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CO 5/1317, ff. 243-251 --- Virginia Instructions from Col. Spotswood Lt. Govr. of Virginia to Capt. Harry Beverly of the Sloop Virgin bound to ye Bahama Islands on quest of Pirates - June 15th 1716


[starts on folio 249]

Alexander Spotswood His Majesty's Leiut. Governor Vice Admiral & Commander in Chief of the Colony & Dominion of Virginia

To Harry Beverly* Commander of the Sloop Virgin of Virginia

Whereas I have Received Information that divers Ships Richly Laden having been cast away in the Channel of Bahama & other- the Coasts of America under the Dominion of his Majesty the King of Great Britain my Sovereign, and that under pretence of fishing for the Said Wreck'd Goods [Spanish fleet; 11 vessels wrecked on July 30 1715], divers persons as well his Majesties Subjects as others have Assembled themselves with their Vessells armed and equipped in Warlike manner, commiting depredations & other Acts of Hostility, upon the Spaniards & other Nations in Amity with His Majesty [at peace; Treaty of Utrecht] and that the Said persons have also taken possession of the Island of Providence, and intend to  Stregthen themselves there under a Governor of their own choosing, which may both Occasion an interruption of the Amity & good confidences So lately restored between the Crowns of Great Britain & Spain [Treaty of Utrecht], and prove dangerous to the Commerce of His Majesties Subjects: And for as much as by a Commission under the Great Seal of England, The Governor of Virginia for the time being is impowered to appoint Judges & Officers of the Court of Admiralty in the said Island of Providence [Spotswood assumes authority over the Bahamas!] and other the Bahama Islands. I therefore Judging it incumbent upon me more particularly to enquire into the State of the Said Islands, and into the Trades & Navigation thereof, that nothing prejudiciable His Majesties Service may be acted therein; And you having Signified your readiness to Man & furnish the Sloop Virgin under your Command in such manner as you may with most safely adventures into those Seas and there to Obtain Such Information in the premisses as may be proper for me to transend to His Majesty. Provided you may have my Testimonial of the Lawfulness of you undertaking and an Additional Supply of Armes and Ammunition out of His Majesties Store. I have thought fit upon your giving Security to return the same to grant your desire and for your better Guidance You are to Observe the following Instructions.

Upon your arrival at any of the said Bahama Islands, you are particularly to inform your self what number of Inhabitants are there, of what Nations they consist, what Forts or other places of strength they have and what form of government is established among them.

You are more particularly to enquire who they are that have possessed themselves of the Island of Providence, what are their designs, what preparations (if any) they are making for maintaining themselves there, in what manner they Treat His Majesties Subjects, & other Nations in Amity [Treaty again...], resorting thither for Trade, or drove by Storm into the Harbours of the said Island or Adjacent Ports.

You are to inform your self in the best manner you can where & on what Coasts the Spanish Galleons or Flota were lately Wreck'd; whether any of them are near the Crafts of any Islands or Territories belonging to His Majesty of Great Britain; what endeavours have been or are used in recovering any of the Plate or Goods left in the said Wrecks & by whom.

In case you meet with any Spaniards fishing upon such Wrecks as are not within the Jurisdiction of the Admiralty of Great Britain, You are not to give them any Disturbance, but on the Contrary all necessary assistance in the recovering what properly belongs to them; Contending your self with such reasonable Salvage for your trouble therein as by the Law of Nations is allowed in the like Cases.

And as you are to endeavour the discovery of any Wrecks that may be on or near the Coasts of the Islands & Territories belonging to His Majesty You are upon such discovery to endeavour to Recover & save as much thereof as you can; and if you find the Spaniards or the Subjects of any other Nation fishing thereon You are to Assist the Claim of His Majesty to the said Wrecks by the Law of Nations as being within the Jurisdiction of the Admiralty of Great Britain. And you are also to make particular Observations of the places where such Wrecks ly, that they may be [there?] found again.

In case you meet with his Majesties Ship Shoreham belonging to the Virginia Station, You are to Communicate to the Commander thereof those Instructions who in hereby desired not only to be assisting to you in the Enquiries abovementioned, but is also directed to take the like measures to inform himself of the particulars herein contained, as you are in like manner to Communicate these Instructions to the Commanders of any other of His Majesty's Ships of War you shall meet with who I doubt not will (out of Regard to His Majesties Service) give you all necessary furtherance and Assistance.

