CHAPTER VII.

FROM THE YEAR 1741, TO THE YEAR 1788.

Death of Governor Lambert, and succession of Mr. Powel. — A detection of Mr. Powel's frauds and misdemeanors. — Is superseded by Governor Dunbar. — Experiments in the cultivation of corn. — Dissensions among the Council. — Mr. Hutchinson appointed Governor. — Unsuccessful attempt of a French squadron to capture the Company's ships as they approached St. Helena. — Increase of the establishment. — Exercise of martial law authorized by Act of Parliament. — Introduction of the British laws. — Prices of provisions, and necessaries from the Company's stores, reduced. — Acquisition of oaks, and other vegetable productions. — Mortality among the cattle. — Doctor Maskelyne and Mr. Waddington sent out to observe the transit of Venus. — Governor Hutchinson succeeded by Mr. Skottoe. — Long Wood fenced in. — Mr. Corneille appointed Governor. — A mutiny in the garrison.

MAJOR LAMBERT'S government was terminated in about four months, by his death; but he had the merit of establishing the first regular hospital, which was upon the site of the building now appropriated to that purpose. He was succeeded by George Gabriel Powel, senior member of Council, who, in a government of scarcely two years, completely developed his real character, and evinced that want of opportunity alone had prevented his being concerned in the frauds of which he had given information on a former occasion. His disgrace and dismission were the result of a conduct similar to that by which he had accomplished the supersession of Governor Crispe. On the 11th of March, 1743, Colonel Dunbar arrived, as Governor, with orders to inquire into his proceedings; and the investigation fully established the truth of the charges that had been privately transmitted against him. It was found that goods had been sold upon his account, which his own steward declared were the property of the Company. He had also obtained a lease for land, the letting of which to another tenant he had formerly opposed as extremely improper; and actually took possession of a goat-range belonging to the Company. Their farms had been appropriated to his own use, and their timber, lime, perbec-stone, and other materials, applied in constructing a commodious dwelling-house on his estate in the country. In this undertaking their artificers and labourers were also employed, and their pay was charged in the account of fortifications, or other public works. The Company's blacks, after finishing their daily tasks, instead of being suffered to enjoy their necessary rest, were compelled to carry heavy loads from Sandy Bay and James's Valley, to forward the Governor's buildings; and if they did not return to their work before daylight the following morning, they were severely whipped. In consequence of this barbarous treatment, they seldom slept in a house, but lay upon the roads all night. The abilities of Mr. Powel were far from contemptible; but the talents with which nature had endowed him were all perverted by the depravity of his heart. An anecdote is related of him which displays an instance of cunning not unworthy of a member of the Inquisition. Two slaves (brothers) were brought prisoners before him; one for having absconded, the other for having supplied him with provisions during his absence. Against the first there was sufficient proof, but against the second none; as the former endured his punishment, denying that his brother had rendered him assistance, and the latter refused to confess the fact. The Governor, on this occasion, said to the Council, "Gentlemen, this villain should be flogged severely. A wretch who would not give his poor brother a morsel when starving, deserves to be hanged." This declaration induced the intimidated creature to acknowledge the charge, and the acknowledgement was immediately followed by an inhuman chastisement.

Incidents comparatively trivial, may sometimes throw as much light on characters as the most important facts; and a degree of levity, as well as cruelty, is apparent in Mr. Powel's disposition, from his treatment of a poor man whom he had employed to make a wig for him, with the materials of which he was displeased, and in consequence ordered the unfortunate wig-maker into his own room, where he was placed on the back of a soldier, and whipped like a school-boy with fifty lashes.

Mr. Powel refused to make any defence to the various charges exhibited against him, and when required to settle his accounts with the Company, instead of complying, demanded a general receipt, and permission to go to England. But this was refused until the Company's claims were satisfied, or until he should give security to their full amount. To the latter proposition he assented; and was allowed to go to England. From thence he proceeded to America, and was conspicuous as a patriot at Carolina, and, it is said, even became a member of Congress.

