Thursday, January 28, 2016

A New and Exact Account of Jamaica in 1739

To THE
RIGHT HONOURABLE,
The Earl of EGLINTON.

My LORD,

WHILE Your early Studies are under the best Direction, allow me to present a Piece, which may help to give You a distinct Idea of one of the finest of the British Colonies. 

As I endeavour to represent Things fairly, and with that candid Justness, which becomes one that writes to the World; so, My LORD, You will see, in the following Sheets, that Slavery is the Ruin of Society, and that Oppression is still attended with fatal Inconveniencies, even to the Tyrant, You will see some distinguish'd Intances of natural Courage, and admire the Fortune and the Fate of a Morgan You will see, by what Laws Your distant Countrymen are govern'd, how happy they might be, and how much they deserve to be encouraged. 
I might here take an Opportunity, to inform the World of Your LORDSHIP'S happy Genius, agreeable Turn and natural Sweetness of Temper; but Your LORDSHIP's Commands restrain me, Neither is it indeed necessary to tell, that the SON of the COUNTESS of EGLINTON is a fine young Nobleman.

I am your Lordship's very humble and obliged Servant,

CHARLES LESLIE. 

Thus began Charles Leslie's New and Exact Account of Jamaica, published in 1739 in his grandfather's native Scotland. This book was retitled A History of Jamaica in the 1740 edition and the acknowledgement to Lord Eglinton had been removed. This book also contains a very important reference in it to Blackbeard that confirms that Edward Thache Jr. of Spanish Town, Jamaica (explained in deed records of his service on HMS Windsor) is indeed the infamous pirate!  

(Note that in my book Blackbeard Reconsidered, I had erroneously written that A History of Jamaica was composed of the letters of Admiral Edward Vernon. This was due to the misleading arrangement on the title page of the 1740 edition. The title page shown above is the 1739 first edition and, as you can see, it mentions no author. For a perfectionist like myself, this is embarrassing. I apologize to all my readers. Rest assured that it does nothing to change the validity of the argument. Thank you to a fellow researcher who recently pointed this out to me. Without such mutual support, we would all stray! Contact me at baylusbrooks@yahoo.com if you have any questions.)

St. Johns Parish Church, Barbados
Rev. William and Ann Leslie left Scotland to serve as the First Rector (1653 - 1676) of St John’s Parish Church, ministering to the Parish for 23 years. This church still stands today and is still in use. The Leslies are buried in the cemetery beside it

William died 13 November 1674, many years before Ann in 1692. According to his memorial, he was the "Grandson of Fifth Laird of Kincraigie and Great Great Grandson by his Grandmother of JOHN LESLIE Eighth Baron of Balquhain." William and Ann had children: Margery, Rebecca, Isabella, Col. John and Charles Leslie.

The famed author Charles Leslie is the son of one of these two men. On 20 July 1710, he married Rebecca Innes (Ince). Sometime later, probably after 1720 or so, Leslie journeyed to the island of Jamaica, where he explored the geography and history of the island and may have met the Thache family. 

The description that he gives of this journey and his stay and experiences in Jamaica nicely detail the entire island and its society, as he said, giving it the first historical treatment ever written. 

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SIR, A Good Ship and easy Gales have at last brought me to this Part of the New World: New indeed in regard of ours, for here I find every thing altered; and, amidst all the Variety which crowds upon my Sight, scarce see a Face that resembles the gay Bloom of a Britain. The People seem all sickly, their Complection is muddy , their Colour wan, and their Bodies meagre; they look like so many Corpses, and their Dress resembles a Shroud; however, they are frank and good-humour'd, and make the best of Life they can. If Death is more busy in this Place than in many others, his Approach is no where received with a greater Unconcernedness: They live well, enjoy their Friend, drink heartily, make Money, and are quite careless of Futurity. But I'll take another Opportunity to draw their Character, when Time shall encrease my Knowledge, and my Acquaintance with them becomes more general.


