Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 45, 1739. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1994.
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This volume contains 545 principal abstracts and a further 271 enclosures to correspondence: 816 documents in all compared to 796 in the volume for 1738. The increase, which is in enclosures rather than principal items, owes little to the declaration of war upon Spain on 19 October 1739. Such impact as the war made in the remainder of the year is to be found chiefly in London. Not all colonies received official notification of hostilities before the end of the year. Little war news was reported from the Caribbean, though Governor Trelawny picked up a few scraps of information (no 480). Suspecting that war might be imminent some colonial governors filed fresh appeals in 1739 for ordnance and ordnance stores or tried to hasten indents that were already in the pipeline. Agents in London became active in pressing for munitions and the posting of regular troops. Plans for a major offensive in 1740 in the Caribbean, to be reinforced by levies raised in North America, surface in Martin Bladen's letter of 14 December (no 515) and in the appointment of Lord Cathcart on 26 December to command the intended expedition (no 529). But the general scene suggested by the documentation is of an empire moving only slowly onto a war footing.
Civil business continued to predominate, an important new contributor to the Calendar being the inquiry initiated by Parliament into paper money and bills of credit issued and circulating in the colonies. On 15 June the secretary of state sent to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations copies of the resolutions of Lords and Commons requiring an account of bills emitted since 1700 and a report on the prices of gold and silver coins in the colonies at ten-year intervals from that date (no 218). On 5 July the Commissioners dispatched a circular to all governors, except those of New- foundland and Nova Scotia, requesting answers in time to be put before the next meeting of Parliament (no 251). Because of variation in the speed and efficiency of communication between Whitehall and the colonies this was an optimistic request; but in time every colony produced a reply of some sort, though of varying quality and, because of diversity of method and layout, difficult to consolidate for Parliament's information. Some governors had difficulty in obtaining the necessary data, several turning the inquiry over to one or more supposed experts or to their assemblies; some did not try very hard, while others produced detailed and informative answers. President Dottin of Barbados was the first to reply on 9 November, though his letter was not in the Commissioners' hands until 15 March 1740. His task was relatively straightforward: Barbados had issued 'bills of credit' in 1705 and a small amount of paper currency in 1706 but the effect had been to drive out gold and silver and to discourage trade. None had been issued since, so Dottin had only to report on the prices of gold and silver coins and on exchange rates between the colony and Britain (no 456). In Massachusetts, where bills of credit had been issued on a prodigious scale over many years, an idea of the complexity of the matter of inquiry can be got from the reply, of which a summary is printed below (no 527i). Massachusetts and five other colonies—Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Bermuda—sent answers in December 1739; three—the Leewards, Connecticut and New Hampshire—in January 1740; and two—Virginia and South Carolina—in February. Three colonies— North Carolina, Rhode Island and Maryland—presented replies through their agents in London, that is to say, without a letter of explanation from the governor. The last responses to reach Whitehall, those of Virginia and Jamaica, arrived at the Plantations Office on 22 July 1740. A little over a year, therefore, went by in circulating the inquiry and obtaining answers. It seems a long time but it would be interesting to know if any other eighteenth-century empire, Spanish, Portuguese, French or Dutch, launched and completed an investigation of like complexity in less than twelve months.
As in the Calendar volumes for 1737 and 1738 Georgia makes a large and important contribution to the contents of Vol. XLV, much of it consisting of records of a private nature at the time of their creation though now and since 1752 - when Georgia became a crown colony - part of the public archives. It was this slight ambiguity of status that led to the exclusion of those records from Vols XXXVII-XLII, a decision reversed in Vol. XLIII for 1737. By 1739 most of Georgia's records were still of a recognizably private kind: the Trustees' correspondence with their officers and settlers in Georgia, their domestic letters, and their minutes. The Trustees reported annually to Parliament but direct correspondence between Georgia and the departments concerned with colonial administration was still rare. As yet there were no Customs officers in the colony, though their absence was beginning to be noticed and exploited (nos 280, 301). No assembly had been constituted in Georgia, so no laws were enacted there for scrutiny by the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations. Legislative authority remained with the Trustees in London who seldom used it. In 1739 they passed only one law, for appointing pilots and raising a duty on shipping to pay for that service (no 291). This Act brought them into touch with the Commissioners, with disappointing results. The law obtained the approval of the board's legal adviser, Francis Fane, but was opposed by South Carolina's agent and still awaited confirmation at the end of the year (nos 336, 514). The Commissioners at this time kept no Georgia files, placing such papers as they preserved among South Carolina's records (nos 336, 357).
