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The new regime for Thames hulks prisoners: Tobacco in North America: "Or on any other navigable river": "Becoming resignation to the divine will":


The Blackheath Connection

Chapter 19


The new regime for prisoners on the Thames:


Branch-Johnson has commented on the public image Campbell strove to create for the hulks, "a picture suggesting orderliness of design, stability of policy and acquiescence on the part of the prisoners". All euphemistic. In July 1777, The Scots Magazine ran a story on the new hulks and the system of guarding the prisoners at work. In the magazine was an engraving dated 8 May of the convicts working at the Butt, operating a pile-driving machine for the construction of a wharf. In the engraving, both banks of the Thames are quite bare, and on the river itself is the hulk Justitia. The reporter standing with the public was literally bug-eyed at what he saw. The hard work. The discipline. The way the prisoners were cowed as they worked, and remained silent as a guard walked among them with a long rattan cane across his shoulder.


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The convicts? "So far from being permitted to speak to anyone, they hardly dare speak to one another." "All was discretionary with their keeper". Scots Magazine expressed wonder that not even an oath was heard from the convicts. Another report has it that by 1777 the heads of oxen killed daily at Tower Hill were sent to the Woolwich hulks for the convicts. ([1]) Maybe, the convicts lived on broth only? One of the first non-metropolitan officials to contact Campbell about a transport had been the Mayor of Dover, John Hammond, who was quite anxious to get rid of his prisoner, but confused about new procedures. Over the years Campbell received many confused letters from uninformed provincials. Home Office communications about new procedures were poor, if indeed they were ever sent out in consistent fashion.


Campbell Letter 44:

London 2 Aug 1776

James Hammond Mayor of Dover

Yesterday I had the favour of your letter relative to a Man sentenced to Hard Labour on the River Thames. whom you may send on Board the Justitia Hulk the Captain of which Vessel will have orders from me to receive him upon a proper Certificate of his conviction being produced as the Act requires - I am the more willing to accomodate Your Magistracy on this occasion as you are so desirous to get rid of that prisoner, but it is necessary for me to inform you that on any future Instance of this sort, your application will be proper to the Secretary of State, from whom only I receive Directions touching this service I am.....

PS I am extremely obliged for your kind offers of service ([2])


Campbell Letter 45:

(October 1776 [estimated date, but uncertain])

William Eden Esq

Having in consequence of a Survey fixed upon a place nearly below Woolwich to Station the Ship in order to make our first Tryal for raising Sand and Gravel from the Banks of the Thames Contiguous Thereto as being the Safest and fittest for that Purpose and having observed a piece of Ground just below Prince Rupert's Walk belonging to the warren & which appears to me in its present State to be little or no utility being nearly or all over flowed every tide which could be a very convenient place for us to Throw our Soil upon when training the people to this Labour as well from its being retired and free from a Concourse of People as its proximity to some of the Centinels which Guard the Warren this piece of Ground which is now covered chiefly with Reeds may I apprehend by means of the soil from our Lighter be made more valuable to the Board of Ordnances I thought it my Duty to Submit it to you this Circumstance & should my wish on this Score meet with your approbation I request the favour you would be pleased to Lend your aid in obtaining leave to unload our Lighters there as occasion may require. Your honouring me with an answer will be a means of enabling us the sooner to begin our operations.

I am with the Greatest Respect

Sir ([3])


Campbell Letter 46:

(Note: this letter is undated and from the order of its appearance in the letterbooks would seem to have been composed in October 1777. From its contents it could also have been composed about October, 1776). ([4])

William Eden Esq.

I had the honour of receiving your letter of the sd Int: a great satisfaction in observing that in general you do not dissapprove of the Mode I took the liberty to offer touching the labour of the Convicts on the River Thames & I am happy to find too that you coincide with me in opinion that plenty of room should be given to the prisoners by your enlarging the size of the Vessel proposed to contain them the surest means of guarding against the dreadful disorder these people are subject to.

