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Gov. William Hamilton to Board of Trade and Plantations—6 Jan 1718

Letters – Gov. William Hamilton to Board —6 Jan 1718

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"America and West Indies: January 1718, 1-13," in Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies: Volume 30, 1717-1718, ed. Cecil Headlam (London: His Majesty's Stationery Office, 1930), 142-155 and ADM 1/3810 (Extract portions of which are shown in bold below).

For ADM 1/3810, the Board had isolated the portions containing details of the pirates.


Jan. 6. 1718     298. Governor Hamilton to the Council of Trade and Plantations.


Begins with copy of letter of 7th Oct., 1717 (q.v.). Continues: The man of war came to me at Nevis the latter end of October which Island I left upon 4th Nov. and arrived the same day at St. Christophers from whence I sailed the 9th in order to visit the Virgin Islands as your Lordships had directed and landed upon the 11th upon the Island of Anguilla which is a long narrow Island so worn out that they can hardly subsist their families, for that reason a great many of the inhabitants are gone off and have settled upon Crabb Island etc. The next Island I went to was Spanish Town, the Island Capt. Walton talked so much off and informed your Lordships when I had the honour to wait at your Board that it was equal with Antigua or at least with any of the other four Islands; I could not then contradict that Gentleman but by hearsay I told your Lordships that I had always been informed that it was not capable to maintain 100 poor families, and now I must assure your Lordships that it is a great deal worse than it was represented to me, it being a pretty large Island but very mountainous and rocky, has not 2,000 acres of manureable land, little or no timber in it, and the land so worn out that the few inhabitants that are upon it (which are but 54 men as your Lordships will see by the inclosed list) and those have joined in a petition with the inhabitants of Tortola for liberty to settle upon Sancta Cruis or Saint Cruix, copy of which petition is here inclosed; From this last Island, I went to the Island of Tortola, which is also a pretty large mountainous rocky Island, a pretty deal of good timber upon it little level land in it, but has most of it been given away in great tracts under the great Seal of these Islands by my two last predecessours, not as I believe with intent to make a Settlement but for the sake of the timber for it is really not worth settling; an other little Island called Beef Island lyes just joining to it, the Channell not above a mile broad only fitt for boats to go through, has but two families upon it, St. Peters Island Mr. Walton talked of for the goodness of the harbour is a small barren Island and the harbour only fitt for sloops; The next Island I went to was the Island called St. Johns which is also a small barren mountainous Island hath a pretty deal of good timber upon it and an excellent harbour at the East end of it; all these Islands and a great many more small ones not worth mentioning and rocks innumerable lye as it were all in a cluster. From hence I went to the Island of St. Thomas where the subjects of the King of Denmark have settled upon and came to an anchor off the mouth of the Harbour having been informed that the Danes did not only come daily and cutt timber off of the several Islands belonging to our Great Master but even talked of making settlements upon some of them. I therefore thought myself in duty bound to send word by Captain John Marshall of Colonel Alexander's Regiment whom I sent on purpose to the Danish Governor with instructions (inclosed) to forbid them, and in case the Governor insisted upon it to let him know that the King of Denmark had no good title to St. Thomas it self which was done accordingly, but before he had my answer a ship came by, which a little Brittish sloop that had escaped her amongst the little Islands at whom he had fired three guns (the first under Brittish colours, which he lowered and then hoysted a white Ensign with the figure of a dead man spread in it) gave me an account that the said ship was a priate upon which we made a signall for Captain Marshall to come off which as soon as he did we went after said pirate believing her to be a ship of about 18 or 20 guns but could not get sight of her, she having as we believed turned up under the North side of that Island, we stood as far as the Islands called Passage to the Northward, Sunday the 17th we came about noon to Crabb Island where. I went a shore the day following. This is a long very level Island but one mountain in it at the South West end, and not high, well timbered and an excellent soyl, it's about nine leagues long, and in most parts about six or seven miles broad except at the East end, there is not above two or three mile broad for about seven or eight miles, it has a good harbour at the South side about a third down from the East end when once ships are in but the passage in is very narrow and ships must warpe out again except they have the wind far northerly this Island seems to be very fertile and excellent land, but then it is attended with this inconveniency that it lyes so near to the Island of St. John de Porto Rico that slaves upon the least disgust may easily waft over in either canoes or bark logs it being just to the Eastward of the center of that Island, the chanell shallow and not above three leagues over; From hence I went to the Island of Saint Cruis or Sancta Crois which lyes about 16 leagues to the Eastward of Crabb Island and about 10 leagues due South from St. Thomas, this is a very fertile Island somewhat more mountainous than Crabb, but most of the mountains not so high but that they are manureable almost to the