brimstone Hill in St. Christophers which was the completest work of the kind in the West Indies and well supplied with all necessaries for defence (256, p. 178).
Soldiers and militia.
The land defence of the Leeward Islands was nominally provided by a single King's Regiment whose companies were dispersed in the various islands but it was so decayed that it can have been of very little use. The three companies in St. Christopher's, for example, could not number more than 70 effective men, and they had not sufficient barracks for shelter even from the inclemency of the weather (172, p. 106). Although the militia were estimated to number 3513 men in 1724, they were so ill provided with the small arms and accoutrements which the islands had to provide at their own expense that it was to be doubted whether they had the arms required by the laws and whether such as they had were in a good condition for service, arms of all sorts and Particularly firelocks being more subject to decay in hot countries than in more moderate climates (p. 177). The efficiency of the militia was impaired, too, by the jealousy of the islands. When one of them was threatened, the others remained cold and unresponsive to appeals for help, and though they were all under one government the four colonies could only be forced to take common action for their defence by the exercise of the Governor's authority as Commander-in-Chief. "These islands" wrote Governor Mathew "are a little too tenacious of what they call their own. One island might be attacked, the others grumble at my supplying urgent necessities" (259).
Weakness of the Bahamas.
The conditions in the Bahamas were far worse than those in the Leeward Islands, for the independent company in which the only soldiers were grouped seems to have been utterly useless for any action, although the colony lay right in the jaws of the Spaniards. If war broke out in Europe, the inhabitants were under very great apprehensions that they must very soon fall a sacrifice either to the French or the Spaniards as they had often done before. The Governor believed that the whole Company had not twenty muskets among them that could be discharged three times successively without bursting, and the solitary fort in the islands could not be defended against three hundred men. Three-fourths of the inhabitants had no arms of any kind nor were able to buy any (36, p. 32). Plans had been made for the erection of defensive works and an engineer sent out from England, but owing to jealousy between him and the Governor and the red-tape of the Board of Ordnance which desired to keep the whole business in their own hands nothing was done to carry out the plans that had been made, and the islands remained defenceless (p. 33).
Fears of French preparations.
The apprehensions of the colonists were entirely natural if the news that reached them of the French preparations at Martinique could be believed. Thus in February 1733/4 a naval vessel arrived in Barbados bringing an account that they had mustered a force of 26,000 men with two men-of-war and sixteen sloops, ready at an hour's warning for a descent somewhere the moment a war was declared (106 i). But in England those fears were discounted by some responsible persons like the writer of the unsigned and undated memorandum which probably may be assigned to April 1734 (108). He believed that, although during the late wars there were raids on both sides and both English and French islands were plundered, the French would be unlikely to divide the inhabitants of their colonies to undertake plundering expeditions, for then they would be too weak to defend themselves in any place and consequently would be in danger of being invaded and destroyed by a superior force sent out from Europe. This represents a third view as to the proper course to pursue for the defence of our island colonies. The first was expressed by those who placed their hope in the land fortifications which had been scattered so widely but whose maintenance in an effective condition was proving so ruinously costly that, as the report of the Board of Trade showed, they had fallen into grievous disrepair during the years of peace. The second school of thought is well represented in a memorandum from Barbados which was presented to the Duke of Newcastle and the Board of Trade in April 1734 (106, 107).
Proposals for naval defence.
It was proposed that a squadron of 12 sail should be permanently maintained in the Caribbean, six being based upon Barbados where Carlisle Bay afforded excellent opportunities for careening and refitting, and six upon the Leeward Islands with a very good and safe anchorage at English Harbour in Antigua (p. 70). The permanent maintenance of such a squadron would be a means either to prevent or destroy the great number of privateers which the French would in all probability fit out to destroy the trade to all the Sugar Islands, as they did in the last war. The ships would be a better means of preventing raids than the small land fortifications on which so much money had been wasted but which had then proved quite ineffective in preventing the French from over-running Nevis and Montserrat. To this argument it was replied that if ships were kept constantly on the West Indies station there was certain to be excessive mortality among their crews. "To send numbers of ships of war whose seamen have always proved sickly and died in great numbers when they have continued any time upon a suspicion or supposition of a war only [would be most injudicious]; they might be incapable, if a war should break out, even (fn. n1) of bringing their ships back again without more men and more ships being sent to strengthen and relieve them" (108). Ships sent to Jamaica could not possibly be of service in the protection and defence of the Windward Islands, as the course of the winds and currents in those parts is almost constant and invariable, setting from those islands to Jamaica but not from Jamaica to them (p. 70).
Further details concerning the defences of the islands may be gleaned from most of the despatches of Governor Mathew from the Leeward Islands and of Lord Howe from Barbados, but reference may be especially directed to the following papers,—Nos. 1, 11,13,17,29, 36, 39, 70, 74, 106, 129, 137, pages 88, 152, 154, 156 and 256. As the probability of immediate war with France died away there were fewer references to the problems of imperial defence, and from the summer of 1734 onwards to the close of the period covered in this volume there are no further outstanding references to the subject to which attention Spanish need be specially directed. The depredations of the Spaniards from Puerto Rico on the ships trading with St. Christopher and the Virgin Islands were particularly acute in 1735 and there was a great agitation in the islands for the granting of letters of reprisal against them (508 and 508 vi). Copies of the lengthy informations which were sent to Governor Mathew as evidence of the details of these piracies were forwarded by him to the Duke of Newcastle (e.g. 508 i–vi), and they show that there was what amounted to a state of local war in those troubled seas. Most of the ships that were attacked were owned in the islands or came down from Rhode Island and Massachusetts, but on occasion the larger ships that traded across the Atlantic were attacked. In the Bahamas, too, there were constant depredations by small Spanish vessels and even guarda costas which attacked the men who were carrying on salt-raking on the lesser islands of the group (p. 204).
Complaints of Spain.
Complaints were not all on one side, for the Spanish Government often had valid grounds to complain to Great Britain of the actions of her subjects and even her officers in the West Indies. In one of these protests an interesting point occurred involving the question of slavery in international law. The Spanish Government protested formally to the Duke of Newcastle that many of their Indian subjects were being seized on the shores of Campeachy and the Gulf of Mexico and carried away into slavery in the colonies of Virginia and Jamaica where they had appealed to visiting Spanish officials for help. The Duke forwarded this protest to the Governors of the colonies concerned with a request for their report (481, 481 i) and it was in Lieut. Governor Gooch's reply that the question of the legality of Indian slavery appeared.
Legality of Indian slavery.
He told the Duke that since Virginia was separated from all the Dominions of the Crown of Spain by a tract of lands of many hundred miles extent, we had no manner of commerce with them by sea. If any of the subjects of the Crown of Spain had at any time come into Virginia, it must have been either as captives taken by foreign Indians or by ships of war or privateers in time of war. If they had been sold in the colony, they must have been slaves before then, because our laws forbade the keeping any one a slave who was before a freeman in any Christian country whatsoever. When, about 1719, a Jamaica privateer brought into Virginia a Spanish prize wherein were several mulattos and Indians, said to be Spanish slaves, they could not find purchasers, the people scrupling to buy any that they were not well assured were slaves before the capture. There had been many instances of negroes set at liberty by our courts of judicature upon proof of their having been free in the country from whence they came. In the Lt. Governor's opinion, however, some distinction ought to be made of Indians taken in war by other Indians, not under the obedience of either the Crown of Spain or of England, and purchased from the captors, since the right of the conqueror was frequently transferred by the purchase. This case frequently happened amongst the Indian nations bordering on Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, and the Spaniards made special complaint of the Moskitos in the regions bordering on the Provinces of Honduras, Nicaragua and Campeachy and accused the masters of the ships of the Assiento of carrying off many Indians. The Moskitos, blacks and Zambos of the region were admittedly under the protection of the English in the colony of Jamaica and they sold their Indian captives to buy guns, powder and ball. This was the special case to which Gooch referred in his reply. He explicitly contested the Spanish claim that the selling of any Indians was contrary to the natural law of mankind (481 i) and he strongly maintained the right of their purchasers to any Indian slaves captured in native wars. To him it seemed agreeable both to the law of nature and of nations that such captives should be considered after they were sold as if they were still in their captor's possession from which they could not be reclaimed without a previous stipulation (578).
The House of Commons and Spanish depredations.
The rising interest of the House of Commons in American affairs had been to some extent excited by the news of Spanish attacks upon our West Indian commerce and the members were anxious to press on the ministers to reprisals. In May 1735 the House presented an Address to the Crown praying for copies of all representations, memorials or petitions to the King, the Secretaries of State, the Admiralty or the Board of Trade since 1725 relating to the losses sustained by H.M. subjects by depredations committed by the Spaniards in Europe or America. In forwarding the Address to the Board the Duke of Newcastle instructed them to prepare the information required for presentation to the House in the following session (580, 580 i), but the work had not been completed within the period covered by this volume. The Address is worthy of note here as marking another stage in the rise of the agitation which four years later was to precipitate the outbreak of the War of Jenkins' Ear.