Agreeable to your Directions I have made a Calculation what the expence will be of a good Vessel about 240 Tons fitted up properly to receive, secure & accomodate 120 convicts; to maintain, cloath guard and protect them; to find every reasonable necessary for people under their circumstances, medecines, vinegar, &c to wash and fumigate the Vessel, for their healthful preservation; to find six lighters from 40 to 50 Tons or a smaller Size as the service may require, and the needful securities of Iron Chains & other Implements, Proper Officers or overseers as well to take care of the Vessel and prisoners Therein as, to manage the Lighters and guard the Convicts who are to be constantly employed in the same, in raising the Sand or Soil from the River Thames, except when the season of the year may make it necessary to give a respite to that sort of Labour where some other will be substituted on board the Vessel for their Employment during the (?). I think I can undertake to perform this Service as stated above with reputation to myself & satisfaction to the Publick for the sum of 3560 .. p ann: to continue for three months certain and to be paid at the end of every Six Months. I am of opinion it cannot be done for less to support these people properly during their hard labour & done so as to give content, & preserve that propriety give me leave to say Character in the Execution which a Law of this Novel sort will require when operating so near to the Metropolis. If I should be thought fit to be entrusted with the management of this Business, it shall be my never failing duty as well to see the people are constantly & properly employed, as to find out, & submit to administration the most beneficial means of disposing of their service; and I have little doubt but that from my Experience in the Dispositions of these sort of Labourers and [the] knowledge of the River Thames I shall be able from time to time to give such Information on that score as may be worthy of the Notice of Government and make some amends to the Publick for the Expence. The greatest difficulty will be the first putting the Act in operation which as I before took the Liberty to hint will require some adress, & to that I trust I shall be able to get over without much noise. What you are pleased to mention concerning each Lighter being Tasked to raise a Certain Quantity of Sand or Soil. I think it will be very proper to adopt such a Regulation when things are once properly set in motion, till then I submit whether it may not be as well to leave that matter to the direction of the Contractor or Overseer.

I am with very Great Respect


NB If the Number is reduced to 100 it will make a deduction of 273 pounds p ann: from the above mentioned sum.


Campbell Letter 47:

Partial transcript of a letter Campbell to William Eden from Private Letter Books Vol. 2, Oct 1777 or Oct 1776: the original is undated. ([5])

William Eden Esq

Agreeable to your desire have I have turned my thoughts on the manner of putting the Act of Parliament lately passed in execution relating to the hard labour of the Convicts on the River Thames, I have annexed a small plan for the same under a few heads .. I have proposed a Vessel as a general receptacle or Prison fitt to hold the whole collected number not only as an hospital for the sick and place of confinement for the refactory but because in the winter seasons the severity of the weather and Ice will at times prevent the Lighters working on the sand Banks in the Thames.

.... but from my long experience in this sort of service I am very desirous to give plenty of room to guard against the most Dangerous disease which too generally attends this class of people.

I have taken no Notice of any advantage which may be reaped for the selling of the sand or soil taken from the Thames, and would humbly propose that if any benefit should arise therefrom it may be applied to the Credit of Government; .... I beg leave to make tender of my services and to have the executive part of this Act so far as it relates to the River Thames; I have served a long apprenticeship nearly twenty years in the management of the same sort of people this Act is meant to deal with; that experience and long servitude to the Publick with my being brought up a Seaman will I trust remove any doubts of my being qualified to undertake this business which I am sensible must require much (?) & (?) at setting out to obviate some Difficulties that I have reason to believe will arise in the beginning of the operation of this Law.

I have deferred mentioning the Sum I think would be requisite to Defray the Expence of this Service upon the Plan. I have taken the Liberty to offer till you are pleased to favour me with your sentiments on the same lest I may in some degree have mistaken the Intentions of the Act but should I be thought fit to receive your further Commands on this business I shall be ready the day following to give my best opinion of the expense ....


* * *


Campbell signed his first contracts for the accommodation of 120 prisoners with the Treasury on 12 August, 1776, some say. But a correction can be entered. When John Howard wrote some of the history of the hulks, he gave the date of Campbell's appointment as 12 August, 1776, the date of Campbell's contract with Treasury. But in the 1790s when magistrate Patrick Colquhuon was researching into penal matters, Colquhuon consulted Middlesex records and found Campbell had been appointed by the Middlesex magistrates on 13 July. Branch-Johnson claimed that when the Middlesex magistrates had appointed Campbell, Campbell had named as his deputy overseer his brother Neil. ([6])


Significantly, the work to be done by the convicts was located on the Thames foreshores about the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich, and later in the naval dockyards. Anyone convinced by Branch-Johnson's claims about Campbell's use of his brother might have to claim a masterpiece of timing, if anything untoward had been organised. Since Eden and Campbell had been in relatively close contact, it seems absurd to say Campbell had used corrupt means to gain his contracts. Officials needed Campbell's services - or someone's services - as much as Campbell needed a return from his two idle ships.


