For Anguilla, the eighteenth century began with after-shocks from the War of the Spanish Succession, 1702-1713, also known as Queen Ann’s War. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles II died in 1700. He left Europe and its colonies in the West Indies in turmoil over the succession to the throne of Spain and its empire. He willed it to the French Prince Phillip. The major European countries, including the British, were unwilling to risk the possibility of a French monarch inheriting all the possessions of both the kingdoms of France and Spain. They went to war with Louis XIV to prevent it. The Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, guaranteed the separation of France and Spain. This marked the real beginning of Britain's maritime, commercial and financial supremacy.
Except for the loss to the French of their part of St Kitts, the French West Indian possessions remained intact. Governor Walter Hamilton’s heart was set on the Anguillians and the other poor settlers of the Virgin Islands being allotted land in the previously French lands of St Kitts. This, he explained to the Committee for Trade and Foreign Plantations, would be preferable to permitting them to remain scattered among the small islands of the Virgins, where they traded with the Danes and the French, to the disadvantage of His Majesty’s revenue.
During the long reign of Louis XV, 1715-1774, the struggle between the British and the French for colonial supremacy continued. War between the two countries broke out again in 1740 in the War of the Austrian Succession, 1740-1748. This war did not come to a decisive end. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle that ended it settled nothing. The war was continued later in the Seven Years War, 1756-1763, also known to US historians as the French and Indian War. France was defeated, finally ending the French Monarchy's challenge in Europe. The remaining major conflicts of the century were The American Revolutionary War, 1779-1783, and the Wars of the French Revolution, 1792-1802. These last two are outside our period.
An attempt was made in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht to regulate Britain's relationship with Spain. Until then, all British ships trading to the Americas were trespassing and liable to seizure by the Costa Guarda. The 'Asiento' permitted Britain alone the privilege of sending a ship to trade with Spanish America. The Asiento contract of 1713 was granted for only 30 years. It gave Britain the right to take there 4,800 slaves a year from Africa to Spanish America. This limited monopoly was the thin edge of the wedge for Britain's traders. The quarrel between them and the Spanish authorities continued in the Caribbean. The British merchants and traders cheated on the Asiento contract. The size of the one vessel per year to Porto Bello was strictly limited by the Treaty. The British merchants attempted to evade this limitation. They brought in cargo after cargo on the same ship from off-shore depots. The angry Spanish coast guard tried to hunt down the smugglers. Anguillian shipping inevitably got caught up in the conflict.
Accounts of the alleged cruelties of both the Spanish and English echoed around the Caribbean. Sometime before the last voyage under the Asiento was made in 1733, the Spaniards sliced off an ear from one Robert Jenkins, the captain of a British ship in the Caribbean. The ear, preserved in a pickle jar, later turned up in the British Parliament. In a storm of national indignation, Britain declared war on Spain in 1739. Called initially the ‘War of Jenkins’ Ear’, it took on more importance in 1740 when it became part of a major European war, the ‘War of the Austrian Succession’, in which Britain fought against France. Just to confuse matters, US historians refer to this as ‘King George’s War’. This series of eighteenth century wars severely weakened Spain. As their American empire crumbled, the Asiento was abandoned. The Dutch, too, undermined by these wars, lost their commercial supremacy to the British.
Time and again, Anguilla was caught up in the naval and military operations which took place in these waters. These wars in Europe continued to the end of the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth. They were the cause of great social and economic dislocations in Anguilla. The Colonial Office papers reveal that in the year 1706, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Captain George Leonard, deputy governor of Anguilla, was required to raise a force of fifty armed men from the local militia and to send them to join the forces of Colonel John Johnson in Antigua. This was a significant percentage of the male settlers of Anguilla at the time. However, who the fifty men were and what their fate was is not known.
Great excitement was caused in the year 1711 during the same war when one Captain Birmingham, a privateer for the French, landed three spies on Anguilla. Governor Hamilton wrote to the Committee for Foreign Plantations in early 1711 that he learned from deputy governor George Leonard that he apprehended the three spies. They confessed that they were landed by Captain Birmingham to find out what the strength of the island's defences were and how many slaves there were that might be captured. The spies also confessed that Birmingham was established in neighbouring St Martin. There he waited with two large privateering sloops and 200 men while he prepared to attack Anguilla. Hamilton resolved, as soon as the man-of-war assigned to his government arrived, to embark and go to the relief of the island.