The Secretary of State for the Southern Department, whose responsibilities included the colonies, was drawn sooner and further into the affairs of Georgia. The public objective of the colony's existence was the defence of the southern frontier of colonial America against the supposed threat from Spanish Florida. Diplomatic and military business, the secretary of state's province, was certain to arise in that quarter. When James Oglethorpe landed in Georgia in 1738 in command of a regiment of royal troops the secretary's involvement took an important step forward. Oglethorpe's correspondence with Newcastle became as extensive and as regular as his travels and duties in the colony allowed: eleven letters in 1739. Despite holding no civil office in Georgia, Oglethorpe had the confidence of the Trustees in London in his task of clearing up irregularities, reducing expenditure, and compelling the settlers to stand on their own feet. He also enjoyed the confidence of Newcastle who for some purposes treated him almost as if he were governor of the colony, sending him versions of circulars to governors of 15 June and 29 October authorizing the issue of letters of marque against Spanish shipping and, later, announcing the declaration of war (nos 216,436). In such ways and to a still greater extent after the outbreak of war, Georgia figured more prominently in records that were of a public nature at the time of their creation. It was with this merging of public and private documents in mind that Georgia's archives began to be included in the Calendar from Vol. XLIII onwards.
In the last year of the decade 1730–1739 it is appropriate to take an overview of the documentation of colonial business as reflected in the records. To compile year-by-year totals with any meaning at all, two conventions have been adopted. First, principal entries only have been counted, not enclosures. Second, Georgia's records, out of the Calendar for 1730–1736 but in the Calendar for 1737–1739, have been removed from the reckoning. The result is a table of principal entries for the colonies that existed in 1730:
The decline is impressive. Apart from the exceptionally low total for 1736– for which no particular explanation is available— the contraction is continuous throughout the decade so that by 1739 the annual total (Georgia excepted) is little more than half what it had been in 1730. Were the volume of surviving records to be taken as a reflection of the activity and energy of central government and of the responses of the colonies, the table would be an approximate measure of 'salutary neglect' or at least of 'neglect' in the decade before the war with Spain.
Such an assumption is, to say the least, debatable. Surviving records are not in every instance a reliable guide to business transacted. Among the public records there are on the one hand classes in which destruction, fortuitous or purposeful, has reduced the material now preserved to a fraction of what was created; while, on the other hand, moribund institutions have continued to accumulate records of transactions in which the effective decision-making has migrated elsewhere, leaving a mass of documentation of a largely formal nature. There is, however, no reason to suspect that the eighteenth-century colonial records experienced either archival inflation or deflation to produce distortion sufficient to explain a contraction of the order shown in the table. Over two centuries it is indeed likely that a few documents have been lost or mislaid; others such as some of the Naval Officers' returns may have been destroyed. But in the main series of correspond ence continuity from year to year and from letter to letter is apparent. It is unusual to find a correspondent acknowledging receipt of a letter now missing from the archives.