Louisbourg as a menace to British interests.
French influence with the Indians.
The dangers anticipated from the French in the Caribbee Islands fill a longer space among the documents here calendared than do their activities on the continent of America, but their fortress at Louisbourg was referred to in many letters as a most serious menace to British interests and the officers in Nova Scotia endeavoured to supply the Government with all the information they could gather concerning its garrison and fortifications. Captain Cotterell, the naval commander at Canso, sent in a report that showed the magnitude of the fisheries of Cape Breton and the very considerable strength of the garrison occupying Louisbourg which exceeded anything held by Great Britain in one place in the western seas (504). Lieutenant-Governor Armstrong and the officers in Nova Scotia had a few months before sent a memorial to the King representing the danger arising from the defenceless condition of Canso which they believed would inevitably fall into French hands if it were not strengthened by vessels of force and a good fortification. It was the only place in Nova Scotia that could be said to have been frequented all along by a considerable number of British subjects resorting thither to carry on fishing from Great Britain or. from New England, New York and other plantations. Its reduction would not only affect the traders who resorted thither, but would be a great augmentation of power to the French and render them the more able to annoy the British garrison at Annapolis and the whole of the coasts of New England which would be continually infested by privateers to the utter destruction of their trade. The French inhabitants of Nova Scotia and the Indian savages had lately become extremely insolent, and it was believed that they had been promised assistance from France for the reduction of the Province immediately upon the first declaration of war (p. 162). Governor Philipps, who had seen long service in Nova Scotia, but was now in England gave evidence from his experience as to the unrest among the Indians that was excited by French intrigues and kept stirring ever since the last Indian war which lasted five years. It proceeded from the councils of the French by whom the savages were furnished with ammunition. "Whenever they shall see good to begin another," the Governor wrote, "it matters not what pretext they make, whether any or none, for when called to arm against H.M. Government they will always be ready. They are so firmly attached to that interest by inclination and yearly pensions and proud to be called the Allies of France, and in regard to us are taught to hold the Government in so great contempt on the score of religion equal to the most bigoted Papists that they are not to be drawn from that party by all the douceurs or presents the King shall make them; this is a certainty we are to depend on ; . .they will take all, whatever we give them, and cut our throats next day if our neighbours see it their interest to disturb our settlements" (398, p. 317).
South Carolina and the Indians on the frontierThe French on the Mississippi.
South Carolina sent a long and interesting representation to the Crown to show the rapidly increasing menace to British interests from the French advance among the Indian tribes along the Mississippi. The numbers of French and Indians who roamed along the inland borders of the frontier provinces of Carolina and Georgia would, in time of war, expose them to imminent danger, as the memorial pointed out (251, p. 173). The French natives of Canada came daily down in shoals to settle all along the Mississippi where they had many forts and garrisons on both sides of that river for several hundred miles up from New Orleans which town had considerably increased in strength and traffic. Many regular forces had lately been sent over by the King of France to strengthen his garrisons, and new forts had been erected in the country between the Mississippi and the Carolina border to bring the Indians of the Choctaws and the Creeks under their subjection (pp. 170, 171). They had a large force of wood-rangers constantly employed among the tribes who had become thoroughly acquainted with the Indian way of warring and living in the woods, so that the French had numbers of white men among them able upon any expedition to perform a long march with an army of Indians. The settlers were encouraged by the priests and missionaries among them to take Indian wives, and especially among the Creeks they were using every sort of alluring method and liberal presents to detach them from the British and gain them over to their interest (251 i, p. 171).
Creeks, Choctaws and Cherokees.
The memorialists feared that by the increase of French traders among them and the better exchange of blankets and other goods often of British manufacture which they offered for the Indians' deer-skins the Creeks would soon become wholly our enemies and they would be aided by the Cherokees who for the sake of our booty would desert the British side and readily join to make our colonies a prey to the French and the savages. These Cherokees had lately become very insolent to the King's subjects trading among them, notwithstanding all the favours and presents they had received, and this indicated that the French by their Indians had been tampering with them to reduce them from a steady loyalty to the British side (pp. 172, 173).
Reports of the legal advisers upon colonial laws.
Turning now from these external affairs to matters of general administrative or constitutional interest we note that such points appear only incidentally and that there was no constitutional question of outstanding importance under discussion during the period covered. The long delay that sometimes elapsed between the presentation of reports upon colonial laws from their legal advisers and any action upon them by the Board of Trade is illustrated by a group of documents here abstracted which date back to 1725. They are reports by Richard West, the legal adviser to the Board of Trade, upon 37 Acts passed by the Legislature of Massachusetts in 1715–18, one Act of 1718, twelve Acts of 1720, five Acts of 1721 and eight Acts of 1723. The reports were received by the Board of Trade in May 1725, but it was not until November 1735 that they were read. To the large majority of the Acts Mr. West had no legal objection, but in each group he found at least one to which he had to express an adverse opinion. In each case it was recorded that the Act was not presented to the Crown and consequently might be repealed, and it may be that this accounts for the exceptionally long delay of ten years between the receipt of the legal adviser's opinion and its presentation to the Board (See Nos. 562, 563, 568, 569, 570). According to the report of the Board to the House of Lords, to which reference was made above, in cases where laws had been passed which might be repugnant to the laws or interest of Great Britain but the Board were doubtful of the effect they might have, it was customary to let them lie by probationary, being still under the power of the Crown to be repealed in case any inconvenience should arise (pp. 12–13). It may be that in this case we have an example of such probationary lying-by.
The report of the legal adviser upon a colonial Act might be very long delayed after its passing by reason of the fact that the Act was never submitted to him. Thus Francis Fane gave his report upon an Act of the Leeward Islands passed in 1705 only when the Act was submitted to him in 1734. There was even then no hurry, for his report was not read to the Board until eight months later (March 1734/5 —December 1735). The Act in question related to the method of barring entails without the passing of a private Act through the Assembly, but as Mr. Fane shrewdly remarked it was not very successful, for in his own term of office many Acts of Assembly for barring entails had come before him which seemed as though the new method was not generally approved of (67).
Expiration of temporary Acts.
A difficult legal point had arisen in 1731 as to what was the position after the expiration of a temporary Act, and the final decision on the point was only reached after much discussion that occupied three years. It was recorded in an Order-in-Council in January 1734. The point arose on the number and regulating of the House of Representatives in Massachusetts which down to the 13th year of George I were governed by an Act passed under William and Mary. In 13 Geo. I an Act was passed repealing the first clause of that Act and increasing the pay of the members. This Act was only temporary, and when it expired the question appeared as to what was the legal position. The Massachusetts Assembly passed a new Act restoring the position as it was under William and Mary, but the considered view of the authorities in England was that this Act was unnecessary, since the repeal of the Act of William and Mary ceased to be of effect as soon as the temporary Act including it expired. The old system then resumed in full force (8). The point was a very knotty one, but was of importance since colonial legislatures frequently passed temporary Acts in order to escape the difficulties sometimes caused by the Crown's power of disallowance.
Repeal of Pennsylvania laws.
The complexities and technicalities of procedure under a system or rather a lack of system that had grown up under charters of different origin and different date are illustrated in an opinion of Francis Fane concerning the proper method of repealing a law of Pennsylvania. This had been done in several cases by Order-in-Council authenticated by the Council Seal, but reference to the Pennsylvania Charter showed that no repeal of any Pennsylvania law was valid unless declared to be void under the Privy Seal, that method being expressly directed by the Charter. In order to render the repeals effective it was necessary therefore to pass a special Act removing the informality (491).
The power of disallowance as a safeguard of liberty.
The power of disallowance of colonial laws was upon occasion an undoubted safeguard of popular liberty, and it was set in motion by the action of petitioners to the Crown for protection. In South Carolina an Act had been passed which denied to two persons their rights under the Habeas Corpus Act and indemnified in retrospect those who had acted in regard to them in an illegal and arbitrary manner and in violation of the liberty of the subject. The aggrieved persons therefore petitioned the Crown for redress, and the petition was referred to Mr. Fane. He gave an opinion entirely adverse to the South Carolina Act which suspended the right of Habeas Corpus in a particular case in order "to oppress and injure H.M. subjects without any just cause and screen themselves from the resentments of the injured who feel the weight of their power" (15). The only suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in England was in the time of open rebellion or the certain apprehension of it or when the Government itself was in the most imminent danger. To suspend it in a particular case by legislative action seemed to the legal adviser quite contrary to the dictates of justice and he recommended the disallowance, which was accordingly recommended by the Board of Trade to the Committee for Plantation Affairs (15, 46).
