FROM THE YEAR 1673 TO THE YEAR 1687.
St. Helena re-granted to the Company by another Charter. — Captain Field appointed Governor. — Several settlers proceed to the island. — Lands assigned them. — Nature of the tenures. — System of defence. — Salaries to the Governor, and other officers and servants. — Privilege to Negroes who embraced Christianity. — Disturbances. — Major Blackmore appointed Governor. — Promulgation of various laws and ordinances. — Slavery. — Duties. — Interlopers. — Distilleries. — Seditious cabals and tumults. — Mutineers attack the fort, and are defeated. — Two of the insurgents executed. — Commission from King James to try the mutineers. — Five more executed. — Their relations petition the House of Commons. — Martial law to be exercised as often as necessary.
AFTER Sir Richard Munden's arrival in England, his Majesty again assigned the possession and government of St. Helena to the East-India Company; and a charter, dated the 16th of December 1673, was granted, constituting them Lords Proprietors of the island, with the rights and powers of sovereignty.
Not a moment was lost in fitting out two ships, viz. the European and the John and Alexander, for the conveyance of recruits for the garrison, and a number of passengers, who had accepted the company's terms of becoming settlers as also to carry out provisions, and all kinds of necessary stores, for the lodgement of which a wooden house was sent in frame. It does not appear to have been the desire of Captain Kedgwin to remain on the island, as a commission was forwarded, appointing Captain G. Field governor, with a council of four members, including Captain A. Beale, who was nominated Deputy Governor. They were enjoined to show every possible mark of respect and kindness to Captain Kedgwin, and to procure him a passage, as soon as he found it convenient to return to England; the Company declaring, that, upon his arrival there, they would take his services into consideration, and reward him as his merits deserved. Nor was the poor negro who had guided Captain Kedgwin's party forgotten; Sir Richard Munden represented the assistance derived from his local knowledge, and zeal for the British cause, in so favourable a light, that the Company not only repaid the expense of Oliver's emancipation, but also made him a free planter, and allowed him land and cattle in the same proportion as was granted to European inhabitants. Those planters who had held lands on the island prior to its capture by the Dutch, were restored to their possessions. To every family that arrived in the two ships above mentioned, as also to some others who soon followed, were assigned twenty acres of land and two cows. Those settlers who preferred a residence on the windward side of the island, were permitted to have double the quantity of land assigned to those who inhabited other parts; and every assistance, which the Company could furnish, whether in seeds, plants, breeding stock, labour, or instruction, was freely given to promote the improvements of the industrious. Provisions were issued gratis to the planters for the period of nine months. It was supposed that at the expiration of that time their farms would afford them a livelihood, and they were thenceforward required to pay for their provisions, &c. at the invoice prices.
In the year 1679 it was ordained, that when a soldier desired to become a free planter, if he married a planter's widow, and became entitled to her deceased husband's land, he should further be allowed ten acres and one cow from the Company; and, in the event of his marrying a farmer's daughter, or a young woman sent out from England, who had no land, he was in such case to have twenty acres and two cows. Every unmarried man, sent out from England as a settler, was to have ten acres of land and one cow; and ten acres more, and another cow, on his marrying a planter's daughter, or an English woman. If a planter's son married an English woman, during his father's life-time, he became entitled to twenty acres and two cows; but if the marriage took place after his father's death, the son being possessed of the whole, or a part, of his father's land, he was then to have only ten acres and one cow. A planter's son, or any Englishman, resident on the island (not being in the Company's pay, nor having been assigned lands), was allowed, on his marrying a planter's widow, ten acres and one cow, if his wife had children living by her former husband; but if she had no child, a further allotment was not granted. One cow, at least, was required to be maintained on every ten acres of land; and if a farm was not occupied and improved within twelve months after possession, or if, being occupied, it became deserted for six months, in either of these cases, it was liable to be seized by the Company, and granted to a more industrious person. Some who were dispossessed of their lands in this manner, were ordered to be sent off the island, as drones. No lands could be sold, or disposed of, by the proprietors, until after they improved and occupied them for a certain period, which at first was fixed at four years, then at seven, and, in 1683, at five years. For every ten acres of land the holder was obliged to maintain an Englishman, on the premises, capable of bearing arms for the defence of the island, who was occasionally to do garrison duty; and for every twenty acres, two men were required to be maintained, one of whom was to take his turn in mounting guard. This service was commuted, in the year 1683, for a pecuniary consideration of two shillings an acre; but the planters were not in consequence exempted from bearing arms, in common with all other persons (except the blacks), when danger was apprehended, or from appearing as train-bands, at general musters, on penalty of being fined according to the extent of their offence. Upon these several conditions lands were granted in perpetuity to the holders, their heirs, and successors; and a register was kept of all grants and alienations.