Convicts were soon coming aboard the "hulks", but 120 was not a great number arising from a problem of "crowded gaols". Trinity House in liason with Ordnance officials would prescribe the labour of the felons for the benefit of the navigation of the river and the improvement, in line with Eden's ideas about fortifications. Any profit the overseer made from handling ballast went to Trinity House or was deducted from his half-yearly payment from Treasury. ([7]) These arrangements demonstrated the short-term nature of the measure, as in practice, Campbell was not really directed officially to work the convicts at anything in particular. In operation, the idea worked precisely because as Lord Irnham had said, the lower orders were to be familiarised with slavery, and the convicts themselves realised something had gone gravely amiss. They retaliated by repeatedly mutinying, succeeding only in having their discipline tightened. ([8])


A brief chronology is helpful:


In 1776, two names are given as Lords Mayor of London, Sir William Halifax Kt. and John Sawbridge.


January 1776


Evidently in charge of "hulks" Tayloe and Justitia are captains Finley Gray and John Kidd. The Lord Mayor of London complained to the Earl of Suffolk about fears of gaol fever. 12 January, 1776, a letter from Eden to Campbell, and later, one letter forwarded to Lt-Col Christie on convicts for military purposes, Campbell directed to deliver 17 named felons whose pardons were dated 23 January, 1776. ([9])


February 1776


Report, 23 February, the number of debtors imprisoned is growing.


March 1776


A newspaper complains 12 convicts had got away.


April 1776


1 April, Lord North, moved for a temporary measure, a Bill to authorise a limited punishment by Hard Labour. ([10]) The Bill mentioned the employment of women only in passing. Good behaviour would earn remission.


May 1776


The Hulks Act, Act 16, Geo III, c.43., given Royal Assent on 23 May, 1776. Later the convicts were converting the shelving banks of the Warren, as it was called, into docks, quays and yards, for the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. A brick wall was later raised to decrease the increasing number of spectators of the sight of the convicts at work. On 20 May, nine felons pardoned into the military. ([11])


June 1776


5 June, Campbell ordered to deliver some prisoners who had been "applied for".


July 1776


First lighter launched for work of convicts. Ready for work by 26th. More prisoners arrive on 30th.


August 1776


Seven convicts pardoned as George III thought their punishment severe enough. 5 August, the first lighter works about two miles below Barking Reach. 13 August, Campbell's first contract arranged. Convicts sent aboard Justitia. First signs of a death rate. 25 August - Campbell to Thomas Biggs, Keeper, Fisherton Gaol, near Sarum, Wilts,


September 1776


September, Campbell employs as deputy superintendent (Capt.) Stewart Erskine, who remained on the Thames hulks until 1814. (On 28 September, 1776 in a letter to Mrs. Ann Newell, Campbell mentioned his wife [Mary]; his brother-in-law John Campbell and his daughter Becky were preparing for a voyage to Jamaica.


October 1776


By 3 October, 1776, Campbell had been away from home for a few days, preventing him receiving Capt. Ogilvy's letter of the 28th previous. Ogilvy was at Newcastle, due to proceed to Portsmouth to be in convoy for Jamaica.


6 October, Tayloe reported 32 escaped prisoners. ([12]) 6 October, a newspaper misunderstands the work performed by prisoners. 14 October, 1776, to Capt. Erskine on employ of convicts; 14 Oct., 1776 to Akerman at Newgate, on letter from Mr. Eden, re 30 convicts; 15 Oct., 1776, Campbell to Eden, uneasy about Eden's tenor, thanks for attending to an account rendered;


14 October, Eden to Campbell about 30 convicts for hulks from Newgate. Capt. Erskine to keep a log. Campbell appointed physician Mr. Dodo Ecken. Many prisoners suffered VD. Prison reformer John Howard visits hulks, complains of poor food. Campbell modifies prisoner bedding. Campbell routinely visits the hulks twice per week.

