Calendar of Treasury Papers, Volume 6, 1720-1728. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1889.
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Abstracts of the Treasury Papers, extending from the year 1720 to the year 1728 inclusive, will be found in the present volume (the sixth of its series). Among the subjects which engaged attention, and which have left their mark in these papers, were the affairs of the South Sea Company, the resistance to the Malt Tax in Scotland (accompanied by riots), and the ferment about the copper coinage in Ireland, known as “Wood's Copper Coinage.”
In addition to the domestic matters with which the volume is of course principally concerned, several papers are found which are of some interest in connexion with the Island of St. Christopher. These are specially referred to in this preface. Under the head “Taxation,” there is also a paper touching upon the great constitutional question of taxation in relation to Jamaica.
Under the head “Administrative Practice” attention is drawn to much of the information to be found on that subject. The control of the Treasury over other departments, and over individuals, as well as the internal management of those departments, has been kept in view in making the references. Although some of the information may not be new, and some perhaps of not very great importance, it still contributes something to the history of the Government Departments.
It is usual to add the minute of the Treasury Board at the end of each entry in the calendar, when the minute can be found; but no Treasury Minute Book is known to exist for the period between 28th April 1722 and 13th January 1724–5, so that where the minutes happen not to be written on the papers for that period the defect cannot be supplied.
A representation of the officers of the receipt of the Exchequer sets forth that the business of the officers of the Exchequer is to receive, direct, register, examine, record, enrol and pay all orders for money, &c. The officers complain of a large increase in their business, and hope their Lordships will not lessen their ancient allowance (CCXXXIII. 10).
A memorial under date 13th March 1720–1 touches upon the method of meeting the charges of prosecution for crimes and the maintenance of public prisoners in Scotland. Before the Union the charges were ordinarily advanced by the Solicitor General, and were refunded at least once a year by the Treasury; but when the prosecutions were more numerous, money was imprested by the Treasury to the Solicitor for that purpose. The Keepers of the prisons, before the Union, advanced what was necessary for the aliment of the prisoners who could not maintain themselves, and “fitted their accounts yearly” in the Treasury. Since the Union the Exchequer in Scotland refused to pass all those accounts, there being no fund for payment. Remedies are proposed (CCXXXIII. 39). The subject is again referred to in Vol. CCXLIII. 5.
A paper of the date 19th July 1721 refers to the management of the revenues in the Province of New York and the refusal to account with the Auditor General. The Auditor General received a fee or salary of five per cent. upon the King's revenue in the province, which had never exceeded 4,000l. per annum (CCXXXIV. 51).
Charles Wither, Surveyor General of Woods, was contesting his right to perform all manner of work in the King's parks. He says Lord Chetwynde would do him a great injustice should he obtain leave to perform the work. It had always been understood to belong to his (the Surveyor's) office (CCXXXV. 56).
An importunate claimant upon the Treasury, who had already received a sum of money in full for his “pretended” service, makes a further effort and gets 10l., upon condition that neither he nor his wife attend nor solicit the Treasury any more; and they sign a promise to that effect (CCXXXVIII. 64).
The Commissioners of Customs, Edinburgh, were of opinion that the salaries of most of the inferior officers were in no way equal to the trust reposed in them, and that the lowness of their salaries subjected them to too much temptation. Nothing was more apparent than that the revenue daily decreased by the corruption of their officers. The Commissioners were to advise as to what increase should be made (CCXXXIX. 12).
Precedents of warrants for cutting down trees in his Majesty's forests (particularly Sherwood Forest) were to be searched for in the Treasury Books, the Verderers of Sherwood Forest being very displeased with being forbidden to cut trees as “fee trees” by their own authority (CCXL. 2).
The Lords of the Treasury were disposed to relax the claim for duties on certain pictures, belonging to the late Ambassador to Berlin, in like manner as had been accustomed to be allowed to other Ambassadors on their return, but the Commissioners of Customs argue the matter with their Lordships, and plead that it has been the constant practice to insist on the payment of the duties, which (they say) are by law appropriated (CCXL. 5).
Their Lordships, by a minute, order a warrant for 500l. to Joseph Billers, a citizen of London, who claimed to have been engaged in detecting several public abuses by direction of the Government. A few days later they confirm the minute, on condition that he promises not to trouble them any further on account of “his pretended services.” [This seems rather inconsistent of their Lordships, for it may be asked, if the services were pretended, why did they award him 500l. for them] (CCXL. 29).
