FROM THE YEAR 1714, TO THE YEAR 1741.
Bad seasons. Mischief by a water-spout. Great sickness and mortality. Planters petition against ships touching at the Cape. The system of numerous small farms preferred to few large ones. Mr. Johnson's government. He dies; and is succeeded by Mr. Byfield. Captain Smith appointed Governor. His oppressive conduct. Is superseded by Mr. Byfield. Attention to the preservation of wood. Goats and sheep destroyed for ten years. Goat ranges. Mr. Byfield's good management and economy. A party formed against him. He resigns; and Mr. Pyke is appointed, a second time, to the government. His arbitrary and illegal conduct. Dies; and is succeeded by Mr. Goodwin. Mr. Goodwin's death. Mr. Crespe succeeds; and is superseded by Governor Jenkins. Discovery of frauds. Major Lambert appointed Governor.
GOVERNOR PYKE'S attention was principally directed to the agricultural improvement of the island; but in this he had many obstacles to encounter, from blighting winds, a drought, and great mortality among both whites and blacks, in the year 1718. A deluge, in the following the year, supposed to have been produced by the breaking of a water-spout over Sandy Bay Ridge, occasioned very serious and extensive damage. It washed away the mould from the mountains, filled up some of the plantations with stones and rubbish, and swept others entirely away. The sea for many miles around was discoloured with mud, many families were nearly ruined, and it required much industry to repair the mischief; but it was the operation of time alone that could restore to the hills their lost covering. A considerable importation of slaves took place during this government, to forward the plantations of yam; and Governor Roberts's hope of obviating the necessity of purchasing this article from individuals, became realized by its increased production, until subsequent bad seasons again compelled a recourse the planters. Of the yam there were two sorts, one called the mountain yam, the other the wet yam. The latter is the same kind as at present grows on the island. Of the former species none now remains. As it was reckoned a very unwholesome food in rainy seasons, its loss is little to be regretted; particularly since the cultivation of potatoes has lately become so general. But even the other sort of yam war, supposed to possess certain noxious qualities; and it was imagined that the effect of this diet was aggravated by an unhealthiness in the climate, and that the only antidote to these evils was a free use of spirituous liquors. Governor Pyke's observation on this subject appears in the following extract of a letter to the Court of Directors, dated the 19th of March, 1717:"As an alteration of weather often happens here in less than an hour's space, from sultry heat to very cold, and the mountainy parts of the country is not only windy, but always exposed to great damps and fogs, even in the times we call the dry seasons, we are apt to think it easier to drink water for a constancy in England than in this place. The physical people we sometimes converse with (that is, the ship surgeons) tell us, that strong, liquor is necessary to all people who have no other bread but these watery roots (for a yam is called the water-parsnip); and we also find it so; wherefore, tho' we shall encourage temperance and sobriety, as well by our example it as precept, yet it is in vain to dissuade the use of arrack among these people, who prefer it before the choicest wines." The succeeding Governor, in his correspondence, expressed himself much to the same effect, and stated, that, as the rainy season was soon expected, fifteen legars of arrack had been purchased, to preserve the health of the inhabitants. But it seems that this liquor was deemed as necessary a medicine in dry as in wet seasons. This theory certainly favoured a practice which has been generally very prevalent; yet it may be doubted whether persons residing at St. Helena require a greater proportion of strong beverage than those in England; but that temperance is as requisite in the one country as the other, experience has placed beyond all question. It ought indeed to be remarked, that those who have attained the greatest age at St. Helena have been such as lived abstemiously, dieted much on yam, and resided among the damps and fogs which Governor Pyke supposed were so prejudicial to the constitution.
During the drought, which is mentioned to have taken place in the year 1718, a very extraordinary and unprecedented instance occurred of a N.W. wind, which continued for three weeks, and, together with the dry season, was supposed to have been the cause of dangerous distempers, the nature of which the records do not state; but it appears that out of five hundred and thirty whites, including the garrison, thirty died within six months; and amongst three hundred and twenty blacks the mortality was in a still greater proportion. Even in healthy seasons, according to Governor Pyke's calculation, the annual decrease in the number of blacks newly, imported was two in fifteen, and amongst those inured to the climate, one in ten. To show how far an opposite effect has been produced by the consequences of a mild system of jurisprudence, which divests slavery in St. Helena of every thing inhuman except the name, nothing more is necessary than to contrast the above calculation with the following fact. In the year 1792 the present code of slave laws was promulgated, by which the further importation of slaves was interdicted, the official returns in that year stated the number of blacks upon the island at 1501; and by the same document it appears that in the year 1805 they had increased to 1560.
