I 1/12/1683. I
THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No. 370.
A Report on Tobago to the Privy Council.
Source :-Public Record Office. State Papers Colonial. C.O. 56.
Published b- the courtesy of the Master of the Rolls and the
Deputy Keeper of the Public Records.
December I IIh, 1683.
The state of the pretensions of the Duke of Courland to
the Island of Tobago.
In the year 1650, the Duke of Courland was possessed of
a fort called St. Andrew seated in the mouth of the River
Gambia which his agent soon afterwards sold and delivered
to the Dutch West India Company.
In the vcar 1661, the King granted a charter to the
Royal Company giving them the sole trade of all that coast
of Africa and in the same year sent out four ships under the
command of Sir Robert Holmes, to settle a fort in the River
Gambia. Arriving there they found the Dutch possessed of
the Fort St. Andrew which they took and demolished.
Whereof complaint having been made to His Majesty by the
Duke of Courland, a contract was agreed upon between
His Majesty and the said Duke in the year 1664, wherein
mention is made that in lieu of the said Fort St. Andrew, the
Duke of Courland should have full liberty of trade for his
own ships throughout the British territory in Africa not
exceeding in value 12,000 lbs. per annum;
And upon the same consideration His Majesty grants to
the said Duke the Island of Tobago under his royal protection,
provided the said Island be inhabited only by English and
Courlanders and that the said Duke, either himself or any
other for himself or for his subjects, shall not export or import
any goods otherwise than out of or into some of the ports
belonging to England or Courland or the Port of the City of
And the said Duke doth further in acknowledgement of
his tenure, promise in case of war to furnish His Majesty with
a ship of 40 guns.
Notwithstanding which grant, the Dutch West India
Company by force or agreement with the said Duke, were
possessed of this Island in the year 1672 when it was taken
by His Majesty's subjects and the plantations destroyed.
However after peace was made, the Dutch took it upon
themselves to resettle Tobago where they continued until the
year 1676 when Mons D'Estrees destroyed their fleet and
ruined all their forts leaving the Islands desolated, as it has
since remained till of late upon pretence of the Duke of
Courland's right by His Majesty's grant, some small ships
were fitted out in Holland to settle a plantation there but
And at this time great endeavours are used to invite
His Majesty's subjects to go thither and preparations made
by one Captain Poyntz which cannot but be prejudicial to
His Majesty's service for many reasons but principally for the
neighborhood of Tobago to Barbados and the other Caribbean
Islands from whence, in case of settlement, it will steal the
trade which by this grant may be conveyed to Dantzick or to
any part of the Duke of Courland's country and in case the
settlement do not prosper, it will then be the ruin of great
numbers of His Majesty's subjects who upon specious pretences
are enticed thither from England or the plantations.
Besides that, if His Majesty permit the settlement of this.
Island by the Duke of Courland, that Duke will have the
same right to the trade of Africa from which he hath hitherto
been hindered, not only by the foresight of ill consequences
that must happen by it but upon a full hearing of this matter
in March, 1670 by a Committee of the Council when (as it
appeared by a report of Sir John Buckworth) it was found
as in regard the Duke had first sold the Fort St. Andrew to
the Dutch, His Majesty was surprised into his grant to the
Duke of Courland.
And it may too be considered whether this Island having
changed hands so often since the contract and that the Duke
not having settled it in due time or furnished the King with
such a ship during the war according to contract, the King
shall nevertheless hold himself obliged to make good a title
which must prove of so very great prejudice to the trade of