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Alexander Spotswood to Board of Trade—3 Jul 1716

Letters – Spotswood to Board of Trade—3 Jul 1716

From: The Official Letters of Alexander Spotswood, Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia, Vol 2, 169-172


VIRGINIA, July 3d, 1716.

To the Lords Comm iss’ rs of Trade:


Mv Lords:

Since my last to yr Lo’ps of ye 23d of May, (whereof ye enclosed is a duplicate,) I have rec’d Advice of some Events in these parts which I judge deserve the Attention of his Maj’t’s Ministers, And, therefore, would not lose the first opportunity of communicating the same to y’r Lo’ps. The enclos’d Affidavits will inform y’r Lo’ps of ye State of the Bahama Islands, more particularly that of Providence, where a Nest of Pyrates are endeavouring to establish themselves, and by the Addition they expect and probably will receive of loose disorderly people from the Bay of Campeache, Jamaica. and other parts, may prove dangerous to ye british Comerce, if not timely suppress’d. Yo’r Lo’ps will observe by these Affidavits the robberys they have already committed on ye Spaniards and French, and that they have taken a Ship of the latter of 32 Guns. What a Vessel of this force, man’d by a Company of such Desparado’s, 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 possess’d themselves of. Upon this Occasion I judged it in cumbent upon me, not only as having the hon’r of being the nearest of his Maj’t’s Governors, but as having power by a Commission from His late Maj’tie, King William, under the great Seal of the Admiralty for ye appointment of the Officers of ye Admiralty in those Islands, to make a particular Enquiry into ye State thereof, and to that end have encourag’d the Master of a Sloop bound from hence on a trading Voyage to those parts, to mann extraordinarily the Vessel under his Command, and to endeavour to obtain the best Accounts he can of the number, strength and designs of those Pyrates; a Copy of whose Instructions I send here enclos’d. The man of War on this station not being yet returned from St. Augustine, whither I informed y’r Lo’ps 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 Maj’tie 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 them selves there. And I hope what I have done herein will not be reckoned too officious or impertinent, Seeing the Governor of this Colony is, by the afore mentioned Commission, entrusted in some measure with the care of those Islands, and I hope I may be pardoned if I offer my humble opinion that it highly concerns His Maj’tie’s Service and the Interest of Great Britain that some Governm’t be speedily establish’d in ye Island of Providence, and the place made defensible against the sudden attempts either of Pyrates or ye neighbouring Spaniards, who have so often obstructed ye 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 upon these Piratical designs, one [Josiah] Forbes, with three other men, arrived here in this Colony about the beginning of last Mo[nth]., pretending the Vessel 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, y’t he had been concern’d in beating the Spaniards from their Batterys erected on the Coast of Florida for guarding the Wrecks, and that he had been also excessory to the taking the aforemention’d French hip, I had him committed to prison till he should give sufficient Security for his appearance when required to answer the charge against him; but he has since made his escape and I do not doubt has returned to ye same Company with whome he had first associated. I have on this occasion writ to y’r Lo’ps of ye Admiralty that another Man of War may be sent hither besides the present Guardship for ye Sécurity of the Trade in these parts, and to be employed, if need be, joyntly for ye suppression of ye Pirates at Providence, for tho’ I shall be always unwilling to put His Maj’tie to any extraordinary charge where the service did not require it yet I am sensible that there is an absolute necessity of reinforcing the Guard of this Coast since whatever professions the [Flying?] Gang at Providence make of not disturbing ye English and that they will only content themselves with making prize of all French and Spaniards they meet with there, yet there is so little Trust to be given to such People that it is not to be doubted they will [plunder] all Nations alike whenever they have an advantage, as they have already plundered some trading Vessels belonging to these parts that have fallen in their way.

In my last I sent your Lord’ps the Copy of my Charge against Mr. Ludwell, Deputy Auditor, upon which I found myself oblig’d to suspend him. The next day after I had finished this Charge, I offered it him, and now after 5 weeks that he has had to answer, he at last vouchsafed to tell me in a letter that he looks upon me as an unnequal Adversary, and therefore will not enter into a paper War with me here but send his answer directly to y’r Lo’ps’ Board, without allowing me a Sight on’t, unless I will submit the dispute between us to ye determination of the Council, w’ch 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 this Imployment for a misbehaviour, besides that, I don’t find by his Maj’t’s 44th Instruction y’t the Council have any Cognizance of such Cases. I am thereby impowered, without the Council’s participation, to suspend Officers and to transmitt my reasons to your Lo’ps and to ye Commiss’rs 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 tried by. But since, by his refusing me a Sight of his Answer I am disabled from making any Reply, I beg the fav’r of y’r Lo’ps that I may have the Liberty of seeing that Answer and making my Observations thereon before y’r Lo’ps proceed to any decision therein, Seeing I can sufficiently make out every Article of the Charge, whatever Mr. Ludwell may pretend in his Justification. And I doubt not when y’r Lo’ps consider that I have no other aim than the doing Justice to his Majesty’s Service and Interest, you will not too hastily give ear to the Representations of a person who has shew’d himself regardless of both. Except this dispute with the Auditor, this Colony is perfectly easy, So y’t I have nothing further at present to trouble y’r Lo’ps with, than to repeat the Assurances of my being, with the utmost respect.