tops, this Island is above 10 leagues long and in several places much broader than Crabb Island, it has at the West end a very fine large bay or road for shipping to ride and at the north side a pretty good harbour called the Basin where Captain Hume in H.M.S. the Scarborough did the last year destroy a pirate ship, besides several other roads. This Island had once some English settlers upon it, but as I am informed left it or were drove off in 1666, since that the French had a Settlement upon it, the mines of a great many of their houses are still to be seen and it abounds in a great many places with fruit trees, as oranges, lemmons, and lime trees, is plenty of timber and a great many wild cattle upon it, some of our men that were out shooting have seen forty and upwards of head of bulls, cows and calves in a drove, it is in some places pretty well watered, and I am informed it produced very good sugar. I think the soil very good. The French had an order from home in or about 1690 or 1691 to abandon that Island whether it was out of fear of a squadron of men of war and land forces we had then in this part and that had taken the Island of St. Christopher's and St. Eustatius from them or that it was to carry on with more vigor the settlement of Cape St. François upon the Island of Hispaniola I cannot inform your Lordships etc. Had the poor people of Anguilla, Spanish Town and Tortola, been provided for out of the conquered land of St. Christopher's, they would some time since have not only been a great strengthning to all the other Chief Islands but have by this time increased the revenue of the Crown for as they now are they are altogether useless, and so many men lost. Or if your Lordships shall think fitt to represent to H.M. that according to their prayer they might all at once remove and settle upon one of the two last Islands, and that they might have tracts of land allotted them under the Great Seal of these H.M. Islands to them and their heirs, they might in time become a profitable Colony to the Crown and be able to defend themselves; In my opinion Sainta Crois should be the island for these reasons. First that it is larger and I think the land of an equal goodness; secondly will by reason of its little hills more frequently draw the showers of rain; thirdly that it lyes farther to windward out of the way of the Spaniards who once in King James's time took off from Crabb Island the few that had settled there by commission from Sir Nathaniel Johnson, and kept them prisoners so long or rather made them slaves upon Porto Rico that few of them ever returned, but most of them perished among the Spaniards etc. Awaits their "Lordships direction herein which I hope will be soon the poor people of Anguilla and Spanish Town being in a starving condition, and are with great difficulty kept together; If H.M. should give directions for settling said Island or one of them and if leave could be given to the Dutch and Danes to settle amongst them I am informed a great many of the Dutch from the Island of St. Eustatia the Island Sabeott and the Island St. Martin's would immediately settle there and take the oaths, several of the inhabitants from St. Thomas and most or all the Brittish subjects that are settled upon that Island. In my turning up to windward we did see another pirate ship and a large sloop which we were informed when we came off of the Island St. Eustatius by a sloop sent express from St. Christopher's were two other pirates that had two days before taken some of the trading sloops off of that Island and sunk a ship loaden with white sugar etc. just under Brimstone Hill which they had taken under Guadaloupe shore. The ship is commanded by one Captain Teatch, the sloop by one Major Bonnett an inhabitant of Barbadoes, some say Bonnett commands both ship and sloop. This Teatch it's said has a wife and children in London, they have comitted a great many barbarities; The ship some say has 22 others say she has 26 guns mounted but all agree that she can carry 40 and is full of men the sloop hath ten guns and doth not want men; This gave the people of St. Christophers such just apprehensions of my safety in turning up from thence to Antigua that they moved it to me in Council to give them leave to impress and man a good sloop to attend the man of war to see me up, which was done accordingly and was put under the comand of one Col. William Woodrope an inhabitant of that Island who had on board 110 men. Indeed the man of war is so small as I formerly wrote your Lordships that in case he should meet by himself these pirates it would be exposing the Captain's character and perhaps be the loss of H.M. ship, I therefore humbly intreat your Lordships to represent this matter so as that a ship of 40 guns or at least one of 36 may be ordered to attend this station without which the trade of these Islands cannot be secured; This has been once represented to the Admiralty board but all that was done was that the Tryal was sloop as their Secretary writes was ordered for this station to reinforce the small ship that attends here, but the Tryal was then at Jamaica and believe is there still for I have heard nothing of her; Their Lordships may much sooner order a vessell from Brittain here than to turn up from that Island. On Friday the 20th of last month arrived the Scarborough man of war from the station of Barbados, had lost her topmast as soon as she was refitted. I ordered an officer and 20 men of the King's troopes to be put on board, the same number on board of the Seaford and are gone on the 21st in quest of the pirates who were by the last accounts I had at Sancta Cruis or thereabout" etc. Refers to enclosed affidavits, etc. Signed, W. Hamilton. Endorsed, Recd. 7th, Read 11th March, 1717/18.

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