503. The case of the inhabitants of the Bahama Islands. (Cf. Oct. 7th). Abstract. Governor Fitzwilliam, on his arrival in Providence, opened store at which he sells such things as are of general use in the Plantations, as linnens, woollens, beef, pork, flour, rum, nails, pins, needles etc., which he delivers with his own hands, often selling and measuring out a single yard of Osnabrig. He acquainted the inhabitants that they would recommend themselves to his favour by laying out their money at his shop ; to such as would do so he offered his protection, and to secure them against the prosecutions of such shopkeepers as they were before indebted to, bidding some of them tell their creditors that he would defend them at law. The Governour, in order to induce people to buy goods at his shop, frequently offers to take debts, or their demands upon others, in payment. He bids at public sales, deterring others from buying, so that he often purchases goods for half their value. He obliges such as get a livelihood by cutting dying wood, or by selling other production of the Bahama Islands, to sell such goods to him, on promise of paying as much as others would give; then tells them he has no money, and by frequent delays obliges them to take goods out of his shop, whether they want them or not, which they often re-sell the same day at 40 p.c. loss. By these acts, scarce any trade can be carried on but at his shop. Upon the arrival of vessels in the port of Providence, the masters are not suffered to speak to anyone (even an owner) until they have been conducted under a guard to the Governor, and if they bring any live cattle, provisions or other necessaries of which the island is in immediate want, he buys them all, thus obliging the inhabitants to buy from him at even 100 p.c. profit. The Governor, in Sept. 1734, sent by two sloops to the Havana Naval Stores and other goods to the value of 5 or £600. But Edward Vine, master of one of the said sloops, returning with two cables (part of the said Naval Stores) which he could not dispose of there at the price fixed by the Governor, and at the same time buying a sail for his sloop, not at the Governor's shop, the Governor threatened to commence an action against him, and to seize his sloop, as being guilty of carrying Naval Stores to the Spaniards, and the sloop being loaded, and ready to sail for New York, refused to give him his clearances etc., nor would he be pacified until Vine had bought a quantity of sailcloth at his shop. The chief production of the Bahama Islands is salt, which is most made at Exuma etc., to which place great part of the inhabitants and their servants repair every year in the proper season to gather it, in order to send to the Northern Colonies. Upon their preparing to go as usual in Feb. 1734, the Governor commanded them to assemble on a certain day, when a commission was opened on the part of the Governor appointing three persons as supervisors of the Salt ponds, with power to grant permits to such persons as intended to rake salt, and directions that no person should go without a permit, for each of which 12 rials, or 6 shillings sterl., was paid. Some of these permits were granted by the Governor and some by the supervisors. It was likewise ordered that no person should have a permit without first giving bond to pay the Governor one tenth part of all the salt they should rake. At the same meeting it was declared that the Governor had appointed a person to be measurer of all the salt gathered at Exuma, who was to have one sixth part of it. These officers were never heard of before in the islands, nor are the taxes of one-tenth and one-sixth, amounting to 26 p.c., authorized by any law. They are intolerable burthens, never exacted by any Governor appointed by H.M. Some of the inhabitants, demanding to know why this new demand was made, were threatened with the Governor's displeasure. The next day, the Governor, at the door of Samuel Lawford's house, said they were beasts of burthen, and that he would rule them with a rod of iron. In March, 1734, some of the inhabitants found a large piece of ambergris of which the Governor took 32lb. 50z., under pretence of having a right to 1/5th part. In July, 1734, a writing was put up at the Church door, without other publication, in the name of the Governor and Council, requiring all persons to bring in at a certain time an account of their families, servants and slaves, which order was generally obeyed, but several persons living in remote parts of the island being summoned to answer to the Council why they had not obeyed, many declared they had never heard of it, and one, Charles Powel, proved that he arrived from Carolina but the night before the summons. Notwithstanding which, he with 13 more were immediately conducted to the prison in the fort by express command of the Governor. Powel and one Meredith were released the same day, paying the Marshal his demands, the other 12 were kept till the next day without any food, and then told by the