What the Colonial Office records have undergone is extensive rearrangement. Certain enclosures have been separated from their parent documents. The contents, for example, of the series known as 'Acts', that is, colonial laws sent to Whitehall for scrutiny, were detached from their covering letters at or soon after arrival in order to be submitted to the legal adviser of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations as part of the process of legislative review. Since governors often made comments in their accompanying letters this separation must have had inconveniences; on the other hand separate filing of outsize documents, which Acts often were, probably made for easier handling. The practice in the Calendar has, with exceptions, been to mention titles of Acts but not to describe each law individually. The series known, anachronistically, as Sessional Papers, that is, minutes and journals of colonial councils and assemblies, likewise consists of documents detached from covering letters. In the early years of the Calendar (to 1913) Sessional Papers were described in summary form but from Vol. XXII onwards they have been excluded on grounds of unmanageable bulk. (fn. 1) For the same reason, and for greater security and ease of access, many maps have been removed from parent documents and taken out of the Colonial Office group. (fn. 2) Any comprehensive attempt to quantify the records or to chart the ebb and flow of colonial business would have to take these uncalendared and detached papers into account.
There are other grounds for caution before taking the contents of the Calendar as an accurate reflection of activity in the administration of the British colonies. Whitehall's routines of record creation were more or less standardized by the 1730s but those of the colonies were not. Uniformity of practice should not be expected and will not be found. Letters are as short as half a side of a small piece of paper or as long as twenty pages, composed in a crabbed script (Barbados) or a sprawling hand (Massachusetts). Letters from George Clarke of New York were routinely written on the lower half of the page only, presumably to leave space for comment. The calendar practice of stating the number of manuscript pages of the original and the size of paper used (eg 4 pp, 1 large p, 2½ small pp) is intended to convey a general idea of this diversity.
The correspondence of Governor Mathew of the Leeward Islands in 1739 makes the point that a letter-count may not tell the whole story. The present volume includes thirteen letters from Mathew to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, more than from any other governor; but all except one are brief notes serving merely to cover Acts, minutes and journals of the four legislatures over which Mathew presided. The substance conveyed to Whitehall in these letters was negligible. Nor did Mathew make good the deficiency in his correspondence with the secretary of state: one despatch of less than two pages in the period covered by this volume. Governor Johnston of North Carolina conducted his correspondence with Whitehall in even more cursory fashion. Like Mathew he had public papers to send but chose not to cover them with even the briefest letter of explanation: they turned up at the Plantations Office, sometimes years late, with no more than a certificate from the governor. Johnston's contribution to this volume is one short letter, dated 10 April 1739, to the Duke of Newcastle, repeated the same day to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations in virtually the same words (nos 131–132). Johnston's failure to keep London informed is, therefore, accurately reflected in the number of letters - two - with which he is credited in this volume while Mathew's shortcomings as a correspondent are masked by his total of fourteen. At the opposite end of the scale there were governors who wrote frequent letters of substance, Governor Trelawny of Jamaica being outstanding in this respect. He dispatched 19 letters to the Duke of Newcastle in 1739, 3 to Andrew Stone, the duke's secretary, and 5 to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations. Able, energetic and new to the job, Trelawny had much to report: his contribution to the volume is a fair reflection of his activity in the colony. Governor Popple of Bermuda was another competent correspondent: his despatches were far fewer than Trelawny's mainly because he had fewer opportunities to write direct to London, but he made up for infrequency by length.
It is, nevertheless, likely that over a decade these variations in the practices and habits of colonial governors cancelled one another out. It would be carrying caution to the point of incredulity to maintain that the contraction of the Calendar suggested by the table above means nothing at all. The story it tells is rough and approximate rather than downright misleading. There would after all be no want of possible explanations for a relaxation in the 1730s of governmental activity at the centre of empire. Metropolitan initiatives in colonial business were launched by a number of different authorities beginning with Parliament. Inquiries set on foot by either House or by both could generate a significant amount of documentation, as already shown by the example in the present volume of the call for reports from all colonies on paper bills of credit and the price of gold and silver. Could it be established that Parliament launched fewer investigations of this kind in the 1730s than in the 1720s, the effect would be a measurable contraction of the colonial archives.