The Collector and Controller of Customs of the town of Glasgow give an account of their method of carrying on business. They kept no other books but “Permit books.” There was no order, rule, or precedent for keeping a Ledger or striking a balance; but they had gone in the method of their predecessors. They further add that all their endeavours to keep their books in the manner prescribed will scarce suffice without a sufficient number of hands (CCXL. 91).
Their Lordships make a minute (17th July 1722) on an application by the Lieutenant Governor of Virginia for allowances for his transport to his Government thus:—“All precedts are against such allowances” (CCXLII. 43).
The Commissioners of Customs, Scotland, in reply to the Lords of the Treasury, say they will prosecute fraudulent importers of tobacco, but they have, upon several occasions, attempted to recover the King's duties by English Bills in the Exchequer, without success. Their Lordships' minute is to the effect that they wonder that this has not been reported before, and they are determined to obviate such ineffectual attempts for the future. They direct the Commissioners to transmit the several instances to which they refer, in order that their Lordships may give instructions to prevent the like for the future (CCXLIII. 39). The Barons of the Exchequer of Scotland recommend proceeding by English Bill, but they express the opinion that whenever any prosecutions are carried on that way for duties, if the defendants can cover themselves by any claims of exemption by private rights, the determinations in such causes will, in all probability, go against the Crown (CCXLIII. 46).
John Hamilton had been appointed Head Distributor and Collector of H.M. Stamp Duties of North Britain. He owed his appointment to his having been instrumental in preventing the repeal of the penal statutes against Papists, in the reign of King James, and to his losses of 1,000l., at least, upon that occasion. He was dismissed for non-payment of his balance. He says that this deprived him of 800l. which was offered for his post, and precluded him from a similar advantage to Mr. Pitcairn, late under distributor for Edinburgh and Leith, who had his arrears paid for him by his successor (CCXLIV. 62).
Sir R. Raymond, who was one of the Judges of the Court of King's Bench, says in a letter of 2nd March 1723 that he is informed that the Lords of the Treasury generally gave directions for payment of the salary of a succeeding judge from the time his predecessor was last paid. In his case it would be from the previous 28th of November (the last day of Michaelmas term), to which day the Lord Chief Baron Eyre was paid. This had been done in the cases of all the judges lately, and was so when his father was made a judge, nearly 45 years previously. Some instances are recited on the back of the letter, and others might “be found, to make it appear that ye King is to save nothing by the death or removal of any [of] the Judges” (CCXLVII. 27).
The Merchants of London complained of the many holidays kept at the Custom House (contrary to law), and that the Officers did not attend at other times. The Searchers likewise took exorbitant fees. They (the Merchants) asked that one Commissioner should attend every morning at 9 o'clock in the Long Room to despatch merchants' business (CCXLVII. 31).
The Commissioners for Salt Duties were censured for remissness in calling for their papers left at the Treasury. In reply they say it was their constant practice to order their messenger to enquire frequently for them, and they were assured that he did so. Upon enquiry for certain of the papers, the messenger was told they could not be found (CCXLVIII. 14).
The Commissioners of Customs (Scotland) proposed, for the better service of the revenue, to revive the practice of refusing employment in the Customs to inhabitants resident in the outports, and their Lordships approved of their presentment (CCXLIX. 6).
There is a letter of the eminent painter Sir James Thornhill to the Commissioners of Works. He says that he is informed that the Commissioners had received instructions to employ some improper person to do the gilding on the wainscot in the Gallery at Kensington, &c. As the gilding had always been done by his predecessors and himself, he thinks it a great encroachment on his office, as well as on his patent. The Lords of the Treasury, by a Minute of 5th October 1725, direct the Vice-Chamberlain to write to the Board of Works that the gilding is to be performed by Sir James Thornhill, the King's painter, whose office it is to perform works of that nature (CCLIII. 46).
A Report of the Commissioners of Excise on the memorial of the Controller, asking for an allowance to himself and clerks, shows how the office was managed. A claim was set up by the Controller in the year 1715, but was disregarded as unreasonable by the then Lords of the Treasury, and the Commissioners conceived that it was because there was no addition of business to the Controller himself, who did not execute the Office in person. The case of the Commissioners of Excise differed from that of the Controller inasmuch as the Commissioners executed their Office in person. They have to observe that the business in the Controller's Office must suffer, since there are clerks employed in it at large salaries that do no business themselves, but hire deputies at small salaries to perform it for them. One who is so employed by the Controller is by no means qualified. The evil has been complained of without redress, and they beg that no clerk be admitted without their (the Commissioners') approbation (CCLIV. 4).
