THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No. 316.
The Right of England to Tobago. Presented in Paris by T. Yorke.
Source :--British Museum. Egerton MSS. 1756.
Published by the courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
Translated from the French.
April 12th, 1749.
The widespread reports throughout Europe of grants of
the Island of Tobago to various persons by His Very Christian
Majesty to the prejudice of the incontestable right of the
Crown of England and information received from the West
Indies of preparations made at Martinique and in other
Colonies of His Very Christian Majesty to establish a Colony
in the Island of Tobago, do not allow to the subscribed
Charge d'Affaires of His Brittanic Majesty to maintain longer
silence in an affair which so essentially concerns the commerce
and navigation of the subjects of the King, his Master and
which manifestly can only deprive the Crown of England of
a part of its dominions in America.
He has a right to apply to the equity and justice of His
Very Christian Majesty and His Ministers that after a minute
examination of the contents of the present memoir, the
necessary orders will be given to French subjects to leave the
Island of Tobago and that for the future, care will be taken
to prevent all sorts of threats or acts of violence against
British subjects in this part of the world which can only lead
to a rupture of the harmony so happily established between
the two nations and which the King, his Master is determined
to maintain so far as depends upon him, convinced that he
will find the same sentiments in the Court of Versailles without
which peace could not endure but for a short time.
To prove the incontestable right of His Majesty to the
Island of Tobago, it will be necessary to examine first the
titles which it appears to the subscribed as follows.
First. Conquest which a French squadron, under
command of the Comte d'Estrees, made of this Island in 1676
from the Dutch who at this time had usurped possession.
Second. The seventh article of the Treaty made at
Nimeguen in the year 1678 which left them in possession of
The following simple account of the facts should be
sufficient to show in the first place that the Dutch had no
right on the Island when the Comte d'Estrees conquered it
and in the second place, even if they had some hope of title,
the article alleged in the Treaty of Nimeguen can in no way
serve as a foundation for claims by the French to Tobago
because there has never been any French in possession of this
Island at the time the peace was signed, they having left it
shortly after taking it from the Dutch and demolishing
As the Title of the Court of France to Tobago goes back
no further than the year 1676 or 1678, it is unnecessary to
prove, as the subscribed is in a position to do, that the
possession of this Island by the English dates from the time
of Queen Elizabeth, he will content himself with starting at
the year 1626 in which Sir Thomas Warner actually took
possession of all the Charribbee Islands (of which Tobago
is one) for the Crown of England in the name of King Charles I
who, by letters patent dated June 2nd 1627 and confirmed the
following year, gave the said Isles to Lord James Hay, Count
of Carlisle and that they have been possessed under the
protection of England until the proprietors remitted their
right in favour of the Crown.
Sometime after the settlement of Barbados by the Count
of Carlisle a considerable number of English were sent to
Tobago who not only again took possession under the orders
of a certain Ayris but settled there until finding the climate
unhealthy they decided to abandon it and return to Barbados
where the said Ayris was still living in 1699 and very well
known as the Governor of Barbados.
Some time after the Restoration of King Charles II, the
Duke of Courland desired to establish a Colony in the West
Indies and taking advantage of the disorders caused by the
Civil Wars in England, took possession of the Island of Tobago
and gave permission to a Zealander named Lampson to be
associated with the undertakers of this settlement on condition
that he paid a yearly sum.
The Duke being taken prisoner by the Swedes in 1658,
Lampson seized the opportunity and caused the garrison to
mutiny against the Governor of Tobago and forced him to
capitulate and by this act of violence, made himself master of
the fort and the Island of Tobago which remained for several
years in the hands of the usurpers.
The Duke of Courland liberated, addressed himself to
King Charles II asking for his protection and liberty to
re-enter into possession of the Island of Tobago to which he
obtained a patent of November 7lth, 1664 in dependence on
the Crown of England.
The Dutch maintained themselves in spite of this patent,
in the Island until 1665 when they were driven out by the
English and after they had returned a second time, in the
year 1672 by Sir Tobias Bridge and Sir William Poole who
demolished the fort and the buildings without making any
settlement as it was regarded sufficient to place the Island of
Tobago in the Government of the neighboring Island of
Barbados, to use it in case of need as being a dependency and
to preserve the title to the Crown of England and prevent any
other nation from settling there.
In spite of this, the Dutch West India Company after
peace was made, decided to make a new settlement in the
Island of Tobago and held possession of it until the war
between the French and Dutch in 1676 in which year the
Comte d'Estrees attacked the Island with a squadron and
after having blown up the fort, carried off the Dutch
inhabitants except a Sergeant, named Jean Kesson of
Amsterdam, and two others who remained there several days
after the French had entirely abandoned the Island as
appears from the deposition of the said Jean Kesson, produced
by the Sieur van Benningen, the Ambassador of the States
General in England with reference to several Negroes who had
taken refuge in one of the Caribbees of the Government of
His Brittanic Majesty and whom the Sieur van Benningen
claimed, alleging at the same time that the Admiralty of
Amsterdam was still master of the Island of Tobago notwith-
standing the depredations of the French who had made a
transitory invasion without stopping or settling there as
explained at large above in this memoir.