The accession of settlers from England formed, in a very short time, a tolerably numerous militia; a kind of force with which the Company intended the island should be garrisoned, in preference to regular troops. Orders were, in consequence, sent out to reduce the number of soldiers to fifty, and to allow the remainder the option either of becoming planters or returning to England.
In the allotment of ground to individuals for building houses in Chapel Valley, attention was paid to the regular formation of a street, the situation of which was directed to be above any fortification that might be constructed for the defence of the landing-place and harbour. Pointed directions were also given for fortifying the island, and placing the principal magazine in a centrical situation. A repetition of these orders, some years after, was accompanied by an injunction, to consult all Captains of ships (merchantmen, as well as men of war) on the best system of defence to be adopted. These orders and consultations were followed by the construction, under different Governors and engineers, of lines thrown across valleys; and, in later times, of two or three batteries, at some little elevation above the sea. Though these batteries were sufficiently calculated to act against the approach of shipping, or boats, they could have little effect upon an enemy if he succeeded in carrying the lines above mentioned, which required a strong garrison for their defence. But more than a century was suffered to elapse before the obvious advantages that nature presented in the heights were regarded in any other view, than as the means of affording a look-out. This oversight appears the more extraordinary, as experience, in the capture and re-capture of the island, had shown the inefficacy of a fort commanded on either side, and proved that works at the foot of one part of a hill formed no defence for its summit against the approach of an enemy from another quarter.
The regular garrison was, at first, embodied into two companies, of which one was commanded by the Governor, and the other by the Deputy-Governor; but when the standing force was reduced to fifty men, its formation appears to have been one company. The soldiers were quartered on the inhabitants, at the rate of ten shillings a month for each man. The principal persons in office usually filled both civil and military situations. The Deputy-Governor was Captain of a company, and Store-keeper. The third in council, a subaltern officer, and Surveyor-general. The Clerk of the Council, or Secretary, frequently held the rank of Ensign; and, in some instances, voted as a member; and the Store-keeper's Assistant was sometimes a commissioned officer, and sometimes a Serjeant. Such of the Council as were not upon the regular military establishment, held brevet commissions under the Governor's signature, and were assigned military commands in all cases of general alarm. Even so late as the year 1743 we find orders from the Company to continue this practice. The immediate charge and superintendence of the Company's lands and plantations were, for some years, intrusted to the Governor. From the produce of these lands was maintained a public table, at which not only the Governor and Council, and principal servants and officers, but even the head artificers, and Serjeant of the guard, sat in the order of their respective ranks. Nor was this strange custom abolished until the year 1718. The emoluments annexed to the different ranks and offices, in Captain Field's government, were as follows:—
Captain Field, as Governor and Captain of a company, fifty pounds; gratuity, fifty pounds—One hundred pounds per annum.
Captain Beale, Deputy-Governor, Captain and Store-keeper, fifty pounds.
Lieutenants, two pounds ten shillings per month.
Ensigns, two pounds ditto.
Serjeants, one pound ditto.
Gunner, besides his diet, two pounds ditto.
Gunner's Mates, besides their diet, one pound ten shillings ditto.
Private soldiers, eighteen shillings ditto.
Mr. Swindle, the Minister, fifty pounds; as Schoolmaster, twenty-five pounds; gratuity, twenty-five pounds—One hundred pounds per annum.
Mr. More, the Chirurgeon, twenty-five pounds; gratuity, twenty-five pounds—Fifty pounds per annum.
The Minister and Surgeon, besides their diet at the Governor's table, were each allowed the same proportion of land as other settlers.
The Minister was directed to instruct and catechise the children of Negroes, as well as white persons; and any Negroes resident on the island, who publicly embraced the Christian faith, and received baptism, if the Governor and Council and Minister judged them sufficiently meritorious, were to be entitled, seven years after, to the privilege of free planters. A place of public worship was, in a short time, erected, in Chapel Valley; and, in a few years after, a contribution was raised for building a church in the country. A free market was, likewise, established, for the accommodation of the shipping and inhabitants.
