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, July 1725
An Order in Council of the 22nd of the last month, referring to this Board the petition and representation of several persons, whose names are subscribed to the said petition, interested in and traders to the Leeward Islands [folios 94, 195], complaining of Colonel Hart's maladministration in that government, was read, and their Lordships resolved to consider further thereof, when application should be made to them for that purpose.
The secretary laid before the Board an account of the incidental charges of this office from Christmas, 1724, to Midsummer, 1725, amounting in the whole to four hundred forty three pounds, thirteen shillings and nine pence three farthings, viz:—
Whereupon a letter to the Lords of the Treasury, desiring payment thereof, as likewise six months' salary due to the secretary and under officers in the service of this Commission, was agreed and signed.
A petition from Mr. Armstrong, Deputy Surveyor of the Woods in America [folio 49], praying for attested copies of the complaints against him by Mr. Huske, was read, and copies were ordered accordingly.
A letter from the Duke of Newcastle, dated the 30th of the last month, desiring the opinion of this Board in point of trade upon the inclosed petition of Mr. Issac Martin, praying to be appointed product master of Gibraltar, was read, as likewise the draught of a commission for the said Martin, and copy of Mr. Solicitor General's opinion relating thereto, which, with other papers on the same subject, were transmitted with the said letter. Whereupon an answer to His Grace was prepared and signed.
Sir William Stapleton, Mr. Tryon, Mr. Madan, and Mr. North [folios 192, 197], attending, and desiring a day might be appointed for hearing the complaints against Colonel Hart, Governor of the Leeward Islands, (which were referred to this Board by Order in Council, mentioned in the Minutes of the 6th instants), their Lords ships appointed Wednesday, the 28th instants, at eleven of the clock in the morning, and ordered that the agents on both sides have notice that they may then attend with their Counsel.
A letter from Mr. Delafaye, secretary to their Excellencies the Lords Justices [folios 216], dated the 22nd instant, referring to this Board a memorial from Richard Fitzwilliam, Esquire, Surveyor General of His Majesty's Customs in South America, praying to be added to the several Councils of Virginia, South Carolina and Jamaica, which are in his district, was read, together with the said memorial, and directions given for preparing the draught of a representation to their Excellencies thereupon.
Mr. North, solicitor, together with Mr. Lingard, Common Serjeant of the City of London [folios 195, 217], attending, in behalf of the complainants against Colonel Hart, Governor of the Leeward Islands, and Mr. John Sharpe, solicitor, in behalf of Colonel Hart, with Doctor Strahan and Mr. Strange, his council, the Order in Council of the 22nd of the last month, mentioned in the Minutes of the 6th instant, referring to this Board the petition and representation of several persons, whose names are subscribed to the said petition, interested in and traders to the Leeward Islands, complaining of Colonel Hart's maladministration in that Government, was again read, together with the annexed copies of the said petition and representation.
Mr. Common Serjeant then desired, in proof of what is alledged in the first Article of the said representation against Governor Hart, that the 31st and 32nd Articles of His Majesty's instructions to him, relating to gifts and presents to the Governor, his house rent and salary, might be read, as likewise part of the Minute of the Assembly of Antuigua of the 10th of January, 1721–2 [Min. pages 24, 25], wherein mention is made of the Governor's accepting the sum of one thousand pounds towards renting and repairing a house, with a resolution of the Assembly relating to the intent and meaning of the said instructions concerning presents and house-rent, which were accordingly severally read; whereupon Mr. Lingard added, that he conceived the said instructions were intended to obviate such artifices in the Assemblies or others, whereby the design of the said instruction was plainly eluded.
