Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 44, 1738. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1969.
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This volume contains 570 principal abstracts and a further 226 documents which are enclosures to correspondence. More than one-third –211 – of the principal abstracts are from the archives of the Trustees for Georgia, though only 15 of the enclosures come from that source. The explanation is as follows: Georgia at this time had no governor but instead a number of officers whose relationship to one other was not always perfectly clear– 1st, 2nd and 3rd bailiffs at Savannah, recorder, surveyor, secretary for the Trust's affairs in Georgia, etc. In royal provinces most official matters were communicated to the Secretary of State and the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, either by the governor in his own words, or through him in the form of enclosures to his letters. In the case of Georgia, however, all the principal officials in the colony corresponded directly with the Trustees in London. Papers from Georgia which, if from another province, would have been sent to Britain as enclosures (or not at all) therefore appear in this Calendar as principal abstracts. Another peculiarity of the infant-colony of Georgia was that many matters, which in an established province were largely or wholly private business, remained under the surveillance of the Trustees: such were the cultivation of land, importation of servants, education, religion, foodsupply etc. This is why the Georgia records occupy a predominant position in the Calendar at this date. In due course the predominance will disappear.
Adding together principal abstracts and enclosures there are 796 documents in the present volume (which covers the year 1738), compared to 1009 in Vol. XLIII for 1737, a reduction of the order of one-fifth. For this reduction, there is no obvious explanation. In view of growing fears of a war with Spain in the West Indies and America, more rather than fewer documents might have been expected to originate in the colonies, particularly in danger-spots such as Georgia, Jamaica and the Leewards. Yet the number of principal abstracts from the Georgia archives falls from 277 in 1737 to 211 in 1738, while Governor Mathew's letters from the Leeward Islands decline from 19 to 17. Letters from the governor of Jamaica, it is true, rise from 12 to 23 but this more reflects the arrival of Governor Edward Trelawny in the island than any increase in business regarding Spain.
Nor does there seem to be an administrative explanation for the reduction in the number of documents surviving from the year 1738. At first sight, one might suppose that the departure of Alured Popple from the secretaryship of the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, and his replacement by Thomas Hill, provided a clue: Popple in the first nine months of 1737 signed 51 letters, Hill only 20 in the whole of 1738. But this is balanced by a corresponding rise in the number of letters signed by the Commissioners corporately: from 53 in 1737 to 82 in 1738. All that seems to have happened here is that Hill signed a smaller proportion, and the Commissioners a larger proportion, of the letters leaving their office. The out-letters of the Secretary of State fell slightly, from 18 in 1737 to 13 in 1738; on the other hand, his in-letters rose from 79 to 82. There were 33 Orders of the Privy Council on colonial matters in Vol. XLIII; in the present volume, 55. We must therefore conclude that the reduction in the total number of documents in 1738, if it signifies anything, does not denote any marked relaxation on the part of central colonial institutions.
Although most volumes in this series contain some material on every British province, the greater part of the contents is provided by a fairly small number of colonies. In the present volume, Georgia, Jamaica, the Leeward Islands, Massachusetts, New York and South Carolina are the principal suppliers of papers. A second group – the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, Newfoundland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Nova Scotia and Virginia – was in fairly regular correspondence with the British government but the intervals between letters might stretch to several months: Governor Johnston of North Carolina, for example, wrote only two letters in 1738. In any given volume, one of these colonies may for exceptional reasons furnish an unusual number of papers, for example Bermuda in 1738, following the arrival of Governor Popple. The number of letters in ensuing years may in such cases be expected to fall, either because the governor has nothing fresh to say or for some other reason. There are 13 letters signed by Governor Gooch in Vol. XLI for 1734–35; only 4 in the present volume. Finally, there were four Colonies, Connecticut, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, with which the Secretary of State and the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations seldom communicated.
The methods used in compiling this volume of the Calendar are those described in the Introduction (pp. vi–vii) to Vol. XLIII for 1737. The index, 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. 295–6.
