Letter from Captain Thomas Hamilton to the Admiralty Board

May It Please Your Honours,          
This is only to advise you that Mr. Mathews of Cadiz sent to this place a ship[1] (which came from New England and was consigned to him) that had on board some thirty Indians, he ordered that as many of them as should be serviceable for His Majesty’s galley [should?] be delivered to me and that he would adjust the price of them with Your Honors.   I have, therefore, taken them, but nine of them proving with bad usage on board are since dead, so that twenty-one only remain, who will prove very good men, and in my opinion as good if not better than the Moorish slaves, so that if there were every year a recruit from those parts (after the galley were once manned), it might be very advantageous for His Majesty’s service.[2]  I have sent your  Honours a f[ull] account by the Mary Rose[3] of the galley’s[4] wants. I only desire now that Your Honours would be pleased to send over money for the paying off the galley’s arrears clear, and also money or credit for the making of bonavolios[5] and the buying of slaves.   And I think that it were very requisite that there should always be here a fund for extraordinary uses for the galley.  At this present we have neither money nor credit, and it is necessary for the galley to be careened for fear of the worms.  I was forced to send upon my own account for Spain to get stuff for to burn her and am now forced to send for tallow for her.  In the kings of France and Spain’s galleys there is always a sum of money allowed for extraordinary uses, as for making of bonavolios in all ports that they come, as also buying of slaves,  if need require, as well as provision for sick and wounded men, and for the galley in case of want.  We have here no manner of medicines for our sick men, and no allowance for the surgeon for the buying of them, the which I hope your Honours will take into your consideration and give us a remedy to it.  I hope Your Honours will not take it amiss that I inform you of everything that I take in my weak judgment fit for His Majesty’s service.  I have nothing more to trouble Your Honours with but desire Your Honours would be pleased to let me have an answer as soon as possible.  Most of the people belonging to the galley (especially officers) have a great deal of provisions due to them and are still demanding that they might be victualled in kind as all other galleys are.  We have a great want of beds, rugs, and sheets for to lay our sick men in, for at the present in the hospital they have no such thing.  
I remain Your Honours’ most humble servant,
Tangiers, December 16, 1675


Received  and read, February 14, 1676


I had almost forgot to recommend to Our Honour’s care and consideration the provision for mens’ quarters whilst in harbour, and how the quarters they have already had shall be satisfied, this being a matter that requires as speedy redress as any of the others.  An allowance is likewise requisite for lights and fire for the officers, mariners, and soldiers in their quarters.


For His Majesty’s service.  To the Right Honourable the Principal Officers and Commanders of His Majesty’s Navy at the Navy Office in London


Tangier, December 16, 1676 Captain Hamilton hath received thirty Indians from Mr. Matthews at Cadiz – Nine of them since dead, likes them well, hath sent by the Mary Rose – the galley’s wants, want money to clear the arrear of the galley and buying slaves, hath neither money nor credit to buy burning stuff and tallow or to secure buonavolios, wants medicines for sick men, prays excuse for his giving a plain account and asks an answer– Officers, etc., much in arrears for victuals, they pray to be victualled in kind, wants beds, rugs, etc., for sick men, prays satisfactions for quarters and for firing etc.


