Nonfiction > Trent and Wells, eds. > Colonial Prose and Poetry
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Trent and Wells, eds.  Colonial Prose and Poetry.  1901.
 
Vol. III. The Growth of the National Spirit: 1710–1775
William Byrd
 
WILLIAM BYRD, one of the most prominent members of the Virginia Colonial Aristocracy, was born on the magnificent ancestral estate of Westover on the James River in 1674, and died there in 1744. The son of a distinguished colonial official of like name, he travelled in Europe, was educated in England for the law, and thrice visited that country as agent of his colony. He was a member of the King’s Council for thirty-seven years, and finally, its President. He accumulated great wealth, lived in lordly state, and gathered the most valuable library in the colony. Its catalogue counts 3438 volumes. He did much to encourage emigration, was founder of the city of Richmond, and somewhat of an explorer. The Westover Manuscripts first printed at Petersburg, Virginia, in 1841, contain an account of his experiences as Commissioner of his colony in determining the border line between Virginia and North Carolina in 1728, together with a journey undertaken with a friend to survey a grant of land on which he expected to exploit iron mines, and another frontier journey to mines already in operation. All these tracts, the titles of which are given in connection with the citations made from them, are remarkable for their vigorous style, their shrewd humor, and their valuable observations of an economic nature. Byrd was one of the most cultivated Americans of the eighteenth century, and would have been an ornament to any society. He was at his best perhaps as a student of economics and affairs, but he had also in him the makings of a great writer. Although far from the centres of culture, he was a patron of art and science and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Great Britain. A new edition of his writings, superintended by Prof. J. S. Bassett, is now in press, and his letters are promised in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.  1
 
North Carolina Husbandry.
[From “The History of the Dividing Line.”]

  [MARCH] 10th [1728].  The Sabbath happened very opportunely to give some ease to our jaded people, who rested religiously from every work, but that of cooking the kettle. We observed very few cornfields in our walks, and those very small, which seemed the stranger to us, because we could see no other token of husbandry or improvement. But, upon further inquiry, we were given to understand people only made corn for themselves and not for their stocks, which know very well how to get their own living. Both cattle and hogs ramble into the neighboring marshes and swamps, where they maintain themselves the whole winter long, and are not fetched home till the spring. Thus these indolent wretches, during one half of the year, lose the advantage of the milk of their cattle as well as their dung, and many of the poor creatures perish in the mire, into the bargain, by this ill-management. Some who pique themselves more upon industry than their neighbors, will, now and then, in compliment to their cattle, cut down a tree whose limbs are loaded with the moss afore-mentioned. The trouble would be too great to climb the tree in order to gather this provender, but the shortest way (which in this country is always counted the best) is to fell it, just like the lazy Indians, who do the same by such trees as bear fruit, and so make one harvest for all.
  2
 
An Asylum for Runaway Slaves.
[From the Same.]

  [MARCH] 11th [1728]….  We had encamped so early, that we found time in the evening to walk near half a mile into the woods. There we came upon a family of mulattoes that called themselves free, though by the shyness of the master of the house, who took care to keep least in sight, their freedom seemed a little doubtful. It is certain many slaves shelter themselves in this obscure part of the world, nor will any of their righteous neighbors discover them. On the contrary, they find their account in settling such fugitives on some out-of-the-way corner of their land, to raise stocks for a mean and inconsiderable share, well-knowing their condition makes it necessary for them to submit to any terms. Nor were these worthy borderers content to shelter runaway slaves, but debtors and criminals have often met with the like indulgence. But if the government of North Carolina has encouraged this unneighborly policy in order to increase their people, it is no more than what ancient Rome did before them, which was made a city of refuge for all debtors and fugitives, and from that wretched beginning grew up in time to be mistress of a great part of the world. And, considering how fortune delights in bringing great things out of small, who knows but Carolina may, one time or other, come to be the seat of some other great empire?
  3
 
Running the Boundary Line through the Dismal Swamp.
[From the Same.]