Governor Dunbar was unwearied in his exertions to watch over the resources and fertility of the island. Experiments in the cultivation of oats, barley, and wheat, at Long Wood, gave rise to such hopes of success, that a barn was erected there; but on a failure of subsequent crops, it was converted into a residence for the Lieutenant-Governor. This disappointment is supposed to have arisen either from drought, or some peculiarity of the climate or soil, and not, as has sometimes been asserted, from the depredations of rats: though it must be admitted that the ravages of these vermin are often attended with the most injurious consequences. In 1756 they barked the trees at Long Wood for food, and an incident occurred, in the year 1700, the authenticity of which might be doubted if it rested upon less respectable authority than the records. The rats are stated to have then attacked and devoured their own species; and the island was consequently nearly cleared of these animals. Among other improvements of Governor Dunbar is to be included the planting of the avenue of Peipal trees in the middle of the valley leading to the hospital, by which it is so much ornamented and shaded. His extreme violence of temper, however, and his arbitrary disposition, involved him in repeated disputes with the Council. He highly resented the least opposition to his measures; took upon himself to mulct some of the members, sometimes of a month's, and sometimes a quarter's salary, and suspended them at pleasure. During the course of these illegalities, Mr. Hutchinson, the Lieutenant-Governor, in whose person that office was revived, evinced a degree of temper, moderation, and propriety of conduct, highly to his credit. He was accordingly judged a more proper person to be intrusted with the government than Colonel Dunbar, who was directed, in a letter dated the 23d of December, 1746, to resign his charge to Mr. Hutchinson, or, in the event of his death or absence, to the senior military officer and secretary for the time being. These gentlemen were in such case appointed joint Commissioners for executing the functions of government; and, by a postscript to the same letter, they were ordered to compose the Council, to the exclusion of the other members, who had previously held seats at the Board; but one or two of these members were afterwards reinstated, though not fill some time had elapsed.

About this period a plan was formed by the French Government for intercepting the East India ships, by stationing cruisers in their track to the windward of St. Helena. L'Achille, of sixty-four guns, La Syrenne, of thirty-two, and La Zephyre, of thirty, were fitted out from Brest, and arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, in January, 1759. After there taking in a supply of stores and necessary refreshments, they proceeded to their station, which they reached early in March; and, in order to prevent the communication of any intelligence respecting them, obliged the commander of every neutral ship with which they spoke to enter into an engagement not to touch at the island: but they had not remained three days to windward before they were distinctly seen from the look-out posts, and during their cruise, which continued nearly three months, frequently approached within eight or nine leagues of the land. Upon their being first descried, a long boat was equipped, and placed under the command of Mr. Bendy, a midshipman of one of the Company's ships, who was instructed to get to wind-ward of the French, for the purpose of informing the expected Indiamen of their danger. He was successful in gaining his station unperceived by the enemy; but shortly after observing them to leeward, he mistook them for English ships, bore down, and did not discover his error till it was too late. His capture was, of course, the consequence of this mistake. In the beginning of May, four of the Company's ships fell in with the cruisers, with whom three ships maintained an obstinate running fight for some time, but finding they could not get in without a great risk of being taken, they stood away for South America. A few days after, the French gave chase to two more of our Indiamen, who pursued the same course as the other four, and the six ships reached in safety the Bay of All Saints. They were soon followed, and blocked up by the enemy, who had quitted their station for want of water. In this extremity a long boat was decked, and properly fitted out to carry advices home of the situation in which the Company's ships were placed. The boat passed through the French men of war in the night, and was picked up, in great distress, by a New York sloop, one hundred and thirty leagues to the westward of Cape Clear. In the mean time the cruisers abandoned their blockade, and allowed our ships to proceed unmolested on their voyage. Thus ended an enterprise, the failure of which seems to have discouraged the repetition of any systematic attempt of the same kind; for we cannot regard as such the casual cruise, for a day or two, of a single frigate or privateer, on their voyage towards Europe. The only British vessels known to be captured off the island by such cruisers were the Rebecca schooner, in the year 1782, and a whaler, in the year 1805.

As the trade and prosperity of the East-India Company increased, so the importance of St. Helena became more manifest, its security became an object of greater attention, and the respectability of the civil and military establishments gradually augmented. The two services were rendered more distinct and separate: in the civil department, a regular rule for promotion, and gradations of rank, was fixed[1]; and, from the year 1759, one or more seats at the Board have invariably been filled by senior civil servants. In fact, all members of Council, as such, are upon the civil not the military establishment; and, in support of this assertion, a number of instances might be adduced; but thefollowing extract from the official correspondence will suffice:—"Captain Thomas Kirkpatrick, according to our orders, being admitted into the civil service, as a member of Council, covenants for him, as such, are transmitted for his execution[2]." The same rule applies to the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor, whose offices are civil, and entirely independent of whatever military commissions they may hold. It would be needless to digress upon a point so well established, if a contrary opinion had not of late been maintained; and if a custom allowed for eight or nine years, by which the senior military officer in James's Valley was regarded as the Governor's representative, in all respects, during his absence from the seat of government, had not gradually usurped the authority of a law. Some circumstances, however, having occurred that brought the subject under discussion, a reference was made to the Court of Directors. The decision of that Court fixed the system as it had previously stood; and, at present, the senior member of Council in town in the Governor's absence, is considered as his representative, in all respects, except the command of the military.

