So in our last tour we came face to face with the reason for the English capturing Jamaica from the Spanish: it was all a part of Lord Oliver Cromwell’s Western Design.
And, as we also found out, Jamaica wasn’t really the main target of General Robert Venables’s invading army but the second best since they were not able to take control of Santo Domingo (Hispaniola) as they were instructed to do.
Venables therefore received specific instructions from Oliver Cromwell and the English crown that guided his invading party to the Caribbean in 1654. Jamaican Echoes is fortunate to have found a copy of this document and provides you today with an extract as we continue our tour of
Instructions unto General Robert Venables given by His Highness by Advice of his Council unto His Expedition to the West Indies
Whereas We have by our Commission constituted and appointed you Commander in Chief of the Land army and forces raised and to be raised, as well in England, as in the parts of America, for the ends and purposes expressed in the said Commission.
1. You shall therefore, immediately upon the receipt of these Instructions, repair with the Forces aforesaid unto Portsmouth, where we have appointed the Fleet designed for the aforesaid service under the Command of General William Penn, to take you with the said army and forces aboard them to transport you into the parts aforesaid.
2. Whereas some additional Forces, as the service shall require, are to be raised in the Island of Barbadoes, and other the English Islands and Plantations, You shall upon your arrival there, and upon consideration had with the Commissioners appointed to attend this service, or any two of them (wherein also if you think fit you may advise with some of the most experienced men in those parts), concerning the present design and the Nature thereof, use your best endeavours by such ways, and means as you with the advise of the said Commissioners or any two of them, shall judge most convenient and expeditious, to levy and raise such numbers of souldiers as shall be found necessary for the better carrying of of this design, the said soldiers to be either taken with you upon your first attempt, or to follow after, as shall be by the advise aforesaid agreed and directed….
3. The design in General is to gain an Interest in that part of the West Indies in the possession of the Spaniard, For the effecting whereof We shall not tie you up to a method by any particular Instructions, But only communicate to you what hath been under our Consideration. Two or Three ways have been thought of to that purpose.
1st. The first is to land upon some of the Islands, and particularly Hispaniola, and St. John’s Island, one or both; the first of them hath no considerable place in the South part thereof but the City of Santo Domingo, and that not being considerably fortified may probably be possesed without much difficulty, which being done, and fortified, that whole Island wil be brought under obedience; the chief place of St. John’s Island is Porto Ricco. The gaining of these Islands, or either of them, will as We conceive amongst many others have these advantages.
- Many English wil come thither from other parts, and so those places become Magazines of men and provisions for carrying on the Design upon the Main Land.
- They wil be sure retreats upon all occasions.
- They lie much to the wind-ward of the rest of the K. of Spain’s dominions, and being in the hand of the Spaniard will enable him to supply any part that is distressed on the main, and being in our hands will be of the same use to us.
- From thence you may possibly after your Landing there send force for the taking of the Havana, which lies in the Island of Cuba, which is the back door of the West Indies, and will obstruct the passing of the Spaniards Plate Fleet into Europe, And the taking the Havana is so considerable that We have thoughts of beginning the first attempt upon that Fort and the Island of Cuba, and do still judge it worthy of consideration.
2. Another way We have had consideration of is, for the present to wave the Islands, and to make the first attempt upon the mainland, in one or more places between the River Orinoque and Porto Bello, aiming therein chiefly at Cartagena, which we would make the seat of the intended design, securing some places by the way thereto that the Spaniard might not be to the windward of us upon the main land wherein if you have succes you will in all probability
- Be master of the Spaniards’ Treasure which comes from Peru by the way of Panama in the South sea to Porto Bello or Nombre de Dios in the North sea.
- You will have houses ready built, a country ready planted, and most of the people Indians, who will submit to you, there being but few Spaniards there as is informed.
- You wil be able to put the Country round about under Contribution for the maintenance of the Army, and therewith by the Spoil and other ways probably make a great present return of profit to the Commonwealth.
There is a third Consideration and that is mixed relating both to the Islands, and also to the mainland, which is to make the first attempt upon Santo Domingo, or Porto Rico, one or both, and having secured them to goe immediately to Carthagena, leaving that which is to the Windward of it to a farther opportunity, after you have secured and settled that City with what doth relate thereto, if God please to give that place into your hands.
These are the things which have bin in debate here, and having let you know them We leave it to you, and the Commissioners aforesaid to be weighed upon the place, that after due consideration had amongst yourselves, and with such others as you shall think fit to advise with who have a particular knowledge of those parts, to take such resolutions concerning the making of the attempts, and the mannaging, and carrying on this whole Design, as to you and the said Commissioners, or any two of them, shall seem most effectual, either by the ways aforesaid, or such others as shall be judged more reasonable. And for the better enabling you to execute such Resolutions as shall be taken in the premises, You are Hereby authorised and required to use your best endeavours. Wherein Gen. Penn Commander in Chief of the Fleet is by Us required to join with and assist you with the Fleet and sea forces as often as there shall be occasion to land your men upon the Territories, Dominions, and Places belonging unto, in the possession of or claimed by the Spaniards in America, and to surprise their forts, take or beat down their Castles and Places of strength, and to pursue, kill, and destroy by all means whatsoever all those who shall oppose or resist you therein, and also to seize upon al ships and vessels which you find in any of their Harbours, and also upon all such goods as you shall find upon the land.
So there you go folks, the instructions from the English crown through Lord Oliver Cromwell to General Robert Venables on his monumental task to capture certain Spanish lands in the Caribbean.
Did you realise that there was absolutely no mention of Jamaica in this extract and, from my reading of the rest of the document, there was no mention of Jamaica. Jamaica was not on the English radar at all! We were a second thought in the Western Design, a second best conquest!
However, the instructions do say generally that:
In case it shall please God to give you succes, such places as you shall take and shall judge fit to be kept, you shall keep for the use of Us and this Commonwealth, and shall also cause such goods and Prizes as shall be taken to be delivered into the hands of the said Commissioners, that so they may be brought to a just and true account for the public advantage.
Well that’s the end of our tour for today. Please remember to leave any comments you may have as you exit Jamaican Echoes. We always look forward to our visitors’ thoughts and suggestions on how best we can work to improve the tours for you Jamaican history enthusiasts.
Join us tomorrow as we take our third and final tour of “The British are Coming!!!
Until next time…
Firth, C.H. (1900) The Narrative of General Venables: With an Appendix of Papers Relating to the Expedition to the West Indies and the Conquest of Jamaica, 1654-1655. London: Longmans, Green and Co.