  [MARCH] 14th [1728].  Before nine of the clock this morning, the provisions, bedding and other necessaries, were made up into packs for the men to carry on their shoulders into the Dismal. They were victualled for eight days at full allowance, nobody doubting but that would be abundantly sufficient to carry them through that inhospitable place; nor indeed was it possible for the poor fellows to stagger under more. As it was, their loads weighed from 60 to 70 pounds, in just proportion to the strength of those who were to bear them. It would have been unconscionable to have saddled them with burdens heavier than that, when they were to lug them through a filthy bog which was hardly practicable with no burdens at all. Besides this luggage at their backs, they were obliged to measure the distance, mark the trees, and clear the way for the surveyors every step they went. It was really a pleasure to see with how much cheerfulness they undertook, and with how much spirit they went through all this drudgery. For their greater safety, the commissioners took care to furnish them with Peruvian bark, rhubarb, and hipocoacanah, in case they might happen, in that wet journey, to be taken with fevers or fluxes. Although there was no need of example to inflame persons already so cheerful, yet to enter the people with the better grace, the author and two more of the commissioners accompanied them half a mile into the Dismal. The skirts of it were thinly planted with dwarf reeds and gall bushes, but when we got into the Dismal itself, we found the reeds grew there much taller and closer, and to mend the matter were so interlaced with bamboo-briers, that there was no scuffling through them without the help of pioneers. At the same time, we found the ground moist and trembling under our feet like a quagmire, insomuch that it was an easy matter to run a ten foot pole to the head in it, without exerting any uncommon strength to do it. Two of the men, whose burdens were the least cumbersome, had orders to march before, with their tomahawks, and clear the way, in order to make an opening for the surveyors. By their assistance we made a shift to push the line half a mile in three hours, and then reached a small piece of firm land, about 100 yards wide, standing up above the rest like an island. Here the people were glad to lay down their loads and take a little refreshment, while the happy man, whose lot it was to carry the jug of rum, began already, like Æsop’s bread-carriers, to find it grow a good deal lighter.
  4
  17th….  Since the surveyors had entered the Dismal they had laid eyes on no living creature; neither bird nor beast, insect nor reptile came in view. Doubtless the eternal shade that broods over this mighty bog, and hinders the sunbeams from blessing the ground, makes it an uncomfortable habitation for anything that has life. Not so much as a Zealand frog could endure so aguish a situation. It had one beauty, however, that delighted the eye, though at the expense of all the other senses: the moisture of the soil preserves a continual verdure, and makes every plant an evergreen, but at the same time the foul damps ascend without ceasing, corrupt the air, and render it unfit for respiration. Not even a turkey buzzard will venture to fly over it, no more than the Italian vultures will over the filthy lake Avernus or the birds in the holy land over the salt sea where Sodom and Gomorrah formerly stood.  5
  In these sad circumstances the kindest thing we could do for our suffering friends was to give them a place in the Litany. Our chaplain for his part did his office, and rubbed us up with a seasonable sermon. This was quite a new thing to our brethern of North Carolina, who live in a climate where no clergyman can breathe, any more than spiders in Ireland.  6
  We ordered several men to patrol on the edge of the Dismal, both toward the North and toward the South, and to fire guns at proper distances. This they performed very punctually, but could hear nothing in return, nor gain any sort of intelligence. In the meantime whole flocks of women and children flew hither to stare at us, with as much curiosity as if we had lately landed from Bantam or Morocco. Some borderers, too, had a great mind to know where the line would come out, being for the most part apprehensive lest their lands should be taken into Virginia. In that case they must have submitted to some sort of order and government; whereas, in North Carolina, every one does what seems best in his own eyes. There were some good women that brought their children to be baptized, but brought no capons along with them to make the solemnity cheerful. In the meantime it was strange that none came to be married in such a multitude, if it had only been for the novelty of having their hands joined by one in holy orders. Yet so it was, that though our chaplain christened above an hundred, he did not marry so much as one couple during the whole expedition. But marriage is reckoned a lay contract in Carolina, as I said before, and a country justice can tie the fatal knot there, as fast as an archbishop.  7
  None of our visitors could, however, tell us any news of the surveyors, nor indeed was it possible any of them should at that time, they being still laboring in the midst of the Dismal.  8
  It seems they were able to carry the line this day no further than one mile and sixty-one poles, and that whole distance was through a miry cedar bog, where the ground trembled under their feet most frightfully. In many places, too, their passage was retarded by a great number of fallen trees, that lay horsing upon one another.  9
  Though many circumstances concurred to make this an unwholesome situation, yet the poor men had no time to be sick, nor can one conceive a more calamitous case than it would have been to be laid up in that uncomfortable quagmire. Never were patients more tractable, or willing to take physic, than these honest fellows; but it was from a dread of laying their bones in a bog that would soon spew them up again. That consideration also put them upon more caution about their lodging.  10