Protection of vested interests.
In that case the power of the Crown was invoked to protect the liberty of the subject, but in another in which the advice of their counsel upon a colonial Act was sought by the Board of Trade it was the protection of vested interests that was at stake. The question of fees in Barbados had long been a subject of dispute and the legislature had passed an Act for regulating and appointing the fees of the several officers and Courts which gave power to the Governor to fix the rates demanded. These fees had been settled ever since 1668 according to a table then agreed upon and they were collected by the deputies of patentees most of whom were absentees and who regarded their offices as sinecure freeholds. It was these patentees who appealed for the disallowance of the Act as infringing their rights of property. The report of the legal adviser, however, based his objection to the Act as an infringement of the royal prerogative and the penalties imposed under it as contrary to justice since they enabled the patentees to be stripped of their freeholds in a summary and arbitrary manner without opportunity of defending themselves before a jury. The whole of this report is of interest as showing the attitude of the time towards the question of these patent places in the colonies which were held by absentees and were to remain a constant grievance to the colonists throughout the next hundred years (124).
The most notorious protagonist in this question of fees was Wavell Smith, the pluralist Secretary of the Leeward Islands to whose disputes with the Governors and the local legislatures over his claims reference has been made in earlier Introductions. There is a long letter here from him to Mr. Popple which illustrates the outlook of a colonial official of the time in the petty governments with which the West Indian colonies were burdened. It shows how petty were the tangled disputes with the legislatures and their appeals to precedents and legal minutiae, but in Wavell Smith's case he was actually resident in the colonies and performed certain of his duties. Most of the patentee officers however, were non-resident and in fact had never visited the colonies, so that the squabbles over their rights were entrusted to local agents and carried on in the narrowest legalistic temper (198).
Defects of series of colonial accounts.
The causes of the imperfection of the series of colonial accounts preserved among the public records but not calendared here are explained in certain of our documents. Nominally the Treasurer's accounts of every colony ought to be sent to the Deputy of the Auditor of Plantation Accounts and by him examined. Copies were also to be transmitted by the Governor to the Board of Trade, but in both cases the transmission was very faulty and the series was never complete. The cause of this in the Leeward Islands for example is illustrated in a letter of Governor Mathew to Mr. Popple in which he explained the difficulty he found in collecting the records and accounts demanded by the Board (530, p. 405). Not merely were the accountants remiss in submitting their accounts for audit, but a different system was in common use in certain colonies. When the Board of Trade, for instance, were called upon by the Committee for Plantation Affairs to inform them of the amounts expended in Barbados and the Leeward Islands upon their defence it was impossible for them to give a definite reply. It was known that since 1688 the colonies had raised great sums of money and made large assessments upon themselves for building and repairing their fortifications, for supplying their militia and their magazines with arms and military stores and for similar purposes. "But" wrote the Board "we are not able to ascertain the particular sums that have been raised and applied to these purposes, because the auditing the public revenues in those Islands has been generally reserved by the Acts which gave birth to them to a Committee of the Council and Assembly in each Island; insomuch that the Deputies to the Auditor of the Plantations who reside constantly in Barbados and the Leeward Islands have not been able to transmit duplicates of those accounts to the Auditor's office ; and the instructions which have been constantly given to the Governors of all H.M. Plantations to transmit duplicates of all public accounts properly audited and attested to the Lords of H.M. Treasury and the Board [of Trade and Plantations] have not been regularly complied with "(pp. 178–9. See also 168, 190, the information from the Agent for Barbados upon which this report was based.)
Economic conditions of colonial trade.
The papers of economic bearing during the period here covered do not contain much of particularly outstanding interest and they will be mentioned under the particular colonies to which they refer. There is, however, one exception to this in the comprehensive report (457) prepared by the Board of Trade in compliance with the Address from the House of Lords and presented in January 1735/6 In that report some space is given to a survey of the strength and state of the various fortifications in the island colonies to which reference has already been made, but its most interesting passages are devoted to the commerce of the islands generally with special remarks upon the trade of each in turn. The fullest account is of the trade of Jamaica which is analysed in considerable detail. For the four years 1728 to 1732 the average annual export of manufactures and merchandise from Great Britain to the colony, including German and Dutch linens and East India stuffs and calicoes, amounted according to the Custom House accounts to £147, 675, (fn. n2) while the medium of imports thence came to £539, 500 (fn. n2) including indigo which was formerly a production of Jamaica but was now brought thither from the French islands. This gave an annual excess of imports into Great Britain £391, 825 (fn. n2) and the Board set out the reason for this large difference.
Analysis of the trade of Jamaica.
"It must not be imagined," they wrote, "that this excess is a debt upon Great Britain to the Island of Jamaica; a part of it must be placed to the account of negroes sent to the Spanish West Indies by our South Sea Company, the produce of which is returned to England by way of Jamaica; another part of the debt due to our African traders from the people of Jamaica for the negroes which are purchased and remain there for the service of the Island; a third proportion must be placed to the account of our northern colonies on the Continent of America, who discharge part of their balance with Great Britain by consignments from Jamaica arising from the provisions and lumber with which they supply that island. The remaining part of the excess in our importations from this colony is profit made upon our trade, whether immediately from Great Britain or by way of Africa; and lastly it is a consideration of great importance in the general trade of Great Britain that part of the sugar and merchandise which we bring from Jamaica is re-exported from hence and helps to make good our balance in trade with other countries in Europe. … From the coast of Africa large numbers of negroes are carried to Jamaica, of which many are re-exported from thence by the South Sea Company to make good their Assiento contract with the Spaniards, another part of them are re-exported by private traders both to the Spanish and French settlements in their neighbourhood; some are sent to the British Colonies in North America, and the rest are purchased by the people of the islands to carry on their sugar works and plantations" (pp. 357–8). According to the Naval Officers in Jamaica Ireland always supplied that island with large quantities of beef, pork, butter and other provisions for which the returns were generally made to the United Kingdom, since the people of Ireland were not, with some minor exceptions, allowed to import colonial produce direct.
Balance of trade.
Similar facts were given for the other island colonies and the detailed statistics are set forth in No. 372 i, p. 282. For Barbados the medium of exports annually between 1728 and 1732 was £85, 781, (fn. n3) and of imports £246, 600 (fn. n3) giving an excess of £160, 519. (fn. n3) For the Leeward Islands the medium of exports annually during the same period was £69, 411 (fn. n3) and of imports thence £642,269 (fn. n3) leaving the very large balance of £572, 859. The people of the Leeward Islands sometimes purchased negroes on the coast of Guinea with their own rum which was a valuable commodity there (p. 360).
The South Sea Company and Jamaica.
The business of the South Sea Company in their operation of their Assiento contract in Jamaica gave rise to constant difficulties and there are several references to them among our documents. The principal are the memorial from Governor Cunningham of Jamaica (343, 368 i) praying the restoration of liberty to the Legislature to lay a small duty on the import and export of negroes which they had enjoyed from the year 1693 until it was forbidden in the Instructions to Governor Hunter in 1727. Despite this instruction he gave his assent in 1732 to an Act laying a duty of £10 on every negro imported and sold, and against this Act the merchants trading to the island appealed (91 i), while the South Sea Company presented a counter-memorial to that of the Governor and set out their views of the benefits conferred upon Jamaica by their trade there (390). They held that those were so considerable that they ought not to be taxed at all since they neither owned lands nor were they like merchants sending cargoes thither to trade for profit. They saw no more reason to tax the negroes bought for the use of the Assiento than there would be to make a passenger in an inn at a thoroughfare town contribute to the parish rates. In reality, of course, such a passenger would contribute in the increased cost of his board and lodging, but this was slurred over in the Company's contentions. They were quite determined, however, to use their considerable political influence in opposition to the tax and in the last resort they threatened to remove their staple to some other colony (p. 311).
Slaves from Portuguese Angola.
As a rule whenever the source of the slave cargoes is given it is mentioned under the general name Guinea, i.e. the African coast round from the Gambia to Whydah. In one instance, however, we find mention of the importation of 318 slaves from Angola direct to South Carolina (547, p. 416). This shows that the transaction was not regarded in any way as exceptional and we may therefore safely assume that there was something of a slave trade to the Portuguese possessions south of the Equator whence, of course, most of the slaves exported went to Brazil.
Cultivation of hemp.
