THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TRINIDAD
Publication No. 419.
A Petition to the Secretary of Stale and the Lords of Trade and
Plantations from the Council and Assembly of Tobago.
Source:-Public Record Office. State Papers Colonial.
Published by the courtesy of the Master of the Rolls
and the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records.
12th August 1775.
To the Right Honourable the Earl of Dart-
mouth, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of
State for the Colonies, and to the Right Hon-
ourable the Lords of Trade and Plantations.
The most respectful Memorial of the Council and
Assembly of the Island of Tobago sheweth
That in the latter part of the year 1766 and the
beginning of 1767 the Island of Tobago began to be in-
habited by British subjects who trusting to His Majes-
ty's most gracious Proclamation and the support which
infant colonies had formerly received from Government,
purchased lands from His Majesty's Commissioners and
ventured their lives and fortunes in the cultivation of
sugar and other articles of West Indian produce.
That His Majesty was pleased to order four comp-
anies of troops to be stationed there for the protect-
ion of the early inhabitants thereof during whose stay
the Island was unmolested by external or internal al-
That in the year 1768 two companies of soldiers
were ordered away from the Island and there remain-
eb only two incomplete companies,sickly from the nat-
ure of the country then entirely covered by wood and
for the want of good and sufficient barracks to protect
them from the injuries and inclemencies of the weather.
That soon after the departure of this detachment
an insurrection of the Negroes happened in which the
lives of some of our most valuable settlers were lost
and the Colony reduced to the necessity of suing for
assistance of arms and men from the neighboring col-
onies of Barbados and Grenada in order to quell the
insurgents which, after some time and much personal
risk and danger, they effected.
That the expense incurred in consequence of this
exertion was a grievous burden upon the few inhabitants
thereof and required a tax of four shillings an acre the
first year and five shillings the second to raise a sum
sufficient to discharge the public debt then incurred.
That in the year 1771 another insurrection broke
out which, owing to the spirited exertions of the inhab-
itants who had in the intermediate time been formed
into a Corps of Militia and well appointed, was soon
subdued but not without considerable expense and the
loss of some lives.
That in the year 1774 a third and more dangerous
rebellion happened when many valuable members of our
small community fell victims to the barbarous rage of
the insurgents and again the Colony was involved in
debt which it has not been able to pay off.
That several lesser attempts have been since made
in which some of His Majesty's good subjects have been
murdered and the perpetrators of these horrid deeds
as well as the chiefs of the former insurrections have
fled to Trinidad, an Island belonging to His Catholic
Majesty, where they have constantly been protected
by orders from the Spanish Court notwithstanding they
have repeatedly been claimed as offenders against the
laws of nature as well as of nations.
That such attempts must happen again notwithstand-
ing the vigilance and discipline of the inhabitants un-
less a larger body of troops be stationed here for the
protection of their lives and fortunes and unless an ar-
med vessel be ordered constantly to cruise round the
Island as in the first years, when least necessary,was
customary to prevent our slaves from stealing off in
canoes or seizing vessels, murdering their crews and
escaping from servitude.
That in order to prevent as much as possible the
licentiousness of our slaves who were daring in pro-
portion to the shelter they flattered themselves with
finding in the extensive woody mountains and as the
promises of His Majesty's Commissioners for the Sale
of Lands had not been fulfilled, we were ourselves at
prodigious cost obliged to cut numerous roads of com-
munication through the uncultivated parts of the coun-
try where in general the hills are so irregular as to
require digging before a path even can be made in them.
That in the first years of the settlement while our
lands sold at twenty and twenty five shillings an acre,
many settlers sanguine from the appearance of the soil
and other inviting circumstances of the Island, estab-
lished themselves and became useful inhabitants there-
of but afterwards when the prices of land were artful-
ly raised by speculators who, unable to settle themsel.
ves, took advantage of the indulgence granted by His
Majesty's Commissioners to receive Bills of Exchange
instead of ready gold and silver money and engrossed
most of the land exposed for sale which, afterwards,
they resold at advanced prices to such as were minded
to become bona fide settlers and
That in consequence of such exorbitant prices of
land, the disappointment of great assistance which had
been expected of Government, the fatal truth that ex-
perience had taught that settlement in an entirely new
colony was infinitely more expensive and more precar-
ious than in an old one together with the shock which
West Indian credit sustained in the year 1772 and since;
have altogether combined to check the progress of our
cultivation, to prevent any new settlers from joining
us and to reduce our white inhabitants from 431 in the
year 1773 to 389, the exact number now resident upon
the Island, whose strength compared to 8556 negroes,
the precise account taken in the month of July last,
are subjects of an alarming nature and demand all the
exertions in our power to supplicate all the assistance
that Government can possibly give us.
In the years 1771 and 1772 this Colony promised
so fair as to be soon of great advantage to the com-
merce of Great Britain as well as in the political view
it is to Government by its natural situation being to
windward of all the other Charibbee Islands, out of the
hurricane latitudes, with large and commodious bays
fit for the rendez-vous of His Majesty's Fleet and in
the very track where all the valuable vessels to New
Spain in time of war do constantly pass.
Exhausted as we are by repeated losses and expen-
ses, it is impossible for us to support ourselves any
longer unless it be thought reasonable at the charge of
Government to allow us an additional number of troops
to protect us within and such forts and fortifications
as will at least defend us from the attacks of privateers
from without, assistance towards erecting Churches, a
public Prison, a house for holding His Majesty's Courts
of Justice and the public meetings of the Legislature
together with the suspension of the payments due by
instalments to the Crown upon lands sold or such other
encouragement (such as to Your Lordships, it shall seem
meet to advise) whereby new settlers can be invited to
this declining Colony.
Your Memorialists therefore humbly hope that Your
Lordships will be pleased to represent the deplorable
situation of this Colony to His Majesty and recommend
such vigorous assistance as will effectually relieve
the pressing exigencies thereof.
Peter Campbell. President.
Thos Fairholme. Speaker.
12th August 1775.