  They first covered the ground with square pieces of cypress bark, which now, in the spring, they could easily slip off the tree for that purpose. On this they spread their bedding; but unhappily the weight and warmth of their bodies made the water rise up betwixt the joints of the bark, to their great inconvenience. Thus they lay not only moist, but also exceedingly cold, because their fires were continually going out. For no sooner was the trash upon the surface burnt away, but immediately the fire was extinguished by the moisture of the soil, insomuch that it was great part of the sentinel’s business to rekindle it again in a fresh place, every quarter of an hour. Nor could they indeed do their duty better, because cold was the only enemy they had to guard against in a miserable morass, where nothing can inhabit.  11
  20th.  We could get no tidings yet of our brave adventurers, notwithstanding we dispatched men to the likeliest stations to inquire after them. They were still scuffling in the mire, and could not possibly forward the line this whole day more than one mile and sixty-four chains. Every step of this day’s work was through a cedar bog, where the trees were somewhat smaller and grew more into a thicket. It was now a great misfortune to the men to find their provisions grow less as their labor grew greater; they were all forced to come to short allowance, and consequently to work hard without filling their bellies. Though this was very severe upon English stomachs, yet the people were so far from being discomfited at it, that they still kept up their good-humor, and merrily told a young fellow in the company, who looked very plump and wholesome, that he must expect to go first to pot, if matters should come to extremity.  12
  This was only said by way of jest, yet it made him thoughtful in earnest. However, for the present he returned them a very civil answer, letting them know that, dead or alive, he should be glad to be useful to such worthy good friends. But, after all, this humorous saying had one very good effect, for that younker, who before was a little inclined by his constitution to be lazy, grew on a sudden extremely industrious, that so there might be less occasion to carbonade him for the good of his fellow-travellers….  13
  21st.  The surveyors and their attendants began now in good earnest to be alarmed with apprehensions of famine, nor could they forbear looking with some sort of appetite upon a dog which had been the faithful companion of their travels.  14
  Their provisions were now near exhausted. They had this morning made the last distribution, that so each might husband his small pittance as he pleased. Now it was that the fresh colored young man began to tremble every joint of him, having dreamed, the night before, that the Indians were about to barbecue him over live coals.  15
  The prospect of famine determined the people, at last, with one consent, to abandon the line for the present, which advanced but slowly, and make the best of their way to firm land. Accordingly they set off very early, and, by the help of the compass which they carried along with them, steered a direct westerly course. They marched from morning till night, and computed their journey to amount to about four miles, which was a great way, considering the difficulties of the ground. It was all along a cedar-swamp, so dirty and perplexed, that if they had not travelled for their lives, they could not have reached so far.  16
  On their way they espied a turkey-buzzard, that flew prodigeously high to get above the noisome exhalations that ascend from that filthy place. This they were willing to understand as a good omen, according to the superstition of the ancients, who had great faith in the flight of vultures. However, after all this tedious journey, they could yet discover no end of their toil, which made them very pensive, especially after they had eat the last morsel of their provisions. But to their unspeakable comfort, when all was hushed in the evening, they heard the cattle low, and the dogs bark, very distinctly, which, to men in that distress, was more delightful music than Faustina or Farinelli could have made. In the mean time the commissioners could get no news of them from any of their visitors, who assembled from every point of the compass….  17
  22nd.  However long we might think the time, yet we were cautious of showing our uneasiness, for fear of mortifying our landlord. He had done his best for us, and therefore we were unwilling he should think us dissatisfied with our entertainment. In the midst of our concern, we were most agreeably surprised, just after dinner, with the news that the Dismalites were all safe. These blessed tidings were brought to us by Mr. Swan, the Carolina surveyor, who came to us in a very tattered condition.  18
  After very short salutations, we got about him as if he had been a Hottentot, and began to inquire into his adventures. He gave us a detail of their uncomfortable voyage through the Dismal, and told us, particularly, they had pursued their journey early that morning, encouraged by the good omen of seeing the crows fly over their heads; that, after an hour’s march over very rotten ground, they, on a sudden, began to find themselves among tall pines, that grew in the water, which in many places was knee-deep. This pine swamp, into which that of Coropeak drained itself, extended near a mile in breadth; and though it was exceedingly wet, yet it was much harder at bottom than the rest of the swamp; that about ten in the morning they recovered firm land, which they embraced with as much pleasure as shipwrecked wretches do the shore.  19
  After these honest adventurers had congratulated each other’s deliverance, their first inquiry was for a good house, where they might satisfy the importunity of their stomachs. Their good genius directed them to Mr. Brinkley’s, who dwells a little to the southward of the line. This man began immediately to be very inquisitive, but they declared they had no spirits left to answer questions till after dinner.  20
  “But pray, gentlemen,” said he, “answer me one question, at least: what shall we get for your dinner?” To which they replied, “No matter what, so it be but enough.” He kindly supplied their wants as soon as possible, and by the strength or that refreshment they made a shift to come to us in the evening, to tell their own story. They all looked very thin, and as ragged as the Gibeonite ambassadors did in the days of yore. Our surveyors told us they had measured ten miles in the Dismal, and computed the distance they had marched since to amount to about five more, so they made the whole breadth to be fifteen miles in all.  21
 
