THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 226.
Picton to Abercromby.
Source :--Memoirs of Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Picton, c.c.s.,
&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. 1836.
October, 30th, 1799.
Every one here looks forward to your excellency's protec-
tion and patronage, and you must expect to be troubled upon
all occasions of consequence to the prosperity and well-being
of this colony.
The late brilliant and important successes of the allied
armies, and other favourable circumstances, holding out the
probability of an approaching peace, the most respectable
planters and settlers of Trinidad begin to entertain serious
apprehensions of their future situation; and express great
alarm and uneasiness lest his Majesty's ministers might be
induced to exchange this island for Porto Rico, or any other
proposed equivalent. They are well aware of the high
degree of importance attached by the Spanish government to
this settlement on account of its situation, which will render
it at all times dangerous and formidable to the neighboring
provinces of South America ; the inhabitants of which have
their eyes continually fixed upon Trinidad, and cannot fail to
be affected by its newly-acquired opulence and flourishing
I have taken the liberty of enclosing the copy of a letter
I have just written to Mr. Secretary Dundas on the occasion,
by which your excellence will sec the ruin which menaces the
English and other inhabitants who have shown any marks of
atlaclumenr to his Majesty's government, upon the event of
the island being restored. The great object of the Spanish
government in wishing to repossess itself of the island, is to
show their subjects in these countries the little reliance they
can place upon the protection and promises of the British
government, which so easily sacrifices them for a supposed
advantage ; and, above all, by the vengeance they will not
fail to execute upon those who have shown themselves pleased
with the new order of things, to deter their subjects on the
continent from all thoughts of ameliorating their miserable
situation by having recourse to the protection of Great Britain.
It requires considerable practical knowledge of the
Spanish government to be enabled to form anything like a
just idea of its politics. The individual is superstititious
without religion and punctilious without honour; the
government, with all the formality and mask of integrity,
and the most extravagant pretensions to good faith, pursues
the object of its ambition, avarice, or revenge, without any
restraint from morality or respect for engagements.
No stipulation on the part of Great Britain will be effectual
to secure the inhabitants from its unrelenting resentment. Its
mode is to promise everything ; but the public instructions
to their governors, &c., which they refer to upon all occasions,
are always accompanied by others, via reservada, of an opposite
import. Those who possessed situations under the Spanish
government, who were permitted by your excellency to retain
them and remain upon this island, accepted of your
indulgence by the advice of M. Chacon, for the purpose of
remaining as spies upon the conduct of the inhabitants.
These people kept a minute register, in which all the
inhabitants who had at any time expressed themselves pleased
with his Majesty's government were calumniated in the most
scandalous manner, and represented as traitors to the King
of Spain. This was carried on with great secrecy ; but at
length a disagreement amongst the parties led to a discovery,
and I was enabled to get possession of it. The false and
infamous representations it contained were calculated to
render all the most respectable inhabitants objects of resent-
ment to the Spanish government.
I beg leave to refer your excellency to the enclosed copy
of a letter to Mr. Secretary Dundas, wherein I have urged
the reasons why I am of opinion that it would be extremely
impolitic to restore Trinidad on any terms, or for any
equivalent. I shall not now intrude any further upon your
time than to a claim a continuance of your patronage in
favour of a large body of planters, who, having through your
means experienced the advantages of his Majesty's govern-
ment, conceive they have a claim upon your future good
I have the honour to be, &c.,
(Signed) TH. PICTON.
Sir Ralph Abercromby.