Journals of the Board of Trade and Plantations, Volume 5, January 1723 - December 1728. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1928.
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Journal, December 1724
Colonel Spotswood, late Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, attending, desired their Lordships would please, (if any complaint should be made against him), to let him have copies thereof, which their Lordships promised accordingly.
Mr. Smith, secretary to the Leeward Islands, attending, as he had been desired, their Lordships had some discourse with him in relation to his letter and papers, mentioned in the Minutes of the 19th of last month, and resolved to consider further thereof, as also of the Act, passed at St. Christophers in 1724, entituled, An Act for the establishing a Court of King's Bench and Common Pleas, and for the better advancement of Justice in the Island of St. Christophers, and for settling certain fees, and repealing a former Act of the said Island, entituled, An Act for establishing of Courts and settling due methods for the administration of Justice, whereby Mr. Smith complains that several branches of his office are taken away, when Mr. West shall have made his report thereupon.
Mr. Astell, Mr. Theobalds, Mr. Cooke and Mr. Sheldon, attending, as they had been desired, their Lordships, after some discourse with them in relation to the letter from Lord Townsend of the 23rd inst., inclosing a memorial from the Danish Envoy, in relation to some new duties laid upon all ships, for defraying the expences of two lighthouses lately erected on the coast of Denmark and Norway, mentioned in the Minutes of the 24th of last month, desired they would put into writing, what they might have to offer upon this subject.
The several shipwrights, whose petition was read the 19th of the last month, attending, desired the Board would appoint a day for hearing what they had to offer upon this subject; their Lordships acquainted them, that this matter was at present with Mr. West, and that, so soon as he had made his report thereon, they should have notice to attend.
Ordered that Mr. West be reminded of the secretary's letter to him upon this subject, of 19th last month, as also another of the same date, for his opinion upon an Act, passed at Jamaica in 1703, entituled, An Act for ascertaining and establishing and more speedy collecting Her Majesty's Quit Rents, and that he be desired to make his report upon both these matters as soon as possible.
Mr. Nivine attending, as also Mr. Sharpe, with Mr. Bootle his counsel, upon the petition of Mr. Burnet and Mr. Brown, relating to a plantation in St. Christophers, referred to the Board by the Duke of Newcastle's letter of the 19th, mentioned in the Minutes of the 20th of the last month; Mr. Nivine desired their Lordships would please to allow him some further time, which the Board agreed to, and appointed next Friday sev'night.
Mr. St. Amand, attending, as he had been desired, as also Mr. Stevenson, agent for the Duke of Portland, Governor of Jamaica, Mr. St. Amand moved the Board in behalf of the Duke of Bolton that their Lordships would please to defer the consideration of the Acts, passed in 1721, 1722 and 1723 for settling the North East part of the Island, to another day, not being yet fully prepared to speak thereto; and their Lordships appointed to-morrow sen'night at eleven in the morning.
Mr. West's report upon the petition of the master shipwrights of the River Thames, relating to the building ships in New England, was read; whereupon ordered that the petitioners be acquainted that the Board desire to speak with them on Wednesday morning next.
Mr. West's report upon an Act, passed at Jamaica in 1703, entituled, An Act for ascertaining and establishing a more speedy collecting Her Majesty's Quit Rents, was read; and their Lordships agreed to confirm the said Act.
Mr. St. Amand, attending, as he had been desired, in behalf of His Grace the Duke of Bolton, as likewise Mr. Stevenson, agent for the Island of Jamaica, in relation to three Acts, passed in 1721, 1722 and 1723 for settling the north east part of the Island; Mr. St. Amand observed to their Lordships that the Lord Vaughan, under whom the Duchess of Bolton claims, had purchased 1,000 acres, part of the said tract, from one Nicholas Smith.