Religion on the Carolina Frontier.
[From the Same.]

  [MARCH] 17th [1728] …  For want of men in Holy Orders both the members of the Council and Justices of the Peace are empowered by the laws of that country to marry all those who will not take one another’s word; but for the ceremony of christening their children they trust that to chance. If a parson come in their way, they will crave a cast of his office, as they call it, else they are content their offspring should remain as arrant pagans as themselves. They account it among their greatest advantages that they are not priest-ridden, not remembering that the clergy is rarely guilty of bestriding such as have the misfortune to be poor. One thing may be said for the inhabitants of that province, that they are not troubled with any religious fumes, and have the least superstition of any people living. They do not know Sunday from any other day, any more than Robinson Crusoe did, which would give them a great advantage were they given to be industrious. But they keep so many Sabbaths every week, that their disregard of the seventh day has no manner of cruelty in it, either to servants or cattle.
  22
  16th …  We passed by no less than two quaker meeting-houses, one of which had an awkward ornament on the west end of it, that seemed to ape a steeple. I must own I expected no such piece of foppery from a sect of so much outside simplicity. That persuasion prevails much in the lower end of Nansemond County, for want of ministers to pilot the people a decenter way to heaven. The ill reputation of tobacco planted in those lower parishes makes the clergy unwilling to accept of them unless it be such whose abilities are as mean as their pay. Thus, whether the churches be quite void or but indifferently filled, the quakers will have an opportunity of gaining proselytes. It is a wonder no popish missionaries are sent from Maryland to labor in this neglected vineyard, who we know have zeal enough to traverse sea and land on the meritorious errand of making converts. Nor is it less strange that some wolf in sheep’s clothing arrives not from New England to lead astray a flock that has no shepherd. People uninstructed in any religion are ready to embrace the first that offers. It is natural for helpless man to adore his Maker in some form or other, and were there any exception to this rule, I should suspect it to be among the Hottentots of the Cape of Good Hope and of North Carolina.  23
 
Colonial Convivial Customs.
[From the Same.]