A few weeks later, Hamilton reported on the outcome of the action. He arrived in Anguilla with the man-of-war, two sloops, and a detachment of troops from Colonel James' Regiment from Antigua. He found that Birmingham attempted to land on Anguilla with six sloops. He did not succeed in his landing, and departed Anguilla’s waters. The Governor does not relate what role if any the Anguillian militia played in repulsing Birmingham’s attempt to land his forces. It is likely the Anguillians were entirely responsible for the capture of the three spies and the repulse of Captain Birmingham. Hamilton took the three spies on board his man-of-war and returned to Antigua with them.
Birmingham failed in his attempt to take Anguilla, but there is some sign that he left a trace of his visit. There is only one place in Anguilla with which the name Birmingham is associated. No other person named Birmingham was ever in any way connected with Anguilla, far less recorded as owning an estate in Anguilla. Yet, there is a Birmingham in Anguilla. ‘Brummagen’ is an English dialect name for a native or inhabitant of the city of Birmingham in England. A native of Birmingham is referred to as a ‘Brummie’. The Anguillian place name ‘Brimegin’ is the name of the area to the west of Shoal Bay. The names Brimegin and Brummagen are almost identical in sound. Only the spelling is different. They appear to be the same word. It is not difficult to see that the word Brummagen has become Brimegin in Anguilla. The place is situated far from the hamlets and farms of Anguilla. The coast is rocky, but there are several small bays where a boat might come in and land one or two persons without being observed. We do not know where exactly Captain Birmingham landed his spies or attempted his invasion of Anguilla, but the area now called after his name was as good a place as any.
Peace was declared in 1713 when the War of the Spanish Succession ended in the Treaty of Utrecht. The ensuing years in Anguilla are noted for the continuing severe drought, and the repeated requests of the poorer planters to be granted patents to land in Crab Island and St Croix. The long drought began in about the year 1680, causing the 1683 and 1688 attempts to settle Crab Island. It was still ongoing when the Anguillians attempted to settle Crab Island again in 1717. When the drought ended in about 1725, the troubles of the Anguillian planters did not come to an end.
The Anguillian seamen had no easy time of it. In 1737, Governor William Mathew sent a dispatch to London. He enclosed a deposition of William Fisher of Antigua relating to a Spanish coast guard vessel. From it we learn something of the conditions at sea that the Anguillian mariners faced on a daily basis. Fisher claimed that he was a passenger on the Sloop Fanny of Antigua sailing to St Vincent. They were intercepted off the Rocas on 4 September 1736. The Rocas are small rocky islands off the coast of Venezuela. They lie close to the area between the Dutch island of Bonaire and the Venezuelan island of Margarita.
Fisher’s deposition continues that the six men on board the Fanny were stripped naked and severely whipped for being so far off their course. They were marooned for five days on Grand Rocas before the Spanish sloop returned with the crew and passengers from a Nevis boat, who were also left with them on Grand Rocas. Four days later they were all rescued by a Dutch vessel. Not long after, however, this vessel also was taken by the same Spanish sloop. The Dutch captain's right hand was cut off and cooked in front of the captain. He was then forced to eat his own hand. The prisoners were later dumped on Salt Island. They were subsequently rescued by another Dutch ship. It took Fisher another two months before he was able to get back to Antigua in safety.
It was in this atmosphere of danger and great risk that the Anguillian sea captains and their crews of the period plied their trade. Indeed, Governor Mathew in his dispatch related that, after the incident with William Fisher, the same Spanish vessel took an Anguillian sloop which was on its way to the Rocas to catch turtle. There is no indication who the owner of this Anguillian turtling sloop was. Nor do we know if the Governor was able to obtain its release. What is of interest is the revelation that the turtling industry in Anguilla at this time involved such extensive travel. The Rocas lie many hundreds of miles to the south of Anguilla. It is a long way for an Anguillian boat to go in search of turtles. Were they, perhaps, as the Spaniards believed, engaged in unlawful trade, ie, smuggling? We simply do not know.
