THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No. 359.
Memorial of the Island of Tobago now called New Walcheren, how
it is situate and of what advantage it may be to the State of the
United Provinces. No Author. No Place.
Source :-Public Record Office. State Papers Colonial. C.O. 21.
Published by the courtesy of the Master of the Rolls and the
Deputy Keeper of the Public Records.
The Island of Tobago lies in the latitude of 11 degrees
and 16 minutes northwards of the equinoctial line about
70 miles to the westward of Barbados under a very good and
temperate climate having above 20 fresh rivers which run
into the sea and are very fresh in fish ; many of which rivers
run with such force especially in the times of the rains, that
they may turn mills for the grinding of the sugar canes.
The Island is furnished with many fruit trees and others
fit to make the sugar mills, houses, &c., and likewise with
shell and stone of which lime may be made. Those of
Surinam come often hither to fetch it. There is also a great
deal of clay to make pots, &c.
There are many places proper by nature to build forts on
for the security of the inhabitants and the ships which are in
the roads or bays.
The said Island is more fruitful than any othcr among the
Caribby Islands, there being not a hill or mountain which
may not be planted. In the said Island at present is on the
ground a great quantity of ginger of which may be made
some 700,000 lbs. of dried ginger, abundance of sugar cane,
indigo, cassia fistula, cacao and roucou or trees on which
grows the orange colour for dyeing, likewise abundance of
coconuts, oranges, lemons of which is made the juice of
lemons and is found to be as good as that which comes
On this Island may be made a great deal of good tobacco
which if well looked after there, we should not need to bring
into these countries of the growth of the English plantations.
There grows likewise very good rice, some seed having been
brought thither from the Straits which being sowed here
produces as good rice as is brought hither out of the
Mediterranean so that in time several ships may be fraught
from thence with rice.
The cotton, sugar and ginger which grows in this Island
is much better than that which grows at the Barbados as the
merchants and refiners who have knowledge of these com-
modities will witness. In time of peace the sugar commonly
produces Io per cent. more, the ginger 5 or 6 guilders more
in a hundred pounds and the cotton a stiver more in the
pound so that this Island is not only as good but may be
made a better Colony than the Barbados.
Further at the Barbados in some years the cotton
is blown away and the sugar cane thrown down and broken
in pieces through violent storms which they call hurricanes,
many ships being lost likewise through these storms of which
the Island of Tobago is wholly free, there never having
happened any. If contrary to former times such storms should
come to happen there, the Island has many good bays in
which ships may safely ride at anchor near the shore secure
from all danger.
The Island of Barbados lades every year 8o, sometimes
100 ships with sugar, cotton, ginger and indigo and is but
8 or o1 miles long and 4 broad and seeing that the Island of
Tobago is one third bigger with 12 to 13 miles long and
4 miles broad together with about 30 miles round so it hath
been already said with reason that in time it may be made
a greater and better Colony and the rather because at the
Barbados all the trees are destroyed so that wanting wood to
boil their sugar, they are forced to send to England for coals
which through its freight, &c., is very chargeable to the
Moreover at the Barbados is at present nothing made but
sugar, cotton, ginger and some indigo when at Tobago can
be made as hath been said sugar, ginger, much and good
indigo, citron, orange colour dye, cassia fistula, tobacco, &c.
There is likewise great quantity of turtle shell. The sugar
canes grow there one third higher and bigger in the stalk
which produce more sugar than at the Barbados.
They of Barbados are forced to send for several ships with
planks, &c., from New England and other parts to make casks
for the sugar when on the contrary at Tobago there is wood
enough to make the said casks, &c.
The inhabitants of Tobago will in time have a good trade
with the inhabitants of the Island of Trinidado which lies in
the sight of them, as likewise with the River Orinocke for
cows hides, tobacco, citron, &c., forasmuch as they sail to
the said Island in a very short time.
The charges of the garrison, ammunition, &c., may be
defrayed out of the head money which every inhabitant pays ;
besides all the Christian people above 15 years old as well
those that are free as slaves, pay ioo Ibs. of sugar yearly head
money or of other goods proportionably which is the practice
of all the Caribby Islands as likewise 5 per cent. is paid for all
goods exported which being farmed will amount to a great
The Minister who went 16 or 18 months since for Tobago
and can preach in Dutch and French, being since returned,
presents now his services to go thither again and would be of
great use to draw the people to us.
The advantages which the States will receive are very
great for in six years time that Island will by the blessing of
God be able to lade 20 ships yearly with sugar, tobacco,
ginger, cotton, citron, indigo, orange dye, cassia fistula, rice,
yellow wood for dyeing, lemon juice, very good oranges,
coconuts, &c., which will increase yearly. These commodities
being brought hither may afford many persons their livlihood
and will increase the customs of this State.
To the Caribby Islands is sent much beef, pork, stockfish,
meal or flour, salt, oil, butter, cheese, wine, brandy wine,
train oil, all kinds of iron work needful for the making of
houses and sugar mills, nails, hatchets, cleaners, chaffing
knives, copper kettles and other copper work, sail cloth,
ropeyarn, pitch, tar, white and blue linen, all sorts of stuffs,
thread, ribbons, needles, pins, shoes, slippers, stockings and
other necessaries too numerous to be mentioned; which
commodities would bring great profit to most of the inhabitants
of this State and they thriving, the State receiving the more
excise as well as other advantages.
Wherefore I doubt not their Lordships will take this good
work in hand and defend and protect it for the increase of
navigation and commerce, to the end that their inhabitants
may not need to sail through the favour of the English or
French to their colonies and trade with foreign passes.
The more inconsiderable planters of this Island may plant
quantities of white and other beans and peas and make
cassava and then send the same in 12 or 14 days to Surinam
they having by reason of the great rains, very often want
there of this kind of provision. The ships having taken in
sugar and wood at Surinam may in 4 or 5 days sail from thence
to this Island and having laded cotton may with good company
For the subsistence of the inhabitants there is on this
Island many sorts of trees bearing good fruits, there is likewise
good cassava, potatoes, rice, turkish wheat, many sorts of beans
and peas, cabbage, wild hogs, goats and all kinds of fish and
fowl as may further appear in the book written by the
Minister Rochefort in 1665.
In the case the said Island of Tobago as we hope, shall be
taken into possession and protected by their Lordships (and
not by particular persons as the same hath already been
possessed by Cornclis Everson who hath put some garrison
upon it) all the old planters who formerly lived on the same
Island and are now with regret in Holland, Zealand, Curassow
and in other parts, would transport themselves thither and
would bring the said Island, now that we have peace with
England, into a good posture.
There are likewise many planters as well Dutch as French
of' the protestant religion who having estates on the French
Islands, will sell the same and transport themselves to this
Island to be free of the slavery of the French Compagnie and
of the trouble they now receive about their religion and
besides their commodities being sent hither will produce more
than in France so that in four years a great many housekeepers
who are now on the other Caribby Islands or in other parts
who heretofore traded with the French Islands, will transport
themselves thither and the rather if Your Lordships put on
the Island 50 or 60 soldiers under a; good Commander with
10 or 12 pieces of cannon for security of the same.