Original Correspondence: West Indies (CO 318): 1699-1830
|Call Number:||HIL-MICL FC LPR .G7C6W4C6|
|Creator:||Great Britain. Colonial Office|
|Description:||Electronic textual records (6 volumes) ; 96.95 GB; 3753 files; 300ppi colour TIFF|
Colonial Office records precede the development of the Colonial Office, created in 1854, and contain records in the offices of the Board of Trade and the Secretaries of State which held responsibility for British colonial matters at different times until 1782; thereafter, responsibility was held by the Home Office until the War and Colonial Department was created in 1801. The West Indies is a group of islands separating the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean; and includes three major archipelagos: the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola - Haiti and Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands), Lesser Antilles (Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Saint Christopher/Saint Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, and Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire), and Lucayan Archipelago (The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos). The Lesser Antilles are divided into the Windward Islands south from Dominica to Grenada, the Leeward Islands that arc generally westerly from Guadeloupe to the Virgin Islands, and the Leeward Antilles running east-west close to the South American coast. Bermuda is commonly included in definitions of the region. Colonisation began with the Spanish in the late 15th century and was followed by the partitioning of the region by the Spanish, French, British, Dutch, and Danes during the 17th and 18th centuries. For many of the islands, possession changed hands and for some it changed hands often. Commissions of Enquiry represent one of the oldest and most widely used institutions in the British tradition of governance, and have informed public policy. These committees were to enquire and advise as a body set up by government to consider a specific problem or problems.
Contains original correspondence found in the files of the British secretaries of state responsible for the colonies, relating generally to the British colonies in the West Indies. Documents include letters, reports, orders, and instructions. Particular volumes from this collection include the following: Volume 3. Military Despatches, 1699 - circa 1796 (chiefly relating to expeditions and other military movements in the West Indies); Volume 4. Military Despatches, 1782-1830; Volume 31. Despatches from Offices and Individuals, 1807 (mostly incoming letters to the secretary of state from the commander-in-chief of the British Army in the Windward and Leeward Islands); Volume 32. Report of the Board of Health on the West Indian Station, 1799-1807 (mostly letters from the governors and presidents in council with reports from medical officials on colony health, including seamen); Volume 76. Commissioners of Legal Enquiry in the West Indies, 1822-1828, Free People of Colour: Disabilities and Grievances (memorials and papers collected by the commissioners relating to the claims of free Black people received by the legal commissioners appointed to enquire into the administration of justice in the Windward and Leeward Islands); and Volume 83, Commissioners of Enquiry into the state of the 'captured negroes' in the West Indies: Commissioners Bowles and Gannon and Secretaries Barrow and Barron, 1823-1824 (reports, examinations, and correspondence related to enquiries into the state and condition of Africans liberated from slavery under acts for abolishing the slave trade). Broad subject matter relates to the British military - navy, army, colonial volunteers, and Black corps; health and welfare; justice, particularly for Black persons; Black history; race; war and conflict with Spain in the Spanish West Indies, including Havana, Cuba; slavery, slave trade, and liberated and indentured Africans; and maritime topics such as illegal trade, piracy and privateering, and communications. Arrangement Volume 3: Military Despatches, 1699 - circa 1796 Contains a variety of documents, almost all relating to Britain's military oversight of her islands in the West Indies during periods that involved international conflict. Material is not organised in any obvious order. Correspondents include the British secretary of state and his assistants, admirals, Lords of Trade, governors, Lords of Admiralty, officers of land or sea forces, Spanish West Indian officials, the reigning monarch, a civilian sea captain, and victims of vessel seizures. A large amount of the documents deal with the 1740 British expedition to the West Indies under General Charles Cathcart, with Martin Bladen (member of Parliament) authoring much of the material. Topics pertaining to this expedition include preparations; the American military involvement, with instructions to captains Winslow and Hopkins; plunder and booty; appointments; instructions to Col. Alexander Spotswood, Col. William Blakeney, Lord Cathcart, and David Campbell, commissary of stores and provisions; island volunteers for expedition; establishment of general officers, staff officers and others; and black peoples involvement. Other subject matter includes trade, illegal