It has already been mentioned, that, in the original distribution of lands, no more than forty acres, at the most, were allowed to one individual; but in the course of some years, by different transfers of property, many persons became possessed of large farms, containing from two to three hundred acres, contrary to the system of policy laid down by the Company. For although, after the insurrection in the year 1684, they proposed to maintain a sufficient regular force upon the island, in preference to a militia, yet this intention was never followed up; and, in reprobating the measures of Governor Boucher, which tended to depopulate the island, they instructed Governor Pyke to adopt means of increasing the number of land-holders by preventing the growth of extensive farms, and by encouraging small ones. Leases were refused to those who could not occupy them in person, and several parts of the Company's unenclosed lands were parcelled out in farms of twenty or thirty acres each, upon condition that the lessees should, within two years, erect a house on their respective premises; and to fulfil this condition, every reasonable aid was to be afforded on the part of Government. As the sale of supplies from one of these farms was calculated for little more than the maintenance of a single family, the lease was not permitted to be divided by will in small portions; but if its value was left among several, the land could only devolve to one, who was to pay the others as legatees; nor could it be disposed of to any who held above forty acres. Persons of this description were also rendered incapable of obtaining further grants or leases from the Company, unless it was evident, from local circumstances, that the ground they petitioned for could be of little use to others, or unless it was for the express purpose of planting trees; and to this use it was proposed, in the year 1733, that the greater part of the Company's waste lands should be appropriated; but the Court of Directors objected to this proposal, unless it met with the concurrence of the inhabitants, whom they were averse from depriving of their right to commonage.
Although the attention to promote the fertility of the island, and enable it to answer future demands, was highly necessary and proper, yet a pretty strong proof of its then abundant state is exhibited in a petition from the planters to the Court of Directors, praying that restrictions might be laid on the Company's ships touching at the Cape of Good Hope, where they took in sufficient refreshments to render a further supply at St. Helena unnecessary. The real motives of the commanders for adopting this practice were supposed to be commercial views of a private nature, and apprehensions that nothing could be obtained at the island, in consequence of the dry season in the year 1714. But one reason assigned was, that the St. Helena water was brackish; an assertion not altogether void of foundation, as the stream in James's Valley, from which the ships at that time were supplied, became, in its progress, impregnated by several salt springs. This circumstance induced the construction of a crane and watering place at Lemon Valley. It was also determined to obtain a stream from Chub's Spring, to preserve the purity of which a channel was cut above the aqueduct to receive the contents of the salt springs. These precautions answered for a few years, but it was at last found necessary to lay down the present pipes; and this was accordingly done in the year 1776. To the request of the planters the Court of Directors, with that attention to the welfare of the island which has ever distinguished their conduct, not only acceded, but inserted a clause in the charter-parties of their ships, obliging the commanders to purchase three hundred pounds of fresh beef for every twenty men composing their ships' companies. But another drought, which lasted from the year 1719 to 1723, deprived the inhabitants of the advantages proposed by this regulation, and reduced them to a state of famine. A recovery from so severe a calamity was followed by a renewal of the order, but the object of communicating general satisfaction to the inhabitants was far from being accomplished. Many of them complained, that from the time the ships were prohibited from touching at the Cape, they were obliged to receive goods at extravagant rates in exchange for the productions of the island; whereas, formerly, the commanders purchased their supplies with ready money.
A duty of twelve pence per gallon was levied, during this government, on all arrack imported, and of five per cent. on other good, landed on private account; but as the Company's stores were well supplied with almost every article in demand, the amount of customs seldom exceeded fifteen or twenty pounds per annum.
