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THE PRESENT STATE OF JAMAICA,
IN A LETTER FROM
Mr. NEFJL To The EARL Of CARLISLE.
ISHALL not presume to trouble your lord/hip with any description of Jamaica, in those particulars which enn only prove mere repetitions ©f every man's relation that has been there, sarther than what is necessary to explain my thoughts oi* the improvement and advantage, public or private, that has or may be made of the place, with the obstructions and dangers, whether casual or natural, which seem to threaten it. The largeness of the island, the many and good harbours, with the abundance of wood therein, are taking praises with such as only think oi' it in comparison with populous countries, that are desective in the like; but I am very sure they will soon sall under your lordship's consideration as some if not the greatest inconveniencies that belong to it. An island of about three hundred miles compass, as this is, with not above ten thousand inhabitants* besides Haves, in it, must needs have thole few dispersed at great distances, if they plant round the sea coast only; this makes it difsicult, and of great inconvenience to the inhabitants in their domestic alfairs, to unite for their common sasety against any invader, whilst the harbours at the same time, being too many to be fortisied or desended, leave such invaders sase passage in and out to destroy their dispersed plantations. The woods too, in the absence of the masters, become inviting receptacles to the staves, who, by reason of the miseries they continually sutler, will never be unwilling to improve such an opportunity. These are not mischiefs like the common accidents of European nations when invaded, which, after some recess, soon return into ©rder again; but, happening there, must bring assured ruin, because its nourishment and support in people and trade, depending upon the reputation the island has at home, that destroyed, the place is conlequently so. And this I remember, upon discourse of it there, sir Henry Morgan 4id allow, saying to colonel Byndloss men witsi us, that, if he were now
O a pd* a. privateer for the Spaniards, as lie had been against them, he would' not doubt to ruin the whole country, by burning and destroying the sea coast plantations, and though it cannot be the Spaniards interest in those parts, if we let them be quiet, to stir up a nest of hornets and force them upon privateering again, yet the French, having little to lose, and many poor rascals to employ in the Tortugas, do not want knowledge of the island of Jamaica, nor will enough, 1 sear, in case of war, to put it in execution, since it is certain the planting part once discouraged, the privateering trade must subsist by devouring the Spaniards as formerly, which produces another benesit to the French, by disturbing their hereditary enemy. So that so sar I concur with lir Thomas Lynch in saying, that planting and not privateering is the true interest of England in that island, yet I cannot but think, that the greatest mistake could have happened in doing it was the forcing the planters, for want of convenience, to run to the north tide of the island; and, where ground may be had at three pounds an acre; although I allow the ground to be as good for canes, when .with great charge and labour cleared, yet the vast expence, for want of lavannas, in forcing a competent quantity of pasture for cattle, is a burden for cattle scarce supportable, besides the open condition they arc in to ail invasions and revolts of the negroes. A taste of the latter of which mischiefs they had the last year, when many samilies were murdered by some sew blacks that went out, and the whole island alarmed and disturbed with sears and apprehensions of the rest.— My lord, I have insisted the more upon this particular, because it has been occasioned by themannerof the former governors proceedings, insetting out thesavannas and other lands on the south side, which, had they been but granted in moderate and improvable portions, would have proved a greater quantity than the increase of the people for many ages could have employed by planting; but, on the contrary, several particular sirst comers, having obtained titleto six, eight, ten, nay some twenty, thousand acres a man, have left no room for neighbourhood on that side, where those delicate savannas, if divided into proportionable parcels, had given a comfortable support to the planters samily by cattle, SCc. without the charge of clearing, whilst his neighbouring plantation had been goingon in its improvements. This, my lord, foreseen and practised, had perhaps given a security in the beginning to the most improvable and best situated colony we have in the Indies, both for the commodities it produceth, and the annoyance it might give to any of our trading enemies that have dominion in thole parts; nor had it then been subject to foreign disturbancetire the people heing united to resill thcra, and the enemy landing on tne noith side would have found nothing of value to destroy, nor usesul to cany away, besides fresh water; and this I am persuaded might yet, by your lordship's wisdom, be remedied, if you would obtain a law for escheating all lands that have paid no quit-rents, and are not likely to be improved by the owners on the south side, or at some additional rent certain to the present improving properties; free sarms, or the like titles, for a long term of years, might by law be compelled to be granted to the real planters who should request it.