That by the first Act a large tract of land containing about 30,000 acres, in which the aforesaid 1,000 are included, was vested in the Crown, and power given to commissioners, appointed by the said Act, to treat with the proprietors concerning the sale thereof, but that there was no saving clause in the said Act for infants, femmes covertes or idiots. That by the said Act the proprietors were obliged to sell their land for £5 an acre; and that for the following reasons:—
1st. That the proprietors of the said land had not paid the quit rents due thereon. This, he said, was not true, because the Duke had regularly paid those, which were due for the aforesaid 1,000 acres. The 2nd reason alledged for the said Act was the public good, but Mr. St. Amand submitted it to their Lordships how far that reason was sufficient to deprive the Duke of his just right. The 3rd reason alledged was, that the proprietors had refused to treat with the commissioners; this, he said, was absolutely false, because the Duke had done as much as so short a time as a year would allow him, having prepared the proper conveyances for the disposal of the said lands and sent them over, but that they have proved deficient in point of form. That Mr. Cokburne, the Duke's agent at Jamaica, in pursuance of the said Acts, went to the Receiver General to treat about the disposal of the said lands, but that he told him he had no money to pay for the said lands, nor could he borrow any at 12 per cent., the premium allowed by the said Act, but that he then proposed to pay in Government security, which Mr. Cokburne did not think proper to accept of. That, as there was no saving clause for femmes covertes, he conceived this Act laid a great hardship upon the Duchess of Bolton, in right of whom the Duke laid a claim to the said lands, as it obliged her to dispose of lands, which by law they could not do, being a married woman. That the Duke of Bolton could sell the said lands for a greater price than that proposed by the said Act, for which reason the Act, passed now at Jamaica, was rather an hindrance than an incouragement to settle the north east part of the Island, because nobody would purchase, not knowing how soon they might be obliged to sell the lands again at £5 per acre.
Mr. Astell, attending with two masters of vessels, acquainted their Lordships that, since he had attended the Board the 29th of the last month, he had considered of and discoursed with several people in relation to the two lighthouses lately erected on the coast of Norway, and the duties established there for maintaining the same. That he found them exceeding useful to all vessels sailing that way. That all the English masters there had signed a petition to the King of Denmark, desiring the said lighthouses to be erected. Mr. Astell further acquainted their Lordships that there were two things to be desired upon this head, which were, that the ships trading that way should pay but once in the same voyage, that is when they return loaden; and that the English pay no more than other nations. The two masters of vessels then present confirmed what Mr. Astell had said, and further acquainted their Lordships that they had seen the said two lighthouses, and had found them of great use in their voyages thither.
The several shipwrights, whose petition was referred to the Board by the Lord Viscount Townsend's letter of 19th October, mentioned in the Minutes of the 13th of the last month, attending, as they had been desired, their Lordships had some discourse with them upon the subject of the said petition, and they acquainted the Board, that, since the late war, the number of workmen was reduced to half. That there were not at present 1,000 men imployed in building or repairing ships for the use of the merchants; that great numbers were gone to Muscovy, Sweden or the plantations; that in 8 years time, ending at 1720, they were informed that there were 700 sail of ships built in New England, and in the years since as many if not more. That this New England trade had drawn over so many working shipwrights, that there are not enough left here to carry on the work. That there were now 12 ships building in the River of Thames for the Greenland trade, but that they were obliged to ask a longer time, there not being men enough to finish the said ships, according to their contract.
Mr. Gee attending, desired their Lordships would please to consider of and report, as soon as conveniently may be, upon an Act, passed in Pennsylvania in 1724, entituled, An Act prescribing the forms of declaration of fidelity, abjuration and affirmation instead of the forms theretofore required in such cases; whereupon ordered that the said Act be sent to Mr. West, for his opinion thereupon in point of law.
Mr. St. Amand attending, their Lordships had some discourse with him, in relation to a power of attorney signed by the Lord Carbery in 1709, impowering certain people in Jamaica to surrender to the Crown all his right to 1,000 acres of land lying within the north east of Rio Grande and the south east of Point Morant, which the Duke of Bolton at present claims; whereupon Mr. St. Amand observed to the Board, by a letter, which he read, from Mr. Cokburne, the Duke's agent in Jamaica, that the quit rents for the said 1,000 acres had been punctually paid to within a year and half of this present time. That therefore he presumed the aforesaid power of attorney could not have been put in execution; and that the Lord Carbery being dead, the said power was void in law.
Mr. Nivine, attending, as he had been desired, with Mr. Rider his counsel, in behalf of Mr. Brown, and Mr. Sharpe with Mr. Bootle in behalf of Mr. Burnet; their Lordships took again into consideration the Duke of Newcastle's letter of the 19th, mentioned in the Minutes of the 20th of the last month, referring to the Board the petitions of John Burnet and Jeremiah Brown, in relation to their pretensions to 40 acres of land in the late French part of St. Christophers, which were again read, and their Lordships, after having heard what the Council on each side had to offer, and examined the several affidavits and depositions produced in behalf of the petitioners, gave some directions for preparing the draught of a representation thereupon.