167,  2:5.57


[1] This most likely was Captain Thomas Spragg’s ship, The Sampson.  In late September or early October 1675, Captain Thomas Spragg (or Sprague) transported 178 condemned Indians out of Plymouth Colony to Cadiz as slaves.  While all of his human cargo might not be able to be identified, some of his prisoners included eight praying Indians captured by Capt. Mosely in August of that year, forty-five others who surrendered to Uncas and his Mohegans, and eighty others, identified as “the Women and Children left by Philip when he and the Men with him made their Escape out of the great Swamp, August 1st.”  It is also possible that some of the Indian prisoners were carried off to Spain in other convict transports.  N. S., Present State of New-England with respect to the Indian War (London, 1676), 6, 9, 12.  As the present document indicates, thirty of these captives were transferred to the English galley ship Margaret, but by spring of the following year, Spragg had requested that the slaved be returned to him.  See document 1676.02.29.00 and its annotation.
[2] Despite Hamilton’s enthusiastic endorsement, the use of captive New England Indians in galley ships did not become a regular practice of the English Navy.  However, it was considered by the French ministers of marine as a way to “exterminate” what they saw as a number of troublesome Iroquois in New France.   In 1684, Louis XIV ordered the governor of New France, the Marquis de Denonville, “to do everything possible” to capture as many Iroquois as he could and to ship them to Marseilles for galley service “at every opportunity.”  To that end, Canadian authorities kidnapped around forty Natives and chiefs the following year and transported them abroad.  Echoing Hamilton’s letter of 1675, the French minister wrote “It is [now] certain...that these men, vigorous and accustomed to hardship as they are, can be of service on his Majesty’s galleys.”  But the kidnappings and forced labor had dire consequences.  Revenge attacks by associates of the captives across New France’s settlements made the French ministry rethink their position on enslaving Iroquois, and by 1689, anywhere from three to thirteen Iroquois galley rowers left New Rochelle for Canada.  Paul W. Bamford, Fighting Ships and Prisons: The Mediterranean Galleys of France in the Age of Louis XIV (Minneapolis, 1973), 163-66; 310-11. 
[3] The Mary Rose was a 40-ton English ship, originally named Maidstone, built in 1654, renamed Mary Rose in 1660.  It was later captured by the French 1691.  J. J. Colledge and Ben Warlow,  Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal navy from the 15th Century to the Present (London, 2006), 213, 219.
[4] A galley ship denotes a type of vessel of war that is equipped with a mast for sails but is propelled primarily by oars or sweeps, often pulled by slave, captured, or convict laborers.  Having a long history in ancient Rome and Greece, it was adapted for  military use in the middle ages and survived as part of the Eighteenth-Century European navies in the Mediterranean.  Charles III’s Tangier galley force used prisoners taken from pirate ships, slaves from Malta.  The galley ships supported the king’s frigates that policed the Mediterranean. 
          The specific ship that Hamilton is writing about is the Margaret Galley, which was built in Leghorn, or Livorno, Italy in 1671 for Charles II as part of a grand design to reintroduce galley ships into the English Navy.  Named for the Grand Duchess of Tuscany, Marguerite Louis d’Orleans, it made its trial run in September 1672 with a crew of  324 galley slaves, filling twenty-seven benches, six men to each, and was delivered to Tangier about two years later under the oversight of its contractor, a Frenchman named Sir Jean Baptiste Duteil.  On June 18, 1675, Charles II assigned its command to Thomas Hamilton, an English frigate captain.  Because of the high cost to maintain her, the Margaret was discharged in 1676 and sold to Henry Shere, the chief engineer of Tangier.  Captain Richard Bolland next purchased the galley and used it as a makeshift bridge or wharf in the city’s harbor.  In 1697, Isaac Royal of Boston sold the hull of a Margaret Galley to William Foster of Barbados, but it is unclear if this is the same ship.  G.E. Aylmer, “Slavery Under Charles II: The Mediterranean and Tangier,” The English Historical Review, vol. 114 (April. 1999), 378-388;  J. R. Tanner, ed., A Descriptive Catalogue of the Naval Manuscripts in the Pepysian Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge (London, 1903), 227-228; Julian Stafford Corbett, England in the Mediterranean: A Study of the Rise and Influence of British Power within the Straits, 1603-1713, vol. 2 (London, 1904) , 77; E. M. Routh, Tangier, England’s Lost Atlantic Outpost (London, 1912), 154; John Charnock, Biographia Navalis; or, Impartial Memoirs of the Lives and Characters of Officers of the Navy of Great Britain, from the Year 1660 to the Present Time, vol. 1, (London: 1794), 310; Suffolk Deeds, Liber XIV (Boston, 1906), 401-402.
[5] Bonavolios, or bonnevoglies, an English variation of the Portuguese bonavolha, Spanish buenabouya, French  bonnevoglie, or Italian buonavolia, meaning a “free rower,” or volunteer rower on a galley ship, in contrast to the galérien or forçat  “convict rower” or class of condemned rowers that the New England Indians would have been in.  Alan H. Hartley, “Historical Sketches of the Mediterranean Nautical Lexicon,” Romance Philology, 59 (2006), 320-321.