More effective, however, would have been a reduction of the initiatives and measured responses on the part of the secretary of state and the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations. It is not necessary to charge the Duke of Newcastle, secretary since 1724, with egregious idleness or indifference in order to explain a curtailment of his colonial correspondence in the 1730s: in a long period of peace there was relatively little of an urgent nature to engage his attention. French encroachments from Canada and French activities along the Mississippi; problems left over from the Treaty of Utrecht such as the fisheries or the French reoccupation of St Lucia; the alleged depredations of Spanish guardacostas: these matters, viewed from Whitehall, did not rate as pressing, at least until the opposition in Parliament took up the case of Capt Jenkins. They made work for Newcastle but they generated few records compared, say, to the raising and equipping of American troops for the West Indies once war began. No doubt Newcastle could have exerted himself more than he did to renew and strengthen the imperial defences in time of peace but, given the reluctance in Parliament and the country to raise money for so distant a purpose it is unlikely that he would have made much headway. To explain a contraction in the secretary of state's business and records between 1730 and 1739 it is probably unnecessary to look beyond the prevailing peace.
The alternation of war and peace might be expected to have had a reverse effect upon the business and records of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, but this seems not to have worked in the 1730s. War may have restricted some of the Commissioners' activities but there is little to suggest a surge of activity in the peaceful times of the 1730s. It was here perhaps that neglect was most conspicuous though not necessarily neglect of a salutary kind. Problems arising in America were evaded, action deferred, letters left unanswered sometimes for months; and when an answer was forthcoming it was seldom of much help. Governors in trouble were usually left to find their own solutions or fobbed off with assurances that the matter was under consideration. In the board's answers to governors who reported their powerlessness to influence, let alone command, fractious assemblies, there is little evidence of leadership towards a solution and not much of friendly sympathy. Much of the correspondence on the side of the Commissioners seems to proceed on an assumption that the general instructions, issued at the outset of each governor's administration, were a sufficient guide to every and any situation that could arise in a colony. These instructions, reissued to governor after governor with only minor changes or additions, were in reality obsolete in important respects by 1739: in particular they took small account of the spirit of self-assertion already showing in elected assemblies such as those of New York and New Jersey (nos 139, 183, 401). Governors, some of them with scant political experience, none endowed with the patronage needed to support a party of governor's friends, looked in vain to their general instructions for guidance. This is not to suggest that traditional imperial structures had already broken down by the 1730s: most of the time they sufficed for the modest purposes of central government and were broadly acceptable to the colonists. There is little or nothing to indicate a general crisis in the relations between Britain and its possessions beyond the seas. Rather there was a disturbing reluctance on Whitehall's part to face up to problems which, left unattended, would in time assume such proportions as to force Britain to choose between abdication and coercion. Parliament was as much to blame as bureaucratic atrophy. The problems of America could be solved, if at all, only by imperial legislation, and Parliament was not disposed to give to America the attention that it was beginning to need. Even had it been so disposed, neither House was sufficiently informed about the colonies to hold out much hope that new laws would be either enforceable or prudent.
A problem common to all governors was how to apportion their correspondence between the secretary of state and the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations. Practice varied so much as to suggest that whatever briefing governors received before taking office was insufficent. Military and naval affairs, defence, and whatever involved foreign colonies or foreign nationals, were clearly secretary of state's business; colonial law- making belonged to the Commissioners who in due course reported thereon to the King in Council. This demarcation was well enough as far as it went, but a colony's business was not always apportionable in so simple a way. Commercial matters, for example, were in the domain of the Commissioners, but if involving foreigners they might also be of interest to the secretary. Relations with Indians, to a large extent commercial, had obvious diplomatic implications when the Six Nations were being tampered with by the French in Canada or the Creeks courted by the Spaniards. In the reporting of wrangles with their assemblies over public revenue governors followed no consistent practice. Some played for safety and sent the same despatch in the same words, or very nearly the same, to both offices. George Clarke of New York was uneasy about this. Twice in 1739, writing to Newcastle, he enclosed a copy of his most recent letter to the Commissioners, though in writing to the Commissioners he did not enclose copies of his letters to the duke. On other occasions, when constrained to write the same facts to both offices he introduced minor variations of language, going to absurd lengths to avoid self-plagiarization, eg changing one third to nine out of twenty-seven.