The efforts of the Home authorities to encourage the production of naval stores in the colonies were unremitting and circular letters for the promotion of this industry were sent out in May 1734 to the Governors of all the colonies (184, 185). Especial efforts were made to encourage the production of hemp, and in certain of the northern colonies bounties were promised for a period of three years (595) and free seed supplied (587, 595, 613). But in each case the hopes of the promoters were disappointed, largely by reason of the fact that the people would not take up methods of cultivation to which they were unaccustomed. In South Carolina an expert who was sent out to undertake the promotion of hemp-growing had to return a most disappointing report. He was of opinion after a survey that a great part of the Province was suitable for growing hemp, but he found that "the planters are so much attached to following rice being a commodity mostly contracted for paying the merchants and factors for negroes etc. and most of the inhabitants are so much in debt that they are fearful of entering upon new projects till they are further convinced of the difference between hemp and rice" (379, p. 289 and 557). The Council and Assembly ordered a book to be printed and published at the public charge with directions for sowing hemp and flax in South Carolina, but those cultures did not flourish and rice remained still the staple product of the colony in addition to the tar and pitch which were being largely produced (p. 291).
Thomas Coram and Nova Scotia.
The only serious proposal for a new colonial adventure during the period came from Captain Thomas Coram who submitted a memorial signed by 102 persons and prayed for the grant of letters patent for the establishment of a new colony on the shores of Nova Scotia to be established by the petitioners (546 i). Their essential plea was that the Crown in addition to granting free land would also grant free passage to them and their families and maintain them for a year after their arrival (546 ii). Coram had put forward similar petitions on previous occasions and it was unlikely that this one would have a more favourable reception from the authorities in view of their already heavy commitments in respect of Oglethorpe's scheme in Georgia which was still in its very early struggles. There was one novel point about the scheme, however, in that Coram linked together his project of peopling Nova Scotia with a suggestion for salt raking in the island of Exuma and of Cat Island in the Bahamas which might provide a perpetual supply of salt for all the King's subjects in North America (546 i). The idea was not very promising for the Board of Trade knew that salt-raking was already practised in the Bahamas as one of their main industries and yet it did not grow and there were constant complaints of the poverty of the colonists there.
A vague colonizing project.
Besides this proposal from a responsible projector like Coram there was one of a peculiarly vague kind from a merchant of London named John da Costa praying for the grant of a large tract of land on the coast of America whose position was no more clearly indicated than by the statement that it bordered the sea and lay 400 miles distant from any European settlement. Da Costa appealed for a grant empowering him to take possession of any countries whatsoever in America as yet unfrequented by Englishmen or any other Christians (9 i), and naturally his application received short shrift from the legal advisers of the Crown. The precedents quoted by the petitioner from Rymer's Foedera of the grants to John Cabot and Sir Walter Raleigh were valueless. They were made "in the infancy of these discoveries and being founded on a pretended zeal for propagating the Christian religion by very unchristian methods" they were not precedents to be followed. The petitioner did not think to discover and describe particularly where the tract of land he proposed to settle lay but prayed for a commission to take possession of any countries or places whatsoever in America as yet not frequented or inhabited by any of the King's subjects or in the possession of any Christian Prince or State. Such an unlimited power the petitioner might exercise contrary to the Law of Nations and the interests of the Crown, and the Law Officers were wholly averse to granting the petition (241 ii).
Purchase of the Campbell rights in Nova Scotia.
The Campbell claims in Nova Scotia were still not finally settled, since although it had been decided to pay the claimant out there were doubts as to what should be paid to her (42). In reply to enquiry from the Treasury the Board of Trade emphatically stated their conviction that Mrs. Campbell's rights should be purchased and extinguished, and they pointed out that their views were accepted by the Committee for Plantation Affairs and there ought to be no delay because without this purchase it was doubtful whether the Crown could grant any land in Nova Scotia. Mrs. Campbell was in a very weak state of health and should she die and her rights devolve upon her children it might not be possible for many years to complete the bargain. Under these circumstances the Board of Trade thought 2000l. was a reasonable sum to pay and they recommended that the bargain should be executed at once (93). There are various documents relating to the bargain and the method of carrying it out (e.g. 59, 64, 330) but ultimately agreement was reached and Mrs. Campbell accepted 2000l. in full settlement of all her claims with the right to collect what arrears of quit-rents from her tenants she could (330). Thus the long dispute was brought to an end and one of the principal obstacles in the way of the establishment of British settlers in Nova Scotia being removed it was proposed by Mr. Bladen that the Board of Trade should be directed to consider the most speedy and effectual methods of peopling the Province and should receive proposals for that purpose from any of H.M. subjects or even from foreigners, being Protestants (3 June, 1735, 592 ii).
Proposals for colonizing Nova Scotia.
The project of Capt Thomas Coram for this purpose has already been mentioned and it should be compared with a long memorandum prepared by Mr. Bladen at the personal request of the Duke of Newcastle entitled "Reasons for the immediate Peopling of Nova Scotia." Many of the reasons set forth are the general arguments of the period which were the common stock-in-trade of the promoters of colonisation, but in other ways the memorial is an important document as showing the basis of the colonial policy of the ministry. The nature of the French menace to the British occupation of Nova Scotia is succinctly set out (pp. 456–7) and the dangers arising from the 3000 French inhabitants still remaining in the heart of the Province who had only recently and with great difficulty been prevailed upon to take the oath of allegiance to the Crown. Such reasons for the settlement could readily be admitted, but when it came to the practical means for promoting emigration to the Province Mr. Bladen's arguments wore thin. It was clear that considerable expense was involved, and he could only point out that the zeal which some gentlemen had shown of late for making settlements and for securing our southern frontiers on the continent of America in Georgia would reflect some discredit upon the public if the same or greater care were not taken of our northern frontiers where our rivals on that continent were much stronger than in any other part (p. 457).
The only source of money to promote the enterprise that he could indicate was the residue of that arising from the sale of the French lands in the island of St. Christopher, and Bladen suggested that this should be laid out on the poor Protestants all over Germany who were obliged to leave their native land on account of religion. But in this there was nothing new, for Jamaica and South Carolina had already made great efforts in that way. Some assistance might also be had from the gradual discharge of the soldiers of the regiment occupying the colony, if they were married. No new recruits should be raised for the regiment for the future without wives, for "without women, should they be recruited to Eternity, they would still be like the first Romans populus minus generationis" Bladen admitted the paucity of his practical suggestions and referred to the many reports of the Board of Trade on the subject, but his memorial is of some interest as anticipating the actual schemes adopted by the Government for settling the Province a few years later (592 i).
Governor Phillips' account of Nova Scotia.
Governor Philipps, who, from his long experience in Nova Scotia was best fitted to advise the Board of Trade on the practical policy to adopt, gave a very depressing account of the present French inhabitants of the Province and of the practicability of furthering the progress of the colony by their means. "They are rather a pest and an incumbrance" he wrote "than of an advantage to the country. [They are] a proud, lazy, obstinate and untractable people, unskilful in the methods of agriculture, nor will be led or drove into a better way of thinking. They raise ('tis true) both corn and cattle on marsh lands that want no clearing, but they have not in almost a century cleared the quantity of 300 acres of wood land. From their corn and cattle they have plenty of dung for manure which they make no use of, but when it increases so as to become troublesome, then instead of laying it on their lands, they get rid of it by moving their barns to another spot" (262). To the Governor this seemed amply to prove his evidence as to their unskilfulness in agriculture. "The lands will remain uncultivated and not cleared and the production of naval stores of all kinds neglected until it shall be blessed with better inhabitants or that such another spirit shall appear in behalf of Nova Scotia as has lately been exerted in the settling of New Georgia, whereby that province may be put into a degree of strength equal if not superior to the neighbouring French settlements of Canada and Cape Breton, both which are become formidable, whilst Nova Scotia lies almost naked and defenceless" (262).
These general opinions of the Governor who was now non-resident in the colony may profitably be compared with the evidence of his deputy Lieutenant-Governor Armstrong who was actually administering the government and had to collect the quit-rents and seigneurial dues from the inhabitants. His despatches (especially 163) give us many exact details as to the holding of land in the Province. Almost none of the inhabitants possessed less than an extent of land measuring a mile in front of the coast and a league backwards without any obligation of fencing or enclosing. For this they paid quit-rents which were but trifling compared with those charged in other colonies, but British adventurers would not come in to take up similar lands because the upland which formed a great part of them was so very barren and mountainous with a thin sandy soil that it was not worth Id. sterling per 100 acres per annum and would never repay the cost of enclosure. Armstrong's shrewd opinion was that "H.M. revenues interest in this as well as in his other Provinces to the southward would sooner increase and be supported by trade and navigation carried on in time by British subjects settling" with the annual acknowledgment of a peppercorn than with a quit rent of ten shillings per acre. Adventurers could only be encouraged to come and prove the soil by the offer of advantages such as these (163, p. 99).