The method of filling up a collectorship in the Customs is discussed in an opinion of the Attorney General [of Barbadoes], the point being whether Mr. Dunbar, Surveyor General of the Island, could lawfully depute Mr. Lascelles, or any other person, to grant a warrant to any officer of the Customs, or, if not, how the post might be filled until Mr. Dunbar could make the appointment (CCLVIII. 28).
The system of conducting the business of the Treasury as regards the issue of money is described in an undated paper [? 1727 or later]. No money was issued without the authority of the Great or Privy Seal. The paper explains the difference between the General Letters of Privy Seal and the General Letters Patent dormant (CCLX. 41).
The Lords of the Admiralty, in reply to a communication from the Treasury, say that they did not conceive that the information for which the Treasury had asked could be of any service. There is a very angry letter from the Treasury to them on the subject. In an addition to the Treasury Letter (but scored out) it appears that their Lordships had sent an order to the Comissioners of the Navy to prepare and lay before them the account which they wanted; and they remarked that they hoped they should receive a civil answer. An entry in the Minute Book states that their Lordships resented the treatment they had received (CCLXI. 1).
From a minute entered in the Minute Book, Vol. 25, p. 291 (1727), it appears their Lordships made enquiries of the Postmasters General to ascertain if their Officers, like others in the Revenue, submitted to a deduction from their salaries to make a fund for age and indigency (CCLXIV. 21).
Robert Knaplock and three others who were appointed by the Speaker of the House of Commons to print the reports, “representation,” and votes, (mentioned in an account annexed,) apply for payment of their bill. The minute thereon is:—“My Lords understanding that the votes delivered for the service of the House itself were not used heretofore to be paid for by the Crown, their Lordships order that fact to be enquired into and stated,” &c. In the Minute Book of 7th January 1729–30 their Lordships, having reconsidered the petition, agree that they be paid for all extraordinary papers and proceedings that the House may order to be printed; but their Lordships cannot advise that the King should be at the charge for the Votes daily delivered to the House of Commons (CCLXVI. 14).
The whole state and condition of the Office of Great Wardrobe are enquired into, the method of signing the account, and the fees and allowances due to the Keeper and other officers, the manner in which orders were given to the tradesmen, the mode of keeping the accounts, &c. were considered, and recommendations for better management were made (CCLXVI. 26).
The inhabitants set up claims to cut tress of upwards of 24 inches diameter at the butt, maintaining that all lands in townships, before the late charter, were private property. Timber and plank were also exported to Portugal, Spain, &c. (CCXL. 16).
From a petition of Margaret, the widow of Mr. John Flamstead, “his Majesty's Astronomer,” it appears that 300 copies of the Astronomical Observations made by him, which were comprised in the “Historia Cœlestis Britannica,” were printed at the expense of the late Prince George of Denmark, for the benefit of the author, but since that time the author had printed 340 copies of another part of the work, to make it perfect, and the petitioner prayed that the remaining 39 copies then at the Treasury should be delivered to her. Their Lordships' minute on the petition is: “9th March 1719–20. Mrs. Flamstead to send to the Treasury 39 copies of Historia Cœlestis, corrected by her late husband, and then my Lords will re-deliver her the 39 copies which she deems uncorrect” (CCXXVII. 23).
The Duchess complained of an encroachment made upon the passage that turned into Marlborough House occasioned by building sheds and cellars and by setting out benches. Besides this the persons concerned let stalls for herbs and stinking things that were a nuisance in the passage to the house. The Duchess desired that the passage should remain as it was without encroachments, according to the plan annexed to her grant from the Crown. She proposed to their Lordships to signify [to the persons concerned] that the leases were forfeited by the encroachment; but that the houses would not be pulled down if the persons referred to would themselves pull down those things by which they have encroached since this reign. The surveyor was to take such measures as might legally be taken to remove the same in case the Crown right was concerned therein (CCLIII. 14).
The Surveyor of His Majesty's Woods reports on a memorandum of the Duchess Dowager of Marlborough, who proposed to plough up certain of the ground in the Great Park at Windsor, without any great expense to the Crown, and with some little advantage to herself. The surveyor was of opinion that if 200 acres of the coarsest ground were annually ploughed and sown with grain in six or more parcels remote from one another, and if after three years of tillage they were laid down with proper grass seed, it would increase and preserve the game (CCLIX. 12).
