Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies, Volume 43, 1737. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1963.
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This volume contains 662 principal abstracts and a further 357 documents which were enclosures to correspondence. Thus, although the period covered is shorter (one year instead of eighteen months) the number of papers noticed is about half as great again as in the previous volume. While growing apprehensions of hostile Spanish action may have generated a few more documents in 1737 than in 1736, this increase is not in general accounted for by a growth of colonial business. It is due to the inclusion in this volume of certain classes of records previously omitted.
The most important innovation is the inclusion of the records of the colony of Georgia, which begin in 1732. They were omitted from earlier volumes, presumably on the ground that Georgia was at its inception and until the surrender of the charter a proprietary colony: as such, its records were deemed to be private not public. Papers relating to Georgia in the archives of the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations and the Secretary of State are of course public records in the fullest sense and were included in Volumes XL, XLI and XLII of the Calendar; but the domestic papers of the Trustees for Georgia (including all correspondence between themselves and the colony) were excluded.
The decision to admit the Georgia records to the Calendar from 1737 onwards has been taken for two reasons. In the first place, although Georgia was indeed a proprietary colony, its domestic records are physically present in the Public Record Office while those of other proprietary colonies are not. The Georgia records were undoubtedly private archives down to 1752, when the charter was surrendered, but it is equally clear that they are public records now. The case for excluding them, as a separate archival group, is not therefore very strong.
On the other hand, the historical relationship of Georgia to other colonies and to the wider themes of colonial history argues cogently for the inclusion of these records. This is especially so in the years before the outbreak of war in 1739. Apart from Gibraltar, Georgia was the only land–frontier between British and Spanish possessions; Spain did not recognize the existence of the new colony on land over which she claimed sovereignty. As early as 1737 there were widespread apprehensions of an attack upon Georgia from Florida. (See, for example, present volume under Georgia, Foreign Relations; South Carolina; Spain and the Spaniards) It is an obvious convenience to the historian that these expressions of anxiety in and about Georgia should be calendared and indexed in a volume which also contains material illustrating the fear of Spanish aggressions in Jamaica, the Bahamas and the British West Indian colonies generally.
The decision to include the Georgia records adds greatly to the number of papers in this volume. Of the 662 principal abstracts, 277 derive from the correspondence, minutes and memorials of the Georgia Society. Inevitably some of these papers have a less general historical significance than those of long–established crown colonies. But the domestic minutiae of Georgia may be expected to diminish in later volumes.
Other records which have been omitted, at least from recent volumes in the series, and are now included are the Colonies, General, Entry Books (C.O. 324/12, 37, 49, 50). These contain entries of warrants, commissions, licences of absence to governors and some letters. Abstracts from a register of grants of land in South Carolina (CO. 5/398) are printed as an appendix to this volume. And, for the first time, the Naval Officers' lists of shipping are included (Appendix III) in summary form. These lists, as is explained in a prefatory note to the appendix, contain much more information than can be conveniently printed: they are an important source of statistical data for the shipping and trade of the British empire. Unfortunately they have not survived for all colonies.
These are the principal additions to the scope of the Calendar. In accordance with long–established practice the classes known as 'Acts' and 'Sessional Papers' have been omitted. The former are the Acts of colonial legislatures. In practice titles of Acts are always mentioned in the correspondence of the governor of the colony concerned, the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, or the legal adviser to the Commission whose task was to pass upon the validity of colonial legislation. The Calendar serves therefore as a guide to colonial Acts, but no more. 'Sessional Papers' are the journals and minutes of colonial assemblies and councils: these were printed in early volumes of the Calendar but proved to be so bulky as to impede the progress of the series. Since the volume for 1704–5 they have been omitted. Occasionally governors of colonies, wishing to draw the particular attention of the British government to proceedings in the assembly or council, enclosed extracts of those proceedings: these are briefly noticed in the present volume.
This series began as a calendar in which many of the original documents were printed in a drastically abridged form. Much of the first volume is little more than a descriptive list. In later volumes the calendaring became fuller, and under the editorship of Mr. Cecil Headlam and Professor A. P. Newton grew into a transcript of the more important documents or at least of the more important passages in them. The original spelling and language were preserved, omissions being indicated by such conventions as Continues, etc., and so on. This volume does not mark a return to the principles of compilation with which the series began: the present state of knowledge of British colonial history, the amount of material already published in one form or another, and the existence of means of reference such as C. M. Andrews and F. G. Davenport, Guide to the Manuscript Materials for the History of the United States to 1783, all argue for a full calendar and index rather than a descriptive list. Nevertheless, the series has once again become a calendar; that is, it does not purport to reproduce the original document or the language of any part of it. It is a guide to the substance of the document. If, in the opinion of the editor, this substance is of sufficient historical importance, a full abstract has been made. In general, all original correspondence of colonial governors has been so regarded, as have entries of outletters from the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations and drafts of letters from the Secretary of State. But even where a full abstract has been made of such documents, the original spelling, use of capitals, and paragraphs have been modernized; and the conventional forms of address and acknowledgement at the beginning of a letter and the protracted valedictory matter at the end have been abridged. The intention has been to communicate the whole of the substance of the document, but those who seek the original wording must refer to the manuscript.
