To inquire into all the causes which led to the acquisition of Jamaica by Great Britain would necessitate a careful review of the relations between England and Spain during the latter part of the Tudor Period of English History and during the first half-century of the Stuart dynasty. Such a review would hardly be in place here. A good many things had happened between the discovery by Columbus and the conquest by Cromwell, including the Reformation and the Spanish Armada. It is enough to state here that both James I. and Charles I., abandoning the vigorous policy of Queen Elizabeth, had given way too timidly and too tamely to Spanish claims and pretensions, and that the honour of England, the protection of her commerce and the safety of her subjects, made it imperative on Cromwell's Government to defend British interests and rights in the West Indies.
During the years of the Spanish occupation English freebooters landed on two occasions on the island and plundered the capital. These attacks were made in 1597 by Sir Anthony Shirley and in 1638 by Colonel Jackson. Both Sir Anthony and the Colonel seem to have enjoyed their visits, fighting against a very feeble resistance, burning and robbing and retiring with a gratifying amount of booty. Both of these were filibustering expeditions undertaken by private adventurers without any authority from the Crown. The expedition fitted out by Cromwell was of an entirely different kind. That the Protector was partly actuated by the desire to further crush the overbearing power of Spain is probably as true as that he desired to increase the power and prestige of his own Government; but beyond this he was distinctly influenced by religious motives. The fact that motives of worldly policy were strangely placed side by side with professions of religious enthusiasm does not necessarily imply that these latter professions were not as genuinely felt as the former motives were undoubtedly entertained. Thus in 1653 in the course of negotiations preliminary to signing a treaty between England and the United Provinces, Cromwell writes to the Dutch Ambassador
"That teachers, men gifted with knowledge of Jesus Christ, shall be seat by both states respectively unto all people and nations to inform and enlarge the gospel and the ways of Jesus Christ."
The same document recommends
"Such enterprise as shall be for the encircling of both states and for the propagation of true religion,"
and concludes by expressing a hope that by the conquest of Spain
"England may very well enjoy such a revenue as to discharge all taxes of the subjects of England, and to pay the navy and forces by sea and land by the customs of America, beside the great trade and riches the subject shall have thereby."
In documents and despatches of this character it is obviously difficult to distinguish what was genuine from what was conventional, what was diplomatic from what was religious, but it is hard to believe that so determined, so sincere and so original a man as Cromwell would descend in important documents to the use of formal or unmeaning words. And it is equally hard to refuse to recognise Milton's deeply religious sincerity when he wrote of:
"The most opportunities of promoting the glory of God, and enlarging the bounds of Christ's kingdom, which we do not doubt will appear to be the chief end of our late expedition to the West Indies." [See the "Manifesto of the Lord Protector" explaining fully the causes which led to the war with Spain. This manifesto was written in Latin by Milton in the year 1655, and a translation of it is to be found in R. W. Griswold's Edition of Milton's Prose Works and, I suppose, in other editions.]
It is probable that some of the leaders of this expedition may not have been as much in earnest as Cromwell and Milton for the religious welfare of the conquered people and the future colonists, though many of them were men of irreproachable piety of life, integrity of speech and uprightness of conduct.
The expedition itself well deserves Carlyle's description of it as "the unsuccessfullest enterprise Oliver Cromwell ever had concern with." Admiral Penn, father of the Pennsylvanian Quaker, was in command of the fleet and General Venables of the land forces. The original intention was to attack and acquire St. Domingo as a preliminary to obtaining "establishment in that part of the West Indies which is possessed by the Spaniards." This intention ended in a miserable failure. Owing to incompetence and bad management, to quarrels between Admiral and General, perhaps to treachery, the invading force was hopelessly repulsed at St. Domingo. The weakened remnant of the expedition, with a view to saving its face from utter disgrace in England and ashamed to return home empty-handed, sailed for Jamaica and landed troops at Caguaya, and the wonder is that they were not driven out of Jamaica with as little difficulty as they had been from St. Domingo. Any sort of organised resistance would have routed and annihilated; the demoralised forces of the invaders. This resistance was not forthcoming. After a wretched pretence of war, discreditable alike to victor and to vanquished, Articles of Capitulation were signed on the nth of May, 1655. These articles laid down that any one who wished to leave the island might do so under certain more or less humiliating conditions, while those who decided to remain were promised their lives and the benefit and protection "j of the laws of England. While considering, or perhaps while pretending to consider, the terms of this Treaty, the Spaniards took the opportunity of removing from the capital as much of their property and stock as possible, so that when the British troops entered St. Jago de la Vega, they entered a deserted and half-ruined city.