The first regulations for the government and management of the island were scarcely arranged, when discontents were excited by some incendiaries, who persuaded many that the Company, contrary to agreement, intended to transport them to Bombay, and that the soldiers were cheated of their diet, which it was alleged they ought to receive in addition to their pay. The disturbances thus created proceeded to such lengths as to be denominated mutiny in the official dispatches on that subject. Peace and order, however, seem to have been restored without much difficulty; and the pay of the soldiers was afterwards increased to twenty-one shillings per month. But the flame had not been smothered above five years, when a spirit of insubordination, heightened by the excessive use of intoxicating liquors, broke out into violence and riot. This insurrection ended in the banishment of the principal ringleaders, and the dismission of two members of Council, who shamefully abandoned their trust, by countenancing illegal meetings.
Captain Field having applied for permission to resign, and return to England, Major John Blackmore was appointed his successor, and arrived at the island on the 19th of July 1678. Captain Field was directed to have a seat in Council until the time of his embarkation. At the commencement of Major Blackmore's government, a number of additional orders and instructions were transmitted by the Company, for the conduct of their affairs, and the administration of justice. Nor was due attention to the inculcation of virtue and morality neglected. The Minister was urgently enjoined to a strict and conscientious discharge of his duties; and the Council exhorted to encourage religion by their example, as well as authority. A court of judicature was erected, of which the Governor was the sole judge; its sittings were ordered to be held four times a year. A system of laws, drawn, for the most part, from those established at Bombay, was at first framed for the island; but as they were calculated for a settlement infinitely more populous than St. Helena, which then did not contain above five hundred inhabitants, it was shortly afterwards judged expedient to proceed by jury, only in cases affecting life, limb, or land; leaving matters of less import to be settled before the Governor and Council, who were recommended not to have their "heads troubled with nice poynts of the common law of England; but rather, on considering, the reason of things, to adjudge of all cases in a summary way, according to equity and a good conscience, without tedious delays, or countenancing litigious persons in their vexatious prosecutions." Subjects discussed at this Board were decided by a majority of voices; but if the members were equally divided, lots determined the question. This rule was followed until the year 1747, when it was ordered that the Governor should have a casting vote, in cases where they were unanimous: the dissenting members were directed to enter their sentiments at large on the proceedings, for the information of the Court of Directors. It was in the power of the Governor to, suspend any one of the Council, for negligence or misconduct; but this authority, in the year 1721, was transferred to the majority of the Council; by whom alone suspensions could be awarded. The vacancy could not be filled without express orders from the Company; nor could any person have a vote at the Board, unless the appointment issued from the same authority. Governor Blackmore was reproved for assuming this power in favour of two free planters. All Commanders of the Company's ships were, at first, directed to sit in Council, during their stay at the island, and to have precedence next the Governor. It was afterwards decreed, that they should have only a deliberative voice, but no vote; and finally it was determined, that none should either sit or vote at the Board, without a special appointment. Regular meetings were held by the Council, as the guardians of orphans and their estates; but, as intermarriages took place among the settlers, and the degrees of kindred upon the island were, consequently, in the course of forty or fifty years, considerably extended, there was seldom any want of relations upon the spot, to take charge of the children and effects of deceased persons; and the Orphan's Court, as it became unnecessary, gradually fell into disuse.
A peculiarity in the laws respecting inheritance, entitled a widow to half her deceased husband's freehold estate during her natural life; the other half, together with the reversion of the wife's share, was, after her death, disposed of according to the husband's last will and testament. One-third of an intestate's personal property went to his widow; the other two-thirds were divided, in equal proportions, among the children resident on the island. But if there were no such relatives, then the whole descended to the widow; and, in case there was neither wife nor child, the whole went to the next of kindred inhabiting the island. If by will, or otherwise, lands devolved to any person in England, who did not, within two years, either repair to the island himself, or cause the lands to be inhabited by two persons, and maintain on them at least two cows, the estate, in such case, reverted to the Company. But this, and many other laws, established at the same early period, have long become obsolete, or have been superseded by the introduction of the British code.