The garrison had formerly more the appearance of a militia, than of a regular military establishment. A number of the non-commissioned officers and privates occupied farms, which in a great measure engrossed their attention. Shortly after the re-appointment of Captain Pyke to the government, an increase of numbers appears to have occasioned the formation of a second company of infantry; and, in 1743, the garrison was augmented to four companies, besides the artillery. In consequence of the discharge of those who preferred the life of a planter to that of a soldier, military duties were conducted more conformably to the rules of discipline. The companies were commanded by officers of no higher rank than Lieutenants, until sixteen years after, when a Captain was appointed to each; but at St. Helena, as well as in other settlements belonging to the Company, it was impossible to maintain proper discipline without martial law; the exercise of which, though permitted by a former charter, had not been enforced at St. Helena since the time of Captain Roberts's government. Indeed, from the tenour of the charter, it would appear that military courts were admissible only in case of actual attack, or of open rebellion, The propriety, therefore, of constantly governing the garrison by martial law, particularly in time of peace, was doubted; and an Act of Parliament was passed, in the twenty-seventh of George the Second, for punishing mutiny, desertion, and other military crimes, in a manner similar to that practised in his Majesty's armies. By this act the Court of Directors, through the medium of the Crown, is empowered to authorize the Governor and Council to appoint courts martial, and also to extend the same authority to the commanding officer of any detached party.

Besides the penalties to which officers on the St. Helena establishment are liable by the decision of a military court, they are subject to dismission by the Governor and Council, without a court martial[3]; and, by the Act of Parliament of the 13th George the Third, for regulating the affairs of the East-India Company, the sentence of dismission against any servant, civil or military, pronounced by the Governor and Council, can be revoked in no other manner than by a majority of three-fourths of the Directors, and the like majority of a special court of Proprietors. The Directors, in consequence, with that lenity so manifest in all their proceedings, have ordered, that suspension from the service, until the Court of Directors' pleasure be known, shall be the sentence of the Governor and Council, instead of dismission, unless the latter may be "really necessary, or unless cashiered by a court martial;" and the Act of the twenty-seventh of George the Second renders the Governor and Council amenable to the Court of King's Bench for any oppressive abuse of their authority.

The partial spirit of the early laws of St. Helena, in which such distinction of colour was observed that a black was consigned to death for the same crime for which a white was only slightly punished, was too disgraceful in a British settlement to admit of its continuance; and it is surprising that an error so enormous had prevailed for so long a period. A power vested in the Governor of trying causes, either by jury or before Council, according to his discretion, was frequently abused, in violation of the Company's orders against depriving any persons of lands without the verdict of a jury. Unwarrantable fines were also, in many cases, imposed; and policy, justice, and humanity, called aloud for a reform, which was hastened by the daring felonies, burglaries, and other serious crimes committed by both whites and blacks with impunity, for want of the powers to apply adequate punishments. Repeated representations on this subject by Governor Hutchinson induced the Court of Directors to take it into their serious consideration. On consulting the most eminent law authorities, they were "satisfied that they had a right by themselves, their ministers and officers, to govern the island of St. Helena, and to hold courts of justice therein for trying all kinds of crimes, offences, and misdemeanors, and also for determining all civil actions." And, as the Governor and Council had hitherto acted as judges and magistrates, it was thought right that they should still continue to do so, without any further authority than what had been customary; and they were in consequence declared Judges of the Courts of Oyer and Terminer and Gaol Delivery; which, upon this occasion, in the year 1762, were established, and have continued to the present period. The offices of Sheriff and Constable were at the same time instituted; but the Court of Directors disapproved of the proposal that a professional gentleman of the law should be sent out as Clerk of the Peace, enjoining the Governor and Council to discourage litigation as much as lay in their power. This wise admonition has been attended with the happiest effects; for, in general, no people are more averse to law-suits than the natives of St. Helena. The grand jury is usually composed of gentlemen in the civil and military service, and the principal land freeholders. The petit jury generally consists of free and lease holders of an inferior class, and any Englishman at the island is liable to be impannelled as a juror. In fact, all judicial proceedings are now conducted very nearly in the same manner as in the English courts. The convictions, punishments, and determinations, are required to be conformable to the known laws and statutes of the British realm, or as nearly so as the nature and circumstances of the cases will admit. This rule, however, does not affect local laws, either criminal or civil, that had been, or might be, established, provided they were not repugnant to the spirit of the laws of England. Those crimes for which the British code condemns the offender to transportation, are punished at St. Helena either by burning the hand, or by whipping: the reason of this peculiarity must be obvious. Until the year 1787, the evidence of blacks, although deemed competent against persons of their own colour, was not admissible against whites. The consequence of so partial a system will appear by the following instances.—In the year 1785, Elizabeth Renton, a white inhabitant, in a fit of passion, stabbed one of her female slaves with a carving-knife; the slave died in a few moments. The verdict of the coroner's inquest upon this occasion was wilful murder against Elizabeth Renton; and the grand jury, at the following quarter sessions, presented a bill of indictment to the same effect. Had her skin been as black as her heart, she would undoubtedly suffered the penalty of the law; but as the only witness that could have sworn to the fact was a person of colour, who was not examined at the trial, because the evidence of blacks against whites was inadmissible, she escaped. In the following year, a planter, named Worrall, and his slave-man (Yon), were detected in the act of sheep-stealing: as the proofs against him rested upon the testimony of blacks, the white man could not be brought to trial, but the slave was convicted, and sentenced to death, notwithstanding he had acted under the coercion of his master. To have followed such a sentence with execution, would have been too flagrant an outrage against equity; but, as the authority for pardoning criminals is not expressed in the Company's charter, that power is one of the prerogatives of the Crown at St. Helena, as well as in England; Yon was therefore reprieved, and recommended to his Majesty's royal mercy, who was graciously pleased to extend it by sending out a free pardon.

