Reported 280 years ago (March 3 1739): American colonists in plea to King George II over Spanish insults

From the Belfast News Letter of Tuesday Feb 20 1738 (March 3 1739 in modern calendar)

Monday, 4th March 2019, 9:28 pm
Updated Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 9:40 pm
The front page of the Belfast News Letter of February 20 1738 (March 3 1739 in the modern calendar)

To the King’s most Excellent Majesty. The Petition of divers Merchants, Planters and others trading to and interested in the British Colonies in America.

THAT the fair and lawful Trade of your Majesty’s Subjects to the British Plantations in America, hath been greatly interrupted for many Years past, not only by their Ships having been frequently stopp’d and search’d, but also forcibly and arbitrarily seized on the High Seas by Spanish Ships, fitted out to cruize, under the plausible Pretence of guarding their own Coasts; that the Commanders thereof with their Crews have been inhumanly treated and the Ships carried into some of the Spanish Ports, and there condemned with their Cargoes, in manifest Violation of the Treaties subsisting between the two Crowns.

That notwithstanding the many Instances made by your Majesty’s Ministers at the Court of Madrid, against this injurious Treatment, the late and repeated Insults of the Spaniards upon the Persons and Properties of your Majesty’s Subjects, lay your Petitioners under the Necessity of applying again to your Majesty for Relief.

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That by these violent and unjust Proceedings of the Spaniards, the Trade to your Majesty’s Plantation in America, is rendered very precarious; and if any Nation be suffer’d thus to insult the Persons of your Majesty’s Subjects, and plunder them of their Properties, your Petitioners apprehend it will be attended with such an Obstruction of that valuable Branch of Commerce, as will be fatal to the Interest of Great Britain.

Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray your Majesty, that your Majesty will be graciously pleased to procure speedy and ample Satisfaction to your Subjects, for the Losses they have sustained that no British Vessels be detained or searched on the High Seas by any Nation under any pretence whatsoever, and that the Trade to America may be rendered secure for the future, by such means as your Majesty shall think fit.

And your Petitioners shall ever pray, &c.

Last Night the West India Merchants had their General Meeting, at the Ship Tavern behind the Royal-Exchange; and we hear they will speedily Petition the Parliament, to have their Right of Trading to the American Seas, without limitation confirmed to them.

We hear that the King of Spain is to pay 125,000l. towards repairing the Damages the British Merchants have sustained, by the Spanish Guarda Costas. [£125,000 is about £30 million in today’s money]

The following is an Extract of a Letter from Lisbon.

THE Differences of this Court with Spain, in relation to the Affairs of America, are not yet determined. The New Colony of St. Sacrament continues to be blocked up by the Spaniards. These last visit all the Portuguese Ships which take their Rout by Rio de la Plata. As the King of Portugal has no Minister at Madrid, nor the King of Spain any at Lisbon, it is to be fear’d that these Differences will still for some Time continue in the same Condition.

We hear from St. Kitts, that a malignant Fever rages in that Island, which carries off a great number of People: Mr. Hawkshaw, and Mr. Manning, who went over with Capt. Beach, died soon after their Landing. [St. Kitts had been claimed for Spain by Christopher Columbus in 1493, and fluctuated between French and British rule in the 1700s]

His Majesty was pleased to make the folowing most gracious Answer to the Address of the Hon. House of Commons, presented to him on Saturday last, viz.
GENTLEMEN, I return you my Thanks for this dutiful and loyal Address, and you may be assured that I will use my best Endeavours to bring this important Affair, to a speedy Conclusion.

LONDON Feb. 10.

On Tuesday last a Fleet Marriage between Anna Holland and William Rogers, a wholesale Hosier, was set aside, no Credit being given to the Fleet Register and the Witnesses.

On Monday near 10,000 Yards of Linen were enter’d inwards at the Customhouse from Ireland. The same Day were imported from Scotland, 7574 Yards of Linen and exported for Jamaica, 186 Ounces of Plate; for Hamburg, 15C Hops

We are well assured, that the Parliament will speedily make an Enquiry why no Progress has yet been made in the Building of a Mansion-house for the Habitation of the Lord Mayor, seeing above 30,000l. has been rais’d for that Purpose, by Fines on those that refused serving the Office of Sheriff; and that the Inquest of the Ward of Watbrook will present the Inclosure of the Ground design’d for that End as a Nuisance. [£3ok in 1739 is around £7 million today. In fact work on the famous Mansion House in the City of London did begin in 1739,and finished 1752]

Letters from Paris intimate, That mere Diversion was not the sole Intent of the grand Ball which the King lately gave at Versailles, but that it had been made use of to screen from the prying Observation of the Court Spies, a Conference which the King and the Cardinal had that Evening, in his Majesty’s Closet with a certain Minister who is not nam’d; and that early next Morning an Express was sent to Italy with important Dispatches, which, it is conjectur’d, relate to an Alliance, the Contents whereof, it is said by those who pretend to be in the Secret, we shall soon be inform’d of. Whatever might be the real Intent of this superbe Ball, every Body is of Opinion, that it serv’d to cover some political Mystery.

Edinburgh, Feb. 1.

Monday last, Alexander Thomson Smith at Aberlady, who for some Time past had been disordered in his Judgment, by Enthusiasm, &c. run out of his House with a Knife in his Hand, attacked on the Highway George Forrester Land-Labourer at Haddington, whom he soon most barbarously murdered, by cutting his Throat and riping up his whole Chest, without the least Provocation, nor was he even so much as acquainted with Forrester. He afterwards attacked a Shepherd, in order to cut him off in like manner; but he flying for his Life, escaped the Paws of the Wretch: Who soon after made up to one of the Royal Gray Dragoons; but the latter knocking him down, he was brought Prisoner on Tuesday to Haddington, and has since frankly acknowledged his Guilt.


THAT Patrick Smith in Belfast, Merchant, continues to sell Spirits of his own making, now two Years old, at his Sellers at Three Shillings per Gallon, Ready Money.