In the course of a very few years, about two thousand two hundred acres of land became vested in the hands of individuals, either by free grants, or by leases for sixty years, at the rate of two shillings an acre; and the stock of black cattle rapidly increased. Until the year 1721, beef was supplied to the ships from the Company's stock of cattle, in preference to that of the Planters, who bartered their oxen to them in exchange for necessaries from the public stores; a measure that was justly considered as an accommodation to both parties. Such was the scarcity of specie, that copper bars passed as current coin, and dollars were valued at six shillings. As the colony was in a very flourishing condition, it became no longer necessary for the Company to supply provisions for the inhabitants at invoice prices. It was in consequence determined, that nineteen per cent. should be charged on all stores imported from England, besides interest on the money which should be laid out in the purchase; and twenty per cent. on Indian commodities.
All descriptions of persons were obliged to afford one day's labour in the year, or an equivalent in money, for the repair of the highways; two surveyors of which, and two churchwardens (one for each church), were chosen by the Governor, out of four persons, elected every Easter-Monday, by a majority of the free planters. No lessee, shopkeeper, or artificer, had a voice in the election of any island or parish officer. That privilege was confined to the free planters and their heirs, whom the Company, in the following words, declared that "they would always esteem and honour as the first occupants, and gentlemen freeholders of the island, for such it was hoped their heirs would prove to be, and to have estates sufficient to maintain the dignity of that title, and defend their country on horseback."
The introduction of slavery appears to have been coeval with the first settlement of the island, or very soon after. In the year 1679, restrictions were laid upon the further importation of slaves, from an apprehension of danger, should their number, which was then about eighty, exceed, in any considerable degree, that of the Europeans. But, in four years after, permission to renew this traffic was granted, on condition that for every Negro the purchaser should either maintain a white militia-man, or pay at the rate of ten shillings a head to the Company for each slave; and, in addition to other duties, every Madagascar ship that touched for refreshment, was obliged to leave one Negro, a man or a woman, at the Governor's election, for the service of the Company's plantations. The law which declared that no person should be deprived of life or limb without a trial by jury, did not comprise an exception or specification in respect to inhabitants of any description whatever; but, as the benefit of this law did not extend to blacks, it would appear that the benign sentiments at first expressed in favour of this class of people were forgotten, and that they were not considered as human creatures. It may, indeed, be inferred, that, for a long period, some such opinion actually did prevail; as it might, on any other supposition, seem extraordinary that a black striking, even in the act of self-defence, any white person, should be consigned to a most horrid and detestable mutilation. From the constant dread of insurrections among the blacks, it seems probable that these severities had little effect in maintaining that subordination and regularity of conduct, which the experience of later years has proved to be more easily attained by a milder system.
Besides the Negro which every English vessel trading to Madagascar was obliged to leave on the island, each ship paid a duty of two shillings and six pence for every ton of her admeasurement; and, in common with all others, the sum of five shillings anchorage! From this charge, however, the Dutch were exempted, as long as a similar exemption was allowed to the English East-Indiamen at the Cape of Good Hope. Ships in the Company's service were further obliged to deliver, on their arrival, a barrel of gunpowder; a practice which has continued to the present time. But heavier duties were levied on interlopers; a term applied to all British subjects who traded to India in defiance of the Company's charter. According to orders, sent out in the year 1683, the ships of interlopers were not to be supplied with water or refreshment, until they paid, in money or goods, to the value of twenty shillings per ton. Two years prior to this enaction, the law, with respect to interlopers, was still more severe. No refreshment was allowed them, unless they agreed to resign ship and cargo to the Company's disposal. In this case, the private property of the commander and officers was to be secured to them, and an offer made, either to entertain them and the crew in the Company's service, or procure them a passage to England. Until such a surrender was made, all traffic and communication between them and the inhabitants were prohibited, under the penalty of twenty pounds, from a member of Council, and ten from any other person in the island, who should disregard these orders. The principle on which these regulations were founded, was afterwards applied to British subjects who traded to India under the protection of foreign flags. Many ships, under Ostend colours, were refused any kind of refreshment, scarcely allowed water sufficient to preserve the lives of their crews, and were even fired upon, to prevent their entry into the Roads, or to hasten their departure! The subject was, at last, brought before Parliament, and, by an Act of George the First, this kind of clandestine and illicit commerce was checked, and the Company established in their chartered rights. Some of the interlopers became such active abettors of mutiny and sedition, that a commission was sent out by King James the Second for seizing all ships belonging to persons of that description. In returning the salutes of foreign ships, it was directed, that no more than seven guns should, at any time, be fired, and only three to ships in the Company's service; but interlopers were not, on any account whatever, to be saluted.