  [MARCH] 26th. [1728].  Since we were like to be confined to this place till the people returned out of the Dismal, it was agreed that our chaplain might safely take a turn to Edenton, to preach the Gospel to the infidels there, and christen their children. He was accompanied thither by Mr. Little, one of the Carolina Commissioners, who, to show his regard for the Church, offered to treat him on the road with a fricassee of rum. They fried half a dozen rashers of very fat bacon in a pint of rum, both which being dished up together, served the company at once both for meat and drink. Most of the rum they get in this country comes from New England, and is so bad and unwholesome, that it is not improperly called “kill-devil.” It is distilled there from foreign molasses, which, if skilfully managed, yields near gallon for gallon. Their molasses comes from the same country, and has the name of “long sugar” in Carolina, I suppose from the ropiness of it, and serves all the purposes of sugar, both in their eating and drinking. When they entertain their friends bountifully, they fail not to set before them a capacious bowl of Bombo, so called from the Admiral of that name. This is a compound of rum and water in equal parts, made palatable with the said “long sugar.” As good humor begins to flow, and the bowl to ebb, they take care to replenish it with sheer rum, of which there is always a reserve under the table. But such generous doings happen only when that balsam of life is plenty….
  24
 
Primitive Dentistry.
[From “A Journey to the Land of Eden.”]

  [OCT.] 9th [1733].  Major Mayo’s survey being no more than half done, we were obliged to amuse ourselves another day in this place. And that the time might not be quite lost, we put our garments and baggage into good repair. I for my part never spent a day so well during the whole voyage. I had an impertinent tooth in my upper jaw, that had been loose for some time, and made me chew with great caution. Particularly I could not grind a biscuit but with much deliberation and presence of mind. Tooth-drawers we had none amongst us, nor any of the instruments they make use of. However, invention supplied this want very happily, and I contrived to get rid of this troublesome companion by cutting a caper. I caused a twine to be fastened round the root of my tooth, about a fathom in length, and then tied the other end to the snag of a log that lay upon the ground, in such a manner that I could just stand upright. Having adjusted my string in this manner, I bent my knees enough to enable me to spring vigorously off the ground, as perpendicularly as I could. The force of the leap drew out the tooth with so much ease that I felt nothing of it, nor should have believed it was come away, unless I had seen it dangling at the end of the string. An under tooth may be fetched out by standing off the ground and fastening your string at due distance above you. And having so fixed your gear, jump off your standing, and the weight of your body, added to the force of the spring, will prize out your tooth with less pain than any operator upon earth could draw it.
  25
  This new way of tooth-drawing, being so silently and deliberately performed, both surprised and delighted all that were present, who could not guess what I was going about. I immediately found the benefit of getting rid of this troublesome companion, by eating my supper with more comfort than I had done during the whole expedition.  26
 
A Pioneer Miner’s Mansion.
[From “A Progress to the Mines in the Year 1732.”]