The Court of Directors, anxious to prevent a continuance of such barbarous absurdities, submitted the subject to the consideration of the most eminent law authorities; and, in consequence of Recorder Adair's opinion on the case, the evidence of blacks against whites is now admissible in the same degree as against those of their own colour[4].

Whether any degree of Admiralty jurisdiction be vested in the Governor and Council, is a point not positively ascertained. During the government of Mr. Skottowe, five Dutch prizes were taken, off the Cape of Good Hope, in the year 1781, by the British squadron under Commodore George Johnson, who brought them into St. Helena, and made application to the Governor for a Court of Admiralty to be appointed for the condemnation of the prizes. To obviate every objection or doubt which might possibly arise against a compliance with the request, he engaged, on behalf of the captors, that, in whatever sentence the Court might pronounce, a clause should be inserted, "saving the rights of all persons upon the nett produce, who might have any claim or claims upon the said captures, and should lodge the same claim or claims within three months from the registration of the sentence before the Court of Appeals in prize causes, established in London."

The Governor having consulted the Council, and the charter being carefully examined, it was the opinion of the Board that there was no legal impediment to an acquiescence with the Commodore's application. The Lieutenant-Governor and two of the civil servants were, by virtue of a formal instrument from the Board, constituted Judges of the Admiralty Court on this occasion, and the prizes were condemned. To the official report transmitted on this subject no answer was returned; but it is understood that the cause underwent a second adjudication in England, where the sentence of condemnation was repealed.

How far the powers of the Council may extend in ecclesiastical cases, still remains a question. In some instances, certainly, they have ever been accustomed to exercise part of the functions of that court, such as proving wills, and appointing administrators to the estates of persons dying intestate. But a case being presented for their decision, which had for its object the separation of a wife from bed and board, there was some degree of hesitation, from apprehensions of want of authority. The mutual consent, indeed, of the parties precluded the necessity of further deliberation on the question. It may be remarked, however, that, prior to the erection of the courts of Oyer and Terminer, the Governor and Council were expressly stated to be fully competent to administer justice within the island "in all causes and matters whatsoever" betwixt party and party, except life, limb, or land (which required the assistance of a jury), and that the introduction of the forms used in the British courts was accompanied with a proviso that the local laws and customs of the island were not thereby to be superseded, unless they were contrary to the spirit of the laws of England. It appears, therefore, reasonable to conclude, that had the Council, in the case alluded to, after impartially weighing the evidences on both sides, pronounced a decree of separation from bed and board, in order to save a family from ruin, their sentence would have been approved by the law authorities in England.