A memorial on behalf of the widow of William Penn shows that at his death in 1718 the power of conveying the province of Pennsylvania to the Government was left vested in his executors, the Earls of Oxford and Powlet, and that his heir-at-law disputed the will. The widow was advised to apply to the Court of Chancery, and to make the Earls parties to the suit, and she prays to be allowed to do so. This was agreed to (CCXXVIII. 18). A report of the Attorney General on this subject is fully abstracted. It contains a history of the negotiations about the conveyance, and shows that the Lords of the Treasury agreed to have their names made use of in the Bill in Chancery (CCXXXIV. 8).
A further petition from the widow shows that she had been since advised to exhibit the bill in the Court of Exchequer, and that it would not be proper for their Lordships to be made parties; but that the Attorney General should be made a party to the bill (CCXXXIV. 9).
The cause was to be heard in the Court of Exchequer after Hilary Term 1725–6, and the widow and four of her children memorialised the Treasury to give instructions on his Majesty's part “against the hearing of the cause” (CCLV. 10).
Foreign ministers and others were permitted to have plate from the Jewel Office, and to bespeak the same after what fashion they pleased. A report states that this had always been the case, and if it had introduced extravagance the Office could not help it. A limitation is proposed to this. The Lord Chancellor had 4,000 ozs. of white plate, and had the same liberty given to him as to others of having it made after what fashion he pleased, but not to exceed 1,700l. It was feared it would not content the Ambassadors to receive the better half of their warrant in common plate and in dishes (CCLX. 22).
There is an interesting report of the Attorney-General on the petition of the Wardens and Commonalty of the mystery of Goldsmiths of the City of London, who were empowered by Acts of Parliament to assay and mark, at Goldsmith's Hall, all sorts of manufactured plate, to prevent fraud. To defray the expenses of this work they usually took four grains upon every pound weight troy (being about one halfpenny value). For the last seven years, by agreement with a majority of the small workers, they had taken other sums; but there was still a deficiency of about 200l. per annum. They complained that they could not support the charge; more particularly as they were prosecuted for receiving these allowances. They asked for a nolle prosequi and for further relief. The paper contains a good deal of information as to the manner of their carrying on their business. The silver had to be assayed and marked with the leopard's head. The company was satisfied with the four grains for the large plate, but it was not adequate for the small wares. The artificers were evidently very averse to foreigners sharing their privileges, and they made efforts in the direction of excluding them; but the Attorney General did not conceive that it could be done by law. The Attorney General considered that the fee of four grains was established by prescription or usage, but the increase would be extortion, and would, in some instances, amount to twenty times as much as was taken before. He further says that the public was concerned in the redress of this grievance, for the increase fell on the buyer and lessened the export (CCLIII. 10).
There are notices as to the Copper Coinage for Ireland in which Mr. Wood, of Bristol, was concerned. The introduction of this copper coin into Ireland produced a good deal of excitement in that country. The methods taken in respect to this coinage and the comparison of the quality of the copper are referred to in the papers (CCXLVII. 39 and CCXLVIII. 13).
The state of feeling upon the matter is shown in a communication by the Commissioners of Revenue (Ireland) to the Lords of the Treasury. They speak of the disorder the nation was in about “these half pence,” declarations having been signed by all sorts of people that they would not receive nor utter them. The whole nation thought they might safely refuse them. The Commissioners say that the uneasiness that people of all ranks were in was greater than could be imagined by any not on the spot (CCXLVIII. 17).
Elizabeth Hyde, the wife of the master of a vessel belonging to Pool, in Dorsetshire, being in Holland, at the time of King William's expedition to England, is stated to have had an audience with the Princess of Orange and to have brought certain “packets of the greatest consequence” to the Princess and the States of Holland to be delivered to the Prince. This she effected by having the letters quilted in her clothes, and returning by Rotterdam, arrived at Pool. She went “thro' several of King James's troops” and, about thirty miles from Pool, met the Prince of Orange, and delivered the letters into his own hands. Fifty pounds per annum was settled on her and her husband and the survivor of them. They enjoyed the annuity till the beginning of the reign of King George II. Their son found that the annuity was continued in his mother's name after her death and he was anxious to have it in his own (CCLX. 34).
The State of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, principally with regard to the multitude of Papists, is set out in an Address of the Commissioners of the late General Assembly of the Church of Scotland dated 12 March 1724. The address asserts that some of the remote Islands are wholly inhabited by Papists, and in divers parishes “on the continent” the greatest part of the people are popish. The parishes are from thirty to forty miles and upwards in length, and one minister and one school for each cannot suffice for instructing the inhabitants. The paper contains other interesting matters (CCXLVII. 29).