  [SEPT.] 27th [1732] …  I rode eight miles together over a stony road and had on either hand continual poisoned fields, with nothing but saplings growing on them. Then I came into the main country road that leads from Fredericksburg to Germanna, which last place I reached in ten miles more. This famous town consists of Colonel Spotswood’s enchanted castle on one side of the street, and a baker’s dozen of ruinous tenements on the other, where so many German families had dwelt some years ago; but are now removed ten miles higher, in the Fork of Rappahannock, to land of their own. There had also been a chapel about a bow-shot from the colonel’s house, at the end of an avenue of cherry trees, but some pious people had lately burnt it down, with intent to get another built nearer to their own homes. Here I arrived about three o’clock, and found only Mrs. Spotswood at home, who received her old acquaintance with many a gracious smile. I was carried into a room elegantly set off with pier glasses, the largest of which came soon after to an odd misfortune. Amongst other favorite animals that cheered this lady’s solitude, a brace of tame deer ran familiarly about the house, and one of them came to stare at me as a stranger. But unluckily spying his own figure in the glass, he made a spring over the tea-table that stood under it, and shattered the glass to pieces, and falling back upon the tea-table made a terrible fracas among the china. This exploit was so sudden, and accompanied with such a noise, that it surprised me, and perfectly frightened Mrs. Spotswood. But ’twas worth all the damage to show the moderation and good humor with which she bore this disaster. In the evening the noble colonel came home from his mines, who saluted me very civilly, and Mrs. Spotswood’s sister, Miss Theky, who had been to meet him en cavalier, was so kind too as to bid me welcome. We talked over a legend of old stories, supped about 9, and then prattled with the ladies, till it was time for a traveller to retire. In the mean time I observed my old friend to be very uxorious, and exceedingly fond of his children. This was so opposite to the maxims he used to preach up before he was married, that I could not forbear rubbing up the memory of them. But he gave a very good-natured turn to his change of sentiments, by alleging that whoever brings a poor gentlewoman into so solitary a place, from all her friends and acquaintance, would be ungrateful not to use her and all that belongs to her with all possible tenderness.
  27
  28th.  We all kept snug in our several apartments till nine, except Miss Theky, who was the housewife of the family. At that hour we met over a pot of coffee, which was not quite strong enough to give us the palsy. After breakfast the colonel and I left the ladies to their domestic affairs, and took a turn in the garden, which has nothing beautiful but three terrace walks that fall in slopes one below another. I let him understand, that besides the pleasure of paying him a visit, I came to be instructed by so great a master in the mystery of making of iron, wherein he had led the way, and was the Tubal Cain of Virginia. He corrected me a little there, by assuring me he was not only the first in this country, but the first in North America, who had erected a regular furnace. That they ran altogether upon bloomeries in New England and Pennsylvania, till his example had made them attempt greater works. But in this last colony, they have so few ships to carry their iron to Great Britain, that they must be content to make it only for their own use, and must be obliged to manufacture it when they have done. That he hoped he had done the country very great service by setting so good an example…. Our conversation on this subject continued till dinner, which was both elegant and plentiful. The afternoon was devoted to the ladies, who showed me one of their most beautiful walks. They conducted me through a shady lane to the landing, and by the way made me drink some very fine water that issued from a marble fountain, and ran incessantly. Just behind it was a covered bench, where Miss Theky often sat and bewailed her virginity. Then we proceeded to the river, which is the south branch of Rappahannock, about fifty yards wide, and so rapid that the ferry boat is drawn over by a chain, and therefore called the Rapidan. At night we drank prosperity to all the colonel’s projects in a bowl of rack punch, and then retired to our devotions.  28
  29th.  Having employed about two hours in retirement, I sallied out at the first summons to breakfast, where our conversation with the ladies, like whip syllabub, was very pretty, but had nothing in it. This, it seems, was Miss Theky’s birthday, upon which I made her my compliments, and wished she might live twice as long a married woman as she had lived a maid. I did not presume to pry into the secret of her age, nor was she forward to disclose it, for this humble reason, lest I should think her wisdom fell short of her years…. We had a Michaelmas goose for dinner, of Miss Theky’s own raising, who was now good-natured enough to forget the jeopardy of her dog. In the afternoon we walked in a meadow by the river side, which winds in the form of a horseshoe about Germanna, making it a peninsula, containing about four hundred acres. Rappahannock forks about fourteen miles below this place, the northern branch being the larger, and consequently must be the river that bounds my Lord Fairfax’s grant of the northern neck.  29