* * *


By 5 November, 1776, Campbell was informing Mrs. Ann Newell or Port Antonia, (Jamaica?), Mary Mumford was expecting a baby any hour. The baby girl arrived early on 16 November, 1776, named Elizabeth, probably for Mary's mother, Bet. At the same time, Currie was in a great hurry to get to Campbell a bill of lading for wine.


Before 7 November, eight convicts escaped from Justitia after a successful mutiny. Some to East Ham, Epping; some were recaptured and hanged.


December 1776

Tayloe was an unsuccessful hulk experiment and was discharged by 1 December, 1776. Twelve men and oddly enough three women were delivered off her. On 10 December, Campbell received letter of permission to build a wharf. On 12 December, 1776, six convicts were remitted for good behaviour; Campbell was told by Eden to point this out to other prisoners as an example.


* * *

Campbell Letter 48:

London 25 Aug 1776

Mr Thomas Biggs - Keeper of Hm Gaol of Fisherton near

Sarum Wilts

Yesterday I received your letter of the 17th instant mentioning your Five persons in your Gaol sentenced to hard labour on the River Thames; in answer to which I am to inform you that the Justitia Hulk Captain John Kidd lying near Woolwich is now ready and has my orders to receive such convicts as may be brought with the proper certificates which the Law directs of their being ordered for that Service: but if these people are not convicted at the General Assizes it would have been more proper for you to have applied to the Secretary of State from whom I receive all directions touching this business

I am ([13])


The charges for the hulks were later to be entered into The Annual Register. In the courts, prisoners sentenced had their names and apparent strength taken down for assessment of their suitability for the hard labour.


* * *


An exaction continued of 5 per convict handled by Campbell. About 6 September, 1776, Campbell received an inquiry from a confused Mr Wood, gaoler at Lincoln Castle. Explaining new procedures, Campbell said he had no orders from Treasury in the business, Capt. Kidd was still on Justitia, and "the usual sum of 5 pounds for each convict will be expected on the delivery of the convict". ([14]) (This usually-charged fee would presumably have later been applied to the transportation of the convict when trouble in the American colonies subsided). Campbell told Wood that he (Campbell) had to account to the government for the 5 when the Account of the Hulks service was settled. (Since government now had the property in the service of the convict, it also had the right if not the legal obligation to take money for the transportation of the convict, as an outcome of the new legislation). And for Woods' information, Campbell wrote, (Wood being familiar with dealing with Campbell's ships captains), Tayloe Capt. Gray was lying off Limehouse on the river.


Treasury it appears had found a new method of levying the counties for the labour of their convicts now working on national fortifications. In effect it was a new kind of tax. For the times, given the embeddedness of views all held about transportation, it was a radically new approach to paying for the imprisonment and employment of offenders. Yet it is unclear if this levying of the counties on the reception of hulks prisoners continued once transportation was resumed to New South Wales. It is known that when George Moore after July 1783 was willing to transport felons, Lord Sydney made it known, ([15]) this would be at no cost to Government other than the fees to the Clerks of Assize and the gaol keepers. Presumably this meant George Moore could levy county officials (or, the County Rate), as the Treasury still refused to subsidise transportation. Such an action by Government may have injected resentment into the argument about the resumption of transportation. Preferring transportation, and being used to it, the counties may have resented offsetting the cost of hulks time for their prisoners.


Branch-Johnson records that ([16]) the convicts were converting the shelving banks of the Warren into docks, quays and yards for the Woolwich Royal Arsenal. In a chapter entitled Campbell's Academy he also fulminated about the overseer's exercise of his duties. Presuming Campbell was profiteering, though he had to meet the expenses of forty officers for the hulks, and meet many other expenses, Branch-Johnson observed that Campbell had no instructions on how the vessels were to be fitted out or how the establishment was to be run, which was correct. Eden's prime concern was with the idea of convicts labouring at fortifications. Somehow the practical details eluded Eden. But without attention to detail, efficiency is lost.