You are not to Committ any Acts of Hostility upon the Subjects of any Nation in Amity with His Majesty; but in case you are attacked by any Pirates, Sea Rovers or others, You may repell Force by Force, and do your best endeavour to take, Sink, burn or destroy all such Pirates or Sea Rovers as you shall meet with: and for that purpose you have hereby License to mann, furnish, & euippe the Sloop Virgin under your Command, in such manner as you judge best to Secure the said Vessel & effects in so dangerous a Navigation as you are now about to proceed in.

And Lastly, You are pursuant to the Tenor of your Bond of this date to return to this Colony with the Sloop under your Command, & all & singular the Goods, Merchandises & Effects you shall purchase or Obtain in your present Voyage within the Space of Five Months from the time of your departure from hence or sooner if possible. And you are in the mean time by all Opportunities to transmitt to me an Account of your proceedings & of the Discoveries you have made pursuant to these Instrutions.

Given under my hand at Williamsburgh this 15th day of June 1716.


Additional Instructions to Capt. Harry Beverley Comder. of the Sloop Virgin of Virginia


If you shall happen in yr: Cruise to meet wth any Comm. from ye Crown of spain appointed for examining into y* afFair of y* Wrecks off y* Coast of Florida, you are to acq' them yt one Josiah Forbes, Master of a sloop belonging to Philadelphia having come into this Colony & being suspected of taking away by force plate & other goods from y* Spainiards on that Coast, is under Confinement here untill he fhall give bail 1716 to answer wt shall be laid to his charge on that account, and to make reparation for all damages the Spaniads have suffered by his means, hoping that this Justice to their Nation will incline them to treat you with the more favour —


Given under my hand at W'burgh this 15th day of June 1716



[back to 244]

Virginia - Minutes of Council in Virginia from the 18th of Octber. to the 22nd of February 1715 [1716]

Referr'd to in Colo. Spotswood's Lettr. of 24th May 1716.

Recd. July 25th  }

Read Augst. 17th } 1716.


Entd. F folio 430




Virginia w. Bahamas (Le from Col. Spotswood, Lt. Govr. of Virginia, dated the 3d of July 1716 - - - 244 [stamped on page corner]

Rece'd 5:th Septr. }

Read 10th Do       } 1716


Ent:d F fol.o 432




Virginia July the 3d 1716


My Lords

Since my last to Your of the 23rd of May (whereof the inclosed is a Duplicate) I have recieved Advice of some Events in these parts which I judge deserve the Attention of his Majestie's Ministers; and therefore would not lose the first opportunity of communicating the same to Your The inclosed Affidavits will informe Your Lordps of the State of the Bahama Islands; more particularly that of Providence, where a Nest of Pirates are endeavouring to establish themselves, and by the Addition they expect and probably will receive of loose disorderly people from the Bay of Campeachy, Jamaica, and other parts may prove dangerous to the British Commerce if not timely suppressed. Your Lordps will observe by these Affidavits, the Robberys they have already comitted on the Spaniards and French, and that they have taken a Ship of the latter, of 32 guns; What a Vessell of this force, mann'd by a Company of such Desperados may be able to attempt, is easy to imagine, and that they cannot long be without a greater power of Shipping amongst the number of Merchantmen which constantly pass through the Gulph from Jamaica almost in sight of the harbour they have possessed themselves of Upon this occasion I judged it incumbent upon me, not only as having the honour of being the nearest of His Majesty's Governour, but as having power by a Commission from His late Majesty King William under the Great Seal of the Admiralty for the appointment of the Officers of the Admiralty in those Islands, to make a particular enquiry into the State thereof; and to that end have encouraged the Master of a Sloop bound from hence on a Trading Voyage to those parts to mann extraordinarily the Vessell under his Command, and to endeavour to obtain the best accounts he can of the number Stregth, and designs of those Pirates, a copy of whose Instructions I send here inclosed. The man of War on this Station not being yet returned from St. Augustine whither I informed Your Lordps she had been dispatch'd for the Service of South Carolina, I was unwilling to delay till her Return the obtaining this Information of the Condition of those Islands; believing it of importance that His Majesty should be speedily informed thereof, that proper measures may be taken in time to prevent the ill consequences of suffering such a Crew of Robbers to fix themselves there. And I hope what I have done herein will not be reckoned too oficious or impertinent. Seeing the Governour of this Colony is by the aforementioned Commission entrusted in some measure with the care of these Islands, And I hope also I may be pardoned if I offer my humble opinion, that it highly concerns His Majties Services, and the Interest of Great Britain that some Government be speedily established in the Island of Providence and the place made defensible agst. the sudden attempts either of Pirates or their Neighboring Spaniards who have so often obstructed the Settlement thereof, as well knowing that should the English grow strong there that Island might be reckoned the very Key of the Gulph of Florida.

