Reported 280 Years Ago (August 25 1739): Skirmish with spies from France off the coast at Dover

The front page of the Belfast News Letter of August 14 1739 (which is August 25 in the modern calendar)
The front page of the Belfast News Letter of August 14 1739 (which is August 25 in the modern calendar)
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From August 14 1739 News Letter (Aug 25 modern date).

This is the last in a nine-month batch of papers from late 1738. Most papers from 1737 to early 1750s are lost. In coming days we are reproducing the paper, printed as Britain was close to war with Spain:

LONDON, August 4.

We hear from Dover, that last Week several small boats were seen off that place and Folkstone for several days, thought at first to be fishing boats, but coming nearer, they were taken for smugglers, upon which one of the custom-house sloops, on Wednesday morning early, saluting them with muskets, they returned a brisk fire from twenty or thirty men, and retired. They are supposed to be French spies.

By the last ship from Charles Town in South Carolina, we have advice, that the house of captain Macpherson was attacked by several Spaniards, Irishmen and Negroes, where they killed several men, and wounded many others, but the people of the province coming to the captain’s assistance, and firing on them, they were beat off without further mischief. [James McPherson was a South Carolina frontiersman, and founder of Georgia colony. He was a veteran of the 1715 Yemassee War against native Americans]

Yesterday the lords of the admiralty were pestur’d with abundance of petitions from seamen and watermen’s wives for protections for their husbands; all of which were rejected.

Count Colleredo is gone to Ratisbon, in order to sollicit the Dyet to grant speedily, the neew supply of Roman months, which his Imperial majesty demands on account of the Turkish war.

To make the cadets in the artillery, and the bombardiers perfect in the art of gunnery, they are exercis’d every day on Woolwich Warren, and yesterday as they were making experiments and improving some bombs, no less than three of the shells burst on explosion, to the great surprise, but happily no further damage, of the engineers as well as the spectators.

We hear a Spanish ship at the port of Exeter is stopped by order of the government.

We are assured from Francfort, that the elector of Bavaria has already taken several measures relating to the administration of the elector of Palatine’s dominions, which he is to take upon him after that prince’s death, during the minority of the prince of Sultzbach: they add, that count de Belle Isle is encamped with 30,000 men between Metz and Strasburgh, and that they have a report that the duke de Chartres, son to the duke of Orleans, is likely to marry one of the Palatinate princesses.

On Thursday the lady viscountess Galway, wife to the right hon. the lord viscount Galway, member of parliament for Pontefract in Yorkshire, and one of the commissioners of the revenue in Ireland, was lately delivered of a son at his house in Brook-Street, Grosvenor-square.

Yesterday arrived here a messenger from the earl of Waldegrave our ambassador at Paris with a copy of the French king’s declaration assuring our king, that he will not directly or indirectly assist or support the Spaniards in their differences with the king of Great Britain.

Yesterday ‘twas reported, that by an express from Mr. Keene at Madrid, his Catholick majesty had prohibited his subjects having any commerce whatever with those of his Britannick majesty, but as the ambassador of each nation reside in flatu quo, this report does not seem to gain an universal assent. [Sir Benjamin Keene, British mbassador to Spain, did not want war but was unable to stop it]

LONDON, August 4.

They write with great positiveness and assurance, from Paris, that by the measures which are now taking, the infant Don Philip will be made king of Corsica, and will have an additional territory out of some part of Italy: that the baron de Neuhoff, is still in that island, notwithstanding the reports that have been spread to the contrary, and that he is disposing the mind of the inhabitants thereof in favour of the Spanish government; so that now the mystery of his being so easily set at liberty out of the castle of Gasta is discovered, and this makes to appear that he was arrested at Naples by way of protections and not of imprisonment.

An officer in the regiment of la Marck, who is in Garrison at Landau, and is a relation to the baron, has lately received letters from him dated from the island of Corsica, which that officer thought proper to communicate to cardinal de Fleury his eminence has recommended a continuation of the officer’s correspondence with the baron.

[Theodore von Neuhoff was a German adventurer who briefly proclaimed himself ‘King of Corsica’. Corsica was battling for independence from Genoa. France was supporting Genoa]

An express is hourly expected from admiral Haddock, who ‘tis reported, has taken some of the Spanish [words unclear] The cargo of the Assogue ships is as follows: for the king’s account 897,707 pesos, and 56657 quintals of copper; for private persons in coin’d silver, 3,932,339 pesos, in coin’d gold 5674 pesos, in wrought silver 6187 mark, 269 ferons of cochenchal, 29.7 o banilles, 4870 arobes of indigo, 683 ferons of conchencal silverstris, 3827 prepared hides, 78 thefts with presents, 118 chests of drugs, and 10 chests of jufuirs bark.