As in immediately preceding years there are many references to Canso and its affairs among our documents, but they are largely in repetition of the points to which attention has been drawn in preceding Introductions and need not be specially noted. According to Lieut. Governor Armstrong Canso "has been the only place in [Nova Scotia] that can be said to have been frequented all along by a considerable number of British subjects. It hath therefore given great encouragement and support to the British interest [in the Province], so that its reduction would not only very much affect those traders who resort thither from the Plantations but would be a great augmentation of power to the French and render them the more able to annoy" the colony as well as the other parts along the coasts of New England which would be continually infested by privateers (245, p. 162). It was for this reason that the commanders of the garrison were unremitting in those applications for further means of defence for Canso of which so many are to be found among our papers.
New England and the Canso fishery.
Details concerning that defence and particulars about the neighbouring French stronghold of Louisbourg are to be found in the answers of the naval commander on the station to the Heads of Enquiry addressed to him. Capt. Cotterell's answers to those for 1734 were particularly explicit and afford first-hand evidence for the fact that the Canso fishery like most of the fishery off the coast of Nova Scotia was mostly carried on by New Englanders, there being very few Englishmen in this fishery (504, pp. 395–7). The fishery was not carried on with ships and boats as in New foundland but with schooners and sloops from 20 to 60 tons and the seamen was always upon shares.
The naval commander on the Newfoundland station was an Irish peer, Lord Muskery, and his answers to the routine Heads of Enquiry (361 i) contain nothing very different from those of his predecessors. He re-emphasised, however, a point in which the Newfoundland differed from the Nova Scotia fishery. In the former the ships coming from Bideford and Barnstaple retained the old custom of allowing shares to their ships' company. All others using the trade gave wages which were certain in amount. The charge of setting forth one ship of 100 tons for the voyage with ten boats and five men would amount to 1500l. sterling. Much of the fishing was now carried on from the shore by the inhabitants who employed their own servants for taking and curing fish and allowed to each boat, costing from 100 to 120l. sterling, five men affording their fish at the same price as the fishing ships and by-boat keepers (361 i, p. 275). The economic system of the fishery had clearly changed considerably from that for which King William's Fishing Act had provided, and many of the difficulties facing the naval Governors every season arose from the effort to maintain under novel circumstances a rigid and outworn code.
A little French self-governing community.
Among our papers is an interesting petition from Newfoundland showing that there was still some of that individualistic spirit of adventure among the fishing community which had been so remarkable in the previous century when the island was "no-man's land." After the close of the war by the Treaty of Utrecht a considerable number of French men, women and children deserted from Cape Breton and settled in and about a harbour called Portabask [Port aux Basques] in the extreme west of Newfoundland near Cape Ray. There they set up a little commonwealth of themselves without any control from the French authorities at Cape Breton and repudiating all English control. They were supplied by ships from Bayonne and St. Jean de Luz, St. Malo and Rochelle to which they exported their fish, oil and furs. They had supplied themselves with stolen boats and goods and their lawless trading with the Indians both from the island and the mainland made it impossible for British traders to carry on their fur trade. It was for this reason that a petitioner appealed to the Crown for action to be taken to establish control over them (31, 40).
The Board of Trade had always thought that it was not for the interest of the Fishery of Newfoundland to encourage settlements there even of the King's subjects, but a French settlement was certain to be of ill consequence upon account of the illegal trade that would be carried on (145). The Board therefore advised that Lord Muskery, who was going out as Commodore to Newfoundland, should be directed to disperse the settlers at Porta-bask. The task was entrusted to Capt. Crauford of H.M.S. Roebuck, one of the ships on the station, but when he visited Portabask he found that the danger had been greatly exaggerated. There were only ten families in all, who were miserably poor and had neither fortifications nor arms. They utterly denied any trade with the French and were quite ready to quit their settlements. The coast was so dangerous that it was impossible to approach it with any vessel but small sloops, and Capt. Crauford was clearly of opinion that no great danger to British interests was to be feared (361 i, pp. 276–7). The incident may be noted, however, as an illustration of the fluidity of the scattered population round the coasts near the fisheries. They had in many cases no permanent homes but would move to new places of settlement in search of new opportunities of making a living whenever they thought they saw an opportunity. All the reports from Newfoundland and from the adjacent shores of Nova Scotia show that the settlers, French and English alike, living round the fisheries had a very precarious existence and were never very far removed from the margin line of starvation.
New England and the fisheries.
The close association of the New Englanders with the fisheries especially of Nova Scotia has been remarked upon in earlier Introductions and the documents here calendared show that in the business of those waters the New England fishing merchants now were certainly beginning to outstrip the merchants from the Western Ports of England. These indications are implicit throughout the relevant documents, to which reference may be made by means of the index. They give further evidence of the changes in the economic system of the fisheries of which we remarked, wherein American interests now played so large a part.
Belcher v. Dunbar.
Turning now to the domestic affairs of New England we find that the subject occupying most space in the papers is the interminable feud between Governor Belcher of Massachusetts and Lieutenant-Governor Dunbar of New Hampshire. It seems inexplicable why the authorities in England should have put up so long with a state of affairs in which the public interest was manifestly impaired by these bitter personalities. Governor Belcher was indispensable to carry on the difficult task of governing Massachusetts, for now that the old question of his salary was practically settled (6 i, 202, 554, 589) he seems to have had a fair amount of success in managing his relations with the Assembly (e.g. 202, 231, 238), but Dunbar could easily have been replaced in New Hampshire by a Lieutenant-Governor who would have got on with Belcher. The Board of Trade addressed letters of reproof to both men alike, but it seems as though they maintained Dunbar in his office because of his undoubted energy in carrying on the campaign against those who wasted the King's woods. This was a difficult task, as is shown by the incidents at Exeter, N.H., where, following upon Dunbar's efforts to put a stop to the depredations on the King's forests of white pine there, there were serious riots. They are described in his letters and their incidents very closely resemble some of those of forty years later at the time of the Revolution. The justices of the peace took no open part in the waste of the woods, but, as Dunbar said, they might be "compared to the late Jona. Wild of London, who neither robbed nor stole himself, but was in confederacy with a thousand thieves and robbers." When Dunbar went to seize the stolen woods with one of the magistrates, he denied that he knew who the men were who kept firing and hallooing and running in gangs to and fro as if they would be believed to be Indians. As soon as the Lieut.-Governor's back was turned they came down out of the woods and laughed with the magistrate at what had happened (151). There were many similar instances, but this single reference is sufficient to show the widespread lack of respect for government in these New England communities. Further similar instances may be followed up by reading Dunbar's letters consecutively (especially 222). Belcher's complaints against him were fully set out in a letter to the Duke of Newcastle in July 1734 (229) which summarises and recapitulates the charges scattered through his letters. The incessant wrangling made it impossible to carry on orderly government, and the Assembly of New Hampshire would make no supply to the Treasury or for the payment of the public debts. As Belcher wrote to the Duke of Newcastle, "Its now about four years that the treasury has been empty and poor people all this while kept out of their just due. How mean and how unjust has it been in the Assemblies and how dishonourable to the King's Government and authority. And the source of it all is from the Lieut.-Governor and his few adherents and I can't but think it a poor game he plays in that little Province to do all in his power to prevent the Governor's succeeding with the Assemblies . . and then to write to your Grace the Governor has not interest enough to do anything in the Province. Most certainly, it is easier to do mischief than to do good, but I think it a poor mean way of passing life" (394).
New England and the King.
As Mr. West, the legal adviser to the Board of Trade, had written in the reports of 1725 which are included here (563 etc.), the provinces of New England regarded themselves as independent kingdoms and there was so little respect for the Government of the Crown that there seemed "to be a kind of industry to avoid naming the King even upon those occasions where there is a kind of legal necessity that they should "(569). Massachusetts and New Hampshire actively opposed governmental control; Connecticut and Rhode Island completely neglected it and had as little correspondence as they possibly could with the authorities in England.
New York. Political songs.
There are among the documents of 1734–5 very lengthy papers like those of the previous year 1733 dealing with the quarrels in New York between Lewis Morris and his supporters and Governor Cosby (see especially 221 and enclosures, 404, 405). It is unnecessary to attempt to summarise them here, but attention may be drawn to pp. 326–328 where two of the political songs of the time are printed. They illustrate the kind of accusations that were bandied about between the rival factions, but they do not confer much credit on the poetic skill of the American ballad-mongers of the period (405 viii, (a), (b).)
Uncertainty of land titles.