Governor Pyke has been very justly accused of arbitrary conduct in several instances, one of which appears in a reproof from the Court Of Directors, for his injustice towards some soldiers, who alleged that he refused to discharge them after their contracted period of service had expired. These men, to escape his severity, left the island in an open boat, in which they reached Nevis, after performing a voyage fourteen hundred and ninety-eight leagues. A charge against him of inattention to the comforts and wants of the slaves, is in some degree justified by his own calculation of their annual decrease. But he certainly restored the island from a most ruinous condition to as flourishing a state as could be expected, considering the difficulties he had to overcome. He formed the first safe road-way up the side of Ladder Hill. On the whole, the Court of Directors were satisfied with his administration; he was transferred to Bencoolen, as Deputy-Governor, and was afterwards, a second time appointed Governor of St. Helena. On the 13th of June, 1719, he was succeeded by Mr. Edward Johnson.
It had been the custom, ever since the recapture of the island in 1673, to annex a military commission, or title, to the office of Governor. Mr. Johnson was the first exception to this rule. Another alteration also took place, about the same period, in the abolition of the office, of Deputy-Governor. The emoluments of the Council, and the separate functions of each member, were as follows:
Governor Johnson, one hundred Pounds salary, one hundred pounds gratuity.
Captain Bazett, second in Council, and Storekeeper, seventy pounds salary, thirty pounds gratuity.
Mr. Byfield, third ditto, and Superintendant to the plantations, sixty-five pounds salary, thirty pounds gratuity.
Mr. Tovey, fourth in Council, and Accomptant, fifty pounds salary, thirty pounds gratuity.
Captain Alexander, fifth ditto, and Secretary, forty pounds salary, ten pounds gratuity.
The barracks which Captain Roberts had commenced were not completed until eighteen months after Governor Johnson's arrival; they consisted of the mean looking range of buildings which form the side of the square opposite the Castle. He also constructed the wall from the landing-place to the draw-bridge, as a barrier against the surf; finished the warehouses which now compose the store-yard, and made some additions to the defences in James's Valley. But it is proper to mention one circumstance which detracts from his merits:The inhabitants represented to the Council the injury the public sustained by the depredations committed by absconding blacks, and petitioned for a law to permit the offenders being punished at the discretion of their proprietors. To this proposal the Governor assented; though, from his having previously filled the office of a magistrate in England, he might have been expected to have understood the principles of the British Constitution too well to combine the accuser and the judge in one person; especially as it was an order of the Company to adhere, as nearly as possible, to the spirit of the laws of England, in all cases where the St. Helena laws were silent. The Governor's acquiescence in such a measure is the more extraordinary, as his humanity appears evident from a complaint sent home against him, that his mild conduct towards the blacks would be likely to occasion an insurrection.
Governor Johnson applied for leave to resign, and in consequence Captain John Smith was nominated to succeed him; but before this appointment took place, the death of Mr. Johnson, on the 16th of February, 1723, brought Mr. Edward Byfield, as senior member of Council, to the head of the Government. In this station he remained until the 28th of May following, when Captain Smith arrived from England.
This Governor was desirous of recommending himself as a moralist, and a reformer of manners, and was loud in his public declamations against vice and debauchery. His endeavours might probably have been followed with success, had moderation, justice, a little Christian charity, and unsuspected integrity constituted any part of his character; and it would have been well if he could have excluded all appearances of private pique or resentment from his zeal for the suppression of immorality. But, unfortunately, many such declaimers as Governor Smith are insensible of the beam in their own eye; whilst the mote in their brother's is very clearly discerned.