Among the reforms and improvements already noticed in the present chapter, it is proper to mention the increased degree of comfort and respectability attached to the Company's servants upon the island by an augmentation to their incomes. Governor Lambert was sent out with a salary of five hundred pounds per annum, and a proportionate addition was annexed to offices of inferior importance. Although, since Governor Poirier's appointment, persons below the rank of gentlemen had been excluded from the general table, yet the right enjoyed by all civil covenanted servants and military officers of constantly dining at the same table with the Governor, could not but be subversive of that respect so necessary to be preserved towards the person who presided over the settlement and all its official departments. In the year 1743, the general table was abolished, and, in its stead, an allowance, tinder the title of diet-money, was granted to those who had enjoyed the privilege of frequenting it. Two years previous to this change, regulations were adopted in the store- department, by which bread and flour were sold to the military at prime cost; clothing, and all other stores, at ten per cent.; and to the inhabitants at forty per cent.

Governor Dunbar, in the year 1745, reduced the price of the salt provisions to two shillings per piece to the soldiers; this price was confirmed; and, in the year 1758, a similar reduction was made in favour of the officers and civil servants. Since this regulation, the price of salt provisions has been fixed at four pence per pound to all classes of persons on the island, except to non-commissioned officers and privates, who still receive it at the former rate. The privilege of purchasing all other articles in the stores at no greater advance than ten per cent. was extended, in the year 1772, to the planters and other persons not in the Company's service.

During the government of Mr. Hutchinson, the island was enriched with several valuable vegetable productions, highly conducive to ornament and to utility. About the year 1749, the Scotch and spruce fir were introduced, and some acorns sent out, from which trees have been produced that now measure from eight to eleven feet in circumference. But in the animal, as well as the vegetable kingdom, longevity has been found to accompany tediousness of growth; and the rapidity with which the oaks of St. Helena have shot up, occasioned, in some of them, a very early decay[5]. But it is only in the most sheltered spots of the island that the oak attains perfection; in exposed situations, the trade-wind blowing continually in the same direction, produces very baneful effects upon this, as upon most other trees not indigenous to the soil. Those which receive least injury from this cause are the cypress and the pinaster[6]. A number of attempts to introduce the coffee-plant had failed; but Governor Hutchinson at last succeeded in this object, though he met with several disappointments, occasioned by severe drought, a calamity with which the island was observed to be afflicted once in every seven or eight years. Its distressing consequences were increased in the years 1760, 1761, and 1762, by dreadful sickness among the cattle. The disorder is thus described in the official correspondence:—"The cattle were first taken with a trembling, lost the use of their limbs, and the bowels contracted in a surprising manner, some of them have a swelling in their breasts, others, upon opening the intestines, are found quite decayed; all of them, after they are seized with this disorder, have a contraction in the bowels, and appear to be quite mad." Various opinions were entertained as to the cause. of the distemper. Some supposed it to arise, from the multitude of insects propagated in the dry grass; while others imagined it proceeded from eating an herb called the canary-grass; but the latter opinion was proved to be erroneous. Every remedy that could be suggested on the island, as well as in England, proved unequal to stop the progress of this disorder, which did not abate till it had nearly destroyed all the cattle.

Whilst the little island, its politics, and domestic concerns, occupied the paternal attention of its proprietors, its situation attracted the notice of astronomers, as suited, in a particular instance, to promote science and nautical information. It was calculated, that upon the 6th of June, 1761, the planet Venus would pass over the sun's disk; and, in consequence of an application from the Royal Society to his Majesty, measures were adopted for observing the transit from the Pacific Ocean by Captain Cook, from Sumatra by Messrs. Mason and Dixon, and from St. Helena by Doctor Maskelyne and Mr. Waddington. The two last of these gentlemen having arrived at the island at the close of the preceding year, an observatory was constructed for their use upon a chosen eminence[7], and every suitable accommodation afforded them, by orders from the Company; but upon the long-expected day, a passing cloud obscured the phenomenon from their sight, whilst it was distinctly seen by several persons in James's Valley.

During the eighteen years in which Mr. Hutchinson held the government, he fulfilled the trust reposed in him with such fidelity and discretion that the Court of Directors gave him notice of their intention to settle an annuity upon him of three hundred pounds a year, whenever he thought proper to leave the island. At the same time they desired that such intimation might not be construed into a supposition that they wished him to resign: but this worthy man being then in the decline of life, and anxious to visit his native country, accepted with much gratitude the offered terms, and on the 10th of March, 1764, delivered over the government to Mr. Skottowe, the Lieutenant-Governor[8].