* * *


October 1776:


During October, Campbell used the services of Dr James Irwin, surgeon-general of the Artillery from the nearby Woolwich Arsenal, and Irwin's assistant, Dodo Ecken, both of whom seem to have been motivated by humanitarian feelings in caring for the convicts. Ecken came often and began to report to Campbell monthly. Later developed a system where both medicos were paid by Campbell, who then entered their charges to him against the government in the set of extra-ordinary charges he was allowed to present for costs outside what had been contracted for. A plot of ground was made available for vegetable-growing, and crippled felons did the gardening. The plot of ground was still used in 1850. A place was also found to bury the dead, about whom there was little concern, overall. Men such as prison reformer John Howard complained there initially was no chaplain. A ship's officer was the one who read Scripture over the convicts being buried. ([17]) John Howard, imprisoned in France in 1756, which experience is doubtless what started his campaigns, updated his State of the Prisons of 1777 in 1784. Howard a dissenter, high sheriff of Bedfordshire, was able to improve sanitary conditions and alter the basis of payments to jailers. ([18])


* * *


During October 1776, whilst Campbell was writing to William Eden on hulks matters, (if those letters had not been written earlier?), Captain John Ogilvy had been up to Newcastle on one of Campbell's Jamaica ships, then was due to proceed to Portsmouth to join a convoy for Jamaica. Orange Bay was still going out, and it delivered one letter to Archibald Campbell at Lucea. It may have been Ogilvy who delivered to Hinton East, the receiver-general on Jamaica, what seems to have been a letter crucial to Campbell's Jamaican future.


There was considerable bustle about Campbell's Mincing Lane premises in October 1776. Mary Mumford was in advanced pregnancy. On the 30th, Mr. Brisco(e), a planter friend of Duncan's brother-in-law on Saltspring, left a carriage at the door, putting in some things for Mr. and Mrs. Peter Campbell who also were departing London. (Perhaps with Ogilvy in the Jamaica convoy?) Mr. Brisco(e) left with Duncan one of the accounts Peter Campbell had received from Colin Currie, probably an account about Saltspring.


On 16 November, 1776 (on which day was mention of "Currie's fate", from which no good could come), Mary's daughter Elizabeth was born and Campbell wrote, "This good day is not a time to Increase our family, however, these seem to be the only Riches that is allotted to me and if it pleases God to let me keep what I have got I shall still be happy." He said mother and daughter were both in a charming way. ([19]) (There have been some views the girl was named Rebecca, but this seems unlikely, as few men would be so tactless as to name the first child of a second marriage after a recently-deceased first wife.) By 16 November, 1776 John Campbell Saltspring was long-delayed at Portsmouth waiting for a wartime convoy to sail. Peter Campbell with his wife and youngest child were on the Downs in some predicament. John and Colin Campbell had taken a trip to France to avoid a stormy winter. Dr Sherwin and his wife called on Duncan at Mincing Lane. ([20]) John Saltspring had given up a legacy he had a choice of, to Mrs. Sherwin. Mr. Currie's fate was mentioned, as it would affect John Saltspring's fate so much. Campbell thought, "now he is a bachelor", he could spend an hour or two at Enfield.


* * *


Tobacco in North America:


As the hulks were being established, Campbell's new line in managing convicts was one thing. But another question arises - what did a London tobacco trader do when deprived of supplies of American tobacco? Campbell would later fight to recover his American debts. His Letterbooks are silent on his status as a tobacco trader, except for the probability that he corresponded more often with Scottish tobacco men.. What is unknown about the tobacco trade here relates less to Campbell situation than the question - what did the British tobacco-user consume for his habit? Very little is known about this. Campbell's Letterbooks are not helpful till 1792. But as the handling of American tobacco is tracked, meeting Robert Morris again is inevitable. ([21])


By January 1776, Morris had become willing to run all the risks of the revolution. ([22]) By January 1776, George III was worried, correctly, that the West Indies islands, especially St Eustatius (Dutch), would supply the Americans with gunpowder. ([23]) Meanwhile, the London and Scottish markets for American tobacco were blocked, the colonial agents of the London and Scots merchants had been rendered impotent. How were Americans to sell their tobacco to France and Europe? There was (at a date uncertain) a Virginia firm dealing with Morris, ([24]) J. H. Norton, C. M. Thurston and Samuel Beale, while Morris was using a Capt. Ord who had sailed to St Eustatius. (Morris by now was encouraging some privateers). ([25]) Morris bought tobacco from Carter Braxton of Virginia while another trader in tobacco was Benjamin Harrison.