Enclosures, with some exceptions, have been abridged. Where, for example, an affidavit is fully summarized in the covering letter, only a brief description has been given. Accounts of colonial revenues are often extremely bulky and detailed and could not be printed without an unjustifiable expenditure of space: in the present volume, they are noticed and briefly described with some indication where appropriate of the balance brought forward, total revenue and expenditure for the period, and the balance carried forward. Formal documents such as orders of the Privy Council, orders of the Committee of Council for Plantation Affairs, commissions and instructions to governors, have been much abridged. Orders present no difficulty to an editor: their essence is generally contained in a few words or at most a few lines. Instructions to governors by this date are very long and almost common in form. Departures from instructions to previous officials always receive particular mention in the Commissioners' covering letter. Drastic abridgement has therefore been made. The instructions to the Earl of Albemarle, Governor of Virginia (No. 570ii), extend over 117 pages in the relevant entry–book. In the Calendar they receive two lines together with a covering letter (No. 570i) which explains the single departure from common form which had been made. The form of these instructions and their evolution may be studied in L. W. Labaree (editor), Royal Instructions to British Colonial Governors, 1670–1776, 2 vols. (1935).
Apart from the general indications just given, a rough guide to the degree of abridgement applied to a particular document may be obtained by comparing the length of an abstract with the number of pages covered by the manuscript. This is given at the end of each abstract and is accurate to the nearest quarter of a page: a distinction is made between pages (of folio size), large pages and small pages. Thus, President Gregory's letter of 5 January 1737 (No. 4) covers two pages of manuscript and thirty–eight lines in the present volume; this has been calendared fully. On the other hand, the licence of absence of 20 October to Governor Fitzwilliam (No. 545) fills one page of an entrybook and is here reduced to less than two lines.
The index to this volume, while not departing from the broad principles of official practice, incorporates certain features peculiar to the institutions and geography of colonial government. The user is advised to consult the foreword on pp. 329–330.
The practice of commenting upon events and documents of outstanding interest in each colony has been followed in the Introductions to many volumes of this series. In Volume XLII for 1735–36, this method was abandoned in favour of a brief discussion of one major topic, Anglo–French rivalry in America and the West Indies and the fears and reactions which it inspired. The intention was to illustrate this theme from the documents which followed in such a way as to amplify and supplement the index. This practice is continued in the present Introduction.
Anglo–French rivalry, economic and otherwise, predominated in 1735 and 1736. In 1737 it was of course still present and still important. But negotiations were proceeding to settle outstanding disagreements, at least those deriving from the French Edict of 1727 and the Montserrat Act of 1736 (see index to this volume, France and the French); an understanding looked to be possible. Expressions of alarm at French power, though not lacking, are less frequent. Quite suddenly, fear of Spain replaced, or at least became more immediate and urgent than, fear of France. In the last Introduction attention was called to the absence of evidence of activity by Spanish guardacostas in the documents for 1736 (Cal. S.P. Col., 1735–36, p. xxiii). With the exception of the Mercury of New Providence, taken in June 1735, there was little to report. In the present volume, however, evidence multiplies rapidly of Spanish attacks on British shipping and of reactions to these attacks in Britain and the colonies.
This evidence, though not entirely precise, suggests that the Spanish campaign (for such it was taken to be) was intensified in the autumn of 1736, re–opened in the following spring, and continued through the summer of 1737. The following is a list of references in the present volume to the fruits of these activities:
Some of these ships being unnamed, there is more than a possibility of overlap. The Wheel of Fortune, for instance, may well be one of the Rhode Island sloops mentioned in Samuel Eveleigh's letter of 3 January (No. 1). Even so, if these reports are to be trusted, an impressive number of British ships were taken by the Spaniards between August 1736 and August 1737.
Their crews suffered some hardship. The six white men on the Fanny, so it was asserted in a sworn statement by one of them, were whipped by their captors and marooned (No. 20i). The son of the owner of the Hopewell was shot in the back, though not it appears mortally (No. 408i). The crews of the Wheel of Fortune, Free Mason and other ships were detained in Havana; Jacob Phenix, master of Free Mason, was imprisoned in irons (Nos. 92v–viii). In August 1737, according to a statement of Captain Benjamin Way, there were sixty British prisoners at Havana, though the Spaniards do not seem to have been zealous in preventing escapes (No. 595i). The gravest charge of ill–treatment in the present volume was, however, in respect of the captain of a Dutch vessel. William Fisher, in an affidavit of 13 November 1736, deposed that the Spaniards had cut off the captain's right hand, broiled it, and compelled the Dutchman to eat it (No. 20i). Several other documents suggest that the guardacostas were active against Dutch shipping equally with British (Nos. 1, 339, 488, 595ii).