The War of the Austrian Succession broke out with the Spaniards in 1739. Peace did not return to the region until the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle nine years later, in 1748. The story of the attempted annexation of St Martin to Anguilla belongs to this period. The story was preserved in the local folklore and repeated in print by diverse writers, including Thomas Southey and Governor Reginald St Johnson. There are several second and third-hand accounts of this engagement. None was written by a contemporary Anguillian.
After 1738, the Colonial Office records for Anguilla and the Virgin Islands become scarce. Prior to 1738 it was rare at the best of times for a Governor-in-Chief in his dispatches back to London to refer to Anguilla or her achievements. After 1738 references to Anguilla in the National Archives almost cease for nearly one hundred years.
From what we know from the scattered references, Arthur Hodge succeeded John Richardson as deputy governor of Anguilla in 1741. He served in that capacity until 1749. It was he who led the assault on St Martin. Thomas Southey records that in the year 1744 the Anguillians invaded and captured the French half of the neighbouring half-Dutch, half-French island of St Martin. Hodge had under his command some 300 volunteers assisted by 2 privateers from St Kitts. His invasion was somewhat unofficial. It was described by St Johnson as a ‘marauding expedition’. Be that as it may, he succeeded in driving the French forces from their half of St Martin and took possession of it. The number of the Anguillian militia show how much greater the population of the island grew from just one generation previously.
The following year, 1745, the French retaliated by attacking Anguilla. This, the first invasion of the island by the French since those of 1666 and 1688, was frequently described. The French commander in St Martin, Monsieur de Caylus, sent 650 men under the command of Monsieur de la Touche in two French frigates. They landed on the north coast of Anguilla on 21 May and commenced their attack. The exact site of their landing and the subsequent engagement between the Anguillian and French forces is not mentioned in the official records. From the description in the various accounts of the battle, it is evident that the landing took place on the beach at Crocus Bay. But, a contemporaneous report quoted below states they landed at Rendezvous Bay, which is not believable. They attacked up the steep track from Crocus Bay to the top of Crocus Bay Hill. Deputy governor Arthur Hodge supposedly had only one company of 22 men to oppose this immense force. He was able to raise 300 men the year before for the frolic in St Martin. It is difficult to see why he could not now raise the same number in defence of their homes. Southey gives the size of the Anguilla defence force as 150 militiamen.
Be that as it may, Arthur Hodge and his 22 men defended the breastwork at this steep and narrow path. This path rises sharply from the beach to the top of the cliff some 200 feet above. The traditional story is that Hodge addressed his men with the words:
Gentlemen, I am an utter stranger to all manner of military discipline, so have nothing to recommend to you, but load and fire as fast you can, and stand by one another in the defence of your country; so God bless you.
His men then shook hands with each other and solemnly bound themselves to each other, either to drive away the French or to die in the attempt. They marched forward to their breastworks. These were prepared for the purpose of shooting down on any attacker using the path to ascend to the town.
We have a first-hand, Anguillian account of what happened next. The Boston Post for 5 August 1745 carries an extract of a letter from an unnamed gentleman in Anguilla to his friend in St Kitts dated 24 May. It reads:
On the 21st instant, early in the morning, we were surprised by a fleet of French, consisting of two Men-of-War, one of 36 guns, the other of 32, with 3 privateers, and two Dutch vessels as tenders. They had undiscovered put on shore 759 men at a place called Rendezvous Bay. Their success in landing was a great encouragement to them, and a great discouragement to us: our whole force being 97 men only. These our lieutenant governor, Arthur Hodge, formed into three divisions, and posted them in a very narrow path by which the French were to pass secured with breastworks, the first of which would contain but 22 men, commanded by Captain Richardson. These engaged the enemy, firing by platoons regularly, and with so true an aim that every shot took pace and the French fell so fast, that in less than ten minutes they lost courage, and fled with precipitation, having in this short action at least 160 men killed and wounded, and drowned in getting into their boats. We expected a fresh onset the next day, but it seems they had a job of it for they went away quietly.