Braxton seems to have stepped into the gap in tobacco-handling business created when the Scots factors had been thrown out of the colonies, and consignment system merchants such as Campbell and Christopher Court were unable to trade. ([26]) What happened with Campbell's own agents? Throughout the American Revolution, William, the brother of the London tobacco trader James Russell, remained quietly in Baltimore, taking care among other things of Campbell's affairs. ([27]) William Russell in Maryland, that is, of the firm Russell and Ridley in Baltimore. William Molleson's Maryland agent was Matthew Tilghman, a Maryland Congressman. Russell's agent in Maryland was John Grahame of Nantes, presumably related to Charles Grahame. ([28]) And in Hamburg, one of Morris' agents was a Britisher, John Parish. ([29])


In a few years, the colonies would put much of their tobacco marketing into Morris' hands. Morris' techniques, however, were designed only for the good times. He would conclude a deal, then after some thought, and where possible, add riders to it. The riders went ahead of the deal already concluded, furthering its aims, sometimes amazingly well, but doubtless, the credit arrangements stretched backwards into pockets besides those of Morris. He used other people's money to stretch further into the future. Any or each rider was designed to extract further profit - if matters went well. Riders could be piggybacked on riders. If matters went badly, as they did for Morris for millions in the 1790s, the fall would be spectacular. When Morris busted, significantly, John Parish was still willing to stand by him. ([30])


Carter Braxton is the American name chiefly associated with marketing American tobacco from early 1776. By 4 January, 1776, ([31]) Congress for example had forbidden the export of flaxseed to Ireland or Britain; a valuable commodity not to be exported, although the money from such sales was necessary as the American colonies were trying to arm. Not till 17 February, 1776 did Congress try to regularly organize the US treasury. Sumner writes that "The financial arrangements of Congress all involved a queer inversion of the proper course of financial devices." ([32]) Taxation is the US was still resisted, there was a general aversion to it even for the war effort, and tax collection was difficult to conduct. Amongst squabbles about supplying troops, matters descended even to the level of arguing the minimum number of blankets each family might require, with extra blankets to go to the troops. And by March 1776, most London houses had sold all their tobacco stocks, so London merchant got no windfall gains, as were enjoyed by Scots merchants. Even in May 1775-ish, the Annapolis merchants James Dick and Anthony Stewart reported that Marylanders were anxious to shift their tobacco cargoes for England before the Continental Congress stopped exportation. As a result, Londoners received three times the usual amounts of remittances. ([33]) But it is not known when London's tobacco inventories had run down.


By April 1776, ([34]) Beaumarchais, an associate of Arthur Lee, was sending supplies to the US via the West Indies, using the "semi-fictional" company of Hortales and Co. ([35]) Late in 1777, Beaumarchais sent an agent, de Francey, to America to collect money due to Beaumarchais for supplies, but discrepancies were found in de Francey's accounts. Congress, dealing with alderman Arthur Lee, was unsure if supplies had not been a gift of the French court, but Congress nevertheless wanted to settle with Beaumarchais. (Silas Deane had been a dealer here; Thomas Barclay had attempted to review accounts.) Beaumarchais was paid to January 1782. The matter is still not clear, although Beaumarchais' heirs were paid something in 1835.


Over April-June 1776, Arthur Lee and Beaumarchais were dealing, sometimes it seems in London, and some wealthy Frenchmen wished to aid the American cause. By August 1776, ([36]) a British merchant, Thomas Walpole, has his name implicated in a US idea. Morris had realised that the American armies could not be adequately supplied except by Great Britain. Therefore he developed a plan to use 400,000 sterling for the use of himself and associates including London merchants, and including Walpole and some French merchants such as Chaumont. ([37])