Then followed distress, hardships, insubordination, famine and pestilence among the troops, while the fugitive Spaniards took refuge in the mountains in the centre of the island and on the North coast. Although, then, the expedition, as a whole, was a signal failure, and although Penn and Venables were rightly sent for a time to the Tower on their return home "for having deserted the forces committed to their charge," yet Jamaica was taken and became a British possession. Cromwell, disappointed and disgusted at the meagre result of his attempt to break the Spanish power in the West Indies, determined to make the best of what little had been achieved. Venables was succeeded by General Fortescue, a despatch from whom to Cromwell throws some light on the religious side of the conquest of Jamaica. Soon after taking over his command, Fortescue prepared a formal declaration which he signed on behalf of himself and his brother officers and sent to Cromwell; this declaration contains the following paragraph:--
"Forasmuch as we conceive the propagation of the Gospel was the thing principally aimed at and intended in this expedition, I humbly desire that His Highness will please to take order that some godly, sober and learned minister may be sent unto us, which may be instrumental in planting and propagating of the Gospel, and able to comfort and stop the mouth of every cavilling adversary and gainsayer, and the rather for that two of the ministers are already dead, and a third lieth at the point of death."
Cromwell's reply to this declaration is characteristic. After giving military directions and commending Fortescue for his "faithfulness and constancy in the midst of others' miscarriages," he writes:--
"To conclude: As we have cause to be humbled for the reproof God gave us at St. Domingo, upon the account of our own sins as well as others, so, truly, upon the reports brought hither to us of the extreme avarice, pride and confidence, disorders and debauchedness, profaneness and wickedness, commonly practised amongst the many, we cannot only bewail the same, but desire that all with you may do so; and that a very special regard may be had so to govern, for time to come, as that all manner of vice may be thoroughly discountenanced and severely punished; and that such a frame of government may be exercised that virtue and godliness may receive due encouragement."
Before this letter reached Jamaica Fortescue was dead. It should be mentioned here that the Expedition of Penn and Venables had included seven "ministers of religion." These would in the first place be naval or military chaplains. Whether it was intended that they should take up missionary work, if the enterprise were successful, I know not. They had no opportunity for doing so, for, including the two mentioned by Fortescue, six of the seven speedily fell victims to tropical fever, and the seventh soon followed his colleagues. I have failed to trace their names. Meanwhile the desperate condition of the troops, "dying at the rate of 200 a day," the inefficient equipment of the expedition and the disaffection which prevailed among both officers and men, combined to increase the difficulties of the settlement and effectually to block the way of religious influence or progress. But if little or nothing was done in the way of building, there was no lack of that iconoclastic zeal--so prominent a feature of the Puritanism of the time--which delighted in pulling down the most magnificent parts of churches and cathedrals, and in destroying "all the carved work thereof with axes and hammers." The religious sentiments of the victorious and disorderly army were displayed in the complete destruction of the Roman Catholic places of worship. Zeal for religion seems to have exhausted itself with this furious outbreak of destructive violence.
We have mentioned the heavy mortality among the troops, and have now to allude to the steps which were taken to repeople the island with British subjects. The Spanish slaves followed the fortunes of their owners or escaped to the mountains, and there is nothing to show that many negroes were imported in Cromwell's time, but considerable additions were made from various sources to the white population. From England, Royalists known to be disaffected, Roundheads suspected of wavering in the cause of the Commonwealth either came voluntarily or were sent under compulsion. The sheriffs of Scotch counties received instructions to apprehend all known idle, masterless robbers and vagabonds, male and female, and transport them to the Island. As one of the consequences of Cromwell's policy of Coercion in Ireland, we have the following Order in Council, under date 3rd October, 1655:
"Commissioners of Admiralty to have boats built; one thousand Irish girls and as many youths of fourteen or under to be sent to Jamaica, the allowance for each not to exceed 20s."
Another Order in the following month directs that two thousand Bibles shall be sent to Jamaica "to be paid for with the rest of the provisions." Presumably these Bibles were intended for the two thousand girls and boys so cruelly exiled.
All this time Jamaica was under military law, for Spanish troops were still on the island and had not given up hope of regaining possession of it. At last, seeing how disease and dissension were weakening the British forces, they made a final effort, under the command of the late Governor, Don Arnoldi Sasi, in October, 1658, but were defeated by the British, under General D'Oyley, at the battle of Rio Nuevo. A few months of desultory guerilla warfare followed, after which Sasi and a few surviving followers managed to make good their escape to Cuba from a bay on the northern coast, which has since been known as Runaway Bay. Don Sasi retired to a monastery in Spain, where he spent the closing years of his life.
Cromwell died six weeks before the Spaniards were defeated at Rio Nuevo, and D'Oyley was left by the home authorities to act on his own responsibility. Richard Cromwell, during his short Protectorate, declined an offer to restore Jamaica to Spain in return for a large sum of money, and Charles II., soon after his accession to the throne, was proof against the plausible request that Jamaica should be given back to Spain on the ground that it had been captured by rebel subjects of the King of England, contrary to the Treaty of Peace between the two crowns. These events, however, happened in England, and the second Charles had been twelve months on the throne before he took any official notice of Jamaica.
[Anticipating time, and to complete this point, it may here be stated that Monmouth's Rebellion, the Rye House Plot, Judge Jeffries, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the French Revolution (as far as it affected Haiti) were responsible for the arrival in Jamaica of various contingents of white people.]