Governor's Marshal that they should be whipped about the town, unless they would undertake to make a lime-kiln, and burn a quantity of lime for the Governor's use. They complied, but some of them having hired other men to work at the kiln in their stead, the Governor said they had not complied with the condition, and obliged them to make a second kiln. When that was done, he commanded all of them to make a third kiln, on which they were at work in Jan. last. The said lime being made some miles from the town, the Governor ordered some soldiers to take by force several boats belonging to vessels in the harbour to bring it to town. Almost all the causes tried in the Court of Common Pleas since his arrival have been brought at the Governor's suit against inhabitants on vexatious and frivolous pretences, and several have been ruined by the excessive charges he has put them to, etc. It is his constant practice to influence the Court (as Oct. 7th) etc. When the defendants have had a verdict for them at common law, he has constantly ordered his Attorney to appeal to himself in Chancery, where without any form or trial, he reverses the verdicts, and decrees the causes for himself, refuses to admit any appeal to H.M. in Council, or else decrees the sum contested for to be a few shillings less than £100, and by that means deprives the inhabitants of their right of appealing. In Feb. 1731, Mr. John White, Treasurer, gave notice of his intended departure for England, passed his accounts in Council, and paid over the balance to the succeeding Treasurer, and left the island. The Governor, immediately after his arrival, upon pretence that it did not appear by the Council books that Mr. White had a regular discharge, commenced a suit against White's Attorney for 900 pieces of eight as the balance due from him as Treasurer, and at the same time the Marshal delivered the declaration, he seized six blacks, the property of White. This suit was put off from court to court by the Governor's attorney for six months, when he found himself obliged to declare in Court, that he saw no grounds to go on with the prosecution, the owner of the negroes having meantime been deprived of their labour, though they were kept at his expense. Describe case of Capt. Petty's bond etc., and Samuel Lawford, (v. Oct. 7th). On 22nd July, 1734, John Lusher, a shipwright living 12 miles from the town, was summoned by the Chief Judge and required to answer upon oath to all such questions as should be asked him in relation to certain conversation between him and Peter Goudet. Lusher answered that he did not think himself obliged to take the oath required in order to accuse himself, that he was 75 years of age, had a weak memory, and was little able to give an account of particular words spoken some time before. He was immediately conducted to the prison, and there kept till he complied. On 17th July, 1734, the Governor told Florentius Cox that he had been about the town to perswade the inhabitants to leave the island, which Cox denying, the Governor fell into a great passion, and gave him very opprobrious language, and a blow on the breast, and ordered the Marshal to carry him to gaol. Whereupon Cox said that he believed the Governor's storekeeper, one Archbold, who was at Cox's house the day before, had told him some false story; to which the Governor answered that, if he dared to say anything against Archbold, he would make Archbold knock his brains out. However, Archbold dying soon after, nothing further ensued till 26th July, when Cox coming out of the house of Mr. Lawford, one John Keowin, another of the Governor's servants, came behind him, and struck him on the head with a club, and knocked him down, and beat him in such a manner that he was not able to go out of his house for two months. Cox brought an action against Keowin for damages, but the Marshal would not take him up, and returned the writ, that Keowin was not to be found, altho the Marshal and Keowin walked together every day in the town, and Keowin who was Clerk of the Court, read in Court the return of the writ in the words above-mentioned. In November, 1734, Cox having bought one quarter part of a sloop, the old register of the sloop was cancelled by the Collector, and a new one made out, which were carried to the Governor in order to his signing the new register, but he kept them both, telling Cox he would not grant a register for the said sloop, because he had some demands on one of the owners. The Governor persisting in his refusal till January last, Cox saw himself under a necessity of leaving the island and his sloop. The Governor has used many endeavours to prevent any complaint of his violences; he has ordered some masters of vessels not to carry any letters or persons from Providence etc., (as Oct. 7th). When he has heard of any murmurs against these his practices, he has declared, that he would ruin the inhabitants, and then leave them to complain etc. Without date, signature or endorsement. 7¾ pp. [C.O. 23, 14. ff. 277–280 v.].