Although the destruction of the goats for ten years had conduced very much to effect the desired object, yet such was the annual decrease of wood upon the island, that it once more became a subject of apprehension and alarm. The trees in Long Wood, in the year 1777, were supposed to be more in number than the rest of the island together contained; but, with the exception of those within Governor Byfield's enclosures, there was no likelihood of a succession to replace the trees that were cut down or decayed, as the young plants were continually nipped off by cattle, sheep, and goats. The subject appeared of such importance to Governor Skottowe and his Council, that they urgently recommended a substantial fence to be completed round the whole tract of land now called Long Wood, consisting of fifteen hundred acres, and they expressed hopes that an acquiescence to their proposal would, within a period of twenty years, prove the means of affording sufficient supplies of fuel even for the ships. They likewise urged the propriety of conveying water to that neighbourhood in leaden pipes, which would considerably enhance the value of a very large extent of pasture land, called Dead Wood. The estimated expense[9] of the latter proposal appeared to the Court of Directors to exceed its probable advantages; but they strongly approved of fencing in the Long Wood, and transmitted the most positive injunctions that the whole of the enclosure should be planted with trees of the quickest growth. In this view a number of plants of the Lombardy poplar were sent out; but as these failed, and as the gum-wood seemed to thrive best in that situation, all the vacant spots were afterwards filled with seedlings of those trees; and a large quantity of acorns have subsequently been sown, which came up remarkably well. The gum-wood, however, is the only kind of tree which now grows there, and the supplies of fuel from this quarter are so trifling, that the garrison baker is allowed eighty pounds a year to purchase wood from other parts of the island, although the expense of enclosing Long Wood has cost the Company about eight thousand pounds, independent of other charges on account of that estate. But even had the orders of the Company been carried completely into effect, it may nevertheless be questioned how far the promised advantages would have compensated for the diminution of the number of cattle which must have been the consequence of converting so large a tract of excellent pasturage into a plantation. Other less valuable spots might have been fixed on for planting wood, and trees would have undoubtedly grown on the same ground which had produced them but a few years before.

Governor Skottowe filled the chair eighteen years, to the satisfaction. of his employers. During, this period, the leaden pipes that now convey the water from Chub's Spring to the Wharf[10] were laid down; the church in James Town, and the officers' barracks, were also erected. On the 25th of July, 1782, he resigned the government to Mr. Corneille, and shortly after proceeded to England.

Towards the close of the year 1783, the tranquillity of the island was disagreeably interrupted by a mutiny of the troops. Nothing was more foreign from the apprehension of the inhabitants than an insurrection of this nature; it was an event that had not recently been experienced, and they had long been accustomed to peace and security. An idea had been adopted of putting the garrison under a mode of regimen, in regard to the use of spirits, analogous to the practice at Gibraltar. In consequence of this, the punch-houses (where they had apartments to meet in over their beverage, and could sing their song, and tell their story) were discontinued, and one house of rendezvous substituted for them, under the denomination of a canteen. Here there was no place for them to sit down, and each man was obliged to drink his allotted quantity at certain hours, and depart immediately; and this humiliation they alleged they were compelled to submit to, while the blacks were allowed to regale themselves in the public-houses without restriction. They took offence, too, at some supposed partiality in the distribution of flour, and other articles usually issued as an extra allowance at the time of Christmas. But, whatever sentiments or misconceptions they harboured on the score of grievances, it was evident their resentment arose from a sense of indignity or degradation, not from a sense of hardship, from scarcity of necessaries, or severity of discipline. Though the leaders of the mutiny had probably something further in view than the mere redress of grievances, it does not appear they had formed any regular or deep concerted plan to subvert the community. The spirit of discontent, however, having generally diffused itself, at last broke forth in a manner highly alarming and dangerous.

