THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 64.
Letter from Thomas Picton, Governor of Trinidad to the Right
Honourable H. Dundas, Secretary of State.
Source: Additional MSS. 36870. British Museum. Published
by the courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
2Ist April, 1799.
My Information from the Main states the arrival of a
Spanish Squadron, with a considerable body of Troops, at
Porto Rico. This is probably the one mentioned by
Lord St. Vincent to have sailed from Penal.
The greatest tranquility prevails throughout the Island.
The Advances in population and Improvements in Agriculture
have been rapid, and are very considerable. The Trade with
the Spanish Provinces has increased so as to become an object
ofimportance: taking off British Manufactures to the amount
of i,ooo,ooo Sterling Annually. The Trade of this Island
cannot be judged of by the direct Intercourse it carries on
with Great Britain, as it is constantly supplied with manu-
factures, and to a great amount from the Islands of Martinique,
Barbadoes, Grenada, St. Vincent and Tobago.
I have already frequently mentioned the Importance of
the neighboring Provinces, and the advantageous Market
they would afford to the Manufacturers of Great Britain. I
must now beg leave to call your attention to them in a
political point of view, and to state my apprehensions of the
danger which cannot fail to result not only to this,
but to all the Carribbee Islands, should these Provinces
be suffered to fall, with the Mother Country, under the
influence of France. They possess great resources, and
considerable population and from their local position may
become instruments of much danger under such direction.
Their Independence, to me, appears the only mode of removing
the menacing danger, an Event in the actual state of the
Public Mind, easily to be effected. I must beg leave to
refer you to my Dispatch no : 12 and the letter of
Lt: Genl: Cuyler, which accompanied it. These contained
my opinion which subsequent experience has furnished me
with no reason for changing.
November is the best month for commencing any opera-
tions on that coast, the Dry weather usually sets in early in
that month. Barbadoes is the point to sail from, as it equally
menaces the whole West Indies, and will give no reason for
suspecting the real object of its Destination. Gun vessels with
sliding keels, and calculated for shallow water, carrying
18 or 24 pounders will be necessary for the Navigation of the
Oronoque, the possession of which River, will be of essential
importance in the Recommended undertaking, as it opens
an early communication with the interior and every part of
the Provinces of Caracas, and would probably become the
centre of a General Movement.
I have here Manual Guall and another of the Principal
Actors in the projected Revolution of Caracas. 1 employ
them at present in carrying on a correspondence with the
Continent, and in readiness for any active Employment.
I must beg leave to call your attention to my situation
which is becoming daily more and more critical. I have been
pursuing an object of Importance with unwearied assiduity
and I have reason to think that I hae made considerable
advances and am gradually approaching the Point, it therefore
becomes necessary that I should be furnished with more
particular instructions, and that I should be acquainted with
the Views and Intentions of Government, that I may avoid
committing myself and others, which is daily becoming more
difficult in proportion as I advance.
The apprehensions of the Spanish Government are great,
as may be collected from the Gov: General's proclamation of
the 2ist Nov: 1798 in which he has done me the honour of
valueing my head at 20,000 Dollars, and in consequence of
which I caused the enclosed printed paper to be circulated
throughout his Government.
The Ex: General Miranda might be useful in case anything
should be undertaken. These people require an exalted
Head of the Kind, to set them in motion. I am however
entirely ignorant how far he may be trusted, he carries on a
correspondence with a Spaniard (a Mr. Caro) who came out
to Trinidad, with His Grace the Duke of Portland's pass and
strongly recommended by Messrs Turnbull and Forbes.
This gentleman pretends to be engaged in negotiations with
the leading people of Santa FI respecting an intention of
declaring themselves Independant : but there appears a
degree of mystery about him which had created considerable
suspicion in my mind and I shall not fail to watch him.
In addition to what I mentioned in my letter to
Lt: Genl: Cuyler which accompanied my Dispatch no: 12;
3 or 4,ooo green short jackets or waistcoats with slec cs,
scarlet cuff and collar and as many ordinary round Matts
would be necessary. These as well as every article of
ammunition supplied, might eventually be paid for.
A new Captain General has just arrived at Caracas,
Brigadier General Guevara.
I have the honour to be,
Yr very faithful Humble Servant,
(Signed) TH: PICTON.
The Rt: Honble,
H. Dundas, etc : etc :