In the year 1738 Parliament devoted far more time to colonial business than in 1736 or 1737. Extended enquiry was made into the manufacture of iron in the Plantations with a view to estimating possible effects on the British industry: the Commissioners of Customs were required to produce statistics of imports and exports of iron, and petitions were received by the House of Commons from several interested parties (L.F. Stock, Proceedings and Debates of the British Parliaments respecting North America, Carnegie Institute of Washington, Washington, D.C., 1937, Vol. IV, 430–439 etc.). The colonies were also concerned in Parliamentary proceedings on the British linen industry, retarded (so it was alleged) by the competition of foreign goods in colonial markets. Scottish linen-makers proposed that the drawback granted on foreign linens imported to Britain and re-exported to the Plantations should be discontinued. Counter-petitions were heard from mercantile interests, including the Merchant Adventurers; and no further action was taken in this session (Stock, IV, 446, etc.). Another matter in which Parliament interested itself was the negotiation (in 1733–34) for purchase by the Crown of the rights of the proprietors of the Bahamas. The outcome was an address to the King on 18 May 1738 to complete the purchase, and an offer from the Commons to make good the cost (Stock, IV, 575, 605–8). The colony of Georgia received a subsidy of £8,000 in 1738, £12,000 less than in the previous year (Stock, IV, 421). This reduction reflects the transfer of responsibility for the defence of the colony from the Trustees to the public, implied by the dispatch of Oglethorpe's regiment: the grant for 1738 was for civil purposes only.
All these matters must be considered as parts of the routine government of an extensive North American and Caribbean empire, promoted (in a somewhat haphazard fashion) from discussion and decision at the administrative level to debate by the legislature. Other colonial problems were equally (or more) deserving of Parliamentary time but received none in 1738: currency, for example. The matter which dominated the proceedings of Parliament in this year, however, was far from an issue of routine; it was brought before the two Houses in ways the reverse of haphazard; and in the course of 1738 it assumed the appearance of an ever-increasing threat both to peace and to the stability of Sir Robert Walpole's Ministry. This was of course the problem of AngloSpanish relations and the tension created by the arrival in Britain of news of the operations of Spanish guardacostas in the Caribbean. The purpose of this Introduction is, as briefly as possible, to key proceedings in Parliament on this subject to the documents contained in the Calendar and to show to what uses some of these documents were put.
In the Introduction to Vol. XLIII (p. viii) notice was taken of the number of British ships seized or detained by the Spaniards in the second half of 1736 and in 1737. The total could not be perfectly established, owing to the anonymity of certain vessels reported as taken, but it is clear that Spanish operations in that period have the appearance of a new departure or at least of a revival of policies formerly pursued but laid aside or relaxed in the mid-1730's. In 1738 there is evidence of the continuation of an active Spanish policy towards British shipping in the Caribbean but the number of seizures reported is well below that in Vol. XLIII. The following is a list of all new captures or detentions noticed in the present volume:
References in this volume to other ships taken by the Spaniards, the Anne, Dispatch, George, Loyal Charles, Prince William, St. James and Woolball, all concern captures effected in 1737 or earlier: the Woolball, for instance was taken in 1731.
Of the five new cases in 1738, two may be deemed of minor importance, though the circumstances of both are somewhat mysterious. The Loyal Betty and the James were vessels in the service of the South Sea Company: they were not boarded at sea but detained in the port of Havana. Both appear to have been released within a fairly short time. In a letter to Governor Trelawny of Jamaica, dated 29 November (N.S.), the governor of Havana stated that the Loyal Betty had been arrested in the belief that war had already been declared at Jamaica, an incidental indication of the nervous situation in the Caribbean: he promised that this ship would shortly be released (No. 566i). In the same letter, the detention of the James was attributed to 'the standing rules of the Spanish American ports', an explanation which Trelawny may not have found particularly illuminating. The Loyal Betty was probably released at once; the James was certainly released, and indeed carried the abovementioned letter from Havana to Jamaica. Both cases came in due course to the attention of the House of Lords – on 26 February 1739 – with the production of a letter from Anthony Weltden, the South Sea Company's factor at Havana (Stock, IV, 680). Possibly they helped to swell the volume of complaint both in and out of Parliament, but they seem not to have been taken very seriously. There is, for example, no reference to them by name in the reported Parliamentary debates.