The ill humour of the men first discovered itself on the day before Christmas, when they thought proper to refuse the usual allowances. This temper of mind being represented by some of the officers to the Governor, he voluntarily enlarged every man's ratio or proportion. On Friday, the 26th, a riotous body of them assembled under arms, complaining of their grievances. This tumult was, for the time, appeased by the Governor, who personally engaged to take their complaints into consideration, and to give them redress and satisfaction. On the 27th in the afternoon, having consumed the quantity of spirits that was issued for them, they became turbulent in the street, and clamorous for more, and applied to the Captain of the week for that purpose. He, not thinking proper to take this upon himself, prevailed upon them to be quiet until he had signified their demands to the Governor. His answer not proving satisfactory, they armed themselves in the Barrack Square, in the afternoon, and marched out with drums beating and fixed bayonets. They formed a body of upwards of two hundred men, with a serjeant (Tooley) at their head. Their aim was to gain the post on Ladder Hill, where there were field-pieces, mortars, and various ammunition, and where they would have entire command of the town below. The Governor and Lieutenant-Governor (Major Grame), on their way down Ladder Hill from the country, perceived them in motion from the barracks, and had just time to arrive in town before they reached the foot of the hill. The Governor seeing the impending danger, took the immediate resolution to follow them. Having consulted with, and given orders to, Major Grame, with no other attendant than his groom, he threw himself amongst them, and endeavoured by persuasion to bring them back to their duty. The measure was bold and spirited, and it succeeded; he spoke to them with temper and firmness, soothed them by promising to remove their grievances, and added a general forgiveness for the step they had taken. Influenced by what he said, they returned the field-pieces which they had drawn out and loaded, and marched down again with the Governor in their front. But their subjugation was by no means apparent: a gentleman who had followed the Governor to the top of Ladder Hill, and was much respected by them, endeavoured, by talking with them individually, to reason them into submission. The spirit of defection was, however, too strongly betrayed, both by their words and the sullen expression of their features; a circumstance which struck him the more, as he perceived the majority of them were perfectly sober. Observing on their way down that Major Grame was bringing cannon up the Parade, they halted, shouldered, and faced to the valley, nor did they resume their march till the Governor sent instructions to withdraw the cannon, and the word of command was given by Tooley.

The Governor, however, notwithstanding these symptoms, flattered himself that he had appeased them, and that their confidence in him would ensure a peaceable and submissive conduct for the future; and relying on these convictions, he returned the same evening to the country. But the majority of the inhabitants were not so tranquil. They dreaded the violence of such an assembly under arms; and Major Grame, alarmed not only by the mutinous conduct already mentioned, but by the insolent messages sent him by the garrison that night and the ensuing morning, advised the Governor to take certain military measures of prevention against a recurrence of such tumults. The Governor, however, declined agreeing to this proposition, on the ground that it would excite the jealousy of the men, and make them suspect he did not mean to keep terms with them.

On Monday, the 29th, the Council removed the principal grievance that was complained of, viz. the canteen; and directed the punch-houses to be opened on their former footing, allowing to them what was thought a sufficient quantity of spirits for the daily consumption of the garrison. The soldiers having finished this portion about five in the afternoon, again became riotous, and in a high tone of insolence demanded more liquor. Several of the officers who mixed among them endeavoured in vain to quell and compose them. The Governor now discovered that he had depended too far, and had thus prevented the aid of any immediate resource or remedy. The men on the main guard were almost equally to be suspected with those that were rioting in the street, as many of them had been concerned in the disturbance of Saturday. These, however, engaged to stand by him; and having secured Tooley, and made him prisoner, he marched up the street at their head. Before this the rioters had betaken themselves to the barracks, to get their arms; and learning that the Governor was advancing with the main guard, they rushed out, and marched off with a design to take possession of the Alarm-House. Some men who had a sense of their duty, and others who were restrained by the presence of the officers, marched down with Major Bazett to join the Governor. At this period the Governor desired Major Grame to go up the side-path after a small party before detached, and endeavour to gain the Alarm-House before the mutineers. Major Grame, with that ardour and alacrity for which he was remarkable, instantly mounted his horse, and rode off. The small party which he overtook could not keep up with him, being out of breath from the quick ascent of the hill. The mutineers had gained the advantage of the road by marching from the barracks directly up the side of the hill; and Major Grame had no other chance of reaching singly before them the Alarm-House, but by pushing on along the narrow, steep, but shorter, path, called the Saddle, that leads along the ridge. This he hazarded, and accomplished with imminent danger; for while he rode along this path the mutineers were very near him, had him fairly in view from the main road underneath, and fired repeated shots at him. It was dark when he reached the Alarm-House; where, with the six men of the guard, he discharged five rounds of the field-pieces at the mutineers as they approached. He did them, however, no injury, as they threw themselves down on the application of the port fires, and an intervening swell of the ground gave them shelter from the grape. Major Grame remained at the post till he was nearly surrounded, and with difficulty made his escape. A party of the mutineers pursued him for a considerable distance, firing at him several times. About ten at night, after making a long circuit, he returned to James's Valley, to the great satisfaction of his friends.