Mr. Benjamin Hawkes, who had been sent out in both a civil and military capacity (the usual mode at that time), had an intrigue with the widow of a Mr. Tovey. For this offence her was cited before the Court of Judicature, and having, in reply to some animadversions of the Governor on his conduct, used language that was deemed threatening and impertinent, he was condemned to suffer imprisonment. Under this pretext also his papers were seized; and amongst them were found several copies of letters charging the Governor with malversation. The following sentence was in consequence passed on him:"That he be degraded, and rendered infamous, and incapable ever to serve the Honourable Company, that his sword be broke over his head, at the front of the garrison, as unworthy to wear a sword or bear a commission; that he afterwards stand in the pillory from the hour of eleven till twelve at noon; and that Margaret Tovey be placed in the pillory by him, there to continue during the time aforesaid." With such rigour were the aiders and abettors of lewdness punished, that the proprietor of the house in which Mr. Hawkes and Mrs. Tovey had sometimes met was placed in the stocks, near two years after the offence had been committed; but it is necessary to state, that, on a former occasion, he had been guilty of disrespect to the Governor. To do full justice to Governor Smith, it must be confessed that when personal animosity did not constitute any motive for action, his severity could relax, and his power intervene to arrest the arm of the law, even in favour of a murderer. The verdict of a coroner's inquest declared Martin Van Oesten, the accountant, guilty of the wilful murder of his black boy; but what was the amazement of the settlement to find that the affair was hushed up by this conscientious Governor, who punished offences which, comparatively speaking, could hardly be called crimes. Van Oesten was a native of Holland, where he was supposed to have committed several murders, and, after robbing his father, fled on board a Dutch East-Indiaman. When he arrived at the Cape, on his homeward-bound voyage, fearing to re-visit his native country, he endeavoured to pass for an Englishman, and to enter as such on one of our Company's ships. His dialect, however, led the Captain to suspect the imposture; but Van Oesten attempted to remove suspicion by stating, that, from his long residence amongst the Hottentots and wild beasts, he had nearly forgotten the use of speech. Some time after he arrived, under the name of Breasy, at St. Helena, where he enlisted as a soldier, and distinguished himself by his abandoned and licentious course of life. But possessing some talents, and being tolerably versed in business, he rendered himself so useful as to be employed in a civil capacity, in which he was guilty of several frauds, and at last absconded from his creditors, to some of whom he was under the greatest obligations for pecuniary assistance at a time when he was sunk in poverty and wretchedness. The concurring testimony of several of his countrymen afforded further instances of the depravity of this monster. It appeared that he had drowned his sister, when an infant, in order to acquire her property; that he had afterwards boasted of this act, and gloried that "there was no sort of wickedness under heaven that he had not committed." He was also suspected of having poisoned his first wife. If this charge were true, he had been guilty of no less than five murders. Such was the wretch to whom the favour and protection of Governor Smith were extended.
The tyrant who had thus turned the pure stream of justice into a course of oppression, was determined that the slightest comments on the arbitrary power he had assumed should neither pass unnoticed, nor unrevenged. One of the inhabitants having declared in conversation that, according to private letters from England, a new Governor might probably be expected, the alarm of mutiny was immediately sounded, and the unfortunate news-monger exposed in the pillory. His words, however, were, soon verified, for the Company gave orders for the supercession of Governor Smith by Mr. Byfield, who, on the 26th of February, 1727, a second time succeeded to the government.
It is unfortunate for the memory of Mr. Byfield that no protest, or dissent, appears in record in opposition to the tyrannical proceedings of Governor Smith; but, however deficient he might have been in his duty as a member of Council, his services as a Governor entitle him to a considerable share of praise.
Governor Roberts had done much towards checking the decrease of wood; but the best laws, if not enforced, are of as little avail as if they had never been enacted, and without compulsion few are inclined to exertion when the object tends to the advantage of public posterity rather than to immediate individual benefit. The planters alleged, that were they to portion off the tenth part of their lands for protecting trees, it would be impossible for them to pay their rents. So that whatever young wood might have been standing, or planted, was exposed to the trespass of cattle, sheep, and goats, whilst the wood of a mature age was daily cut down for building or fuel. All the hill between Long Wood, Flagstaff, and Halley's Mount, and from thence to the Alarm-House, had, within the recollection of several persons living in the year 1718, been an entire forest. The fruitfulness also of James's Valley, and all the adjacent parts, was much diminished by the destruction of the wood. In these, as well as other situations where depredations had been committed on this invaluable article, the rain had made great ravages, as the soil was deprived of its adhesive quality by the want of that humidity which accompanies foliage and shade. Serious apprehensions were entertained that the evil might become general; and the island of Bermuda, and other parts of the world, were cited as instances to prove that countries highly fertile, when abounding with wood, were reduced to barrenness when deprived of such clothing.
