19 Century Consul – An Incident in Cape Verde.

An incident in a Nineteenth Century Consul’s Working Day in St Jago, Cape Verde Islands, Atlantic Ocean.


As a one time Australian Consul in various countries in the twentieth century, I had my share of incidents and difficult customers to cope with. How, for example, was I expected to handle a RAAF airfield construction worker in Singapore, 6’ 4” and very angry, who lifted the waiting room partitions out of their base and held them above his head when I told him no one had authorised me to pay him his salary? Similarly, the demands placed on present day Consuls are daily seen in current media reports. While some, but not all, my old cases could be worth some public telling, none that I can think of had a genealogical or historical bent. Not so the British Consul in the Cape Verde Islands in 1828. While researching in National Archives, Kew, the incident and the survivors of the shipwreck there in 1828 of the VDL and Port Jackson bound Barque ‘Letitia’, I came across the Consul’s unrelated report of the stopover on the way to the Swan River Settlement of the ‘Marquis of Anglesea’.  Ian Berryman, a Perth expert of the times in that Colony, has advised me that the Marquis was the second ship to leave Britain for the Swan River colony. She arrived at Swan River on 23 August 1829, and was wrecked there early in September.
The majority of the passengers aboard the Marquis were indentured servants of Peter Augustus Lautour, an Anglo-French military officer who was one of the two major absentee investors in the Swan River colony. The other was Solomon Levey. Of the persons mentioned in the Consul’s letter, Henry Taylor is mentioned only once in the records of the Swan River Colony, on a Muster of the colonists. Either he  died, or left the colony without his departure being recorded. Ian Berryman advised me that he has not come across anyone named Henry Bayley Lamb, but one of the passengers on the “Marquis of Anglesea” was William Lamb, a merchant. Robert Ansell Partridge was a farmer, from Suffolk, and Edward Barrett Lennard was a well connected young man, the younger son of a baronet. Revett Henry Bland was likewise from a most respectable background. Hawker, possibly he died at sea between St Jago and Australia (the Marquis did not stop anywhere between St Jago and Swan River) or he may have left the colony without leaving any trace of his presence there.

The surgeon of the ship was one Charles John Fowler, who died a few weeks after the ship arrived at Swan River. He is said to have had fallen in with bad company at Swan River, and from the Consul’s letter it would appear that he had a problem with alcohol. There are several letters in the Colonial Office records, and the Colonial Secretary’s correspondence in WA, from his wife, who was trying to find out what had happened to him.

  On this occasion, it was both the British and United states Consuls who had a story to tell:

 “British Consulate,St Jago, Cape Verde Islands10th June, 1829 to Foreign Office, London.

            I have the honour to inform you that on the 2nd inst, there came into our Roads the “Marquis of Anglesea”,  (Wm Steward, Master) from London for Swan River with 130 passengers destined for the new settlement. During their short stay here most of these persons conducted themselves with perfect propriety, but some, I am sorry to say, indulged in the grossest excesses, and committed the most flagrant misdemeanours. The Surgeon of the Vessel, I was assured by the passengers, was drunk all the time they were here. I myself can bear witness that he was thoroughly intoxicated the first day he came ashore as he was brought to my office in a state of stupefaction produced by hard drinking.

             A steerage passenger of the name of Glover knocked down his wife without the slightest provocation on her part, and almost tore off the ear of a Gentleman who interfered on her behalf.

              A fellow of the name of Henry Taylor (a shepherd of Col. Latour) meeting with Mr Merrill, the American Consul General, threatened to knock out his brains with a bludgeon which he brandished in the air; and had not Mr Merrill, by dint of agility, evaded the blow, doubtless would have carried his threat into effect. Mr Merrill having made me acquainted with the assault, I despatched Messrs Partridge and Bland to take the villain into custody and bring him before me. It was not without danger that they succeeded in their purpose; the fellow threatening “to brain” the first man who should dare to approach him. They however secured him, and wrestled the bludgeon from his grasp. It proved to be a “manduca”, a weapon about two feet long, peculiar to the country, and used for self  defence and destruction of others. How he became possessed of it, it is difficult to conjecture. On being placed at the bar and being accused of the assault, he displayed the most hardened indifference, and appeared to be totally insensible of the crime he had committed. He received my admonition with scorn and inattention; refused to make any apology, dared any man to fight him; and defied the Authorities of the Island. Finding that expostulation was unavailing, I  requested the Governor to keep him in confinement till he should evince some contrition for his conduct. His Excellency complied, and committed him to the Guardhouse where he remained until the following evening, when Captain Steward conveyed him back to the “Marquis of Anglesea”.

            A Sergeant commanding a Detachment of the 63rd Regiment being present at the examination, I desired him to take charge of the prisoner to prevent the unpleasant necessity of consigning him to Portuguese soldiers, but instead of complying, he seems to take the part with the offender and behaved in the rudest and most insolent manner. It is needless to enumerate all the cases of misconduct in which I was called upon to interfere. Suffice it to say that they were numerous but unimportant; but I am bound to observe, in justice to the Cabin passengers that the offending parties were exclusively steeragers.

             It has been discovered by the passengers that Captain Steward has omitted to bring on board a set of irons, and the knowledge of this fact, joined to the mistaken notion that no one has a legal right to take offenders into custody has made a few of them audacious and turbulent. Threats have been uttered that, when they cross the Line, they will “serve out” obnoxious individuals. These circumstances having been brought to my knowledge, I ventured, at the instance of some respectable fathers of families, to take a step unauthorised, indeed, by my Instructions, but justified, I hope, by the exigence of the case. I selected four cabin passengers and one steerager, from a body of persons recommended by the Master, and swore them in as Constables on the high seas to aid and assist the Master and Officers in suppressing and putting down any riot, disturbance or tumult that might happen on board the “Marquis of Anglesea” between the Port of Villa da Praia and the new settlement of Swan River, New Holland. The names of the persons thus appointed are:

Edwin Barrett Lennard Esq; Henry Bayley Lamb Esq ;Ansell Partridge, Gentleman,—–  Bland, Gentleman, and Charles Hawker, Yeoman.

             I beg leave to mention that in the number of passengers are several females, some of whom are under the most painful apprehension for their personal safety.

              Nothing but the strongest and most forcible representations of the urgent necessity for something being done could have induced me to assume an authority unwarranted by your Instructions. If I have done wrong, I must throw myself on your candour to put the best interpretation on the motive by which I was activated.

             I have only to add that all was quiet on board when the “Marquis of Anglesea” left this port on the 5th Inst.”  [UK TNA Ref. FO 63/351] 

[NOTE: This article was published in “The Ancestral Searcher” the quarterly journal of the Heraldry and Genealogy Society of Canberra in March 2008.]