A copy of a petition (the meaning of which in places is somewhat obscure) of the several Brewers in and about Edinburgh, to the Lords of Sessions, gave violent offence; for the Lords of Sessions found that it was false, scandalous, and seditious, and they ordained a copy of it to be forthwith burnt by the hand of the common hangman at the Market Cross of Edinburgh (CCLIII. 29).
In the previous volumes it has been shown how difficult it was to induce the Scotch to assent to the changes brought about by the Union. As the difficulties had been very great in getting them to pay excise duties on their liquor, so now the difficulty was not less in inducing the Maltsters to pay what was required on the material out of which the liquor was made. The papers have been very fully abstracted, as they are authorities for the history of this time, so far as Scotland is concerned. At Edinburgh the Commissioners of Excise report that they allowed the officers entrance, and made entries of their malt, but paid no duty and gave no security, and if the Justices gave judgment against them, they intimated that they would go to prison and leave off brewing. This would have the effect of distressing the people and disturbing the quiet. The Lords of Session would, however, oblige them to give security to carry on their trade for three months, or go to prison. No more than one brewer complied with the Acts, and he was branded with the name of traitor to his country, and the people he served with drink returned it to him. The other brewers left off brewing. A little later it is stated that by the prudent management of the Lord Hay, the Lord Advocate, and others, the concert of the Brewers was broken up; for a good number of them had begun, or designed to begin, to brew, and the Commissioners of Excise did not doubt that the opposition to the malt tax would decline apace, the whole country seeming to depend on the behaviour of “this place” (Edinburgh). Four or five of the ringleaders were confined in separate prisons.
At many other places they would not allow the officers entrance to their malt houses, and General Wade had to be appealed to for troops to protect the officers (CCLIV. 5). Glasgow, as a result of the riots, appears to have had to pay in damages 6,080l. (CCLV. 37).
The perplexed question of the 12 Scots Gallons which by the article of Union was said to amount to 34 gallons English, was not yet settled, for the brewers took the benefit of a sentence of the Justices, and retained 40,800l. as the amount of the difference. This the Commissioners of Excise (Scotland) proposed should be allowed them by an Act of Parliament, and further that an impost of 2s. a barrel, containing 34 English gallons, should be laid on (CCLV. 27). The Commissioners continue to complain of the Justices who acquit offenders though the proof be never so clear (CCLVIII. 7).
The Royal Exchange Insurance Company was anxious to extend its business and obtain the “Fire Charter,” and was in difficulty as to the payment of 300,000l. “for the debts and expenses of the King's Civil Government,” which it seems to have been under obligations to pay, and which could no longer be delayed. My Lords in a Minute, which appears to apply to this company, say they will move the King to indulge the “2 Corporations.” The Insurances were to extend to Ireland, but the grant extending them to Scotland would require to pass under the seal kept there in lieu of the great seal, &c.
The Company again memorialized, as their attempts to raise sufficient money to meet their engagements had not been successful. This failure they say might be owing to the calamity of the times and the low ebb of public credit, &c. (CCXXXIV. 49). They were memorializing for further favour on 17th October 1721 (CCXXXV. 44).
The London Assurance Company was the other Corporation above referred to. There is a memorial from the Company in which they say that they were obliged to pay 300,000l. at several times into the Receipt of the Exchequer. They had already paid 100,000l. and endeavoured to raise 50,000l. more; but such was the pressure of the times, both for money and credit, that they have not any hopes of raising the same within the time. From the Minute above named it seems they obtained an extension of the time (CCXXVIII. 43).
The Lord Lieutenant's salary was paid out of the revenue arising from wool licences, and it was usual for previous sovereigns to make up the salary of 4,000l. per annum from the general revenue when the revenue from wool licences was insufficient (CCXXVIII. 7).
The Attorney and Solicitor General report upon a memorial of the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England in relation to an Act then recently passed. The questions were: (1) whether Trustees could receive the principal, notwithstanding the minority of their wards, and (2) whether such infants as had stocks in their own names might receive the same by their guardians (CCXLIII. 45).
In a copy of a letter of the Lord Chancellor to [? the Lord Chief Justice] the former says his Majesty has declared his desires that advantage should be taken of the yearly meetings of parliament to frame useful laws for the benefit of his subjects in their private property and commerce, for the encouragement of industry, and for the easy redress of fraud and oppression, and he desired that the annual provisions for securing the public peace might be constantly accompanied with one or more of such laws. His Majesty was anxious that the judges should be consulted, and that alterations in the old laws or additions of new ones should be immediately set about (CCXLVIII. 65).