Little can be learned from these documents of the pretexts for seizure. Prince William carried Braziletta wood from Providence; Loyal Charles had twenty tons of logwood; George had gold and silver on board; and Hopewell, when taken, was in the act of loading with fustick at Crab Island. It is no surprise that British captains were reticent on the subject of contraband, or alternatively protested their innocence.
News of the activities of the guardacostas was slow to reach London. Thus the Fanny was taken early in September 1736: her crew were put ashore on Salt Island and taken off by a Dutch ship. William Fisher's affidavit reporting the event was sworn at Antigua on 13 November, but not dispatched by Governor Mathew until 17 January following. It was received at the office of the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations on 18 March 1737 and read by them on 22 March, nearly seven months after the capture. This long delay is attributable in part to the winter season which held up sailings; unofficial advice may have come through more quickly.
As a consequence of these delays, the British Parliament took little account of the guardacostas in its session of 1737. In the previous year the matter had been before the House of Commons and papers presented relating to losses sustained by British subjects since 1725 (L. F. Stock, editor, Proceedings and Debates of the British Parliaments respecting North America, Washington, D.C., 1937, Vol. IV, p. 275). But in the session which began on 1 February 1737 and closed on 21 June, that part of parliamentary time given to colonial matters was devoted principally to an enquiry into the manufacture of iron in the American colonies (Ibid., p. 316 et seq.). A petition was received by the House of Commons on 16 March from the owners of the Anne galley, but this ship had been taken by the Spaniards as long ago as 1728 (Ibid., pp. 324–326).
Reactions to Spanish aggression are not, however, absent from this volume. The Commissioners of Trade and Plantations represented recent events to the Duke of Newcastle at the end of August (No. 481), and papers were sent to Benjamin Keene, British minister at Madrid (Nos. 481i–iii, 540). Nevertheless, there is nothing to show that the British Government was pressing the case with a force or urgency to match the indignation of the City of London. Included in the present volume is the petition presented to the king on 13 October 1737, protesting at Spanish seizures and the inhuman treatment of British crews (No. 540). This document was signed by 151 persons collectively described as 'merchants and planters in behalf of themselves and others trading to and interested in the British colonies in America'. Another mass protest was launched in November by the merchants of Kingston, Jamaica (Nos. 581i, 595iii): this was provoked by the seizure of the Loyal Charles, George and Dispatch, all laden in Jamaica and bound for Great Britain when taken. It bore twenty–seven signatures.
Resentment at the depredations of the guardacostas was added to the apprehension that Spain was about to attack one of the British possessions in America. Georgia was commonly expected to be the victim, though the Bahamas were also mentioned as a possible target (Nos. 92, 92iv–viii). Early in the year there were reports of troopmovements made or to be made by the Spaniards. Five hundred soldiers were expected at St. Augustine in Florida, the obvious base for an invasion of Georgia (Nos. 1, 57). Some reinforcement of this garrison does seem to have taken place. Abraham Kipp, who was at St. Augustine in February and March 1737, reported that within the past year two companies of soldiers had arrived there, bringing the total force to about four hundred (No. 211v).
Such an augmentation of the garrison at St. Augustine scarcely threatened Georgia's integrity. Nevertheless, alarming rumours were reaching the British authorities from Havana. These began with Leonard Cocke's letter of 26 November 1736 to Commodore Digby Dent at Jamaica (Cal. S.P. Col., 1735–36, No. 469). This somewhat illiterate communication hinted broadly at a Spanish design to attack Georgia, using Indians as auxiliaries and proclaiming freedom for British–owned slaves (presumably those of South Carolina) who joined the invaders. It reached Jamaica on 23 December and copies were sent early in January to the authorities of Georgia and South Carolina (Nos. 57, 57i–ii, 70iii). British prisoners detained at Havana and letters from the South Sea Company's factor added colour to the story (Nos. 92i–viii). Several sailors went so far as to indicate March 1737 as the date for the attack, though they were not clear whether Georgia, the Bahamas, or both were to be invaded.