Thus the number of British ships seized and held for condemnation in the period covered by the present volume is reduced to three; and the circumstances in which one of these three was taken were such as strongly to indicate an intention to engage in illicit trade. This was the case of the Union. The date of her capture is uncertain: probably it was in the late summer or early autumn of 1738, in any event well before 6 November when the affair first appears in this volume (No. 497). She was taken four days out from Jamaica, and was according to Trelawny 'undoubtedly bound on an illicit trade'. Despite the facts that the ship had neither anchored nor broken bulk nor come within five leagues of the Spanish coast, evidence of intention seems to have satisfied the Spaniards. The Union was taken to Havana and there deemed lawful prize on the master's confession (No. 566i). That such a confession was forthcoming is likely enough: by 30 December Governor Trelawny had examined the vessel's supercargo who admitted that his orders had been to trade on the Spanish coast, but protested that he had not actually done so, and that at the moment of capture he was 'no nearer the Spanish coast than where the pilots of the country owned he might have been driven to' (No. 566). Trelawny's letter of 6 November (though not his letter of 30 December) was produced in the Lords on 26 February 1739, but the case of the Union, like the cases of the Loyal Betty and James, seems not to have been pressed in Parliament. Probably critics of the ministry took the view that it would be profitless to argue a weak case when there were other stronger ones.
As manifested in the documents in the present volume, the seizure in 1738 of two other ships, the Success and the Sarah, gave better grounds for protest, though it is to be noted that both vessels belonged to leading British ports – Success to London, Sarah to Bristol – from which strongly pressed complaints might be expected. Both cases received a good deal of public attention. The Sarah was discussed in Parliament, both because of the long imprisonment of her master and because her seizure raised some of the general principles at issue: what exactly constituted produce of the Spanish colonies, whether inclusion in a cargo of any product (such as sugar) produced in any part of Spanish America gave credible grounds for confiscation, whether Spanish silver coins (which in many British and French colonies were common currency) were contraband, etc. (Stock, IV, 724, speech of Earl of Chesterfield, 1 March 1739). The Success was also the subject of Parliamentary interest and achieved the distinction of special mention in the Convention of Pardo (signed in January, 1739) between Spain and Great Britain. The King of Spain thereby promised to accept the award of the plenipotentiaries of the two crowns regarding the restitution of the Success or her equivalent value, provided the owners gave security to abide by that award (Stock, IV, 656).
The circumstances of the seizure of these two ships can be approximately reconstructed from the documents in this volume and from parliamentary records. The Sarah was taken on 29 June 1738 in passage from Jamaica to Bristol, and if the facts alleged in the British case are correct she had shipped her Caribbean cargo from Jamaica, not from any Spanish colony. According to her owners, the Sarah after clearing from Jamaica had tried for 17 days to beat to windward, i.e. to make the Windward Passage between Cuba and St. Domingue. In the end she was forced to steer northwards through the Gulf of Florida: it was here, about 150 miles west of Cuba, that she was taken, with a cargo valued by her owners at £9,000. The present volume gives no hint of the Spanish pretext: the governor of Havana, writing of other seizures, merely stated that the guardacosta concerned was a ship of the Barlovento squadron and the matter therefore out of his jurisdiction (No. 566i). We learn from another source that the Sarah was taken to Havana and there condemned as prize, her master and crew being carried prisoners to Old Spain (Stock, IV, 669).