The Calendar for 1739 throws some light upon this confusion, offering in the letters of Governor Popple of Bermuda the most plausible indication of Whitehall's expectations in this matter. Alured Popple, who had arrived in his government in August 1738, was a Board of Trade man through and through. His father, William, had been the board's secretary from its inception in 1696 to retirement in 1722. Alured succeeded him, holding the secretaryship until appointed governor of Bermuda. Another William, Alured's brother, worked for the board and upon Alured's death in 1745 succeeded him in Bermuda. As secretary for fifteen years to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations Alured Popple must have assisted at the instructing of many new governors in their duties, if indeed he did not perform that service himself. If anyone knew how a governor's correspondence was meant to be conducted, he did. His own practice is therefore worth a little attention.
In 1739 Governor Popple was able to write only three letters to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations and two to the secretary of state. This seems a small number but it must be understood that there was little direct trade between Bermuda and Britain: safe conveyances were rare. The Naval Officer's shipping return for Bermuda records the arrival of only one vessel from the British Isles in 1739 and none at all clearing for Britain, Ireland or any part of Europe. Clearances for the year totalled 146 vessels, small craft, all but one bound for North America or West Indian ports. Popple's despatches had either to await a rare Royal Navy ship calling at Bermuda on the way home from the Caribbean or go by small craft to New York to take their chance of onward transmission to London. The governor at the opening of this volume was less than six months into his office: he had plenty to say but few opportunities to say it, the reverse of the position, already mentioned, of Governor Mathew. Popple's solution was to write at length, far longer than the average colonial despatch. His principal letters to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations and the secretary of state were sent in pairs, one dated 10 May, the other 20 December (nos 166–167, 524–525). In the first pair the despatch to the Commissioners contains the detailed comments on and explanations of laws passed by the assembly which his instructions required of him but which by no means all governors supplied. None of this information was repeated in the accompanying letter to Newcastle. A second difference arises from Popple's complaint on behalf of his colony against an Act lately passed in the Bahamas placing heavy and probably unlawful restrictions on Bermudians fishing for turtle and gathering salt at the Turks Islands. This also was directed to the Commissioners, not the secretary of state. Everything else—his observations on smuggling between Rhode Island and Martinique, his long report on the French ship l'Amazone driven into port for repairs, his recommendations of persons to be made Councillors, and his postscript of 23 May reporting the seizure by Spaniards of two or more Bermudian sloops - was addressed equally and in almost the same words to the secretary and to the Commissioners. Popple's formula, at least on this occasion, was to tell the secretary nothing that he did not also tell the Commissioners; and what he told the Commissioners but not the secretary had to do exclusively with colonial laws and law-making, including the objectionable Act passed in the Bahamas. The despatches of 20 December are framed on the same lines. Bermuda's answer to the inquiry about paper money went to the Commissioners, not to the secretary of state. So did an account of some difficulties attending the collection of Customs duties in the island. Popple knew that his report on the currency of Bermuda would reach the secretary of state in the only form Newcastle wanted to see it, as one item in a consolidated report for all the colonies. He knew, too, that the correct procedure on Customs matters was for the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations to make representations to the Customs Board in London.