The despatches of Governor Cosby show that the work of the Governor of New York was more complicated than that of the Governor of almost any other colony and that the constant disputes between the factions in the Council greatly hampered the transaction of business. The long despatch (591) in which Cosby transmitted the Acts of Assembly passed in 1734 shows the diversity of the matters dealt with. Among them was the encouragement of immigration and the peopling of the vacant lands of the colony, for as elsewhere in the continental settlements the crying demand of New York was for additional population. In Cosby's opinion the principal cause that more people did not come from abroad to settle in the colony was the uncertainty of titles under the land system. Some hardy men had braved the risk and settled some part of the undivided lands in the country, but they were few, and the rest, more cautious, chose rather to neglect a present advantage than rashly to engage in a thing that in the end might involve them in expensive law suits and lasting trouble (p. 451). The young people were very unwillingly brought to settle the frontiers and in order to encourage migration to the extreme part of the Province beyond Albany advertisements were printed and sent to various parts of Europe offering 200 acres free to each family of the first 500 Protestants that came to take advantage of the offer of 100,000 acres of land clear of all charges but quit rent (p. 452).
Lord Baltimore and the Penns.
The important controversy between Lord Baltimore and the Penns concerning the boundaries between Pennsylvania and Maryland in the region of Delaware is represented among the documents here calendared by the petition from Baltimore which was referred by the Crown to the Council for Trade and Plantations on 8 August, 1734 (267). There is also an important letter from John Penn to the Duke of Newcastle (497) concerning his family's claims to the region in dispute, which comprised the Three Lower Counties of Newcastle, Kent and Sussex on Delaware, and the report of the Board upon Lord Baltimore's petition (460) which is reproduced at length. The most convenient way of consulting the documents relating to the question at issue, however, is to refer to the Acts of the Privy Council, Colonial, pp. 334–342 where the various Orders-in-Council, petitions and reports are collected between 1 July, 1733, and 25 May, 1738. The various documents there mentioned are reproduced in the Calendar under their particular dates and the ramifications of the dispute can be conveniently traced by using the two collections as complementary one to another.
The western lands of Virginia and Pennsylvania.
In the Introduction to the preceding volume of this Calendar reference was made to the projects for peopling the lands of Virginia on the other side of the great mountains in which the question of the western boundary of Pennsylvania and the boundary line between Maryland and Pennsylvania were involved. Lord Fairfax's claims entered into the question and in connection with it reference should therefore be made to the Acts of the Privy Council, Colonial, pp. 385–391, where various Orders-in-Council, reports etc. are listed. Lieut.-Governor Gooch urged without effect a speedy determination of the dispute with Lord Fairfax because he found that it impeded his complying with the petitions of various reponsible persons who were desirous of establishing settlements on the frontiers of Virginia. He supplemented his lengthy despatch of 8 February, 1733 (C.S.P. 1733, pp. 37–40, and Introduction p. xliv) by further recommendations in favour of the petitions he transmitted. He showed how soon the part of Virginia beyond the mountains might thus be peopled and continued, "Most of these petitioners are Germans and Swissers lately come into Pennsylvania, where being disappointed of the quantity of land they expected as well for themselves as for a more considerable number of their friends and countrymen who designed to follow them, have chosen to fix their habitations in this uninhabited part of Virginia, and as there are many of H.M. natural born subjects in the northern Provinces very desirous to remove to the same place "it would be good policy" to cherish this disposition in them, the security of [Virginia] and the Province of Maryland depending upon it. By this means a strong barrier will be settled between us and the French, and not only so, but if by encouraging more foreigners to come hither we can only get possession of the Lakes, which are not very far distant, we shall then be able to cut off all communication between Canada and Mississippi and thereby so much weaken the power of the French as to have little to fear from that quarter hereafter. . . Such a design can never be more reasonably put in execution than now when the situation of affairs in Europe seems to tend to a speedy rupture with that nation" (179). Other of Gooch's despatches show that the westward migration from Virginia was proceeding rapidly and an Act was passed by the Legislature for dividing the frontier county of Spotsilvania which had been established in 1720. The Act established a new county of Orange for the ease of the people in attending their County Courts and musters since they had got to the great Ridge of Mountains and even further west and new settlements were multiplying daily (388, p. 307). According to Mr. Ochs, the promoter of Swiss colonisation, whose schemes were referred to in earlier Introductions, already in 1734 300,000 acres had been taken up behind the mountains and the lack of easy means of communication with the coast was what principally impeded an even more rapid growth (389).
South Carolina and negroes.
South Carolina, to which a considerable emigration of poor Protestant families had taken place, was also closely interested in the settlement of the western lands (249 ii, p. 168). The Governor, Council and Assembly represented that the great importation of negroes into the colony was an obstacle to the growth of the white population. The trade had recently much increased and many negroes were now trained up to be handicraft tradesmen to the discouragement of the whites who came to settle "with a view of employment in their several occupations, but must often give way to a people in slavery" which was discovered to be a great obstruction to the settlement of the frontier with white people (p. 168). There were already at least 22,000 negro slaves in the colony and they were three to one of all the white people, giving rise to constant fears of insurrection, especially if they were encouraged by French agents (251 i, p. 174).
The troubles over the uncertainty of land titles in South Carolina fill a large part of the despatches from the colony as in the previous year. (fn. n4) They were attributable in part to the lax system that had prevailed under the Proprietary Government but also, according to the evidence of the Governor, to a good deal of deliberate fraud. The Lords Proprietors were called upon by the Committee for Plantation Affairs to justify their position in regard to the grants they had made between 1714 and 1727 before a final answer was made to their proposal to surrender their rights to the soil upon payment to each of them of a sum of £2500. Their apology shows how they had attempted to make their own private benefit the governing consideration in their dealings with the lands of the colony. Upon the execution of their Charter they had made grants of large tracts of land to each other at a small quit rent or a peppercorn rent in expectation that their sub-grantees would settle them. Not one-sixth of the lands so granted were settled, however, and they believed therefore that such lands might be re-entered upon now that the Charter had been abrogated and the Crown had taken over the colony (19). In 1726, for example, Colonel Samuel Horsey had been granted a warrant for four baronies or 48,000 acres of land to be annexed to his honour of Landgrave (28, 47). He had not taken up the grant when the surrender to the Crown took place, and he now petitioned for its completion so that he might proceed with the settlement of the lands by their disposal to new settlers and letting them out in small farms. Thomas Lowndes strongly opposed Horsey's petition which he regarded as designed to secure a reward for the negotiation of the surrender of the rights of the Lords Proprietors to the Crown. He agreed that Horsey carried most of the messages from the Lords Proprietors to the Earl of Westmoreland, they wishing to make him appear useful as he had hopes from Court that he would be sent as the first Royal Governor of South Carolina, but he claimed that he alone was entitled to a reward as he had devoted six years to promoting the surrender and drew up the scheme which induced the Ministers to treat and which he supported in Parliament (57, 57 i).
The report of the Board of Trade on Horsey's petition seems very hesitant as to the acceptability of Horsey's claims, but they were so anxious to promote the settlement of South Carolina that in conclusion they advised the renewal of his grant in order that he might proceed with his project to transport a proper number of persons to the colony (p. 39).
The Swiss settlers at Purysburgh.
Thomas Lowndes' attack on Alured Popple.
Pury's Swiss colonists when they came to take up the lands that had been allotted to them within a radius of six miles of Purysburgh found themselves forestalled by divers persons who, claiming under pretended grants from the late Lords Proprietors, had caused a large portion of the best lands adjoining the township to be surveyed as their own (138). As was remarked in the previous Introduction the Board of Trade sent out stringent orders to the Governor that Pury's colonists were to be protected from such fraudulent claims (C.S.P. 1733, Introduction p. xliii) but there were many difficult legal questions involved and the Board had to submit them for the opinion of their legal advisers (242, 253). The report was entirely adverse to the claimants (250) and the Board issued orders anew to the Governor to protect the Swiss (282, 379 especially p. 293), but they realised that it would be hard to enforce their claims, since they found that 8000 acres of the lands in dispute were patented to the Governor himself. In fact these South Carolina grants were a constant cause of scandal and we find that they were the matter at issue in an unpleasant quarrel that was raging between Thomas Lowndes and Alured Popple, the Secretary of the Board of Trade himself. Lowndes complained that the members of the Board were not impartial in the consideration of his complaints against their secretary (63) in respect of these land grants (57, 60) and he threatened an attack against Popple in the public press. "In return for a gross incivility you was guilty of some time ago towards me," he wrote, "I intend in a few days to print in the Grub Street Journal some letters of yours to me wrote in your private capacity." There was something of a hint of blackmail in such a threat, but the following sentence is in the best manner of the eighteenth-century controversialist, "Really I must congratulate the public that a person so engaged in business as you are have been able to improve the orthography of our language without putting the State to the expense of an Academy" (61). The implication seems to be a criticism of Popple's spelling, but it appears to be quite unjustifiable in his official letters at least, for their spelling and phrasing are excellent according to modern standards.