In addition to the taxes already mentioned, a toll of two pence was levied on each ox, or neat beast, that was sold; and for every ox, or other beast, sold, and sent on board ship, six pence.
For every hundred weight of sugar landed, six pence.
For every hogshead of arrack, ten shillings.
For every hogshead of wine, ten shillings.
For every piece of calico, six pence.
For every piece of silk, one shilling.
For every beast pastured on the Company's waste land, one shilling.
And a poll-tax of six pence a head upon every person above the age of sixteen, for the purpose of paying the Minister, and repairing the church.
A constant succession of showers is more necessary for the process of vegetation in a hilly country, like St. Helena, than on flat grounds; and, from the idea which prevails that trees on the summits of mountains have an attractive influence on the clouds, as well as from considerations of the value of timber, the preservation of wood was deemed an object of great importance. To effect this end, regulations were, at various times, framed. A great quantity was, however, consumed, by distilling spirits from potatoes; a manufacture in which many stills upon the island were employed, which was a source of considerable internal traffic, and doubtless occasioned many abuses and disorders. If a total suppression of such licence was not necessary, some control, at least, must surely have been proper. Accordingly an impost was levied of twelve pence for every hundred weight of wood appropriated to distillation, besides four pence for every gallon of liquor.
A spirit of opposition was again manifested in the colony, proceeding partly from the exaction of taxes which the inhabitants deemed oppressive; but chiefly from a want of energy in the Government. Secret murmurings soon increased to illegal and seditious meetings; and, as no decisive or vigorous measures seem to have been enforced by the Government for checking these disorders, every unpopular regulation, as might be expected, added fuel to the flame, and encouraged the malcontents to continue their tumultuous proceedings. Affairs, at length, wore so threatening an aspect, that the Company determined to transmit orders for all Commanders of their returning ships to remain at the island during any period (not exceeding one month) that the Governor should think necessary, in order that their ships' companies might assist in maintaining subordination. Before these injunctions were forwarded, however, tranquillity had been once more restored; but the calm was of short duration. These troubles were rather fomented than repressed, by the turbulent disposition of Doctor Sault, the Chaplain. He scurrilously insulted the Council, contemned their authority, and, by his disrespectful and insolent demeanour, to which Government too tamely submitted, fostered a discontent productive of the most serious and alarming mutiny that had hitherto disturbed the settlement. It may here be observed, that, notwithstanding the Company had spared neither expense, ordinances, nor exhortations, to promote virtue and religion, their intentions were, in a great measure, frustrated, by the behaviour of a succession of clergymen, whose principles and conduct counteracted the intention of their sacred profession. One of these gentlemen was censured, in the Company's official correspondence, as an "encroaching, avaricious person;" and was threatened to be dismissed, and sent to England, for refusing to marry a couple after the Governor had signed the licence, Another, having a pique against his neighbour, swore he would have his blood. For this, and his drunkenness, he was bound over to his good behaviour. A third was fined for performing the marriage ceremony without the Governor's licence, and against the consent of a parent. A fourth proved an incendiary and a drunkard, and persevered in the most aggravating and daring insolence to the Governor, until the reprehension of the Company, and repeated fines, reduced him to better order. A fifth, a man of very low origin, made the pulpit a channel for declamation against Government, whose orders for the regular performance of his duty he disobeyed; and, by his contumacy, disturbed the peace of the community, and set the whole island in a ferment. Four persons were convicted by a jury, and punished by fine or pillory, for circulating papers for general signature, in support of the Chaplain, and reflecting on the conduct of the Governor. A sixth, was obliged to relinquish his appointment from habitual drunkenness. A seventh, was represented as a sot and a liar. An eighth, was notorious for his irregularity of conduct. In short, for a period of sixty years, the inhabitants could with difficulty separate insubordination or profligacy from the character of their ministers. Without attempting to comment on an extraordinary expression of an elegant author, that, "to a philosophic eye, the vices of the Clergy are far less dangerous than their virtues," it may, nevertheless, be remarked, that even political inconvenience may sometimes result from their vices, however preferable, in the eye of modern philosophy, to their virtues.