Governor Trelawny's letters from Jamaica, though no less authoritative than Popple's from Bermuda and far more numerous, followed a different pattern. This was partly because the work to be done in the two colonies was different, partly because of differences between the two men. Trelawny lacked Popple's familiarity with the inner working of Whitehall but he had other assets. Son of one of the Seven Bishops who resisted King James II, educated at Westminster and Christchurch, and with nine years experience in the House of Commons, Trelawny stood above the general level of colonial governors at this (or any other) time. Addressing the Duke of Newcastle, also an Old Westminster, he did not omit formal expressions of deference but the tone of the correspondence suggests a man-to-man relationship seldom to be found in letters from or to other governors. Trelawny was in no doubt who was meant to be responsible for the colonies and whom he had to convince. The distribution of his letters—22 to the secretary of state's office, 5 to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations—shows it and the subject-matter confirms it. Trelawny did not discuss the state of Jamaica's six independent companies with the Commissioners, nor his dealings with the Spanish colonies, nor his strategic plans for the Caribbean, nor the movements of Royal Navy ships. All this was for the secretary of state alone. To the Commissioners he reported the state of Jamaica's Council and forwarded the usual public papers without comment. Only twice in 1739 did he send substantially the same letter to both secretary and Commissioners: an account of the vexed question of taxation of Jews in Jamaica (nos 141, 165) and the report on the Council (nos 459–460). Otherwise he kept his two masters apart or gave the Commissioners only a truncated summary of what he had already told the secretary. On 5 March, for example, he wrote at some length to Newcastle reporting victory over the maroons of the Cockpit Country and enclosing copies of three letters from officers on the spot as well as a copy of the treaty accepted by both sides (nos 86, 86i–v). On 30 June he reported again to the secretary on an accommodation reached with the maroons of eastern Jamaica (no 243). The Commissioners were given a shorter account of the first operation with the treaty but without the officers' letters, and only a single sentence on the capitulation of the 'windward' rebels (nos 116, 265). Both these letters to the secretary were dated well before those to the Commissioners and travelled separately, ensuring that Newcastle got the news first. There are other indications in Trelawny's correspondence of 1739 of the application of a need-to-know principle.
William Gooch had neither Popple's bureaucratic background nor Trelawny's standing, but in 1739 he had behind him twelve years experience in charge of Virginia. The titular governor of this colony being a nobleman permanently absent in Britain, Gooch's commission as lieutenant-governor gave him the status of King's representative in the colony and to all intents and purposes the same authority as any other governor. Or so Gooch thought until 29 August 1739 when he received a disturbing letter from the secretary of state (no 175). The absentee governor, the Earl of Orkney, had died in 1737, to be succeeded by the Earl of Albemarle. Supposing himself to be possessed of real powers in Virginia, including powers of appointment, Albemarle complained to Newcastle that Gooch had filled the office of 'adjutant' without consulting him. He also claimed to have the King on his side in this assertion of rights. Gooch replied briefly to the secretary of state on 1 September (no 362) and two days later sent a powerful and persuasive rebuttal to Albemarle, perhaps the most interesting letter in this volume (no 363). The want of patronage in the hands of a colonial governor sufficient to build support for his measures, both inside and outside the assembly, was cogently argued. One explanation for this insufficiency was the manoeuvring in England by such as Albemarle to draw what little patronage there was in America away from the colonies for deployment within the British political system. Gooch's further thoughts on the subject can be consulted below; the relevance of the episode to the present discussion is that this was the only exchange of letters in 1739 between the governor of Virginia and the secretary of state.
Gooch was not, like Mathew or Johnston, a bad correspondent nor did he lack opportunities to write by ships clearing for Britain. On the contrary he wrote six letters to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, carefully composed despatches, most of them letters of substance. In a letter of 22 February he compiled the longest and most comprehensive report by any governor in 1739 on recent legislation in his colony: twenty-five Acts were presented and explained in more than sufficient detail (no 67). Colonial laws, as already pointed out, were the Commissioners' business, as was the subject-matter of Gooch's letter of 15 May about agents acting for the French tobacco-farmers (no 169), though because foreign representatives were involved Gooch should have mentioned it to Newcastle. In other letters, those of 15 February and 1 August, he wrote to the Commissioners about Indian affairs, a subject that could properly be seen as of concern to the secretary of state (nos 59, 303). Gooch, it seems, made a different judgment from either Popple or Trelawny. He was aware that he had to correspond with the secretary on military matters and did so at length in 1740 but in time of peace he appears to have regarded the Commissioners as his normal channel of report.