Upon the 2nd Article of compliant, which charges Colonel Hart with the acceptance of six hundred pounds from the Council and Assembly of the said Island, Mr. Lingard referred to the Minutes of the Council at Antigua, of the 15th of November, 1723; but the said Minutes now produced, and attested under the hand of Wavell Smith, Esquire, secretary of the Leeward Islands, not having been transmitted by the Governor to this Board, the said Mr. Smith being present was sworn, who declared the said Minutes to be true copies of the original in his office at Antigua, and that the same were made out before those, which were prepared to be trans mitted by the Governor; that part of the said Minute was then read, where mention is made of the Lieutenant General, Council and Assembly's proposal of the value of six hundred pounds, that country money, for the reparation of His Excellency's house, which was very much damaged by the late hurricane, and of the Governor's declaring he was satisfied with the said sum of £600, for that purpose. A note, likewise at the end of the Minutes of the Council of Antigua, of the 9th of December, 1723, in the words following was likewise read, viz: January 30th, 1723, Order past and signed in Council to pay his Excellency six hundred pounds. Mr. Smith being thereupon asked, by whom orders for money were signed in Council, he said by the Commander-in-Cheif or senior person present, and he added that, as to the £600 above mentioned, he had seen the same charged to the Governor in the Treasurer's account.
As to the 3rd Article of the complaint, wherein it is alledged that the Governor accepted five hundred pounds from the Council and Assembly of St. Christophers, money of that Island, contrary to his instructions. Mr. Common Serjeant said, that thought that charge was very true, the complainants were not provided now with any proofs of it.
Upon the 4th Article, which relates to the suspension of Mr. Fry from the Council of Montserrat, Mr. Lingard desired the 13th Article of His Majesty's instructions to the Governor, about the suspension of counsellors, might be read, as also part of the Minutes of the Council of Montserrat of the 29th of February, 1723–4, which was accordingly done, by which Minutes it appeared that the Governor having ordered the question to be put, whether the President, for the reason therein set forth, ought any longer to be of the Council, till His Majesty's further pleasure were known, and finding the majority of the Council unwilling to give their opinion, he was pleased to suspend the said Mr. Fry from his places at the Board, until His Majesty's further pleasure should be known.
In support of the 5th Article, which charges Colonel Hart with admitting two persons in to the Council of Montserrat, contrary to his commission, when there were eight members residing upon the Island, Mr. Common Serjeant referred to the forementioned Minutes of the said Council of the 29th of February, 1723–4, which being examined, it appeared that one new councillor had been admitted and attended in Council the afternoon of the same day.
In proof of the allegation in the 6th Article of complaints, that Colonel Hart, finding the Council equally divided about appointing a Committee of themselves, to join a Committee of the Assembly to fix on ways and means for raising £500 per annum, which had been voted him during his Government, did himself vote in Council for the appointment of such a Committee, and thereby carried this point; Mr. Peter Lee, who then acted as clerk of the Council at Montserrat, was called upon, and, being sworn, he was asked to give an account what passed in the Council there, on this subject; to which he answered, after perusing the said Minutes of the 29th of February, 1723–4 [Min. page 93], in the afternoon, that upon the Governor and Council's receiving the message from the Assembly, wherein they say "they had considered the 32nd and 33rd Articles of His Majesty's instructions to the Governor, and had voted him, £500 yearly, during his government, and desired they would appoint a Committee of theirs to fix on ways and means to raise the same, to which they desired the concurrence of the Council," Colonel Hart, upon the Council's being equally divided, did vote himself for the appointing the said Committee, and upon inquiry by Mr. Smith, secretary of the said Islands, then absent from Montserrat, whether the report he had heard of the Governor's voting in Council in his own case were true, he, the said Lee, had written Mr. Smith word, that it was true. Mr. Lee being then asked by the counsel on the other side, whether it was not usual for the Governor to vote on messages? he said he did not know, that he had acted two or three years as clerk of the Council there, but did not remember any such thing, and being particularly asked, whether the Governor voted, when the Bill passed the Council, he answered no. Anthony Ravell, Esquire, one of the said Council of Montserrat, being now present, was called upon to give the Board an account what passed in Montserrat on this subject; and being sworn, he acquainted their Lordships that he was present in the afternoon, when the abovementioned message about appointing a Committee to consider of ways and means for raising £500 annually for the Governor, came from the Assembly, and the votes in Council thereupon being equally divided, to the best of his, the said Mr. Ravell's, memory, the Governor said, "You may be sure I shall not give it against myself"; and being particularly asked whether the Governor did not concern himself in any other manner in this vote, and whether he remembered an equality of voices upon any other occasion, he said he did not remember the Governor's concerning himself in this vote, otherwise than he, the said Ravell, had now mentioned, nor that there happened an equality of voices in Council upon any other affair.