In the year 1684, Captain Holden filled the appointments of Deputy-Governor, and Storekeeper; and, whilst officiating in the latter capacity, at the stores, was interrupted and impeded, in a most extraordinary manner, by Allen Dennison, a soldier, whose conduct, on former occasions, had been marked by turbulence and audacity. Captain Holden, instead of confining him for disrespectful behaviour to his officer, continued to bear with his insolence, and even condescended to reason with him. Upon Dennison's reviling the Company in scurrilous terms, Captain Holden reminded him, that he, and all others on the island, were amenable to the Company and their laws, as well as to the King. Nothing material happened until about five weeks after, when, at a general muster, Dennison, by a wilful misconstruction of Captain Holden's words above mentioned, accused him publicly of treason, in saying, "we are not His Majesty's subjects, but the Company's." Holden appeared before the Governor and Council, to answer the charge; but a very short investigation sufficed to reverse the situation of the accuser and the accused, and Dennison was committed to custody. This hastened matters to a crisis. After a few consultations among the malcontents, about sixty of them, soldiers and planters, armed with staves, musquets, and swords, assembled in a tumultuous manner; and, to give some colour to their outrageous intentions, endeavoured to make it appear that the Government was setting up an authority independent of the Crown. Until the year 1687, the only flag displayed at the fort, or at any other quarter of the island, was the Company's. Of this circumstance the mutineers availed themselves, and with a flag, made in imitation of the King's, marched downwards, saying they were for the King, and such other exclamations; but, whatever sincerity might have been in such professions, the loyalty of some of these reformers appears to have been blended with other views, For, in the event of success, it had been arranged that John Sich should be appointed Governor, John Coleson Deputy-Governor, and Thomas Bolton keeper of the stores. Their associates were chiefly persons who had taken part in former disturbances. One of them is particularized in the records, as a "fifth monarchy-man, engaged in Venner's rebellion;" another, as a person who had formerly been accused of felony; and among the number was included William Cox, mentioned in the preceding chapter as having betrayed the island to the Dutch, in the year 1672. When they approached the fort, the Governor endeavoured to bring them to reason, and commanded the soldiers to return to their allegiance, and obey his orders; but in vain. They demanded Dennison's release; and told the Governor, if he did not deliver up "that traitor, Holden," they would have him also; and immediately proceeded to attack the fort. In attempting to force the gate they were fired upon by the guard, and three of their number were killed, and fourteen wounded. Upon this they retreated, and the remainder of the day passed without any further disturbance. The Governor receiving information that some of the principal mutineers had retired to the house of William Bowyer, one of their leaders, a serjeant's party was sent, the same night, to secure them; but, on arriving at the house, the mutineers called to arms; upon which the party fired in at the windows, killed one man, wounded another, and seized six more, among whom was Bowyer himself. About two months after these events, the arrival of the ship Royal James afforded the means of impanneling an impartial jury, which was composed of the Captain and officers of that ship, together with some noncommissioned officers belonging to the garrison. William Bowyer, Joseph Clarke, Joseph Ousman, and Robert More, were indicted, on the 23d of December, 1684, for sedition and mutiny. The three former refused to plead, objecting to be tried before any other tribunal than the King's Bench, in England. They were all four found guilty; and, when asked if they had any thing to offer in arrest of judgement, the two former again objected to the legality of the Court; and Bowyer observed, that he had read the Company's charter, but could perceive no clause in it that authorized his being deprived of life. Ousman and More begged the mercy of the Court, and their sentences were changed into banishment; but Bowyer and Clarke, after a respite of some days, were hanged. Others of the insurgents having been secured, within a week or two, were likewise brought to trial, when Joseph Clarke, sen. James Johnson, Thomas Browne, and Samuel Callis, were found guilty, and sentence of death passed on the two former. Execution, however, did not follow: and they were all four, with More, Dennison, and Ousman, sent to Barbadoes. The Government also seized the arms of all others who had been of the number that assailed the fort; and the Commander of every ship that arrived, was cautioned against permitting any improper communication between the ship's company and the island; for, though the mutineers had been defeated in their open insurrection, their dispositions yet remained unsubdued, and secret cabals were still continued.
