THE TRINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 89.
The claim of the English Crown to the Island of Tobago.
January 4th, 1700. London.
Source :-Public Record Office. State Papers Colonial
C.O. 29/7. pp. 15-20.
Published by courtesy of the Master of the Rolls and the Deputy
Keeper of the Public Records.
To THE KING'S MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR MAJESTY
In obedience to Your Majesty's Order in Council of
November 2nd last, we have considered of Your Majesty's
Right and Title to the Island of Tobago so as to hinder the
same from being settled by any others than Your Majesty's
subjects with a particular regard to what has been alleged by
the French Ambassador in a late memorial transmitted to us
by the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Jersey, and do thereupon humbly
represent to Your Majesty.
That in the year 1626 Sir Thomas Warner took actual
possession of all the Caribbee Islands (whereof Tobago is one)
for the use of the Crown of England and in the name of
King Charles the First who by letters patent dated the 2nd of
June, 1627 and confirmed the year following, granted the said
Islands to James Lord Hayc, Earl of Carlisle, his heirs and
assigns, who held the same in Propriety under the protection
of England till the Patentees made a surrender of their interest
to the Crown.
That some time after the Island of Barbados had been
settled under the grant of the Earl of Carlisle, a considerable
number of English were sent from thence to Tobago who not
only retook possession thereof under the command and
government of one Ayris but stayed there till by reason of the
unhealthiness of the country they thought fit to draw off and
return to Barbados where the said Ayris is now living and
well known by the name of Governor of Tobago.
That some time before the restoration of King Charles
the Second, the Duke of Courland intending to settle a colony
in the West Indies, took advantage of the disorders in England
by reason of the Civil Wars and possessed himself of the
Island of Tobago giving permission to one Lampson, a rich
Zealander, to associate himself with the undertakers in that
design, he paying a yearly acknowledgement to the Duke
for the same.
That in th year 1658, the said Duke being imprisoned by
the Swedes, L im-soir's party made :se of that co.juncture to
raise a mutiny in the garrison in Tobago against the Governor
whom they foi ccd to capitulate with them and their adherents
and by this violent act the Lampsons became masters of the
Fort and Island of Tobago which usurpation they continued
for several years.
That upon the Duke of Courland being set at liberty, he
made application to King Charles II for his protection and
leave to repossess himself of Tobago and accordingly obtained
a grant thereof the 17th November, 1664, on certain conditions
which show his acknowledgement of his tenure from the
Crown of England.
Notwithstanding which grant the Dutch kept their footing
in that Island till the year 1665 when they were driven out
by the English and upon their retaking possession without
leave from England, they were again expelled in the year 1672
by Sir Tobias Bridge and Sir William Poole who destroyed the
fort and buildings without making any new settlement, it
being judged sufficient that the Government of the
neighboring Island of Barbados should retain the Island of
Tobago under their jurisdiction and make use of it on all
necessary occasions as depending on that Government thereby
preserving His Majesty's title and hindering any other nation
from beginning a settlement there.
Nevertheless after the peace was concluded, the Dutch
West India Company took upon them to resettle Tobago and
were possessed of that Island until the war they had with the
French in 1676 when Count D'Estrees with a squadron of
ships attacked the Island and blowing up the fort. carried off
all the Dutch inhabitants except a Sergeant, John Hessen of
Amsterdam and two other Hollanders who continued there
some days after the French had entirely abandoned the
Island ; as appears by the depositions of the said John Hessen
produced by the Sicur van Benningen then Ambassador from
the States in England who redemanding some negros that
were chme inGo the hLn'~ Gm\ rnor of one of His Majesty's
Caribbee Islands did allege that the Ain iralv of Amsterdam
remained masters of the Island notwtitstanding the depreda-
tions of the French who had made but a transient invasion
without stay or settlement there, as is more at large expressed
in his memorial.