As to the 7th Article, which charges Colonel Hart with endeavouring to frighten the Assembly of Nevis into a compliance with his demand of a settlement in addition to his salary, when they represented the inability of that Island to comply therewith, from the poverty of great numbers of its inhabitants, their publick debts and charges of fortifications, and that he threatened them otherwise with the want of a Court of Chancery, Ordinary's office and other inconveniences, and gave the Assembly abusive language, calling them false, base and scandalous. Mr. Common Serjeant referred to the Minutes of the Council of that Island, of the 19th and 20th of March, 1721–2, and of the 25th of April, 1722, wherein are several messages and answers between the Governor, Council and Assembly, relating to a settlement on the Governor in addition to his salary, all which were severally read, as likewise the Governor's speech, inserted in the Minutes of the Council of Nevis of the 22nd of July, 1723, wherein he mentions the discouragements, which the Assembly of that Island had given him, not to make those frequent visits to the said Island of Nevis, as he had done to others of his Government.
The 8th Article alledging, "that the said Governor had put his threat so far in execution, that at Nevis they have rarely since had a Court of Chancery, and have been forced to go to whatever Island he resided at, to yet wills proved, letters of administration, licences for marriage, etc., except for about seven months, that the President of Nevis acted as Ordinary by the Governor's directions," Mr. Common Serjeant said was proved by the Minutes of Council undermentioned, some of which, being produced by Mr. Smith and Mr. North, were sworn to be true copies by the said Mr. Smith, and the said Minutes, so far as relate to this Article, were severally read, viz. the forementioned Minute of Council of Nevis dated the 25th of April, 1722, the Minute, of the said Council of the 24th of October 1722, [Min. pages 46, 47], wherein the Assembly, in a message to the President and Council, take notice of the "Islands labouring under the great hardships of not having an Ordinary residing there as usual, and desiring the Council's concurrence that a Committee of both houses might be appointed to draw a petition to the Governor for an Ordinary," and the Minute of the said Council of the 18th of May, 1723 [Min. page 12], wherein is inserted Colonel Hart's proclamation "declaring the letters of administration, granted by the President of Nevis, and probates of wills before him to be void for want of a sufficient delegation of his, the said Governor's authority in that behalf, and requiring all persons concerned to take out letters of administration or prove such wills in a legal manner."
To make good the 9th Article, wherein it is complained "that the Governor, not withstanding the President of Nevis had acted as Ordinary by his directions, did by publick instrument declare all letters of administration and probates of wills granted by the President to be void, as aforesaid, and required the taking out others": Mr. Common Serjeant referred to the Minutes of the Council of that Island of the 16th of October, 1723 [Min. pages 10, 11], where is sentered a letter from Governor Hart to the said President, of the 9th of November, 1722, signifying his appointing the President Ordinary for the Island of Nevis in his absence from thence, and to the said Minute of Council, of the 18th of May, 1723, with the proclamination aforesaid, which Minute of the 16th October and entry, were read, as that last mentioned had already been.
In support of the 10th Article, charging the Governor with "rarely visiting the Island of Nevis, because they had not given him the same incouragement the other Islands had, though by his instructions he is to visit frequently the several Islands under his Government," Mr. Lingard referred to the Governor's speech to the Assembly, entered in the Minutes of the Council of the 22nd of July, 1723 [Min. page 61], on that subject, part whereof was read.