The idea of fencing in Long Wood had been revived in the government of Captain Pyke, and the work was commenced by Governor Smith. In the year 1728, about one hundred and fifty acres were completely enclosed, sixty-four of which, on that part called Horse-Point, were appropriated to wood. The remainder was divided into three pastures, and was found, for nine months in the year, to be capable of maintaining the Company's whole stock of black cattle, which, by Mr. Byfield's care, was increased from about two hundred and ten head to nearly double that number. Much attention was also bestowed on the Company's other lands. The potatoes hitherto cultivated on the island were of the red kind, and but little attended to after the prohibition of the distilleries. A crop of Irish potatoes was now planted, for the first time, in the valley called Long Gut, between Long Wood and Dead Wood. Five acres of the Plantation-House grounds were enclosed within a wall fence, and adopted as a nursery; and the red-wood, which had become nearly exterminated, was by this means preserved. Governor Byfield met with two young plants of it, which were moved into a proper situation, and protected till they produced sufficient seed to multiply their numbers.
The mischiefs resulting from the destruction of wood were, in some degree, counteracted by planting hedges of furze (a production probably introduced in Captain Pyke's government). The beneficial effects of this measure are felt at the present time, in the shelter afforded to the lands, and the acquisition of a stock of fuel which has probably prevented the total extirpation of the yet remaining trees. Annual surveys were ordered by Governor Byfield, on all lands, to ascertain whether the farmers were attentive in planting furze, and keeping up their fences and proportion of wood, as ordained by Captain Roberts's law. No defaulter escaped fine, except in very particular cases. With such perseverance was this measure followed up, that the Planters perceived that until the depredations committed by goats and sheep on the young plantations could be prevented, they must be perpetually liable to penalties. At a general meeting of the inhabitants, it was, after some deliberation, agreed, by a majority of fifty-one to eleven, that a law should be proposed to the Governor and Council, commanding the destruction of all the goats and sheep, for the period of ten years, to commence from the 1st of February, 1731, allowing them two years for reducing their flocks. This was an idea formerly suggested by Governor Roberts; but he was probably averse from enforcing its execution in opposition to the inclinations of the planters; and the difficulties that would have attended such a measure seem to have been foreseen by Mr. Byfield, who chose rather that the act should originate in the inhabitants themselves than in the Government. At this circumstance the Court of Directors expressed much satisfaction. The law was in consequence confirmed, and was followed by the expected success. The indigenous trees shot up spontaneously in great numbers. An inhabitant who died in the year 1805, at the age of eighty-three, informed the author that many parts of the island where no trees had grown for many years before became covered with wood.
From the scanty patches of herbage on the heights contiguous to the sea, neither black cattle nor sheep, even had nature fitted them for traversing such craggy precipices, could derive much sustenance. But in those cliffs which in many parts are inaccessible to man, the goat finds excellent browzing, and thrives where other animals would perish. To obtain a good breed of these creatures became an object of very early attention. Orders were sent by the Company, to Bombay and Surat, to forward to St. Helena a proportion of ram and ewe goats on every homeward-bound ship, until a sufficient breeding stock was procured. But if by this it was intended to introduce a larger species, the measure would hardly appear necessary after what has been stated by the writer of Cavendishe's Voyage. The fecundity of the goats in a very few years multiplied their number to such a degree that they were regarded as wild animals, and hunted down by dogs and guns without restraint. This practice was interdicted in the year 1678, by proclamation; but masters of families and house-keepers were permitted, on application to the Governor and Council, to appropriate flocks to their own use, and to maintain them on the parts of the Company's waste lands now called Goat Ranges; the Company reserving to themselves James's Valley and its vicinity for their own goats.