The liability for loss by a receiver of revenue in a case of robbery in the receipt of the Exchequer is reported on by the Attorney and Solicitor General, and the Lords of the Treasury agree with those Officers that the loss cannot be made good otherwise than by the aid of the legislature (CCLXV. 11).
It is represented that a prisoner in the Marshalsea prison was most inhumanly treated by the keepers and turnkeys. He had to wear 30 lb. weight of iron for five months, and was loaded with 150 lb. weight of iron for nine days, was chained to the floor for three days and beaten by the turnkeys and convicts, &c. (Vol. CCXXXIII. 21).
Captain William Taverner, who had been employed in 1713 to survey the coasts of Newfoundland, and whose proceedings are noticed in the last volume (see preface p. xvii.), was recommended by the Commissioners of Trade and Plantations to make a survey of the west and northwest parts of the Island. It was said that the survey would greatly contribute to the increase of the cod fishery and to the establishment of the salmon fishery which had been begun there (CCLV. 54).
Sir Richard Blackmore, Knight, Queen Anne's physician, petitions for such a recompense as should seem meet to the Lords of the Treasury for his attendance on Her Majesty, which extended over a very considerable time. It involved visits generally once, twice or three times a day, including consultations, and he attended her Majesty in her last illness at Kensington several days without following any other business. He had received only twenty guineas at her first coming from Newmarket. It is to be hoped his other patients were more prompt in their payments, for his claim was only to be considered when her Majesty's tin was disposed of, and when her other servants were paid (CCXXXV. 38).
The Attorney General gives his opinion upon the demands for compensation of the Keeper of Newgate Gaol. Seventy rebel prisoners were committed to the Keeper's custody after the Rebellion, and thirty more were brought from the Tower and Fleet prison, and also committed to his custody. The prisoners spoiled the beds, bedding, and furniture, so that they were of little value. Seven hundred pounds seem to have been awarded to him (CCXXVII. 8).
Much information is given on the subject of franking letters, and its abuse by the Members of Parliament for Ireland. It was complained (29th August 1721) that the revenue was almost entirely sunk, in consequence of the great liberty taken by the members, who not only franked their own but other persons' letters. Statistics are given to show how the revenue was affected. The practice of freeing the letters was also indulged in by the Members of Parliament of Great Britain, who sent and received letters to and from Ireland free. Officials also covered traders' and other persons' letters.
A letter from Mr. Manley, who was a Post Office Official, says, “I beg you to acquaint our Masters that the franking of letters by our Peers and Commoners increases every day, as does the anger of 'em all ag'st me for endeavouring to put a stop to the extravagant freedome that is practiced by them in franking letters that are not their owne,” &c. (CCXXXV. 17).
Mr. Auditor Godolphin instructed his Deputy to reply to an applicant, who had asked to be allowed to examine the accounts of the Receiver of Lincoln, “that tho' every subject has a right to search for any records in his office, paying the usual fees, &c.; yet those that come as discoverers for their own advantage he does not think himself obliged to give such any insight or assistance therein” (CCXXVII. 16).
The State of the Records at the Chapter House [Westminster] is described by Mr. John Lawton [one of the Deputy Chamberlains of the Exchequer]. The Rolls of the Court of Common Pleas suffered from damp and dust, and were lying on mats on stone floors. Many of the Star Chamber records were also rotting. A suggestion was made that certain of the writs from the Office of the Custos Brevium should be received into two rooms appropriated to the old port books. Their Lordships seem to have taken time to consider the matter (CCXLVIII. 26).
The payments for rewards from 1720 to 1725 had been 5,000l., and there were great demands not then satisfied. The proclamation under which these rewards was given was dated 21st January 1719. As the claims under it were becoming very burdensome the matter was submitted to the Attorney and Solicitor General (CCLV. 7). In their report on the question of what was proper to be done they say it is a question of prudence rather than law, for whilst the proclamation is in force any person performing the service will be entitled to the reward. His Majesty can determine the force of the proclamation by publishing a new one (CCLV. 55).
Some satisfactory method of ascertaining the longitude at sea had long been desired, and the matter had exercised the powerful minds of Newton, Halley, and others, who were of opinion that expensive experiments might be requisite, and a Bill had passed both Houses of Parliament some years before which provided for the payment of a reward to anyone who should discover a more certain and practicable method of ascertaining the same. Apparently as the result of this measure, William Whiston, clerk, sometime Professor of Mathematics in the University of Cambridge, who was striving to discover, by means of a dipping needle, the longitude at sea, endeavoured to obtain from his Majesty the means to enable him to gain observations at sea in remote countries to complete the “method” (CCXXXIV. 2). He obtained 100l. bounty.