This favoured us so much, that on the seventh Day after we left St. Christopher's, we got within Sight of Jamaica. At a little Distance, this Island makes a grand Appearance ; the high-rising Mountains ever green, and cover'd with Wood, and the little Plantations on their Sides, and in the Vallies below, furnish a Prospect which is awful, and yet gives Delight. We gently sailed along the Shore, never wearied with gazing on what was now to be our Country and our Home ; and I could not help a Crowd of thoughts, which on this Occasion, pressed too fast upon me; sometimes, with Sighs, I remembered the happy Climates, and the dear Acquaintance I had left behind. Britannia rose to my View all-gay, with native Freedom blest, the Seat of Arts, and the Nurse of Learning, and Friend of every Virtue; where the meanest Swain, with quiet Ease, possesses the Fruits of his hard Toil, without Disturbance ; while I was now to settle in a Place not half inhabited, cursed with intestine Broils, where Slavery was established, and the poor toiling Wretches worked in the sultry Heat, and never knew the Sweets of Liberty, or reap'd the Advantage of their painful Industry, in a Place, which except the Verdure of its Fields, had nothing to recommend it.

Port Royal

With such Thoughts was my mind agitated, when Port-Royal offered itself to our View. Here we cast Anchor, and went ashore. At this Point is Fort-Charles, which guards the Inlet to the Harbour or Bay, and is one of the best Fortifications in America. We got a Boat and made for Kingston, at the Distance of about five Miles; one can't get at it by Land from Port-Royal, without taking a Compass of upwards of Fifteen Miles,and that too is a very dangerous Way. 

Kingston is a fine Town, well situated and large; here the most considerable Merchants reside, which makes it a Place of vast Trade; 'tis here likewise the Ships load and unload, and you'll never see less than Two or Three hundred Vessels in the Bay before it.

Kingston

As we had a great many Servants on board, and some of them fine Tradesmen, we had soon a Number of the Planters who came to purchase Indentures [not slaves]. It was affecting to see the Shoal Of Buyers, and how the poor Fellows were made to pass in Review before their future Tyrants, who looked at them, and examined them, as if they had been so many Horses. Each chose whom he liked best; a good Tradesman went of at about Forty Pound, and others at Twenty Pound per Head; they had lived so easily and well during the Voyage, that they looked healthful, clean and fresh, and for this Reason were soon sold. While another Vessel, from the same Port brought in, a little after, a Multitude of poor starved Creatures, that seemed like so many Skeletons: misery appeared in their Looks, and one might read the Effects of Sea-tyranny by their wild and dejected Countenances. 'Tis horrid to relate the Barbarities they complained of: A word or a wrong Look was construed a Design to mutiny ; and Hunger, Handcuffs, and a Cat o' nine Tails, was immediately the Punishment.

But I must acquaint you 'tis only aboard of a few Vessels where such Cruelties are practiced. The Generality of Captains are too good and too generous, to be guilty of such Baseness; they have Juster Notions of Honour than to torture the Helpless, or make the miserable more unhappy. The Servants have a Right to good Usage; their Masters pay their Passage; why should they by them be maltreated; because they have obliged themselves (by Contract) to serve a limited number of years?

I shall continue from Time to Time to acquaint you with what I look upon as curious and endeavour at Truth and Exactness in all I relate. 

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Charles Leslie was a man who may have lived on Jamaica long enough to write these letters and study the island's geography and history, natural and otherwise. He commented in his ninth letter that “Black-beard… was born in Jamaica, of very creditable parents.” He elaborated further that “his Mother is alive in Spanish-Town to this Day, and his Brother is at present Captain of the Train of Artillery.” 

Combined with the genealogical records showing the only Thache family to ever live on Jamaica, who lived in Spanish Town, this still establishes the Jamaican Thache family as Blackbeard's with little reservation. This can barely be a coincidence, with fourteen parishes from which to chose for Leslie's narrative about Blackbeard. He probably did not just invent this scenario. The "mother" whom Leslie encountered, perhaps on the streets of town or in church, would have been the only "mother" that Blackbeard would have had at the time, his step-mother, Lucretia (nee Poquet) Thache. She would die in 1743, having become the matriarch of the Thache family of Spanish Town for over forty years! 

Jamaicans of African Descent now carry on the Thache legacy...and her name!


1746 Christening record for a mixed race Lucretia, daughter of Blackbeard's half-brother, Cox Thache
1753 Christening record in St. Catherine's Parish for a slave from the Thache estate.

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