Trelawny, Popple, Gooch: these were the pick of the colonial governors in 1739 and in their different ways outstanding contributors to this volume. At the other end of the spectrum were governors or acting governors who seem to have been scarcely able to put pen to paper: Johnston of North Carolina, already mentioned, and President James Howell of the Bahamas, acting in the absence of Governor Richard Fitzwilliam on leave in England. In 1739 there were two other colonies, besides the Bahamas, presided over by men without commissions from the King as either governor or lieutenant-governor. Normal practice when a governor died or left the colony was for the senior Councillor to act under the title of 'president and commander-in-chief'. How long he continued in that rank and capacity greatly varied. Some vacancies were filled at once: when Governor Cosby of New York died in March 1736 George Clarke succeeded as president, receiving his commission as lieutenant-governor six months later. (fn. 3) At Governor Johnson's death in South Carolina in 1735 Thomas Broughton already held a commission as lieutenant- governor and acted until his own death in November 1737. William Bull succeeded as president and commander-in-chief but was commissioned lieutenant-governor in the following May. (fn. 4) In Barbados, on the other hand, James Dottin served as president and commander-in-chief for nearly five years from Lord Howe's death in 1735 to the arrival of Governor Robert Byng in 1739. Byng died less than a year later, whereupon Dottin began a second spell in the presidency.
Diminished as the status of president and commander-in-chief undoubtedly was, the job was sought for its emoluments and could sometimes be the occasion of unseemly bickering. In December 1739 Lieutenant-Governor Armstrong of Nova Scotia, after many years in the colony, succumbed to 'melancholy fits' and took his own life (no 505). John Adams, as senior Councillor on the spot, took over but enjoyed the fruits of office for only three months, being ousted by Major Paul Mascarene in what was not much less that a coup de main. In New Jersey John Hamilton was president and commander-in- chief from 1736 to 1738. When Lewis Morris received his commission as governor and assumed the office he claimed the pay back to 1736 (no 189). Disputes of this kind were surely not the only bad consequence of leaving the governor's place unfilled for long periods.
Attention must be drawn as emphatically as possible to a change of nomenclature in this volume affecting a large number of Calendar entries for 1739. In 15 May 1696 the Crown had constituted a new board of commissioners for promoting trade and for inspecting and improving the Plantations. This was the last, and proved to be the most durable, of a succession of committees and councils set up in the seventeenth century to advise government on commercial and colonial matters. Its functions were to investigate and report, which it performed by corresponding with colonial governors, conducting inquiries, hearing complaints, interviewing merchants and colonial agents, and using the information obtained to advise King and Parliament. The new board did not trespass upon the executive authority of other institutions or officers concerned with the colonies, nor was it endowed with significant powers of appointment. Its influence was conferred by specialized knowledge and an extensive and well-kept archive. Until its decline after the Seven Years War and abolition in 1782 the board made important contributions to the civil administration of the colonies.
Colloquially, and sometimes in documents of a low level of formality, this institution was known as the 'Lords of Trade' or 'Board of Trade', though neither designation is strictly correct and the use of the second is apt to blur the distinction between this and other boards such as Treasury, Admiralty and Ordnance, which had extensive executive powers. In formal documents, for example, Orders in Council or instructions to governors, the board received its correct title of 'Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations'. Usage in the Calendar has not been as helpful as it might. J W Fortescue, editor in the early years of this century, discussed the newly-established institution in his Introduction to Vol. XV (for 1696–1697) referring to it as the 'Board of Trade'. In the text of the same volume, however, he called it the 'Council of Trade and Plantations', while index references thereto were placed under 'Trade and Plantations, Commissioners for'. Fortescue himself cleared up the confusion in his next volume but did so by adopting for most purposes the name with least warranty in either official or informal usage, viz 'Council of Trade and Plantations'. This designation has continued to be used, editor slavishly following editor, down to and including Vol. XLIV for 1738.
The usage has not commended itself to readers of the Calendar, few if any having adopted it. Its inappositeness was officially recognized as long ago as 1920 when the board's minutes began to be published as a separate series under the title Journal of the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations. It is the present editor's opinion that the continued use of 'Council of Trade and Plantations' is unjustified even by the thirty volumes published since Fortescue devised the term. 'Commissioners for Trade and Plantations', as well as corresponding to the title of the printed Journal, is the name most conformable to official usage in the eighteenth century and it has therefore been adopted in the Calendar for 1739 and will be used in future volumes.