Lowndes had sold his rights to 12,000 acres to a speculator, one Thomas Rutherford, who was willing to take the risk and make what he could out of so fishy a title and it may be that what so roused Lowndes' anger against Popple was some criticism to this effect. At any rate, in the end the Board's reply to Rutherford's petition (575 i) was favourable (610) and the Governor was ordered to set out the 12,000 acres a barony.
North Carolina land claims.
The scandals in North Carolina concerning land titles were even more flagrant than in South Carolina. They dated like them from the Lords Proprietors' time and arose from an attempt to impose rates of payment for land that were impossible. Before 1724 the Governor and Council were forbidden to make sales of land unless by order from the Board of the Lords Proprietors in London and upon payment of £10 sterling per 1000 acres. These terms could not be complied with and land sales and settlement would have come to an end if it had not been for the introduction of a system ad interim without waiting for the Proprietors' consent. Persons were allowed to take land and cultivate it at 3s. per 100 acres with the promise that they should receive a preference in the purchase of such land whenever the Proprietors permitted it to be sold (p. 434). If this system had been adhered to, the settlement of the colony could have proceeded upon a secure basis, but it was broken down by the collusion of various officers and the Governor, Sir Richard Everard. Although they had no power to grant lands they drew up and hawked about bundles of land patents in blank which contained neither the names of the grantees, the situation or area of the land ostensibly granted nor a note of the price paid. The private persons who purchased these blank patents had thus the opportunity of claiming what quantities of land they pleased and of usurping the possessions of other persons which were held under the interim system (576 i).
Matters concerning land titles in North Carolina were, therefore, in a state of utter chaos when the government was transferred from the Lords Proprietors to the Crown and it so remained under the disorderly regime of Governor Burrington to which reference has been made in previous Introductions. It fell to Governor Gabriel Johnston to try and find a solution to the many difficulties that had accumulated from fraud, bad faith on the part of officials and administrative incompetence. His despatches set out clearly the questions to be solved and they present a favourable impression of his powers of judgment and his competence to bring order out of what was perhaps the worst mess left by the breakdown of a venture in proprietary colonisation (pp. 432–434).
There are few papers relating to Georgia among our documents, for that venture was autonomous and not subject to detailed supervision by the Crown. The papers belonging to the Trustees are dealt with in separate volumes of this Calendar. There is an interesting report from the Agents for South Carolina showing how the Georgia experiment was regarded in the colony. It was prepared in reply to an enquiry from the Board of Trade as to the defences of the colony and shows that the provision of fresh capital for the settlement of the frontier against the Spanish possessions was regarded as relief of the strain on Carolina's resources, and the colonists were prepared to support Georgia to their best ability (496, p. 389). The Order-in-Council of April 1735 confirming three Acts of Georgia reminds us of the special views of the promoters for the carrying on of their enterprise. One act was to render the Colony of Georgia more defensible by prohibiting the importation and use of black slaves or negroes and another to prevent the importation or use of rum and brandies (524).
Among the papers of 1734–5 there are no references to the piracy that was so serious an obstacle to orderly trade with the colonies a few years before and clearly the evil had been largely cleared up by the exertions of the navy. Governor Gooch sent an account of the adventures of a ship trading to Virginia which recalls something of the atmosphere of the earlier piracies. The ship Haswell of London in her voyage to the colony touched at Madeira to load a cargo of a hundred pipes of Madeira wine. Two or three days after her departure from the island the crew mutinied and murdered the master and both his mates in a most barbarous manner. The boatswain, who was the ringleader, took on him the command of the ship and sailed to the island of Marie Galante. There the mutineers employed a passenger in the ship who spoke French to be their interpreter to the Governor. He succeeded in slipping into his hands a paper giving an account of the mutiny and the Governor immediately seized the ship and the men and sent her to Martinique. There the mutineers were tried and the boatswain and another man as ringleaders were sentenced to be broken on the wheel and three others hanged. The ship was condemned and sold as a prize and the story came to the ears of the English authorities when the owners in London appealed for restitution on the ground that if the Governor of Martinique had sent the ship into a British port in the West Indies, say Barbados, they would have been able to recover her and send her on to Virginia to load tobacco as had been the original intention. The story is an anecdote of the sea of no particular historical value, but it serves to illustrate the perils of the voyages of the time (578, pp. 437–8).
The despatches of Governor Mathew. Antigua.
The defence of the Sugar islands and their trade and economic conditions in general have been discussed in the earlier part of this Introduction and we have now to mention certain points of interest in the papers connected with particular colonies. The longest and best written West Indian despatches in the volume came from William Mathew, Governor of the Leeward Islands. He had served the Crown in the group for many years and had often administered the Government in the interval between the death or departure of one Governor and the arrival of his successor. He had thus acquired an unique experience of the islands and now that he held the definitive position he was able to speak with a large amount of authority about the problems to be dealt with. Although so much space among our documents is filled with the affairs of the islands it cannot be disguised that the things dealt with were often of only petty importance and the little communities made a great deal more fuss than was worth while. Of the Leeward Islands Antigua seems to have been the most enterprising and it set itself on its own to make a regular naval station for H.M. ships at English Harbour. But the number of white men in the island capable of bearing arms did not exceed two hundred and the Regiment that was supposed to defend the islands was split up into small detachments to satisfy the jealousy of each little community for its own defence. Mathew proposed that the whole regiment should be collected in Antigua which would be far better for its own maintenance and discipline and in time of war would provide the nucleus of a formidable force to be used at any threatened point (pp. 118, 215).
Decline of the white population.
The progressive decrease of the white men in each of the islands was a perennial source of anxiety and Mathew's attempts to explain it cannot be far from the truth. "The decrease of white men in the island," he wrote "I apprehend to be owing to several causes. Epidemical distempers have destroyed numbers; dry weather, want of provisions and inability to pay their taxes have obliged others to go off. Land has been at so high a price from the smallness of the quantity in the island that the settlers of ten or twenty acres who formerly raised only provisions have been tempted to sell their possessions to the sugar planters and have thereupon quitted the island." In other places he implies that the majority of these displaced small settlers went to the continental colonies and South Carolina always seems to have attracted a number. The process of the conversion of what in the seventeenth century had been essentially a white community into a plantation of black slaves was obviously not yet complete, but it was proceeding apace. "Notwithstanding this alteration there are very few persons in [Antigua] at present possessed of above or even so much as 300 acres of land fit for sugar; and without such a quantity or something near it no planter can be enabled to bear the great expense of the buildings and utensils necessary for making sugar, especially considering the low price that commodity has sunk to for several years past" (182, p. 148). In the earlier years of the island's history there had been a considerable number of white artisans who were not themselves cultivators but carried out the work for the various plantations. Their numbers had now dwindled to an alarming extent from "the employing of negro tradesmen such as carpenters, coopers, millwrights, masons etc." and to remedy this evil the only practical course was to forbid any further negroes to take up such skilled trades. The idea of the colour bar which has played such an important part in more recent colonial history was thus fully conceived as an essential measure of practical politics before the middle of the eighteenth century. It was impossible to attract new settlers to a predominantly negro community and the old settlers despaired of maintaining their ground and drifted away to the continent (pp. 118–119).
Nevis. St. Christopher's.
Mathew thought well of the people of Antigua but he had a very poor opinion of those of Nevis. "The people of this island strangely differ from all their neighbours in particular ways of thinking, which they hold very fast by, and 'twere to be wished they would not. They receive most precedents or advice from the rest of mankind so unkindly as if they were intended insults offered to their understandings. The island from being the seat of trade of the four is no longer so . . but is now fallen into great decay and very few inhabitants are on it" (313, p. 222). Of St. Christopher's on the other hand he spoke well and showed that the improvement of the island within twenty years had been extraordinary and owing to its fertility the planters who had no more industry than their neighbours had been enabled to purchase the French part of the island at a high price and to settle their purchases with negroes. There were in 1717 but 7970 negroes in St. Christopher's which number increased to 14,535 in 1728 and to 17,035 in 1733. There was in the island a similar self conceit to that in Nevis. The people believed that all military discipline was tyranny and the common stipulation for party elections was that they should have no discipline at all. "Strange preposterous sacrificing a country to satisfy ill nature!" as the Governor remarked (313, p. 226).
The Virgin Islands.