We have buried 35 dead, and are daily in search of such as have hid themselves in the bushes, or died there of their wounds, which latter we believe, by the stench to be many, but can give no certain account of them, nor of the drowned. Among the dead are the second Captain of the Commodore (Monsieur La Touch), the first lieutenant of the other ship, Capt Rolough, and old privateer, Benar their pilot who married his wife of this island, the Governor of St Bartholomew’s son, and several other officers. The Commodore himself was wounded in his arm and thigh, so much that they were obliged to carry him on board, as they did 25 others. Some of these particulars we learn by some prisoners set on shore by a flag of truce sent by the Commodore.
They had landed several hand grenade shells, swivel guns fixed on triangles, beef, cheese, bread and wine. The four last articles were good plunder for our Negroes. Every dead man had in his pockets nettles, or small lines, for pinioning our Negroes. We had not one man hurt, and have got by this expedition, besides two pair of their colours, a great many fine buccaneer guns, cartouch boxes, etc, which they left behind, and with which we intend to arm our most trusty and sensible Negroes to strengthen our island.
Southey gives the French losses as 32 killed, 25 wounded, and 50 made prisoner. The following year Commodore de la Touche comes to an ignominious end. A contemporary issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine records his capture (see illus 1).
1. The end of M de la Touche: Gentleman’s Magazine for January 1746.
The print is small and fading. It reads,
1746 January: A French man-of-war of 36 guns, Captain La Touch (who made a descent on Anguilla), taken by an English man-of-war, and carried into Antigua.
We hear nothing more about M de la Touche. Was he exchanged, and did he survive the war? We do not know. Nor does the Anguilla militia which invaded St Martin and which made a successful defence of Anguilla feature in any other action during the war.
Just west of Crocus Bay on the north coast of Anguilla lies the bay known as Katouche Bay. It is sometimes suggested that Monsieur de la Touche landed at Katouche Bay, and not at Crocus Bay. Katouche Bay is supposedly named after him. On some modern maps the spelling is given as ‘Latouche Bay’. There were until recently cannon half-buried in the earth at the foot of the hill. They might appear to lend credence to some past story of military conflict at that bay. However, these cannon do not necessarily derive from this French military action. Nor does the presence of cannon at Katouche Bay relate to the defence of that bay. The cliff between Katouche Bay and Crocus Bay commands the entrance to the harbour of Crocus Bay. It is a natural site for a battery of cannon to protect the entrance to Crocus Bay, the nearest port to the old capital of The Valley.
More important is the documentary evidence relating to the evolution of the spelling of the word. We can see it in the Anguillian deeds preserved in the court records of the period. The area was referred to in the early deeds as ‘Catouche Bay Plantation’. There is no such word in English as ‘catouche’. The nearest equivalent is the French ‘cadeaux’. This is sometimes pronounced in the English style as ‘caduce’. The English-speakers of Anguilla shared the common practice of pronouncing French words phonetically in English. The most likely explanation for the origin of the word Katouche is that the Anguillians turned ‘cadeaux’ into ‘caduce’. From ‘caduce’ the word gradually became ‘Catouche’, and then ‘Katouche’. There is no early deed that records the name of that plantation as ‘Latouche’ or any other similar variation of ‘de la Touche’. The Latouche version of the origin of the name of Katouche Bay is an error. However, relying on this fanciful story, the Ordnance Survey Map of Anguilla presently in circulation has for some years past carried the mistaken spelling ‘Latouche’ Bay for the area universally pronounced as Katouche Bay.
Having captured St Martin, and been invaded in their turn for their pains, the Anguillians made a determined effort to keep the neighbouring island as a dependency of Anguilla. In 1747 the inhabitants of Anguilla sent deputy governor Arthur Hodge to England. He carried a petition from them addressed to the king. They and the Anguillians now settled in St Martin sought confirmation of the grants of land made to them by deputy governor Hodge. They set out in justification the great hazards and risks they took in seizing the French part of St Martin after the declaration of war. They claimed that the taking of St Martin was as a result of a specific commission given to Hodge by Governor Mathew. They also related the great expense that they were put to in volunteering to assist in this enterprise. They, therefore, requested that they be allowed to keep the French part of St Martin as their just reward for the action they took.