To the 11th Article, which alledges "that the Governor has frequently endeavoured to overawe the members of the Council of Antego in their debating and voting, and browbeat, abused and shewn the highest indignation against such councillors there, as debated or voted against his schemes for getting money, and threatened to represent them to His Majesty and the Ministry as enemies to His Majesty's service, and that he had accordingly most unjustly represented two of the said Council to the Board of Trade" Mr. Smith, secretary of the Leeward Islands, was called upon; but objection being made, that he might probably be under an oath to keep secret the debates he should hear in Council, he was asked whether he had taken any such oath, and what the same was; to which he answered, being now upon oath, that he had taken an oath of office which was, "to keep secret such debates, as are recommended to be kept secret," and that during his time he had not been injoined secrecy, nothing but publick business having passed, so that he looked upon himself to be at liberty to answer such questions, as should be asked him on this subject. He was then asked whether he was secretary of the Leeward Islands before Colonel Hart's time, to which he answered, no. He was then desired to give an account of what he knew of the charge laid in this Article against Colonel Hart; whereupon, he said, that the first Assembly being dissolved, and Mr. Hart's Bill of Settlement sent home to His Majesty's being rejected, Governor Hart attempted to get of a new settlement, but the Council objected against it, as being against His Majesty's instruction: that thence sprung great variance between Mr. Hart and the Council of Antiqua, who, as often as he attempted to get a Bill passed for a new settlement, rejected it for the reasons aforesaid; that almost every time that the Council met, Mr. Hart shewed great passion and resentment against such as voted against the settlement, and particularly in great passion told Colonel Byam: "Sir, I tell you now I have represented you as disturbing the Government," (or words to that effect), and then said to Colonel Crump in a violent manner, "Sir, you remember you were Speaker of the Assembly when Colonel Parke was murdered"; and once in a very extraordinary manner fell upon Colonel Cockran, and told him, "I see your gestures are very disrespectful or impertinent," or words to that effect, who, replying with great modesty, that he did not put on any gestures any way in disrespect of His Excellency, the said Governor Hart told him with great passion, "it was false," or used words of a worse nature to that meaning; and in general Mr. Smith declared that he never had observed in his life such browbeating, threaten– ing and such intemperate usage, as was generally shewn to such of the Council, as opposed his said Bill of Settlement, which opposition the Council said was given, because he desired what was in direct disobedience to the King's instruction. Mr. Common Serjeant then referred to a paragraph of an address from the Council of Antego to Colonel Hart, entered in their Minutes of the 11th of December, 1724 [Min. page 19], wherein they charge him "that his saying at the Board, during a debate concerning his support, her late Majesty's pardon for the murder of General Parke was not so full as they imagined, and that there might be room still left for exceptions, was, they conceived, a misrepre— sentation of the gracious intentions of the Crown towards them, and intended to intimidate them in the affair of his support," which paragraph, (after the said Minutes were sworn to by Mr. Smith), was read; and the said Council for the complainants appealed to a letter from Colonel Hart to this Board to prove his misrepresenting two of the gentlemen of the said Council of their Lordships.
As to the 12th Article, relating to the Governor's absenting himself from the Island of Antego for above eight months at one time, upon the Council's dissenting to an Act agreed to by the Assembly for a settlement on him during his Government, though, by his instructions, he is to make that Island his principal residence; Mr. Common Serjeant referred to the Minutes of the Council of that Island of the 9th of December, 1723, where mention is made of the Council's dissent to such a Bill, part of which Minutes were read, as were likewise two clauses in the Council of Antego's address to the Governor, entered in their Minutes of the 11th of December, 1724, concerning the Governor's absence.
Doctor Strahan and Mr. Strange represented to their Lordships that they were in no manner instructed in behalf of Colonel Hart, so as to make answer to this charge, it being impossible in so little time as since these complaints had been presented to His Majesty, for Colonel Hart to be apprized thereof, and that counsel could be duly prepared for that purpose; that they prayed and humbly insisted that, according to natural justice and the practice of this Board, on occasion of complaints against Governors in several instances, of which they left a list of precedents, Colonel Hart might have copies of the several complaints against him, and a reasonable time assigned for transmitting his defence, in case their Lordships apprehended the proofs were sufficient for that purpose, before any judgment or censure should pass against him; to which Mr. Common Serjeant replied, that the present case was not upon a foot with those between private persons, that the apprehended these complaints were fully made out, and that suffering the Governor to continue exercising his arbitrary power over His Majesty's subjects would be, in some degree, condemning the subjects in the mean time.
Their Lordships, upon the whole that had been offered, reserved to themselves the further consideration thereof, and particularly the precedents referred to, till another opportunity, without coming to any present determination; and after both parties were withdrawn, the Board adjourned to this day sevennight.
The draught of a representation [folios 196, 236], ordered at that last meeting to be prepared, upon the memorial of Richard Fitzwilliam, Esquire, Surveyor General of His Majesty's Customs in South America, relating to his being added to the several Councils of Virginia, South Carolina and Jamaica, which are in his district, was agreed, transcribed and signed.