Peter Laurans, who was also giving his attention to the same subject, claimed, by long study, to have attained the knowledge of making a machine for the discovery of the “longitude upon sea,” and sought their Lordships' assistance to produce “the machine to the world in all its perfection,” but my Lords would not pay any money until the machine was produced (CCXL. 19).
John Rowley, Master of the Mechanics to his Majesty, in petitioning for payment for work done by him, says that he had lately repaired the “Great Solar System, and made several new additions to the same,” for which he deserved 500l., and had made for his Majesty's use a curious silver universal pocket dial, valued at 30 guineas (CCXLIII. 69).
The papers (chiefly letters) relating to the sale of that part of the Island of St. Christopher called “Basse Terre” and “Cabeça Terre” arising in the year 1726 are fully abstracted. The proceedings of the Commissioners appointed for negotiating the sale are given. According to the opinion of opponents of the Commissioners the effect of the sale would be the depopulation of Basse Terre. The Commissioners seem to have thought it quite consistent with their duty to propose to purchase some of the lands for their own use. This may in some measure account for the many complaints and clamours that were made against them. His Excellency the Governor also opposed them. He did not like the price set upon the land which was sold to him, and could not forgive being left out of the Commission (CCLVI. 8).
Various letters of the same Commissioners on the same subject in the following year (1727) are also fully abstracted. They speak of the difficulties and disputes in which they were involved as well as improvements which have already taken place in the island in consequence of the sale (CCLXIII. 1). The Commission was renewed to the same Commissioners, with the addition of Lord Londonderry on 1 May 1728, and there are further papers in that year. His Lordship did not approve of the proceedings of the other Commissioners, and, like the Governor, he objected to the validity of the sales. He also expected to have had some of the surplusage (CCLXVIII. 6).
Some interesting particulars are given as to the maintenance of this light-house, which was about three leagues from Holyhead. William French, Esq., built the lighthouse at a cost of 3,000l. His son (who was to have superintended the building of the light-house) lost his life at the commencement of the work. Six seamen also lost theirs at the same time (CCXLIV. 23).
The Lords of the Treasury, on 19th September 1723, by warrant directed the Postmaster General to pay Mr. French 200l., as the money contributed from the navigation was not sufficient to support the light-house.
The Rev. Sutton Morgan (son-in-law of the above William French) petitioned the Treasury for consideration. He says he had spent about 400l. upon the light-house. He was referred to the Trinity House; but eventually the Lords of the Treasury were acquainted by Mr. Chancellor that the King was pleased to give him 300l. in full of all “pretenc[i]ons” (CCLX. 25).
The petitioner sent a “supplemental” petition to their Lordships. In this it is stated that the Trinity House had reported in 1712 adversely to the scheme, and to the granting of a right to the profit that might arise from the light-house when erected; but the petitioner's counsel advised that their Lordships might have given him a renewed grant without reference to the Trinity House, with the addition of a halfpenny per ton, and double upon foreigners, &c. (CCLX. 39).
The Attorney and Solicitor General give an opinion to the Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, in their report of 18th May 1724, that “the laying on new taxes will depend upon the question whether Jamaica is to be considered merely as a colony of English subjects or as a conquered country.” If a colony of English subjects they cannot be taxed but by the Parliament of Great Britain or by consent of some representative body of the people of the island; but if a conquered country they may be taxed by the authority of the Crown (CCXLVII. 54).
Various interesting particulars are set forth in a report of the Commissioners of Customs as to the Borough of Barnstaple and the Port of Bideford and the creek and harbour of Appledore. The Mayor and Aldermen of Barnstaple were apprehensive that Appledore would be annexed to Bideford, which, they say, would be of most fatal consequence to their town (CCXLI. 6, p. 179).
In answer to the above the Mayor, Aldermen, &c. of Bideford memorialize their Lordships, and state that they furnished their late Majesties William and Mary with several thousand men for the Royal Navy and about 50 sail of stout transport ships for the reduction of Ireland when Barnstaple did not send out five. They give particulars as to the state of the river (CCXLIII. 38).