The next thing to be wished for in that world is a trade with the Spaniards, but will iind so many obstructions from their jealousies and interests in the beginning, that will require a more than ordinary care in conducting it, and some assistance here at home, by making it practicable. It is not to be thought that the Spaniards can quickly forget all the mischiefs continued upon them by us in those parts; mischiefs, indeed, of such a nature that, had not the particular interests of private adventurers, that carried on depreeiations there, made all the rumour of cruelty run 'against that nation, must long ago in policy have been prevented; for it may be truly said, that though it has been the Spanish navigation, yet was it the English trade, that has been disturbed by privateering in those parts; and it is not unlikely that we, instead of the Flemings, had been the convoys and sharers in their rich flotas, if we had given them no frequenter cause of enmity to us in those parts than the Dutch have done. But, my lord, to gain a trade with them, I cannot but think the likeliest way would be, sirst, to make some new contract with the undertakers at Madrid for supplying the Spanish West-Indies with negroes, and this I am consident would be easy to be done, it your lordship would induce his royal highness and the African com pan v to endeavour it; since I once tided the matter and iound, by advice from Spain, that they were very ready to treat with us, and to break with the Hollanders, who supply them at present from Curacoa. The method then thought of for carrying on the work, is your lordship pleases, shall be presented to you. Anotht' great and effectual step to a trade with them, would be for us heartily to endeavour to make the navigation in those parts sase; for since we have left disturbing the Spaniards ourselves, and getting the little prosit that accrued thereby, it should be our interesi, methinks, not to suffer any others to do it, and least ol all the French, who, since sir Henry Morgan shewed them the way to take Pana
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mt, are the only people in the world who, in those parts, we should fear,' whilst our privateers wear away or are drawn off to planting. And t must consess I think there is no difference' between our being at war therewith Spain, and suffering' others effectually to be so; for, should Panama sall to the French hands, the manusactures of France would supply the South Sea, and all the riches of the world would be theirs, nor could aU the strength of Europe ever recover that place, when once fortisied by them. I sear I lhall trouble your lordship too much with politic?, but yet I cannot but think that a trade with the Spaniards would .be worth all the cost of reducing the French to nothing on Hispaniola and the Tortugas, isa breach with them should ever happen to give opportunity for it; and I am very consident that the government of Jamaica tor the time being would sind the Spanish ports open to all the ships commissioned to that end; so that private trade would more than recompence the charges of the war, and open the wav in the end for a public one, under some regulations of perpetual guarding those seas against privateers, who, as long as they have protection from France, will otherwise forever insest them. . ,Ur
This true maintaining osthe peace would, leave the Spaniards without excuse for their perpetual injuries in the Gulph, and make them disarm those privateers they now have just cause to keep at the Havannah, which place, is situated at the entrance of the channel, that it will be impossible to avoid their searches by all the force that could be placed in station there, to guard the passage through the Gulph of Florida. But some do project that the taking of the Havanna is practicable, which I will not'deny, but ncccil'uy I can never admit it; for, when we should attempt it, a war with the Spaniards in those parts must again break out, and then an end to the improvement begun and designed at Jamaica; besides, if rightly considered, except that island, the Barbadoes, Bermudas, and Æur considerable North-West plantations, we have too much in that world already. Then if the French should take it and make it one of their stations, what would be the consequence of such a bridle in our jaws, and the reins in the French hands—no less than the total loss of the trade to Jamaica; for, in any rupture between the two crowns, the Tortugas on the coast of Hispaniola, and the Havanna upon Cuba, would leave no passage from Jamaica but through their very mouth, and thcri sarewcl to the trade of logwood, so much contended for by us, and so much insisted on by the Spaniards i a trade, indeed, though prositable, that mould eithee 'ne adjusted or deserted-, for as the injuries elone them by Englishmen dally, under French commissions, provoke them to esteem us thieves and truce-breakers, and cause them to arm upon that coast, so the logwood they sind on board is the pretence and private excuse for their rapine in making us prizes when they take us carrying itin our ships. And now, my lord, I will presume humbly to osier your lordship my opinion upon the several foregoing particulars, and it is briesly thus: sirst, that pc:>ce with the Spaniards in those parts is to be preserred to war. Secondly, that we have Inch peace, it is absolutely necessary to prevent the French making war upon them there; for, otherwise, whilst we grow weak they grow strong, to our hazard and lots, as much, it considered on all sides, as that of the Spaniards. Thirdly, that an absolute quieting of those seas is not only very necessary and seasible but very easy. Fourthly, that the doing of it woidd produce private trade, and perhaps in the end introduce public. Fifthly, that before this can well be done it is absolutely necessary to end the controversy about cutting wood at Campeche, SCc. either by saying it is plainly ours, or by disclaiming it to the peril of the cutters. Much of this which I have said will I believe appear superfluous and unnecessary, yet it is in your lordship's power, by neglecting it, to prevent its being troublesome; but, having made such remarks, I could not persuade myself to omit putting them in writing, and waving much more that might be said. Concerning this colony, as it stands in opposition or conjunction to foreign trade and interest, I shall presume to enlarge something surther, and speak of it as I think it bears to this nation or to itself. As for the thriving and lasting commodities we can expect from the growth of it, they are only sugars, ginger, cottons, indigo, annotta; for as to that pleasant spice called pimento and cocoa, the sirst of them must needs be exhausted, since the trees from whence it is gathered are, without hopes of replanting, always cut down for it; the second, I sear, is as unlikely to thrive, notwithstanding the daily hopes and attempts about it, and it will not be impertinent for me to ofser the reasons I have for my opinion in this particular, if it were only to prevent your lordship's wasting money and time about it, should you be persuaded like others to try, till some of them sirst succeed. The Spanish negroes who came in after our conquest of the itland, and of whom some yet remain free there, did. still forebode that no cocoa which the English planted would thrive, which hitherto has proved prophecy, though the reasons for it be only superstitious; for, upon examination, they impute the good success the Spaniards had in that plant to the religious ceremonies used at the sirst • putting