Amongst others who have been on these piratical Designs, One [Josiah, of Philadelphia] Forbes** with three other men arrived in this Colony about the begining of last month, presending the Vessell to which they belonged and whereof Forbes called himself Captain was cast away at Cape Hatteras: but soon after his arrival it being discovered by his own discourse and the common talk of his men that he had been concerned in beating the Spaniards from their Batterys, erected on the Coast of Florida for guarding the Wrecks, and that he had been also Accessory to the taking the aforementioned French Ship, I had him committed to Prison he should give sufficient Security for his appearance when required to answer the Charge against him; but he has now made his escape and I doubt not has returned to the same Company with whom he had first associated.

I have on this occasion writt to the Lords of the Admiralty that another Man of War may be sent hither besides the present Guardship [HMS Shoreham?] for the Security of the Trade in these parts, and to be imployed, if need be, jountly for ye Suppression of the Pirates at Providence: for tho I shall always be unwilling to put His Majesty to any extraordinary change, where the Service doth not require it yet I am sensible that there is an absolute necessity of reinforcing the Guard of this Coast; since whatever professions the Gang at Providence make of not disturbing the English [as per Benjamin Hornigold, no doubt], and that they will only content themselves with making Prize of all French and Spaniards they met with, Yet there is so little Trust to be given to such people [who defy the Treaty of Utrecht? Is there more?], that it is not to be doubted they will use all Nations alike whenever they have an Advantage, as they have already plundered some Trading Vessells belonging to these parts that have fallen in their way. +

In my last [letter] I sent Your the copy of my Charge against Mr. [Phillip?] Ludwell Deputy Auditor, upon which I found my self obliged to suspend him: The next day after I had finished the Charge I offered it him and how after 5 weeks that he has had to answer, he at last vouchsafes to tell me in a letter that he looks upon me as am Unequal Adversary and therefore will not enter into a paper War with me here, but send his Answer directly to Your Lordp's Board, without allowing me a Sight on't unless I will submit the dispute between us to the determination of the Council, which I don't think a very reasonable Request, Seeing he has there six in ten who are his Relations, and who will never give their Vote for turning him out of his Imployment for a misbehaviour, besides that I don't find by His Majesties 44th Instruction that the Council have any Cognizance of such Cases.  I am thereby impowered without the Council's paarticipation to suspend Officers and to transmit my reasons to Your Lord'ps, and to the Commissioners of the Treasury, And this method I have pursued and believe the Case is before as competent and impartial Judges as those Mr. Ludwell proposes to be tryed by: But since by his refusing me a Sight of his Answers, I am disabled from making my Reply, I beg the favour of Your Lord'ps that I may have the liberty of seeing that Answer, and making my Observations therein before Your Lord'ps proceed to any discretion therein, seeing I can sufficiently make our every Article of the Charge, whatever Mr. Ludwell may pretend in this Justification. And I doubt not when Your Lord'ps consider that I have no other Aim than the doing Justice to His Majesties Service and Interests, you will not too hastily give Ear to the Representations of a person who has shewed himself regardless of both. Except this dispute with the Auditor, this Colony is perfectly easy. So that I have nothing further at present to trouble Your Lord'ps with, than to repeat the Assurances of my being with the utmost

Respect -


My Lords

Your Lordships

Most Dutifull &

Most Obedient

Humble Servant


A. Spotswood




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Commission of the Privateer Virgin, Capt. Harry Beverley—15 June 1716

Commission – Privateer Virgin, Capt. Beverley —15 June 1716