The Anguillians were to be disappointed. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle did not make St Martin British. It remained half-French, half-Dutch. Many of the British settlers remained in St Martin, becoming French citizens. Others returned home disappointed. Communications with nearby Anguilla were kept up and English eventually became the most commonly spoken language in St Martin until the 1970’s when a huge influx of French-speaking ‘Mitterrand refugees’ fleeing the socialist mainland took the island back to speaking French.
According to the Anguillian petition, from the date of the capture of St Martin, if not before, the Anguillian deputy governor made grants of land in St Martin to British settlers. Later deeds, copies of which are found in the Anguilla Registry of Deeds, refer to an ‘English Quarter’ in St Martin with its own Governor.
Arthur Hodge, his mission unaccomplished, died in London on 28 January 1749. His expenses in travelling to England were not met by the islanders, and his efforts in their behalf in London were in vain. The Anguillians gave him a bond for his expenses before he left. He never claimed it while he was alive. He preferred instead to recoup his losses out of the fruits of his office. He did not account for the taxes he collected. The bond he signed resulted in a lawsuit years later against his estate by the government of the day for an account of the powder money collected by him from visiting ships. Fortunately, the suit was settled to the satisfaction of all the parties.
War was not always detrimental to Anguillian enterprise. War also provided opportunities for those who dared to take the risk. Anguillians participated in the physically dangerous and financially risky enterprise of privateering. Judging from the surviving documents in Anguilla's Archives, this activity peaked in the later wars of the eighteenth century.
Anguillian privateers in the earlier part of the century were not able to get their captures lawfully declared prize of war by a Court of Vice Admiralty in Anguilla. That was very convenient for deputy governor Gumbs, one of the chief privateering financiers through the period. So, we see him defending a case brought in 1756 by Captain John Watts (see table 1).
At a Meeting of His Majesty’s Council this [ . . . ] day of [ . . . ] 1756 being present
His Worship John Hughes Esq, President
Captain John Watts and William Moore
Honourable Benjamin Gumbs and George Brooks
For disarming the Brigantine Lucretia after seizing and without bringing the same to a trial.
It is the opinion of this Council that having no judge of the Admiralty in this island, that the trial of the said Brig Lucretia could not come on until such judge be appointed by His Excellency our Captain General, all which said Benjamin Gumbs hath done all in his power to complete, as also Captain John Watts and William Moore to pay the costs of this suit.
Signed by command
Joseph Burnett, Clerk to the Council
Table 1: John Watts and William Moore v Hon Benjamin Gumbs and George Brooks. (Anguilla Archives)
From this record, it appears that George Brooks captained a privateer owned by deputy governor Gumbs. He captured the Brigantine Lucretia captained by John Watts and owned by William Moore and brought it into port in Anguilla. Watts and Moore brought an action for the release of the vessel. Their claim was that the vessel was not engaged in enemy trade. It was unlawfully held when it should be immediately brought before a Court of Vice Admiralty. There, its status could be established. Their case was thrown out by the Anguilla Council sitting as a Court of Common Pleas. This is no surprise when we consider that this is deputy governor Gumbs' own court. The reason for the case being dismissed is given as the absence of any fault on the part of Gumbs as there was no court of Vice Admiralty in Anguilla, though the deputy governor applied to the Governor-in-Chief to appoint one. Watts and Moore were penalised by being ordered to pay the court costs. It was some time after this incident that the Governor-in-Chief appointed the deputy governor and his Council to act as a Court of Vice Admiralty.
The Court of Vice Admiralty was kept busy hearing appeals by outraged traders whose vessels were seized by Anguillian privateers. Anguilla's most famous privateer of our period was Captain Edward Richards. He moved to Anguilla from Antigua in about the year 1757 during the Seven Years War, 1756-1763, and settled here. He married well, becoming deputy governor Benjamin Gumbs' son-in-law. His wife was Tabitha Gumbs and he lived in Anguilla for a few years during the 1760s. He purchased land at Crocus Bay, engaged in trade when not privateering, and from time to time acted as a court-appointed arbitrator in trading disputes over shipping accounts. When he died in 1765, his young widow was left to pay his debts. His simple will of that year left her all his estate, both real and personal. She was obliged to mortgage the family property in 1767. She was able to pay off the mortgage in 1782 only after she recouped her fortune by marrying the wealthy St Martin merchant, Morgan Beaumour Marchant, who also served on deputy governor Gumbs' Council.