In a new charter from King Charles the Second, dated the 9th of August, 1683, a clause was inserted, empowering the Company to exercise martial law in their different settlements. But, as from the dispatches by the ship Royal James the condition of St. Helena appeared in so critical a state, that it was doubtful whether the island might be in the possession of the Government, or of the mutineers, special and extraordinary powers were deemed necessary to stop the progress of further mischief. About this time, Sir John Weybourn, Knt. was preparing to take his passage, in the ship London, as Deputy-Governor of Bombay, in command of a company of foot. The London was destined to stop at St. Helena; and King James the Second ordered a proclamation to be published there, in case it should be found that the mutineers were masters of the island, and that the force sent out was not adequate to their reduction, containing a free pardon to all who should return to their allegiance within twenty-four hours after the offer of the proposed terms. His Majesty likewise directed a commission to the Governor and Council, in conjunction with Sir John Weybourn, Captain Eaton, of the London, and the subaltern officers of Sir John's company, to make war upon the mutineers, if they were in arms, and reduce them by force; and, after trying the aggressors by a court-martial, if they were duly convicted, to inflict sentence of death on twelve of the offenders, whose names were excepted out of the pardon above mentioned; including William Cox, in consequence of having "formerly betrayed the island to the Dutch." Upon the arrival of the London, the commission was put in effect, and fourteen of the mutineers condemned, five of whom were executed; the remaining nine were reprieved until further instructions should be obtained respecting them, and, in the mean while, were liberated from close custody.
Soon after these occurrences, a Captain Hord, who was said to have been sent from Bombay for mutiny, arrived at St. Helena. Finding the state of affairs on the island suited to his propensities, he succeeded, by inflammatory conversation, so far to gain the confidence of the disaffected, that he at last ventured to suggest a project, which he persuaded them would very much advance their interest, and do away all their grievances. His proposal was, to procure the dismission of Mr. Blackmore, and the appointment of himself as Governor. A petition to this effect, addressed to His Majesty, was accordingly prepared for general signature; but, intimation of the design having reached Government, and it appearing that two of the condemned persons, viz. G. Shelton and Gabriel Powel, had been active abettors in the conspiracy, they were immediately committed to prison. The former died in confinement; the latter, soon after, effected his escape in the ship Rochester; and Hord, and his principal accomplices, were banished the island.
The relations of the executed persons were by no means satisfied that the proceedings of the King, the Company, or the Governor and Council were either just or necessary; and some of them forwarded a petition to the House of Commons, representing the events that had taken place in such a light as they conceived would best obtain their object. If the copy of the petition preserved on the island be correct, the overt act of rebellion in attacking the fort was glossed over, and denominated an application for redress of their grievances, which they stated to consist in exorbitant taxation, and the imposition of copper-bars upon the inhabitants, by the Company, as coin, which they alleged were refused to be received in return. No evidence appears to have been offered in support of such an improbable assertion; nor could they urge that any petition or memorial had preceded the violence of the insurgents. The address closed with a request that those concerned in procuring the commission for a court martial might be brought to condign punishment; that the Governor and Captain Holden might be called home, to answer for their conduct; that restitution might be made of all property forfeited, whether real or personal; that proper care might be taken of the seven men under condemnation; and that the taxes of which they complained might be remitted. According to Anderson's History of Commerce, the House of Commons passed a resolution, declaring the Company to have acted in an arbitrary and illegal manner, which raised a considerable degree of popular clamour against them; but nothing further seems to have resulted from the application. No taxes were taken off, except half the land-tax; and the Governor and Council were directed to remind the inhabitants that they were liable to be governed by martial law whenever it might be deemed necessary; but the laws in the civil code which adjudged the punishment of death, were expunged by the Company in all cases, except that of wilful murder. The property, both real and personal, of those convicted, was forfeited to the Company; yet, with the exception of the free lands, it was restored to the widows and orphans; and the seven men under condemnation, whose lives were spared at the intercession of the Company, received an equivalent for the freehold estates, upon their agreeing to remove, with their families (at their own expense), to Bombay. The lands which thus reverted to the Company were ordered to be leased out for the term of twenty-one years, but were prohibited from being granted in perpetuity, as it was judged that too many freeholders were already on the island. No inhabitant was permitted to keep arms in his house without the Governor's licence; and the Company resolved to change the system, and rely for the defence of the island more upon a regular garrison than upon a militia. The construction of barracks was ordered, that the soldiers might be separated from the planters as much as possible. The King's flag was directed to be hoisted, and a proper respect to it enforced.