trade, seizures, privateering, and prizes; runaway "slaves" to Spanish islands such as Cuba and Puerto Rico; intelligence about Havana; request to "slave trade" with French islands after end of slave trade; British prisoners in Spanish islands; British military forces in West Indies (tabular data from 1764-96); importance of Havana to England; and British tobacco trade in Holland and Europe. Of interest, in the very early 18th century, documents discuss expeditions to the West Indies, and to French Canada (Brig. General John Hill expedition, 1711); situational updates from ships' admirals (such as from Rear Admiral John Benbow on the "Bredah", 1699, 1702), and a captain in the West Indies, including sea battles and engagements; and putting into practice a mail delivery system, or packet service, between the islands and Britain, including letters from Edward Dummer (1703). All of the documents produced during the American Revolutionary period are military in nature, and much are written in the Spanish language by Spanish West Indian officials. They range in date from 1778 to 1781 and document the following: captured Spanish squadron under D. Joseph Solano; raising and use of mulattoes and free "negroes"; tabular data pertaining to the military forces in the area (mentions possible use of free people and Mosquito/Miskito Indians); ordnance requirements for 1778 expedition, and request for vessels from Admiralty; and an American sea captain, John Smith, on board the Brig. "Fortitude" bound for St. Christopher, 1781, and his description of vessels seen, chased by and seized upon. Most documents pertain to the Cuban Infantry regiments. Volume 4: Military Despatches and Miscellaneous, 1782-1830 Volume 31: Despatches, Public Offices and Miscellaneous, 1807 Correspondence is mostly from Henry Bowyer (died 1808), commander-in-chief of the British Army in the Windward and Leeward Islands, to the secretaries of state for war and the colonies, William Windham (5 Feb. 1806-25 March 1807) and Viscount Castlereagh (25 March 1807-1 Nov. 1809). There are also letters from the secretary of state to Bowyer, usually in draft form, and one described as "secret"; a few letters from Bowyer to Edward Cooke, the under-secretary of state for war and the colonies (1804-1806, 1807-1809); and one from Lieutenant General George Beckwith, Governor of Saint Vincent (1806-1808). Three draft letters from the secretary of state were generated in Jan. and Feb. 1808. Subject matter covers the following: considerations for the establishment of Black corps of West Indian regiments, compensation to soldiers due to losses sustained during the hurricane of 1806, Army vessels' expenses (ship Emma, schooner Nelly and sloop Zephyr), Black persons (enslaved persons) purchased for West Indian regiments, construction of troops' barracks at Dominica and defence works, concerns about the processes that resulted in Thomas Wethered in his new position as deputy commissary general in the Windward and Leeward Islands, a request for compensation for expenses incurred transporting black persons from Demerera to Trinidad as labourers for fortifications which did not proceed, expedition against the Danish islands (St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John), and sugar trade concerns of the former Danish islands inhabitants after being taken by the British. Miscellaneous section at the end contains mostly correspondence from officials in the British Treasury Dept. such as George Harrison, John Martin Leake, and Henry Wellesley to the Under-secretary of State for War and the Colonies, Edward Cooke; additionally, one letter from William Manning to Edward Cooke. Covers the following subject matter: exercise ground enclosure for the garrison at St. Anne's, Barbados, building materials for the barracks at Barbados, concerns over the apparent discrepancy in the calculations for provisioning troops, disagreement over Mr. Wethered's being appointed deputy commissary general in the Windward and Leeward Islands, and considerations for the defence of the West Indies against Napoleon's forces. Enclosures attached to letters include an Estimate on the probable expense enclosing land at St. Anne's Castle; and from the commissary general's office, a Return of the Quantity of Provisions required to supply the present number of victualled, and a Return of Provisions in Store for various islands. Volume 32: Report of the Board of Health on West Indian station. Health Statistics, including Surinam, 1799-1803, 1805-1807. Contains letters from island governments with reports from medical officers concerning health at different islands, includes seamen. Organised as follows:
Originals are held by The National Archives, Kew, London, England.
|Archival Ref. No.:||
CO 318/3, 318/4, 318/31, 318/32, 318/76, 318/83.
|Electronic Finding Aid Record:||
Document List - CO 318 Vol. 76.pdf
Document List - CO 318 Vol. 31.pdf
Document List - CO-318 Vol. 32.pdf
Document List - CO 318 Vol. 3.pdf
Document List - CO 318 Vol. 83.pdf
Access: See Microforms staff for access to this digital collection.
Note: The Loyalist Collection only holds one volume of the "Commission of Enquiry into the state of captured Negroes in the West Indies," but these commissions continued for many years: 1821-30, found in volumes 81-98.