Before the destruction of the goats had been assented to and agreed on, it was stipulated, that those persons who had enjoyed the advantages of keeping flocks on the Company's waste land, should have the limits of the respective ranges defined, and registered, and, at the expiration of the ten years, the former indulgencies should be restored. What was, therefore, at first considered as an indulgence, was, upon that occasion, constituted a right. Laws were enacted which admitted and vested in certain persons, the right of keeping goats on certain parts of the Company's waste land. The land itself still remains in property to the Company. The value of this species of property depends on the safety or danger of the range, its extent, capability, and other local circumstances. The privilege of keeping one hundred goats in one situation will perhaps sell for one hundred pounds, whilst in another it is scarcely worth thirty pounds. The right in each range is generally possessed by two, three, or more proprietors, by whom stated days are fixed for impounding the goats; a task of difficulty and danger to any but those inured to it from childhood. A spectator, unaccustomed to the scenery and rural economy of the island, cannot but be struck with the singularity of a St. Helena goat-pounding. The eye, fearfully wandering over the abyss beneath, here and there catches a glance of the rill that murmurs at the foot of the declivity. On the opposite side a dreary rugged mountain is seen to rise stupendous; here and there a small patch of herbage is discernable, but the general appearance exhibits little more than huge impending rocks, and the apertures of caverns, which afford shelter to the nimble inhabitants of these wilds. The intervention of hanging clouds, which sometimes obscure the depth of the valley from sight, leaves the uncontrolled imagination to rove in the idea of unfathomable profundity. The blacks by whom the goats are impounded spread themselves on the outskirts of the range, to collect the stragglers, and impel them in a direction towards the pound, by loud shouts, and rolling down stones. The echoes resounding through the valleys and cliffs, in the midst of such rude scenery, has an effect truly romantic. After the lapse of an hour, or more, detached flocks of a dozen goats, or upwards, are seen, like so many moving specks, followed by their hunters, who with cautious footsteps tread their dangerous way through ledges where a single slip would precipitate them to destruction. As they approach nearer to their place of destination, the different flocks unite into one; the goats move with a slower step, and the cries of the blacks are heard with quicker repetition and a shorter note, until, arriving near the entrance of the pound, the goats rush in with rapidity, and as many of them are taken as are required for use. Each proprietor has his respective mark cut in the animals' ears; and during the process of following the flocks, the blacks, by observing those kids that keep with their masters' ewes, are enabled to put on them their proper mark when impounded. Mistakes in this instance are rarely known to occur. It often happens that in driving the goats a few will break away, and effect their escape; but they are sometimes re-taken and secured by the celerity of their pursuers, who run among the ledges, and spring from rock to rock, on the brink of precipices that would justify a description such as Shakespeare has given of Dover Cliff. As many of the planters are as active and expert as the blacks in this exercise, they are well calculated for the service of riflemen, a corps in which they are embodied. A range called the Devil's Hole, on the S. W. side of the island, is so very steep and dangerous, that the proprietors seldom procure a goat from it without the aid of a fowling-piece. The following anecdotes are not inapplicable to the present subject, and will serve still further to point out the nature of the country.About the year 1718, two of the Company's slaves, who preferred a free-booting life to that of labour and subjection to their overseers, made choice of a cave about half way up a steep acclivity, which terminates in a spiral rock called Lot, in Sandy Bay. From this strong hold their nocturnal sallies and depredations were carried on with success for several weeks; and even after their retreat was discovered, they stood a siege of three or four days, and repelled all attacks by rolling down stores on the assailants; until at last it was deemed requisite to send a party of soldiers to fire on them if they refused to surrender in twenty-four hours. The agility, however, of a young man, named Worral, and two or three others, rendered this measure unnecessary. They went to the opposite side of the mountain, and clambered up until they gained a situation above the cave, the mouth of which became thus exposed to the same mode of attack which had so effectually operated for its defence. When the freebooters approached the edge of the precipice to roll down stones, Worral's discharge from above maimed one of them so much that the poor wretch died, and the other was much bruised. The recollection of this incident ought to give confidence to any party, however trifling in numbers, that may be posted for the defence of the difficult and dangerous passes which, in most parts of the island, form the only access into the interior.
In the year 1734, a sailor, on his return from the country, wandered among the cliffs at Ladder Hill, which overhang the sea, and found himself at last in a place where he could neither turn, nor sit down, nor discover any method of escape. In this perilous situation he remained until the following morning, when perceiving a party going to swim, he threw his shoes down to attract notice. He succeeded, and was soon relieved by the natives, who ventured within a few fathoms of him, and lowered down a rope, to which he fastened himself, and was hauled up.