Shortly after Major Grame left the town, the Governor detached Major Bazett, with three officers and about seventy men, in pursuit of the mutineers. Major Bazett, finding they had gained possession of the Alarm-House, thought it best, instead of advancing up the open hill, to make a detour, and attack them from the ridge that descends to the back of that post. The mutineers, who were now under the command of a Serjeant Burnet, as successor to Tooley, had drawn out the field-pieces in different directions, and placed some to range along this ridge, expecting Major Bazett from that quarter. When Major Bazett and his party came in view, which was not till he was very near them, they discharged their field-piece; but without effect, from its too great elevation. The party instantly rushed on, seized the field-piece, and scattered those who had charge of it. An irregular discharge of musketry took place on both sides for ten or twelve minutes, when the mutineers gave way, and took refuge in the Alarm-House. Two of Major Bazett's men were killed, three of the adverse party wounded, and one hundred and three taken prisoners. This, however, was by no means the whole number that had taken up arms, for many of them escaped under cover of the night, and mixed undiscovered with the Governor's party. Ninety-nine of the prisoners were condemned to death, by the sentence of a general court martial; but, as the execution of so many men was deemed too sanguinary a proceeding, Serjeant Burnet only and nine others suffered death, and the rest were forgiven[11].

It is not easy to express the fears and confusion that prevailed among the inhabitants during these transactions. The various rumours that were circulated, the uncertainty respecting the success of Major Bazett, and the fate of Major Grame, kept them in suspense for several hours. The Governor remained in town, and made every arrangement for their defence (in case of Major Bazett's failure) that the unprepared state and the doubtful faith of many of his party would admit.

It tended, perhaps, to ensure the future safety of the island that the question was brought to the decision of arms, for the seditious characters among the troops were thus discovered, and sent away; and the exemplary punishments inflicted on the delinquents, struck a terror into others, and gave prospect of security against similar disturbances.

From the history of these proceedings it may be perceived, that though lenity and indulgence frequently conduce rather to aggravate than to sooth symptoms of discontent, and that though the strictest administration of justice is necessary to the support of government and the peace of society; yet, that, in the exercise of coercion, and in the reform of abuses, it is highly important to guard against trivial and vexatious innovations; it is the part of prudence to consider what species of feeling is the most alive to attack, to touch tenderly what is easily irritated, and to estimate the extent of human endurance.


  1. General Letter from England, dated 7th January, 1742-3.
     
  2. General Letter from England, the 17th of December, 1762, parph 59.
     
  3. Extract from the Court of Directors' letter, dated the 19th of January, 1769:
         "That they (the officers) are not only to obey their superior officers, according to the rules and discipline of it war, but are to be entirely subject to the orders of the Governor and Council, who are the Company's legal representatives; as likewise to such orders they may receive from any of the Company's civil servants to whom the Governor and Council shall think fit to delegate such authority.
         "That as they are entirely subject to the authority of the Company's civil representatives, so the Governor and Council, upon the misbehavior of any officer, may, whenever they think fit, take away such officers' commissions, without bringing him before a court martial, according to the general practice of the service.
         "The intent of sending you the foregoing is not merely with respect to the officers now appointed, but also to remind you of the power you have always had, and it is necessary should be kept up, in order to preserve that authority over the military which is essentially necessary for the good of the service."
     
  4. "In the same degree," but their evidence cannot be universally admitted, either against whites or those of their own colour. Much of this must rest with the discretion of the magistracy and the jury; as it may happen that individuals of this class are not sufficiently informed in religious obligation to understand the nature of an oath.
     
  5. This peculiarity in the growth of the oak induced Governor Patton to have several of them felled at the Government residence in the country; and the timber, on being worked up, has been found of a closer grain, and much harder, than the English oak: a quality rather singular in trees of quick growth.
     
  6. Of the former few now remain; but the successful endeavours of two Governors (Brooke and Patton) to propagate the latter, are likely to prove of much benefit to the island.
     
  7. The ridge behind the Alarm-House.
     
  8. At this period the Council was composed of the following gentlemen:
         John Skottowe, Esq. Governor.
         Matthew Purling, Esq.
         Captain Thomas Kirkpatrick.
    And on the 6th of May, 1769, Daniel Corneille, Esq. arrived as Lieutenant-Governor.
     
  9. Five hundred and eighteen pounds.
     
  10. This distance is 2790 yards.
     
  11. Serjeant Tooley was shortly afterwards sent off the island, in a packet bound for England, which, on her passage, was wrecked off Scilly, and every soul on board perished.

Chapter VIII