  30th.  The sun rose clear this morning, and so did I, and finished all my little affairs by breakfast. It was then resolved to wait on the ladies on horseback, since the bright sun, the fine air, and the wholesome exercise, all invited us to it. We forded the river a little above the ferry, and rode six miles up the neck to a fine level piece of rich land, where we found about twenty plants of ginseng, with the scarlet berries growing on the top of the middle stalk. The root of this is of wonderful virtue in many cases, particularly to raise the spirits and promote perspiration, which makes it a specific in colds and coughs. The colonel complimented me with all we found, in return for my telling him the virtues of it. We were all pleased to find so much of this king of plants so near the colonel’s habitation, and growing too upon his own land; but were, however, surprised to find it upon level ground, after we had been told it grew only upon the north side of Stony Mountains. I carried home this treasure with as much joy as if every root had been a graft of the Tree of Life, and washed and dried it carefully. This airing made us as hungry as so many hawks, so that between appetite and a very good dinner, ’twas difficult to eat like a philosopher. In the afternoon the ladies walked me about amongst all their little animals, with which they amuse themselves, and furnish the table; the worst of it is, they are so tender-hearted they shed a silent tear every time any of them are killed. At night the colonel and I quitted the threadbare subject of iron, and changed the scene to politics. He told me the ministry had receded from their demand upon New England, to raise a standing salary for all succeeding governors, for fear some curious members of the House of Commons should inquire how the money was disposed of that had been raised in the other American colonies for the support of their governors…. Our conversation was interrupted by a summons to supper, for the ladies, to show their power, had by this time brought us tamely to go to bed with our bellies full, though we both at first declared positively against it. So very pliable a thing is frail man, when women have the bending of him.  30
  Oct. 1, 1732.  Our ladies overslept themselves this morning, so that we did not break our fast till ten. We drank tea made of the leaves of ginseng, which has the virtues of the root in a weaker degree, and is not disagreeable. So soon as we could force our inclinations to quit the ladies, we took a turn on the terrace walk, and discoursed upon quite a new subject. The colonel explained to me the difference between the galleons and the flota, which very few people know. The galleons, it seems, are the ships which bring the treasure and other rich merchandise to Cartagena from Portobello, to which place it is brought overland from Panama and Peru. And the flota is the squadron that brings the treasure, etc., from Mexico and New Spain, which make up at La Vera Cruz. Both these squadrons rendezvous at the Havanna, from hence they shoot the Gulf of Florida, in their return to Old Spain. That this important port of the Havanna is very poorly fortified, and worse garrisoned and provided, for which reason it may be easily taken. Besides, both the galleons and flota, being confined to sail through the gulf, might be intercepted by our stationing a squadron of men-of-war at the most convenient of the Bahama Islands. And that those islands are of vast consequence for that purpose. He told me also that the assogue ships are they that carry quicksilver to Portobello and La Vera Cruz to refine the silver, and that, in Spanish, assogue signifies quicksilver. Then my friend unriddled to me the great mystery, why we have endured all the late insolences of the Spaniards so tamely. The Assiento contract, and the liberty of sending a ship every year to the Spanish West Indies, make it very necessary for the South Sea Company to have effects of great value in that part of the world. Now these being always in the power of the Spaniards, make the directors of that company very fearful of a breach, and consequently very generous in their offers to the ministry to prevent it. For fear these worthy gentlemen should suffer, the English squadron, under Admiral Hosier, lay idle at the Bastimentos, till the ships’ bottoms were eaten out by the worm, and the officers and men, to the number of 5,000, died like rotten sheep, without being suffered, by the strictest orders, to strike one stroke, though they might have taken both the flota and galleons, and made themselves master of the Havanna into the bargain, if they had not been chained up from doing it. All this moderation our peaceable ministry showed even at a time when the Spaniards were furiously attacking Gibraltar, and taking all the English ships they could, both in Europe and America, to the great and everlasting reproach of the British nation. That some of the ministry, being tired out with the clamors of the merchants, declared their opinion for war, and while they entertained those sentiments they pitched upon him, Colonel Spotswood, to be Governor of Jamaica, that by his skill and experience in the art military, they might be the better able to execute their design of taking the Havanna. But the courage of these worthy patriots soon cooled, and the arguments used by the South Sea directors persuaded them once again into more pacific measures. When the scheme was dropped, his government of Jamaica was dropped at the same time, and then General Hunter was judged fit enough to rule that island in time of peace. After this the colonel endeavored to convince me that he came fairly by his place of postmaster-general, notwithstanding the report of some evil-disposed persons to the contrary. The case was this. Mr. Hamilton, of New Jersey, who had formerly had that post, wrote to Colonel Spotswood, in England, to favor him with his interest to get it restored to him. But the colonel considering wisely that charity began at home, instead of getting the place for Hamilton, secured it for a better friend: though, as he tells the story, that gentleman was absolutely refused, before he spoke the least good word for himself.  31
 
 
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