To carry forward the defences, public buildings, plantations, and other works, which had long been in process, required more labour than the Company could supply either from the garrison or their own blacks. Recourse was, therefore, had to the slaves of individuals, the hire of whom afforded the chief maintenance of many families. On the succession of Mr. Byfield to the government, it was thought that this additional labour might be dispensed with, and the blacks thus employed were therefore discharged by orders from home. The consequence of a measure which thus deprived numbers of a considerable income, was a petition from the inhabitants to the Company, praying relief from the penury and distress to which they had been reduced. The Court of Directors, in reply, humanely ordered that half the rents, and the tax of ten shillings for each slave, should be remitted for five years. This indulgence was afterwards continued for five years longer (to alleviate the calamities occasioned by a dry season), and subsequently prolonged to the year 1745. The expenses of the island were reduced five thousand pounds in the first year of Mr. Byfield's government. But as the discharge of the blacks from the Company's works cannot be supposed to have been the sole cause of so great a reduction, much credit may fairly be ascribed to the general good management of the Governor. His care and assiduity were indeed very conspicuous, particularly in the recovery of several bad debts, contracted by a practice that had long been tolerated, of giving credit without restraint for necessaries required by individuals from the Company's stores. When a person in indigent circumstances desired to make a purchase from one more wealthy, payment was often made by the poor man's becoming responsible for a part, or the whole, of the rich man's debt to the stores; so that by these kinds of transfers it was found that the Company became the creditors of such only as had scarcely the means of payment. This nefarious traffic was interdicted, in the year 1721, with an exception in favour of those who were in the Company's employment and pay.
During the four years in which Mr. Byfield filled the chair, his savings for the Company were calculated at twenty-five thousand five hundred and sixty-five pounds. Their sense of his merits was manifested by an addition of one hundred pounds to his salary, one hundred, pounds worth of plate, and four hundred pounds in cash. The inhabitants also, about five months after their liberation from the galling yoke of Captain Smith's tyranny, testified their acknowledgements in an address to Mr. Byfield for his equitable administration; and in the following year again took occasion to express their high sense of his just and indulgent disposition. But when the recollection of former sufferings and oppression had worn off, present blessings were undervalued, and discontents fomented against the man who, by general confession, had every claim to esteem and affection. This animosity appears in part to have originated from the Governor's attempting to support the cause of the poorer class of planters against the views of a few opulent land-holders, who desired to sell their beef to the ships at a rate below the established price. Many might also have been disappointed at his not sacrificing the Company's interest to obtain popularity; but, at all events, his enemies were determined, if possible, to procure his dismission. A powerful party was formed against him, and a deputation of two of its members sent home to lay their pretended grievances before the Court of Directors. Among a variety of complaints brought forward on that occasion, it was alleged, that the farmers were debarred the privilege of selling beef to the ships; and that they were prevented going on board for disposing and bartering their commodities, although this was a right that had been granted to them by the Company. It was also affirmed, that they could not procure necessaries from the stores, but on condition of their purchasing articles, the property of some of the Council; that the Government sanctioned most exorbitant charges from the surgeon; and that the Governor, derived a clandestine profit of one thousand pounds per annum. It only required investigation to affix on these calumniators the obloquy they deserved. As an instance of the little regard they paid to truth, it appeared that half a crown was the total amount of what the surgeon had received from the inhabitants during his residence on the island. But can such an extraordinary instance of turpitude excite surprise, when the deplorable disadvantages under which the inhabitants laboured are for a moment taken into consideration. Many, if not the greater part, of the original settlers were of inferior rank; their offspring had no other religious or moral instruction than that which could be obtained within the circumscribed society of the island. Their spiritual teachers, far from inculcating sobriety, submission to the laws, mercy, charity, and other Christian virtues, were foremost in scenes of debauchery and infamy; and when it is considered that rebellion, revenge hatred, and duplicity, blackened the character of the St. Helena chaplains for more than sixty years, might it not have been expected that both religion should be put out of countenance, and morality out of practice.
