THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 225.
Thomas Picton to Rt. Hon. H. Dundas.
Source :-Memoirs of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton, G.C.B.,
&c., including his correspondence, from originals in possession of
his family, &c., by H. B. Robinson. Second Edition revised,
with additions. In two volumes. London : Richard Bentley,
New Burlington Street, Publisher in Ordinary to His Majesty.
24th October, 1799.
Some very strong and earnest representations, made by
the most respectable inhabitants of this colony respecting the
unjustifiable and alarming conduct of the government of
Caraccas, occasion this letter. If the island of Trinidad
should be restored to Spain at a peace, we must resign all
hope of ever being well received by the natives of South
America. Those inhabitants of this island who have expressed
any satisfaction with his Majesty's government, or have paid
any personal attention to his representative, are known to
be already prejudged and marked out as victims for the
vengeance of the Spanish government whenever chance or
circumstances may subject them to its jealous tyranny.
The Spaniards who recollect the conduct of their govern-
ment subsequent to the peace of 1763, upon the restoration of
the Havannah, when common acts of civility and attention
to his Majesty's governor were punished as criminal actions,
are convinced that the menaces secretly circulated by the
emissaries of Caraccas are to be regarded as the predetermina-
tions of a government whose politics know no restraint from
morality, and with which loose suspicion entails certain ruin.
The present extraordinary conduct of the council (Junta
del gobierno) of Caraccas sufficiently evinces the government
has not changed its principles. Amongst a number of other
instances, an old gentleman (Don Christoval de Robles), the
most respectable Spaniard I have ever known, in whom alone
the high sense of honour the nation pretends to is not fabulous,
who had held the principal civil employment of the island
fbr a number of years with honour and unimpeached
integrity ; because he has unguardedly expressed himself
pleased with the justice of his Majesty's government, and has
been ready on all occasions of difficulty to assist me with his
advice and experience, has been proceeded against privately
by the Junta del gobierno of Caraccas, and adjudged a traitor
to his king and country. This decree has actually been acted
upon ; and property, which he casually possessed upon the
continent, has in consequence been confiscated.
This island being either exchanged or restored at a peace,
will produce in the minds of the South Americans a lasting
distrust of the English nation ; they are naturally favourably
disposed to his Majesty's government, but the apprehension
of again falling under the dominion of Spain keeps them at
a fearful distance. They say You take possession of our
country, at which we rejoice as an event most favourable to
our happiness and conducive to our prosperity; but we
have scarcely tasted the advantages of an equitable and just
government, when you make a sacrifice of us as a peace
offering to a jealous and vindictive government, whose spies
have registered all our good offices, which will not fail to be
construed into crimes for which our persons and property
You conceive, perhaps, that I am overcharging the
picture ; but, I regret to say, too many facts can be adduced
to attest its truth.
I hope his Majesty's ministers will never be brought to
restore or exchange this valuable island; for besides the
certain ruin and misery which it will occasion to all those
who have shown any attachment to His Majesty's government,
it will leave a lasting, indelible impression on the minds of
the South Americans. Though a valuable equivalent might
be proposed, 1 humbly conceive it would be highly impolitic
to accept it. The inhabitants of all the neighboring
provinces have their eyes fixed upon Trinidad : if retained,
it will exalt their estimation of the power and energy of his
Majesty's government, and determine them upon the first
favourable occasion to seek its protection ; if restored, it will
leave an opinion of weakness, unfavourable and destructive
to any future views on this quarter of the world.
I have the honour to be, &c.,
(Signed) THOMAS PICTON.
The Right Honourable