This capture of a British ship, far from land and carrying what might prove to be an exclusively Jamaican cargo, provoked angry protests. The owners (four Bristol men – George Packer, Richard Farr, Thomas Ross, Thomas Roach only the second of whom appears in this volume, and that in another connexion) petitioned the House of Commons on 26 February 1739 (Stock, IV, 669). Trelawny's letter of 6 November (No. 497) was, as already stated, produced in the Lords; on 27 February 1739 the mate and one of the crew of the Sarah attended the Lords to give evidence; and on the same occasion, one of the owners attended to testify that the master, Jason Vaughan, was still a prisoner in Spain (Stock, IV, 684). In debates in the Lords on 1 March and in the Commons on 8–9 March 1739, reference to the Sarah or her master was made by Lord Carteret, Lord Chesterfield, William Pitt and Sir William Wyndham, all four being Opposition speakers (Stock, IV, 703, 724, 774, 787). From Pitt and Wyndham, we learn that Captain Vaughan had by then been released and was back in England.
Four of the British ships taken in 1737, the St. James, Lqyal Charles, George and Dispatch, were, like the Sarah in 1738, engaged in trade to or from Jamaica. From that colony's geographical position it is obvious that the brunt of a Spanish campaign against British shipping would fall upon her. In the first place, the Caribbean winds gave to ships clearing from Jamaica an unattractive choice between the Windward Passage and the Gulf of Florida, both within easy cruising range of Havana. And, secondly, Jamaica was beyond doubt the best sited British colony from which to engage in the illicit trade the Spaniards wanted to stop. Nevertheless, it must not be inferred that the shipping of the Outer Antilles was immune. The case of the Hopewell in 1737 shows Puerto Rico being used as a base for guardacostas interfering with the trade of the Eastern Caribbean. In the present volume this interference is illustrated by the case of the Success, taken five days out of Antigua whence she had sailed for Maryland with a cargo which her owners valued at £10,000. The date of capture, it is virtually certain, was 14 April 1738, despite a protest by Ignatius Semmes, the master, which appears to be dated '23 March 1737' i.e. 1737/8 (Stock, IV, 660); 14 April is the date given in the present volume (No. 247i) and it is also the date given in the Convention of Pardo (Stock, IV, 656). The crew, according to the master's statement, were turned adrift in their longboat eight leagues from the Desert Island Passage and got ashore at the Danish island of St. Thomas.
The owners of the Success petitioned the King on 18 July 1738, and a copy of this petition was amongst the papers laid before the House of Lords on 26 February 1739 (Stock, IV, 679). By then, the terms of the Convention of Pardo were known, including the reference of the case of the Success to determination by plenipotentiaries. The Convention also named a number of other ships which appeared in Vol. XLIII and which are mentioned in Vol. XLIV, the Loyal Charles, Dispatch, George, Prince William and St. James, that is to say, most of the principal prizes taken by the Spaniards in 1737. The value of these vessels was included in the sum of reparations for which Spain, albeit in a roundabout way, acknowledged liability (Stock, IV, 655).
It is no matter for surprise that British colonial documents throw little light on whatever justification the Spaniards may have had for their actions. Owners, captains and shippers of goods in British vessels presented themselves as innocent victims of unlawful force, irrationally applied: as indeed some of them were. Three documents in this volume point in a somewhat different direction. Two have already been mentioned, Governor Trelawny's letters of 6 November (No. 497) and 30 December (No. 566), in which the unlawful intention of the Union was clearly stated. The third document is a letter from Governor William Mathew of the Leewards, dated 26 May 1738, where, apropos the Success, we learn that two years earlier a pirate from St. Christopher's had plundered a Spanish ship off Puerto Rico and murdered the crew and passengers, including six friars (No. 247). The commander of the guardacosta which took Success was said to be the brother of one of the victims of this atrocity (No. 247i). On a different topic, but one that is relevant to the friction between Britain and Spain, attention should be given to a statement in this volume by Colonel Martin Bladen, one of the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations. This concerns the dispute between Britain and Spain over logwood-cutting in Campeachy Bay. 'It is certainly one of those things' wrote Bladen 'we can never give up and yet I am afraid we can have no title to it. The merchants say we have, and in representations to be communicated to the court of Spain, as a commissioner of trade I say so too' (No. 114). Better than most, these words encapsulate the Anglo-Spanish impasse.