Felons were transported from Newgate to the Plantations in America at the rate of 4l. a head. Jonathan Forward of London, merchant, was the person who was anxious to enter into a new contract in connexion therewith (CCXXXIV. 11). He complains that he had sustained a considerable loss by transporting the prisoners and “by the returns which have been made to him in tobacco.” He was making further complaint that he should be 3l. a head out of pocket through the low price of tobacco. Their Lordships appear to have allowed him 150l. (CCXXXV. 22).
Mr. Cracherode reports that an application of the Keeper of the Gaol for the County of Buckingham is the first that has been made for compensation, in respect of the support of convicted felons, to the time of their transportation; and submits whether their Lordships will make a precedent. Their Lordships order a letter to the undersheriff to ask why the demands are not paid (CCXLIII. 25).
There is the certificate of the Deputy Sheriff as to the subsistence of these prisoners. He says that until the year 1720 no persons were appointed by the Judges to contract for the transportation of felons, and it was not known on the sheriff's last petition for allowances, when the charges of subsisting the convicts would end, the general directions in the Act being found not sufficient. A warrant was ordered for the payment of the claim (CCXLIII. 37).
Sir Polycarpus Wharton invented a shell to be shot out of three several kinds of cannons, the principal merit of which was that when it pierced the enemies' ship it would burst into 30 or more pieces. He asked to be allowed a trial, but the minute of their Lordships is “My Lords can “do nothing herein (CCXLIV. 35).
Thomas Acherley, Gentleman, was anxious for the Government to support a scheme he had contrived to supply all the western parts of Westminster and London with water. His first attempt had been to obtain an Act in 1718, 1719, and 1720 to bring water from the River Colne, at St. Albans. A committee reported that the scheme was practicable. The millers of Hertfordshire and others, however, opposed the scheme, and the Bill was laid aside. He now was endeavouring to obtain the supply from the Colne above Rickmansworth, and from the Gultchwell springs, which run into the Colne two miles below the place. He was opposed by Mr. Blackmore and others, who proposed to obtain a supply from the Cowley Stream, which was a branch of the River Colne; but his (Blackmore's) plan was found impracticable, as the level was too low (CCXLVIII. 30).
The supply of Westminster with water was evidently causing perplexity. Sir John Vanbrugh reported on the subject in May 1725. He says the scarcity about Whitehall was occasioned partly by the great failure of the springs in Hyde Park for want of rain, and partly by the proprietors of the New River Water cutting off a branch which served Whitehall for many years. He had endeavoured to recover some of the springs about the Mews and St. Martin's Lane, and believed that the additional quantity would prove sufficient to supply the Cockpit and Whitehall without any further aid (CCLII. 64).
The Surveyor General also reports in June 1725 on a petition of the Governor and Company of Chelsea Waterworks, who had undertaken to supply the City of Westminster and parts adjacent with water, which (by reason of the great increase of new buildings) was much needed. To carry out their scheme they say that they cannot have a proper place to make a reservoir to supply St. James Palace and the middle and lower parts of Westminster unless his Majesty will permit them to use the canal or basin lately made in St. James' Park over against Devonshire House, as well as the old pond adjoining to the Deer Pen Grove. They pray to be allowed to lay their mains to the pond and canal and from thence to the palace and streets adjoining. The question is considered of the resisting power of their mains, which would be of wood of sufficient thickness to be four inches from the bore. The surveyor reports in favour of the scheme, and says that if it were allowed the supply of water would be sufficient for common use, and for a fountain or other waterwork in the garden of the palace; and the canal (then dry) and the old pond would be an ornament to the park. By the minute it seems the report was agreed to (CCLIII. 11).
A further report of the Board of Works on the supply of the palaces of St. James's and Whitehall with water from the Chelsea Company shows that there was a verbal contract in the Treasurer of the Chamber's Office with the New River Company to serve the palace and stables at St. James's three times a week at 36l. per annum, but the company had often insisted upon 60l. per annum. They had taken off their “two inch main” which supplied Whitehall, and the palace would be almost destitute of water. There were about 104 houses about Whitehall, and the Chelsea Company offered a supply at 100l. per annum, which was considered reasonable (CCLV. 25).
Repairs and alterations were going on or were proposed in connexion with the Painted Chamber, the House of Commons, the equestrial statue at Charing Cross, and the ceiling of the Great Chamber at Kensington. This latter seems to have been very badly executed (CCXLI. 12).
The butcher's bill for feeding the leopard, tiger, and lion is reported on. Their allowance was said to be less than Sir John Eyles gave them. In his time each of them had 6 lb. of meat a day (CCLXV. 15).