Logwood Business

In a previous post I described the tree which produced logwood, which grows in Central American swamps. Here is another extract from Captain Southey’s Chronological History of the West Indies which shows the politics of the trade, and how it had changed from the part time employment of pirates and itinerants such as William Dampier, to a far more respectable trade. The amount of profits to be made from it is shown by the involvement of the government and navy in this dispute with Spain:

IN 1764 the English settlers in the Bay of Honduras were cutting logwood, according to the 17th article of the treaty of Fontainbleau, when, upon the 22d of February 1764, Don Joseph Rosado, the Spanish governor of Bacalar, obliged them to desist, and to confine themselves to Belize. The settlers sent a petition to the governorof Jamaica, stating, that in consequence of this order a total stagnation of trade had ensued, and that they saw no means of preserving themselves from starvation. Governor Littleton sent an agent from Jamaica to settle matters if possible: he found that the  “bay-men”, by order of the Spanish Governor, were limited to 20 leagues@ the south side of the new river and that if they were caught on the northside, confiscation of property and personal arrest was the consequence.
The British government applied to thecourt of Madrid for redress, and his catholic majesty commanded his governor to re-establish the British logwood-cutters inthe several places from which he had obliged them to retire, and to suffer them to continue their occupation, without disturbing them under any pretence whatsoever. That which had been used on the present occasion was, that the logwood-cutters, by a stipulation between the two crowns, were to be furnished either with a royal schedule from Spain, or with a licence from the King of England, to prevent the Spaniards from being imposed upon by pretenders to the rights of British subjects.

But the Spanish governor had not allowed the English any time to procure these documents.
In 1765 Rear-admiral Sir W Burnaby,baronet, in HM ship Active, went to Balize, with the duplicate of the King of Spain’s order to the governor of Yucatan; and on the 26th March he reported to the Admiralty, that he had seen the logwood-cutters reinstated at Rowley’s Bite, the new river, and Rio Honda, by the commandant of Bacalar.

Sir W Burnaby regulated the logwood-cutters, and fixed the limits of their trade up the rivers, according to the treaty with Spain: he also drew up a code of regulations for their police, and established the settlement on a most respectable footing.


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