In this desolate state the Island remained till toward the
year 1680 when the Duke of Courland had once more thought
of resettling it under the grant from the Crown of England
as aforesaid and with the assistance of Dutch merchants
fitted out some ships in Holland to that end with but little or
This obliged the Duke to have again recourse to the
Crown of England and to make his request by his agent
Baron Blomberg to the late King in 1686 that His Majesty
would be pleased to encourage the settlement of the said
Island and allow some of his English subjects to join in the
design with others that should be employed by the Duke.
But upon a hearing in Council it was then declared by His
Majesty's Attorney General that the said Duke not having
duly fulfilled the conditions of his contract or grant from
King Charles the Second, had forfeited the advantages of
his said grant and consequently any right the Duke could
pretend to by virtue thereof was become void in law and
returned to the Crown.
Notwithstanding which declaration, a fresh encouragement
had been lately given by the agents of the Duke of Courland
to several persons here in England to resettle the said Island
but upon our humble representations to Your Majesty of
18th May past showing the inconveniencies of such a settlement
Your Majesty was pleased by an Order in Council of the same
date, not to allow thereof but to forbid all persons to proceed
on that design either from England or from any other place.
From which deduction of matter of fact we humbly beg
leave to infer :--
That the possession taken of Tobago by Sir Thomas
Warner in the year 1626 gave King Charles the First a just
right to the said Island which has ever since continued in the
Crown of England and is now undoubtedly inherent in
Your Majesty notwithstanding the pretensions which may be
formed to the contrary by any other Prince or State what-
soever ; for the reasons following
That the Duke of Courland never had any direct dominion
over the said Island but possessed it only by a grant and tenure
from King Charles the Second which he forfeited as aforesaid
That the encroachment made by the Lampsons on the
Duke of Courland was a mere usurpation which could in no
wise prejudice the original claim of the English which however
was twice asserted by two entire conquests made by them on
the Dutch in the years 1665 and 1673 since which time the
Dutch have not acquired any new title either by cession or
otherwise from the Crown of England. So that the French
cannot be said to be well founded in their claim to this Island
either by what they call a conquest in 1676 which has been
proved to be no more than a transitory invasion without any
settlement barely affecting the Dutch colony or garrison or by
Treaty with the Dutch in 1678 who having no just right of
their own could neither lose nor transfer any right to the
French towards invalidating the superior and original title of
the Crown of England.
And whereas it is alleged by the French Ambassador that
for maintaining their property in that Island they send ships
twice a year to Tobago to hinder any other nation from
taking possession thereof, we do further humbly offer that the
coming of the French ships to Tobago cannot be understood
otherwise than by Your Majesty's allowance for the maintaining
a friendly correspondence and a reciprocal kindness between
the two Crowns and that the continuance of possession by
Your Majesty is much more easily proved by the constant
frequenting of that Island by Your Majesty's men of war and
other ships of Your Majesty's subjects which resort there daily
from Barbados and stay there 2 or 3 months at a time or more
to furnish themselves with wood and water and other
necessaries in the said Island which depends absolutely on
Your Majesty's government of Barbados as other Islands
lying to the windward of Guardeloupe.
And in order to the further asserting of Your Majesty's
right to Tobago exclusive of all others and to hinder the
settlement of any colony there, pursuant to Your Majesty's
intentions signified on that behalf, we are most humbly of the
opinion that the Governor of Barbados for the time being
should take care by Your Majesty's frigates or otherwise to
hinder any settlement to be made upon that Island by any
foreign nation whatsoever or even by Your Majesty's
subjects otherwise than such Governor with the advice of
Your Majesty's Council shall judge necessary for maintaining
Your Majesty's sole rights to the said Island and in such
manner as may be for the use and benefit to Your Majesty's
subjects inhabiting Your Majesty's Island of Barbados.
All of which is nevertheless most humbly submitted.
January 4th, 1699/1700.
STAMFORD. JO POLLEXFEN.
LEXINGTON. ABR HILL.
FH MEADOWS. GEO STEPNEY.
(Commissioners of Trade and Plantations).
Approved by His Majesty, January 9th, 1700.