The Island continued in this desolate state till near 1680
when the desire again urged the Duke of Courland to establish
a Colony under the protection of the Crown of England as
above said, and for this object even equipped several ships in
Holland with the assistance of several Dutch merchants but
meeting little or no success, he was obliged to have recourse
again to the Crown of England and to ask King James II by
Baron Blomberg, his agent in London, in the year 1686 that
His Majesty would encourage the settling of this Island by
allowing his subjects to join with those who were engaged in
'his proposal was discussed in Council and the Attorney
General decided that as the said Duke had not complied with
his contract or with the letters patent of King Charles II, he
had forfeited the advantages accorded and by consequence all
the rights and title which he could allege, had become void
in law and returned to the Crown.
The Agents of the Duke of Courland in spite of this
declaration, have not ceased encouraging people in England
to make a new settlement in this Island but the Lords
Commissioners of Trade and Plantations represented on the
18th May 1699 to His Majesty the inconvenience of such a
settlement and His Majesty interdicted any such enterprise by
an Order of Council of the same date forbidding all, whether
in England or elsewhere, to proceed with this object.
From the presentation of these facts it is plain that King
Charles I was in just and legitimate possession of the Island
of Tobago, that he had taken possession by Sir Thomas
Warner in 1626, that the said Island has always by right
belonged to the Crown since that time and belongs actually
without contradiction to His Majesty, notwithstanding any
pretensions any other prince or state wish to make to the
contrary and that, for the reasons following.
Because the Duke of Courland has never had supreme
dominion over this Island but only a possession given by
patent and by title of tenure from King Charles II which
title he has forfeited as above related.
Because the enterprise against the Duke of Courland by
the Lampsons was a usurpation which in no way can prejudice
the original rights of England which right has been sustained
and affirmed twice by the double conquest of the Dutch in
1665 and 1673 since which time the Dutch have gained no
new title nor right from the Crown of England on the Island
neither by cession nor otherwise so that the French can have
no properly based claim upon the Island neither by what is
called the conquest of 1676 which is shown to be nothing
but a transitory invasion without any settlement and then
regarding solely the garrison and the Dutch; nor by the
treaty made with the Dutch since they had neither right nor
property in the Island and are totally unable to give or
transfer to the French to the prejudice of the superior title of
the Crown of England.
It appears unnecessary to add anything to the proof of
the title of His Brittanic Majesty in this Island and Your
Excellency will be convinced that the right is well based and
that the terms of the 7th article of the Treaty of Nimeguen
" qu'il tient et possede present" refutes all that can be
advanced in favour of the pretensions of His Very Christian
Majesty since his subjects were not then in possession.
However to prove by arguments even more strong that in
the terms of the Treaty of Nimeguen, one never thought of
the proposal to add the Island of Tobago to the Crown of
France, it is notorious by the above-mentioned, that eight
years afterwards in the year 1686 Mr. Blomberg, then Agent
of the Duke of Courland at the Court of London, presented
to the King a petition on behalf of his Master to obtain
permission to re-establish himself in that Island with the same
privileges that King Charles II had accorded him in 1664.
It also appears that a second petition of the same tenour was
presented on his behalf in 1699 which was refused for the
same reason as the first and the Governors of Barbados as the
Governor of Tobago, had orders to prevent any settlement in
the Island. From that it is very evident that the said Island
was not in Europe considered as covered by the Treaty
It is not reasonable to suppose that the Crown of England,
at that time Mediator, would furnish such an occasion to
withdraw its right to this Island and in case it ever had come
into consideration, have failed to take such a point so essential
for the commerce and navigation of its subjects and for the
existence of its Colonies in the Islands to the windward of
Guadeloupe and especially that of Barbados whose Governor
is in his Commission also named Governor of Tobago from a
time immemorial and he has there always proclaimed the
King, his Master, as soon as he arrived at his Government
without the least objection or molestation on the part of France.
By this clear deduction from facts incontestable, it is very
evident that the Crown of Great Britain alone has right upon
the Island of Tobago, that the Dutch are merely usurpers,
that the Comte d'Estrees made no settlement there and that
by consequence the said Island cannot in any way be included
in the 7th Article of the Treaty of Nimeguen, on which article
alone is founded the case for France.
It is thus that the subscribed claims in the name and by
order of the Court which sent him, immediate orders to the
French Commanders in America to prevent any kind of
attempt against the right of the King, his Master and to
demolish all forts which have been made in the Island of
Tobago by the subjects of His Very Christian Majesty whether
in the Bay of Rockly or of Courland or elsewhere so as to
prevent those evil consequences which the changes and
preparations for hostilities provoke between the two nations
in the West Indies and to maintain the peace to which His
Britannic Majesty is so religiously attached.
Paris, T. YORKE.
April 12th, 1749.