1659 - Dutton (E)

Anno 1659

I, Rob Hawkins,
seaman and carpenter,
crouched in the canvas bucket at  the masthead of the London,
pulled my thick woollen cap further down over my ears.
The  biting wind cut through my jerkin, 
the mast tilting sharply as she went about
and carved her way through the wind.
In the dawning light I could make out, 
sixty feet below me,
figures on the deck and could recognize the helmsman
stooped over the whipstaff holding the vessel true
and Captain Bowen bending over the binnacle to determine the new course.
Soon, from my lookout, halfway between the sea and the sky,
I would espy St. Iago Island, one of the Cape Verde Group
High above , I saw the flash of wings in the first sunrays
and perceived a flight of seabirds coming out from the land.
Suddenly there was a shimmer of scales as a silvery shoal came up to the light
and I saw the birds fold their wings and plunge,
each bird appearing to dive at the same point in the air.
the sea soon white with thrashing birds
and the struggling anchovies on which they gorged.

With the Civil War, the Dutch War and the Spanish War raging,
and with innumerous pirates and privateers,
the north Atlantic had become dangerous for ships sailing alone. 
In 1493, by  Papal Bill Inter Caetera ,
by  Pope Alexander VI,  a Line had been drawn
down the mid-Atlantic, north to south, dividing the world between Portugal and Spain.
Thus  every embattled monarch signed Letters of Marque
that  immediately converted his merchantmen into privateers, ships of war, 
and  another tenet was spontaneously created,
'No peace beyond the Line!'
English East Indiamen now increasingly completed their voyages in convoy, 
in 1649 orders  being given  that all ships  returning from India or the Far East
wait at St. Helena,  to be escorted home by one or more men-of-war.
The increasing agressiveness of the Dutch was cause for alarm in England
since they might at any moment decide
to colonize this desirable port of call for themselves, ,
Then came the pestilence.
Tens of thousands  of men, women and children died,
their  bodies  rotting and stinking in the streets
because they could not be buried fast enough.
And, while the scourge raged,
for three days,
London  burned
ravaged by a great fire
reported to have been started by a bakers oven in Pudding Lane,
leaving St. Paul's Cathederal, the Guildhall,  the Royal Exchange,
a hundred parish churches, many  a house,
and the good Lord alone knows what else,
burned to the ground,
The damage, it is  said, exceeded ten million pounds.
And there was more bad news to come.
Awhile later,.
under that devil, de Ruyter,
the Dutch sailed right into the Medway and the Thames
giving us a heavy pounding.
Sixteen ships, including the Royal Charles,
pride of our fleet, was captured at her moorings in Greenwich,
towed away to Amsterdam, and lost to him

Under the command of Captain John Dutton,
duly appointed Governor in Chief,
the London, with the rest of our squadron,
accompanied by the Marmaduke,
a man-of-war of thirty-six guns and one-hundred-and-fifty men,
set out from the Downs early in February 1659
on its way with 400 men to colonize, fortify and
begin a plantation on St. Helena Island
in the South Atlantic.
The East India Company required that we embark with all speed in the London 
first of all to St. Iago with a view to procuring
all manner of plants, roots, grains and other things necessary,
and  provisions of yams, potatoes, peas,
beans of all sorts, oranges and lemons and such. 
and were given, too,
detailed and careful instructions for their preservation.
Also, we were charged with procuring five or six  able black men and women, 
provided they could be had for under 40 dollars each.
We arrived at Chapel Valley on fifth of May
after a voyage of three months
and sailors and colonists
were immediately employed
in the building of a blockhouse
as fortification.
This was completed within a month
and was called the ‘Castle of St. John’
though this name did not last long
for it was soon rechristened James Fort in honour of the Duke of York,
who later became King James II,
whilst the valley bcame James Valley
and the little town, which sprang up in it,  was named Jamestown.

The fleet had left England  with sufficient provisions
to last fourteen months but,
from the start, 
it was obvious that it would not be self supporting for some years.
Colonists did not stay long on the island,
many of them leaving for the East Indies and
in the end only eleven servants of the Company remained,
Bills were set up in London to entice settlers
and succeeded in attracting  thirty, or perhaps more,
victims of the Great Fire of London.
Captain Stringer,
who  followed Dutton as Governor, in 1660 
was instructed to free all servants
willing to remain on the island and 
give each one a parcel of land, as was customary in new colonies.
Thus he divided  the island into one hundred and fifty parts,
fifteen for the Company,  five for himself and 
one for every planter, his wife and his servant
on condition that they assisted in maintaining the fortification,
be ready at the sound of the alarm guns,
and the beat of the drum,
whenever a ship appeared and 
to hand over a small part of  the produce of his land as  rent.