A letter from Mr. Scrope, secretary to the Lords of the Treasury, was read, together with an inclosed copy of a representation and petition from several persons, importers and dealers in tar made in the British Plantations in America, praying, for the reasons therein mentioned, a recommendation to Parliament, so as the methods, which are practicable, may be made use of for making the said tar in the Plantations; and that the premiums now in being on the importation thereof may be further continued; whereupon ordered that some of the gentlemen, who have signed the said representation and petition, be acquainted that this Board desire to speak with them, and any others concerned therein, at eleven of the clock on Friday morning next.
A letter to the Lord Viscount Townsend, in answer to his Lordship's of the 23rd of the last month, upon the memorial of Monsr. Solenthal, Envoy Extraordinary from the King of Denmark, relating to two lighthouses erected on the coast of Norway, was signed.
Mr. Carey, Colonel Johnson, Mr. Gee, Mr. Dummer, Mr. Sandford, Mr. Younge, Mr. Satur, Mr. Rollings and Mr. Gale, attending, as they had been desired, their Lordships took again into consideration the letter from Mr. Scrope, of the 11th, and mentioned in the Minutes of the 15th inst., referring to the Board the petition of several importers and dealers in tar, praying that the premiums, now in being on the importation thereof, may be further continued, for promoting and carrying on that trade, and their Lordships desiring they would give them an account of that matter, Mr. Carey acquainted the Board, that there had been several experiments made in Virginia for making of tar, according to the directions of the Act, passed in the 8th year of His Majesty's reign, but that the people found it impossible to succeed therein, although they had let the trees remain unbarked two years, as done in the northern parts of Europe; that they used to make their tar from fallen trees only, and that unless the Government here would think fit to continue the bounty on tar made after that manner, that branch of trade from the Plantations would entirely cease, and thereby so much heighten the price of Swedish tar, that there is reason to apprehend it will shortly be a great detriment to the navigation of this kingdom, because the people in the plantations are not able to work so cheap as the Swedes, and the freight from thence is double.
That the plantation tar is as good as that made in Sweden, both for shipping and cordage, to prove which he presented to the Board two certificates from the owners of several ships trading to and from the East Indies, and from several shipwrights and rope makers in the City of London, of their having for many years made use of plantation tar and that they found it as good for use and service as any Swedish tar whatever.
Colonel Johnson then acquainted the Board that during the time he was Governor of South Carolina, he had made as much tar as any man in the country, but that he had found it impracticable to make it according to the directions of the late Act of Parliament. That it was impossible to know, while the pine trees were standing, either by their bark, leaves or colour, which were fit to make tar, and which not. To prove which he produced an affidavit from one Mr. Edward Hext, and referred himself for further particulars to Mr. Gale, a gentlemen lately arrived from North Carolina, who acquainted their Lordships, that he had long been conversant in the tar trade, and had found the several particulars alledged by Colonel Johnson to be true. He further added, that the method prescribed by the Act of Parliament would in time destroy all the woods in America, because not being able to distinguish which trees are proper for tar, and being obliged by Act of Parliament to bark their trees, and let them stand so for the space of one year at least, it frequently happened, when they cut down the trees so prepared, that they did not find above one in ten fit to make tar, and particularly instanced a gentleman he knew while in North Carolina, who had barked ten thousand trees, and after he had let them stand the time prescribed, he cut them down, and did not find quite one thousand fit for making tar. He further observed to their Lordships another inconvenience arising from their making tar in this manner, which was that it spoiled the ground, the nature of the soil being such that, after a pine ground is cleared according to the foresaid directions, nothing will thrive there afterwards but a sort of shrub oak fit for no use, pines never growing thereon again, nor any pasture for cattle.
Colonel Johnson then observed to their Lordships that there was annually made in South Carolina about 30,000 barrels of tar and about 100 sail of shipping imployed in that trade, but that the people had now left off making any, by reason of the expiration of the bounty, and of the impossibility of making it according to the directions of the late Act of Parliament; and that unless a bounty be continued upon tar made from fallen trees, as it used to be before the Act was passed, the importation of tar from America will entirely cease, and he submitted to their Lordships of what consequence that would be to navigation, the price of tar being already risen from ten shillings to fourteen shillings and sixpence the barrel.