In the Introduction to Vol. XLIII contrast was drawn between the magnitude of the operations of the guardacostas and the little attention given by Parliament to that subject in 1737. The explanation is of course that Parliamentary sessions occupied the first four or five months of each year and were over before news of that year's events could reach this country. In 1738, accordingly, Parliament was occupied with old cases such as the Woolball and with cases which had occurred in the period covered by the last volume and had only lately come to notice. It is not until the session of 1739 that theaffairs of the Sarah and the Success received Parliamentary attention.
In the journals of Parliament and in the imperfect reconstructions of Parliamentary debates, the matter of the Spanish seizures and detentions of British ships and goods can be seen arising in four ways: the reception of petitions; the personal appearance of witnesses; calls for papers; and finally in debates, which might occur upon the presentation of petitions or reports from committees, or follow the introduction of a bill or resolution.
Petitions to Parliament are not normally to be found in the classes of records comprehended within this Calendar. Georgia provides an exception, copies of the annual petition to the House of Commons for a grant of money being preserved in the archives of the Trustees, e.g. No. 130 in Vol. XLIII and No. 67 in Vol. XLIV of the Calendar. It was not unknown for petitioners to address both King and Parliament in the same or similar terms, and in such cases (though not in all) the petition to the King might be referred to the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, and so enter the colonial group of records. Broadly speaking, however, the parliamentary and administrative records complement rather than duplicate each other. During the sessions of 1738, petitions were presented to Parliament regarding the manufacture of iron in the Plantations, the entry of foreign linens into colonial markets, and the trade in fish from American waters to the Mediterranean. Seven petitions arose from Spanish depredations. Of these seven, three were from cities interested in the colonial trade (Bristol, Glasgow and Liverpool), and three from owners of British vessels taken as long ago as 1728, 1729 and 1730; for petitions concerning ships taken in 1737 it is necessary to go forward to the parliamentary session of 1739. The most important on this subject in the period covered by this volume was a general petition by 'divers merchants, planters, and others, trading to, and interested in, the British plantations in America, on behalf of themselves, and many others', delivered to the Commons on 3 March 1738 (Stock, IV, 353–5). This is comparable to the memorial to the Duke of Newcastle in the present volume (No. 55), and to the memorial of 13 October 1737 signed by 151 persons (Vol. XLIII, No. 540).
The appearance in Parliament of witnesses giving evidence on colonial matters is is harder to trace. On 16 March 1738, for example, Alderman Perry reported to the Commons that his committee had examined several witnesses, but no names are given in the Journal (Stock, IV, 430). This session is notable for the order of 16 March to Captain Robert Jenkins to attend the Commons immediately (Stock, IV, 426, 430), he being the earless (or supposedly so) master of the Rebecca, taken in 1731. On 24 April the Lords required the attendance of Captains Way, Delamotte and Kinselagh (Stock, IV, 519), all masters of ships appearing in the list of Spanish captures given in the Introduction to Vol. XLIII of this Calendar. More personal appearances were made in the session of 1739, some being of witnesses to events reported in the present volume: on 27 February the Lords heard no fewer than eleven witnesses including three concerned in the Sarah (Stock, IV, 683–4).
The examination of witnesses, called to amplify petitions already presented, was one way of obtaining first-hand information. Calling for official (and other) papers was another, and in some respects a more effective device. In the sessions of 1738 and 1739 frequent and comprehensive calls were made for papers relating to the Spanish question, by no means all of them being colonial documents in the modern sense. The negotiations between Britain and Spain through our ambassador and other representatives at Madrid were directed by the Secretary of State for the Southern Department – the Duke of Newcastle – who was also responsible for the Plantations. Parliament wanted information both about the negotiations at Madrid and about the facts and allegations reaching Newcastle from the colonies: that is, they wanted 'Foreign Office' as well as 'Colonial Office' records. The connexion between Newcastle's two responsibilities –for colonial government and for diplomacy in Southern Europe – is illustrated by a number of colonial papers coming into his office in 1737 and 1738 which were copied and sent on to Madrid. Such papers were endorsed to this effect and can be traced in the indexes to Vols. XLIII and XLIV of this Calendar, under the name of Benjamin Keene, the British ambassador in Spain.
