In yesterday’s tour we read an extract from Lord Oliver Cromwell’s instruction to General Robert Venables and Admiral William Penn to guide their conquest activities in the Spanish Caribbean domains. Things, as we learnt, did not go according to plan and instead of capturing the jewel in Spain’s new Caribbean holdings, Santo Domingo (Hispaniola) they instead captured Jamaica.
Despite Cromwell’s dismay at the turn of events, it eventually became obvious that maybe all was not lost. As the Protector of the Commonwealth, he made the following proclamation on August 31, 1655 to encourage the settlement of Jamaica:
A Proclamation of the Protector Relating to Jamaica, 31 August 1655
WHEREAS, by the good providence of God, our fleet, in their late expedition into America, have possessed themselves of a certain island called Jamaica, spacious in its extent, commodious in its habours and river within itself, healthful by its situation, fertile in the nature of the soil, well stored with horses and other cattle, and generally fit and worthy to be planted and improved, to the advantage, honour, and interest, of this nation.
And whereas divers pesons, merchants, and others, heretofore conversant in plantations, and the trade of the like nature, are desirous to undertake and proceed upon plantations and settlements upon that island.
We, therefore, for the better encouragement of all such persons, so inclined, have, by the advice of our council, taken care, not only for the strengthening and securing of that island from all enemies, but for the constituting and settling of a civil government, by such good laws and customs as are and have been exercised in colonies and places of the like nature, have appointeed surveyors and other public officers, for the more equal distributon of public right and justice in the said island.
And, for the further encouragement to the industry and good affection of such persons, we have provided and given orders to the commissioners of our customs, that every planter or adventurer to that island shall be exempt and free from paying any excise, or custom, for any manufactures, provision, or any other goods or necessaries, which he or they shall transport to the said island of Jamaica, within the space of seven years to come from Michaelmas next.
And also that sufficient caution and security be given by the said commissioners, that such goods shall be delivered at Jamaica only. And we have also, out of our special consideration of the welfare and prosperity of that island, provided that no customs, or other tax, or impost, be laid or charged upon any commodity, which shall be the produce and native growth of that island, and shall be imported into any of the dominions beloning to this commonwealth: which favour and exemption shall continue for the space of ten years, to begin and be accounted from Michaelmas next. We have also given our special orders and directions, that no embargo or other hindrance, upon any pretence whatsoever, be laid upon any ships, seamen, or other passengers or adventurers, which shall appear to be engaged and bound for the said island.
And we do hereby further declare, for ourselves and succesors, that whatsoever other favour, or immunity, or protection, shall or may conduce to the welfare, strength, and improvement, of the said island, shall from time to time, be continued and applied hereunto. Given under our hand, &c.
So there you have it. Jamaica was now officially English property, and with this proclamation by Lord Oliver Cromwell, the 307 years of English colonial rule over Jamaica began.
Until next time…
Interesting Tracts, Relating to the Island of Jamaica, Consisting of Curious State-Papers, Councils of War, Letters, Petitions, Narratives, &c, &c. Which Throw Great Light on the History of that Island, from its Conquest Down to the Year 1702. St. Jago de la Vega: Lewis, Lunan, and Jones, 1800.
Pestana, C.G. (2005) English Character and the Fiasco of the Western Design. Early American Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 3(1), 1-31.