Saturday, 2 November 2013

04 April 1809

Antigua April 4, 1809


I duly received your favours of 15th January & 16th of February both reaching me at the same time. I cannot but confess that their contents have produced some unpleasant sensations, & I will endeavour to reply as fully as possible. The leading feature appears to be the inadequate return that Barbuda makes for the very extensive capital invested in it, and I must readily allow that there is just ground of dissatisfaction on this part, but how it arises and whether it can be removed is what I shall endeavour to explain. The Island you observe has reverted to the original situation in which I found it. On reference to former accounts I found sales of livestock had formed the most considerable part of the Barbuda revenue & the Island when I took charge of it, was I conceived deficient in young breeding Cattle endeavours to increase this kind of stock, has as much employed my attention as the sales, they having been entirely confined to old Cattle, in few Instances have I parted with any which I thought necessary to augment the number proper to breed from, & I have now the satisfaction to think the island is getting well stocked in this respect. With regard to sheep, the Idea of them breeding twice in the year I have every reason to believe is erroneous, the dropping season is from the beginning of November to February, besides this kind of stock suffers much in long droughts, we lost a great number last year of which I informed you at the time. Horses & mules also formed a considerable part of former profits they have very much fallen off by the diminution of mares which I understand to place a few years since from the dryness of the weather. The sales of Cattle have been entirely confined to fat ones & which I have always wished to keep for the man of war, the blockade of Martinique & Guadeloupe has been the means of preventing them coming to Barbuda for some time past, the contractors on the station having been regularly & plentifully supplied from Porto Rico, the weather has been lately so extremely dry that it has been impossible to get any Cattle sufficiently fat for market, at least to sell to any advantage, working oxen at one time sold well, but the sales being now contained to cash only, none can be disposed of, Antigua it is so circumstanced that no dimination of price will command money if the same articles are to be had on credit & from this cause alone the demand for firewood has ceased. Cotton I do not ever remember you to have mentioned before your last letters & understanding long ago that it had been so unsuccessful an experiment that the cultivation was at last forbidden never seemed to me necessary to review it, the very few Cotton Estates in Antigua have fallen entirely thro’ want of success in adequate returns and they in some instances not clearing expenses; the present high a price of the article is owing to confusing circumstances and may not long continue. Hawks Bill Turtle has been sold at the usual price it fetched many years past the retail price of the meat also remaining as formally and as very few turtles yield more than from two to three pounds of shell; I never adverted that as an article likely to increase the revenue of the island as the disposing of the meat & collecting the money is troublesome, the shell has generally been considered the only profit; and in some instances the butcher has been the loser,  as by selling them principally to one person he took them dead or alive which was not the case formally, I have therefore suppose the shell which has been credited in your accounts must have been from those which died in their passage. The Estates have always been supplied with hoe sticks & when ever ordered & in any quantity.  Also no salted fish had ever to my knowledge then supplied from Barbuda to the estates, it never occurred to me to attempt it as the quantity to be caught could have never furnished a regular supply, nor is there in my opinion a sufficient quantity near the Island to make it worth attending to. With respect to Corn I must confess it’s the only cultivation in my opinion that can be attempted on Barbuda with any prospect of success, & even this in unfavourable seasons must also fail, but it frequently may be productive, to this cultivation I have for the last two years particularly attended, but from the want of rains at proper times I was not able to make any thing of it, last year I planted not less than 300 acres & in the beginning of November there was the greatest prospect of success, but the weather being extremely dry from that time, there was not sufficient moisture in the Earth to enable the greater part of it to come with an ear, & Those that did were very small in consequence of which I did not reap above 700 bushels, whereas, I had a right to expect six times the quantity. Last week I finished clearing & fencing about 70 acres of good land, intended to form part of the land for next year’s crop, the success must depend on the season, the nature of the Barbuda soil is such that there is no medium particularly if the weather is at all dry.  There is one thing I must by leave to draw your attention to that is the expenses of the Island which I am confident you will find much decreased.  The two vessels belonging to Barbuda were in such condition as not to be trustworthy to carry buyers from your estates to the shipping one of them the schooner was condemned as unfit for use; she has been hauled up at Barbuda & nearly new built, the other has undergone very great repairs, & that with a trifling expense, they are now in as good condition as any vessel can be, I have undertaken also to build a boat calculated to come into the lagoon the intention for her is to be kept constantly Barbuda and prevent the necessity of the larger ones crossing the Channel with letters etc, it will enable them also to be laid up during the Hurricane months if not particularly wanted, & will be always ready in case of a wreck or anything else happening at Barbuda, she will be built entirely from old wrecks she is a boat very necessary to have there, therefore hope the building her world with your approbation.  The reason for my not writing by the Packet which left this in December was that at the time of her sailing I was unwell on Barbuda & not able to do it as I did not then know the amount of the wreck, nor did I think of sending you the money supposing that Mr Hodge would have taken that as well as the list, & indeed I had no idea but that it was so (as I knew he was frequently getting money from Mr Besouth) until I was settling the Christmas accounts when I found that he had only taken one thousand pounds, for which he then gave me bills, & at a time when it was too late to procure others, I should not in the first place have place the money as I before informed you had he not shewed me your letter authorising him to get from Barbuda funds what he wanted, at the time of the arrival of the last packet the Barbuda boats were employed, Mr Hodge was good enough to send one over as soon as she was ready but it was too late for the packet, with respect to Crudens Bill I still hope to recover it, he is now in Demerara, at all events it shall be ultimately settled to your satisfaction. I am happy to find Mr Martin is coming out with Powers & Instructions from you respecting Barbuda particularly so as since  a very violent attack of fever which I had in September last & from which it was not thought I should recover, my health has been much impaired, with a fever regularly returning every month, which makes me very desirous of quitting the West Indies and which I hope Mr Martins arrival will enable me to do, it will give me great pleasure if he is able to point out anything for the benefit of the Island, every assistance that lays in my power I shall be glad to give him not only in forming his plans, but seeing them put into execution until he can procure a person to take charge of the Island.  Inclosed are the duplicates of Mr Hodges three Bills, and the first if one drawn by Mr Besouth on Messrs  SS & C Turner for £146:12:11 Sterling the amount of the salvage of the wreck & balance of the Christmas accounts Capt. Head of the George Hibbert has promised me to take charge of your turtle they shall be sent to him in time for the sailing of the Telud(?). I have the honor to be

                                                   your most obedient

                                                         humble servant 

                                              (signed) John James

Reference: Gloucestershire Records Office, Microfilm no.351, Section no.6, D1610 C24
Accessed through Simon Fraser University library

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