Parliament did not stop at the Secretary's papers. Several times in 1738 – and more frequently in 1739 – Admiralty papers were demanded, a reminder that there are to-day many records in that group which add to the information in the Colonial Calendar. Officers of the Royal Navy, who were closely concerned with the protection of trade in the Plantations, were apt to be uncommunicative to the governor of the colony in which they were stationed. More than one colonial official might have echoed the words of President Gregory of Jamaica: 'I have heard it is ticklish meddling with the Navy' (Vol. XLIII, No. 4). We cannot assume that governors who reported to Newcastle or to the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations were in possession of all the facts which naval officers were reporting directly to the Admiralty. Other boards and offices supplying papers to Parliament in 1738 were the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, the Office of Ordnance and the Council Office (see No. 100); and many documents were required from and produced by the South Sea Company. Sometimes Parliament requested particular named papers, as on 24 April 1738 when the Lords called for the affidavit of Captain Benjamin Way (Stock, IV, 514; not in the Calendar for 1737 or 1738). More often the summons was for all papers on a particular topic. Sometimes ministers successfully resisted the Opposition's demands, pleading the delicacy of current negotiations; more often they acceded.
Calls for papers made in 1738 and 1739 can be followed in Parliamentary Journals. The following is a list of the documents in Vols. XLIII and XLIV of this Calendar which are recorded in the Journals as having been produced:
|No. of Document||Where Produced||Date of Production|
|55||Commons||15 March 1738|
|243||Lords||1 March 1739|
|497||Commons||19 February 1739|
|do.||Lords||26 February 1739|
|497i||Commons||19 February 1739|
|do.||Lords||26 February 1739|
Finally, there were Parliamentary debates on the Spanish question, which in 1738 arose from the presentation of petitions, from reports of committees thereon, from addresses for papers, and from the introduction and reading of a bill (which did not pass) 'for the more effectual securing and encouraging the trade of his Majesty's British subjects to America' (Stock, IV, 564). Reports of Parliamentary debates of this period are highly imperfect. From those that have been collected it appears that the Commons debated the Spanish question on five days in the session of 1738, 3 March, 28 March, 5 May, 8 May and 15 May; and that the Lords debated the matter once, on 2 May. There were some references to Spanish intentions in America in another debate, on 3 February, on the supply for the army. In all, Parliament discussed Spain a great deal in 1738, and even more in 1739. It is not the function of this Introduction to comment on the arguments urged in these debates, but it may be said that they reflect some at least of the attitudes of colonial correspondents in this Calendar.
Georgia, though commonly regarded as supplying part of the explanation of the war which began in 1739, received little attention from Parliament in 1738 beyond the grant of £8,000 to support the expenses of settlement. No progress was made towards agreement on the Florida Georgia (or as the Spaniards preferred it, Florida Carolina) border question: the Convention of Pardo of January 1739 merely remitted the matter to plenipotentiaries with an undertaking by both sides not to increase their fortifications there. Before the Convention had been signed, however, the military situation on this border had been altered by the arrival in Georgia in mid-September of the main party of Oglethorpe's regiment, with Oglethorpe himself in command (Nos. 456,460). Formerly, the Spanish troops at St. Augustine could have been opposed only by Georgia and South Carolina militia. Oglethorpe's troubles and Georgia's apprehensions were prolonged by disaffection in the regiment (Nos. 504, 509–10) and by a financial crisis in the affairs of the colony; but it is nevertheless true that the balance of force on the only frontier common to Britain and Spain (Gibraltar excepted) had been decisively changed.