Closely adjacent to the Leeward Islands were the even smaller islands of the Virgin Group, Anguilla, Spanish Town and Tortola being the only three inhabited. They were not sugar islands but chiefly produced cotton and provisions. The largest community was on Anguilla where there were not above 100 effective men, since more than sixty had left the island and gone to St. Martin's or St. Croix. Spanish Town had about 80 men and Tortola about the same number (313, p. 236). The islands were particularly lawless and Governor Mathew found it difficult to secure responsible persons who would serve as Deputy Governors over them. They had no authority but what they were able to enforce with a cudgel and often those who were appointed were the leaders in the wrecking which seems to have been the principal industry in the islands (215, p. 135). Mathew's suggestion for the establishment of Councils in such petty lawless communities could not have been very hopeful where the leaders were often the principal wrong-doers. As the Board of Trade remarked concerning St. Christopher's (128) "most of the people of substance and good character in little islands such as these are generally allied either by consanguinity or marriage" and the same was certainly true among those whose substance was small and whose character left much to be desired. There were in earlier years a considerable number of Jews in the Leeward Islands, but by 1735 they were much reduced and very few were left (602 iv).
The lack of persons of character and integrity sufficient to recommend them for appointment as Councillors was constantly remarked upon by Governor Fitzwilliam in the Bahamas (e.g. 36) and there can be no doubt that the population in the smaller colonies was insufficient to maintain the elaborate governmental machinery which looked well upon paper but which would not work in practice. When Captain Woodes Rogers died, the inhabitants of the Bahamas tried to bring all regular government of the island to an end by doing away with the colony's records. All the Acts of Assembly were secreted or conveyed away by some person to prevent their being put in execution. Many of the inhabitants found themselves laid under some restraint by these laws and therefore prevailed with the senior Councillor, who administered the government as President, to suspend their execution during his rule, but they were apprehensive that upon the arrival of a Governor the laws would again be put in force and so fell upon this method of suppressing them (36). The Minutes of Council during the President's administration between the death of Woodes Rogers and the arrival of his successor were secreted as well as the Acts of Assembly. One reason for this appeared to be that the Presidents did not take the oaths enjoined by law to observe the Acts of Trade and their friends believed they would be convicted were the Minutes to appear (232). Fitzwilliam was much embarrassed in trying to discover what the laws actually were and wrote to the Board of Trade "For my own part I am really at a loss how to behave . . for in my lifetime I never knew so lawless, profligate and turbulent a people as most of them are, and I fear they are not to be gained over to a better disposition by easy and gentle means" (36).
There are not the same complaints about the community in the Bermudas, the people of which seem generally to have been industrious and law-abiding. The detailed account given by Lt.-Governor Pitt in reply to the enquiries of the Board of Trade enables us to obtain a comprehensive picture of the colony, its industries and system of government. There were about 5000 white inhabitants and 4000 blacks, but the population had somewhat decreased by the emigration of some settlers and their families to South and North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. All the cultivatable land in the islands was fully occupied, but there was not the same pressure on the means of subsistence as in the Caribbee Islands since the Bermudians were seafarers and found a lucrative source of employment in the carrying trade between the continental colonies and the islands of the West Indies (579 i). However, there can be no doubt that the colony had an over-elaborate system of government and judicature, as may be illustrated by enumerating the officials who were supposed to do the business for 5000 people. The Governor, 12 Councillors meeting once a month, 36 members of the General Assembly, Secretary and Clerk of Council, Clerk of Assembly, Attorney General, Provost Marshal, Chief Judge and two assistant Judges of the Court of Assize, Common Pleas, King's Bench, Oyer and Terminer and general Gaol Delivery, Chief Baron and two assistant Barons of Exchequer, Judge and Assistant Judge of the Admiralty, Justices of the Peace to each parish or tribe holding Quarter Sessions, and a Coroner; Collector of Customs, Treasurer and Collector of Powder Money. There were in addition to all these officials the officers of the militia, one Colonel, one Lieutenant Colonel, a Major, nine Captains, nine Lieutenants and nine Ensigns and of the troops of horse of 80 privates, a Colonel, Lieutenant-Colonel, Major, Captain, Lieutenant and two brigadiers. There were in addition various store-keepers, guards to castles and forts and the Minister of the colony (p. 441)—an official hierarchy that can have left few people of any substance or education in the colony without an official position of some sort.
Jamaica. The negro revolt.
Jamaica suffered a great loss by the death of its able and experienced Governor, Major-General Robert Hunter (119) and its administration fell into the hands of the senior Councillor, President Ayscough, for the interval before Hunter's successor, Henry Cunningham arrived nearly a year later. The island was still in the throes of the troubles with the negro rebels and Ayscough showed nothing like Hunter's determination in dealing with difficulties. 1734 opened with the failure of the fourth attack upon the rebels and their strongholds and the Council and Assembly made a despairing appeal to the Crown for help from England. The ministry cannot have been very ready to grant it for they must have remembered how Jamaica had treated the regiments of regular soldiers who had been despatched thither a year or so before. However, the appeals of the planters were almost hysterical. "The danger we are in proceeds from our slaves in rebellion against us . . [and] our attempts against them having been in vain, only convinced us of our weakness, so great that instead of being able to reduce them we are not in a condition to defend ourselves. The terror of them spreads itself everywhere and the ravages and barbarities they commit have determined several planters to abandon their settlements. The evil is daily increasing and their success has had such influence on our other slaves that they are continually deserting to them in great numbers and the insolent behaviour of others gives us but too much cause to fear a general defection . . . This may very possibly be the last opportunity we may have of applying for help" (55). The Board of Trade and the Duke of Newcastle received such outbursts from the planters with a good deal of scepticism, for they did not fail to recall how ill they had behaved when the Crown had afforded them help. But Jamaica was of too great importance to be lost either for the folly or the obstinacy of the people (58) and help had to be afforded by the organisation of further Independent Companies who seemed to be more suitable for the bush fighting against the rebels than the more rigidly organised regiments of regular troops. However, further regular troops were also to be sent (p. 112) and it is clear that the ministers were willing to do what they could.
Awkwardness of the Assembly.
In their omnibus reply to Governor Hunter's letters between September 1732 and December 1733, which was despatched by the Board of Trade in May 1734 after Hunter's death but before news of it had been received in England, they referred to the awkwardness for which the Jamaica Assembly had always been notorious (p. 112) and they bluntly expressed their view that if they would only help themselves in place of indulging in violent quarrels and factions better success might be hoped for. There were long and thorough discussions with Mr. Cunningham before he left England to assume the Governorship but it is unnecessary here to attempt to summarise them. They can be traced best in the Journal and thence by reference to the essential documents contained among these papers.
Hurricanes and drought.
The economic situation of the planters in Jamaica gave rise as usual to bitter complaints and some of the matters in question have been touched upon earlier in this Introduction. It has not been noted, however, that the plantations in the island had been badly hit by three dreadful hurricanes within the space of fourteen years and long and severe droughts to which were attributed many of the island's troubles in the first Address of the Assembly to the Duke of Newcastle which was sent under Ayscough's Presidency (284 iii). In another Address to the Board of Trade in May 1735 the President, Council and Assembly analysed the economic situation at length and as they refrained in it from their usual hysterical appeals this address is of considerable value as an account of the actual situation (564 ii). There is a reference to the agitation that was being promoted for the removal from Spanish Town to Kingston of the seat of government and all the public offices. The Council and Assembly opposed any concession to these private solicitations (p. 427) and nothing was done during the period here covered.
The staff of the Board of Trade.
The promotion of the officers of the Board of Trade and Plantations by seniority is mentioned as the usual practice in a letter from the Earl of Westmoreland to Mr. Popple during the latter days of his tenure of the Presidency (527). On the death of Mr. Wheelock, the Under-Secretary of the Board, Mr. Gellibrand, the first clerk, was recommended to succeed him. He had risen through a long service in the Office to that place, and as his diligence and capacity were well esteemed and fitted him for the employ, Westmoreland advised that he should be appointed as others had been before him, and should take the seal of the Under-Secretary (527). The Board at once accepted their President's proposal and Mr. Gellibrand was accordingly promoted to be deputy secretary or chief clerk and the rest of the clerks in the office, six in all, were appointed to succeed each according to their seniority (Journal, 9 April, 1735, p. 13).
The bad spelling and bad grammar of Governor Cosby of New York have been mentioned in earlier Introductions, but they may here be noted again, for one of his despatches (406) was particularly characteristic. The spelling of "Hurrah" as "Whoraa, whoraa, whoraa" in the song current in the New York disputes to which reference has already been made (p. 328) is unusual. The address attached by a petitioner to his application maybe noted as an instance of euphonic spelling "To His Grace, Thos. Pellom, Duke of New Castell, In Linkinensfealls" [i.e. Lincoln's Inn Fields] (526).
David Dunbar was, perhaps, more restrained this year in his use of colloquialisms in his denunciatory letters, but the graphic narratives he gave to Governor Belcher of the Exeter riots (151) was in his best vein. His mention of the magistrates who protested "with sanctified fizzes" that they had heard nothing of the disturbances is an early use of a slang term that became more familiar in the latter part of the century.