Much of this was rumour, much exaggeration. That the Spaniards had any intention of attacking Georgia or any other colony in 1737 is very unlikely indeed. Nevertheless, the curious story of John Savy alias Colonel Miguel Wall suggests that they may already have had plans to invade Georgia in the further future. By his own accounts (Nos. 588i–ii), Savy was an early emigrant to Georgia who had also lived in Charleston, South Carolina, where he was known as 'a man well stocked with impudence. . . yet of very little courage or conduct' (No. 168iv). He left America in 1735 and entered the service of Spain. Commissioned under the name of Miguel Wall, he was sent to Havana in order to act as guide to a Spanish force which was to invade Georgia in or before May 1738 (No. 588ii). Savy arrived at Havana on 28 October 1736 and lost no time in revealing his mission, when drunk, to Leonard Cocke (Cal. S.P. Col., 1735–36, No. 469). Again drunk, he confided his plans to Henry Weltden (No. 92iii). Thus it was the ramblings of this renegade sot that alerted the British colonies to their supposed peril, set in train a flurry of papers, caused the movement of several of H.M. ships, and perhaps helped to bring about the decision to dispatch a regiment of British troops to the defence of Georgia. Later in 1737, though how and why does not appear, Savy turned up in Lisbon and surrendered himself to the British. He was in England in November, protesting that all he had done was only in order to discover the Spanish secrets (No. 588ii).
Reactions in the British colonies were varied. The settlers in Georgia undoubtedly felt themselves in imminent danger. Men able to bear arms were mustered (No. 108ii) and exercised, time and labour diverted to the building of a fort at Savannah. The fort, it can be deduced from John Brownfield's letter of 10 February and other evidence, was a peculiarly futile operation (No. 72): while protecting Savannah from the north, it left the town 'in the utmost danger should they attack us on the east, west or south side', and it attracted adverse criticism from the Trustees for Georgia (No. 453). Thomas Causton, Chief Bailiff of Georgia, excused his action by reference to the necessity of keeping up morale (No. 108).
South Carolina also took the rumours seriously, as is shown by Lieut.–Governor Broughton's letter of 4 February (No. 70i). Measures were taken to help Georgia in the event of an attack, though concerted action between the two colonies was hampered by their disagreements over Indian trade: this bad feeling is reflected in the exchanges of letters between Broughton and Causton in February (Nos. 70i–ii, 98, 108i–ii). Even in Charleston, however, there were those who questioned the seriousness of the danger. The uncertainty is mirrored in letters written by two correspondents of the Georgia Society. On 5 March Paul Jenys wrote to Harman Verelst that he was inclined to believe that no act of hostility would be committed (No. 127). Less than a fortnight later, on 18 March, Samuel Eveleigh advised Thomas Causton that 'it is here generally believed that a body of Spaniards will march from St. Augustine by land in order to attack your colony' (No. 168iv).
According to Captain Gascoigne, R.N., commander of H.M.S. Hawk, the alarm was at its height at the beginning of April (No. 345). About that time the governor of Virginia reported that the station–ship of that colony, H.M.S. Seahorse, was fitting out to sail to the south (No. 146), which she did at the end of March (No. 292). Governor Gooch himself hoped that the reports from Havana were 'only a Spanish bravado to intimidate the people of Georgia from prosecuting their settlements', and in May he wrote that he had never believed in the design (No. 292). Still further to the north, H.M.S. Tartar, Captain Norris, R.N., station–ship of New York, was alerted (No. 184), but it does not appear that she proceeded to Georgia. Even without Tartar, however, the Royal Navy had produced at short notice a fairly creditable show of force, sufficient anyway to provoke the governor of St. Augustine to injured protest (No. 168vi).
Almost as suddenly as the alarm had been taken up, saner counsels began to prevail. On 20 May Paul Jenys wrote from Charleston that there was then no apprehension of invasion (No. 304); on 15 June Captain Gascoigne reported that all was quiet at St. Augustine and that H.M.S. Rose and Shark had returned to Carolina (No. 345); and on 15 July Lieut.–Governor Broughton advised that the forces raised in South Carolina had been discharged (No. 406). At the very end of the year, South Carolina was once again apprehensive (Nos. 604, 648), but this fresh alarm belongs more properly to the next volume.
Two papers are printed in the present volume which appraise the possibilities in a cooler spirit than those originating in the colonies. James Oglethorpe's memorandum (No. 209) of April 1737 assumes the truth of rumours of Spanish preparations at Havana and St. Augustine, and calls for the dispatch of a regiment of 700 men to Georgia together with naval reinforcements. The other paper (No. 210) has an endorsement stating that it was received from Sir Charles Wager. It scouts the possibility of an invasion of Carolina and attributes the reinforcement of St. Augustine to the Spaniards 'being perhaps more afraid of us than we are of them, or at least as much'. Naval forces in the area or on call were considered adequate.
Oglethorpe's arguments were to win the day. In June the Trustees for Georgia petitioned Sir Robert Walpole (No. 363); in August Oglethorpe produced another memorandum on the same lines as his paper of April (No. 465); and on 10 October the Georgia Society was able to inform its chief bailiff that the regiment had been ordered, that 300 men would soon arrive, and that Oglethorpe himself had been appointed captaingeneral and commander–in–chief of all H.M.'s forces in Carolina and Georgia (No. 522).