There are a number of documents of the period preserved in the Anguilla Archives that deal with Edward Richards’ profession of privateering. It was up to the would-be privateer to locate merchants and planters willing to invest in equipping his boat with guns, ammunition, supplies and men, in the expectation of sharing in the profits of his capture. When a privateer such as Richards was commissioned, he received a Letter of Marque from the government. This authorised him, if he could put up sufficient security, to guarantee his correct conduct in sailing as a private man-of-war, at his own risk, against the King's enemies.
A captured prize was brought for trial before the Court of Vice Admiralty. The court would itself receive a part of the value of the prize for the King's revenue. This would include the judges' own fees and expenses. That is how the judges of the day got paid. It might have occurred to Richards, therefore, that it would be somewhat advantageous to have as the President of the Court of Vice Admiralty his own father-in-law and co-investor in his venture. We do not know whether this arrangement ever resulted in any great profit to Richards.
In a typical privateering bond of 1762 we see the deputy governor himself, together with two merchants, George Brooks and Joseph Burnett, binding themselves in the sum of fifteen hundred pounds sterling. The condition of the bond was for the lawful performance by Richards of his commission, or Letter of Marque. This authorised him to arm and equip the Fry and to seize and take ships of the French. Another bond in the Archives was for the sloop the Lyon, of thirty tons. This was again captained by Richards. In other documents in the Archives, we see him captain of the sloops War Trial and the Hawke. At various times during his career, he captured the ship Dirkinsen Sara, the sloop Three Friends, the snows Justice and Gereghteyheidt and the privateer Amazon.
There is also a 1758 bond of the Hon Benjamin Gumbs, Peter Harrigan and Richard Rogers for Jacob Gumbs, captain of the 30 ton privateer Rebecca. Jacob Gumbs with John Smith also owned the sloop Diamond. Jacob Gumbs was killed before 1760 when writs were issued against his estate by his creditors. There is no record in the files as to whether he made his fortune. It appears he died in the enterprise.
There are few other specific references during our period to other Anguillian privateers. We can be reasonably certain that, with her long tradition of ship building and sea faring, Anguilla produced her share of privateers in all the wars of the period.
 Dealt with in Chapter 13, Resettlement Plans.
 CO.152/6, No 39: Johnson to the Committee on 3 November 1705.
 CO.152/9, No 70, folio 208: Hamilton to the Committee on 5 April 1711.
 CO.152/9, No 71, folio 220: Hamilton to the Committee on 26 April 1711.
 Chapter 9: The Lure of Crab.
 Chapter 10: Crab Island Revisited.
 CO.152/22, folio 302: Mathew to the Committee on 17 January 1737.
 Katherine J Burdon, A Handbook of St Kitts-Nevis (1920); Percy’s Anecdotes, Vol VII, p.80; Thomas Reginald St Johnston, The Leeward Islands During the French Wars (1932).
 Thomas Southey, A Chronological History of the West Indies (3 vols, 1827) Vol 2, p.300.
 Southey op cit, Vol 2, p.303.
 Chapter 18: Sugar Arrives.
 Acts of the Privy Council, Vol 1745-1766, paragraph 54: The 1747 Anguilla petition to keep St Martin.
 Vere Langford Oliver, Caribbeana (1710-1719) Vol 3, p.302.
 Anguilla Archives: Decision of the Court of Common Pleas of 7 August 1776.
 Anguilla Archives: Edward Richard’s 1765 Will.
 Chapter 17: The Council.
 Anguilla Archives: A selection of 1762 privateering bonds.
 See, for example, later privateering commissions issued by the Court of Vice-Admiralty at Antigua to Richard Browning of Anguilla, commander of the brig Revenge, against the shipping of the revolted American colonists and against British ships trading with them, Oct 7th 1782 (Bancroft Library, University of California).