Governor Byfield, indignant at the injurious and ungrateful treatment he had received, retired from his situation in disgust; but whilst his enemies succeeded in driving him from the island, they were little aware of the punishment they had been preparing for themselves. Captain Pyke was a second time sent out as Governor, and arrived in March, 1731; but Mr. Byfield, by the Company's orders, kept the chair until the last moment of his departure, which happened in a few days. During this second administration of Governor Pyke, he fully justified the charge of arbitrary conduct, of which he was accused. The white inhabitants were ignominiously whipped and imprisoned for trivial offences. The military officers fined and suspended without courts martial. Though he severely punished several acts of wanton barbarity committed by the proprietors of slaves, yet some instances of horrid cruelty were unnoticed; and he gave full scope to his own tyranny; a detail of which would be improper and indelicate. One occurrence, however, cannot be passed over in silence.A free black woman had a child by a soldier, for which offence, if such it could be called in an uninstructed, ignorant creature, hardly sensible that any moral guilt was attached to the act, she and her child were both consigned to slavery, under pretence that such was the law in some of his Majesty's plantations. This doctrine was worthy of the man who applied it; but, as it was somewhat unprecedented to regulate the judicial proceedings of one country by the laws of another, and as Governor Pyke might, with equal propriety, use the torture to extort confession, because it was the law in some parts of Europe, he was judged unfit to be any longer trusted with the power he had so grossly abused. A number of similar acts induced the Court of Directors to dismiss him; but prior to the receipt of their orders to this effect, his decease, which happened in July, 1738, had placed Mr. Goodwin, the senior member of Council, and a native of the island, at the head of the Government; and in this station he was confirmed. The person next in rank at the Board was Mr. Duke Crispe, a man not deficient in talents, and possessed of no common share of knavery and cunning. He had formerly been in the situation of Governor's Steward, from which he had been raised to a civil appointment, in the year 1726, and was afterwards promoted to a seat in Council. He never hesitated to concur in whatever censure was thrown on the conduct of his former masters and benefactors; he was concerned in trade with Governor Goodwin, had an entire influence over him, and was, in fact, the grand spring which regulated all the measures of Council. The Company's lands were disposed of for a tenth part of their value, the stores embezzled, the most infamous frauds committed by erasure and false entries, and the treasury robbed of nearly four thousand pounds. In the year 1739 he succeeded as provisional Governor, in consequence of Mr. Goodwin's death; but he had incautiously omitted to allow a due share of the plunder to G. Powel, one of his colleagues in Council, a man still more artful than himself, and equally devoid of principle. Powel turned informer, and had the address to conceal his real character. From the nature of the intelligence he secretly transmitted, it was judged proper that a person of integrity should be immediately sent out, with extraordinary powers, to investigate the charges, and even, if necessary, to supersede the Governor and Council. The man selected for this service was Mr. Robert Jenkins, who had commanded a Scotch merchant ship, at the period when so many British subjects had suffered the most cruel indignities from the Spaniards, in consequence of the disputed right of cutting logwood in the bay of Campeachy. His ship was boarded by a Spanish guarda costa, on pretence of searching for counterband goods; Captain Jenkins was insulted, tortured, and had one of his ears torn off, which, upon his arrival in England, he exhibited at the bar of the House of Commons, and, being asked by a member what he thought and did when they mangled him, made that memorable reply, "I committed my soul to God, and my cause to my country." The indignation excited at this circumstance seems to have hastened the war that soon after took place with Spain. He was afterwards commander of a ship in the Company's service, and continued in that situation till he was appointed Supervisor of all the Company's affairs at St. Helena. Under this title he embarked for the island, where he arrived in May, 1740, and, pursuant to his instructions, landed in the first boat, and immediately proceeded to the Castle, accompanied by Mr. John Godfrey, his assistant. Upon his announcing that he had charge of dispatches, a Council was instantly assembled. He then opened his commission, summoned the chief Supercargoes, and Captains of the Company's ships then at the island, and in their presence demanded the keys of the treasury. The cash found, and counted on the spot, amounted to only six pounds sterling. Mr. Duke Crispe, the acting Governor, and the rest of the Council (with the exception of Mr. Powel), were declared to be no longer in the Company's service, and Mr. Jenkins assumed the government, and, in terms of the Company's instructions, formed a Council, consisting of two Supercargoes, in conjunction with Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Powel. A thorough investigation was instituted, and most ample proof adduced in support of the accusations made by Mr. Powel, who was in consequence made second in Council; and the estates of the guilty were seized to the extent of the Company's losses, which were calculated at six thousand two hundred and eighty-four pounds.
The Governor having executed his commission, Major Lambert arrived, as his successor, on the 22d of March, 1741, in the ship Harrington, of which Captain Jenkins was directed to assume the command for the remainder of the voyage. In his station as a commander, his conduct became still further distinguished by a gallant action against a pirate, in which he preserved his own ship, and three others under his orders.