Endnote1: The origin of the Woolwich Arsenal, taken from The Widening Thames. In 1716 in London was visiting a Swiss artificer, or inventor, Andrew Schalch, who had an interest in producing armaments. In that year, some British army officers were attempting to recast some captured French guns. As an observer of the tests, Schalch felt due to moisture levels in parts of the moulds for the guns, there would be an accident when the casting was done. He warned one of the senior officers present but was ignored. Duly, the accident inflicted various grievous bodily harm. George I then ordered the removal of the armaments foundry to a site outside the bounds of London. Due to his persistence, meanwhile, Schalch had become employed by the government, and it was he who selected the new ground for the armaments foundry, at a place called the Warren, or, rabbit warren. The area was known as The Warren until George III changed its name to the Royal Arsenal, One item produced by the arsenal was cannon balls, weighing from 2-36 pounds. These were kept piled in pyramids by convicts from the Woolwich hulks. Upriver from the Warren was Deptford, and the Royal Dockyards. Today in the area are Woolwich Dockyards, the Royal Dockyard, the Royal Artillery Barracks, the Royal Infantry Barracks, and Woolwich Common. Today, north of the site chosen by Schalch are the Royal Victoria Docks and the Royal Albert Dock. Downstream is Dagenham. Further up the river itself are Bugsby Reach, Blackwall Reach, the tortuous meander of the Greenwich Reach about the Isle of Dogs, then the Breach, Limehouse Reach, then the Pool at Wapping.


* * * * *


`Or any other navigable river':


The year 1777...


During 1777, William Russell in Baltimore still cared for Campbell's American affairs. ([38]) Campbell began the year making further suggestions to William Eden on the implementation, perhaps the improvement, of the Hulks Act. One particular phrase Campbell used, "or any other navigable river" indicates how deeply Campbell had considered the problem of the bank-up in the numbers of transportable convicts. By early 1777, Campbell perhaps had even considered that Britain might lose her war with America. After all, some of his own present enemies had once been his agents. In that case, Campbell would have wondered what would happen to the custom of transporting prisoners.


He considered that hulks could be placed on any navigable river in the kingdom, in which case, Britain would have had a system of mobile prisons at least for male prisoners. In the early 1790s, the same idea occurred to William Richards, the shipping contractor for the First Fleet to Australia. (Assuming that by then, Richards had perused the legislative history of the hulks. Richards wanted to manage prison hulks at Milford Haven in Wales.) ([39]) Given all this, Campbell's use of the plural of the word "river", or, "any navigable river", in respect of any revision of the original Hulks Act, is significant. It also seems that between 1784 and late 1786, the British government was actually tempted to abandon transportation altogether, and to implement Campbell's idea of 1777, and to create a system of mobile prisons - hulks - on "any navigable river".


To proceed... ([40]) By January 1777 the convicts were hard by Woolwich, "close to the end of Target Walk". In his next letter to Eden, Campbell mentioned some "ungentleman-like epithets" that had been thrown his way about the hulks, which he resented. The hulks were becoming hated. As a latter-day hulks-hater, Branch-Johnson understood little of the real situation, and he wrote as though transportation to Australia had never finally happened. In all, Branch-Johnson appears to have been more impressed with Campbell's alleged corruption than analysis of the unique situation the hulks represented as a penal measure. On the other hand, Australian historians have made relatively little use of Branch-Johnson's riveting accounts of convict mutiny and escapers in discussing the Campbell-inspired regime on the hulks.


Campbell Letter 49:

1 Mincing Lane

Jan 12, 1777

William Eden Esq.

I had the honor of receiving your letter of the 7 Instant and took such steps as I thought most likely to fulfill your desires about Mr. Douglass and it will give me much Satisfaction if I have come up to your wish on That Score. Agreeable to your desire I have read over with my best attention the Inclosed Act upon which I have made a few observations which accompany the same; I shall be very happy should you be able to derive any Sights from my feeble hints & you will in that case arrange and put them in a proper point of view; if not; you will forgive my attempt Not being so able to express myself in writing on The Subject of some additions to the Law perhaps the honour of a few minutes conversation might better enable me to give you a fuller Information on These heads; & I shall at all times be at your command. If my conduct has hitherto met any favour in your Sight I could wish you would lend your aid in giving the Office I now hold a Name in the new Act which in the Idea of the Publick might carry a respect equal to the importance of it for I own I think & feel it a very important charge. I do not mean to seek honour by the Name but I should wish not to be held in a view by the Name of my Office below the Character I have always supported. I beseech you to pardon me for troubling you on this Subject which I mention the rather from some ungentleman like Epithets That have been occassionally thrown out on That Score

With the greatest Respect and regard

I am ([41])< /p>


Observations on the Act for punishing Convicts by Labour on the Thames; submitted to William Eden Esq. 12 Jan 1777


Sec 1. After the word River I submit whether it might not be added or any other navigable river within that part of Great Britain called England. ([42]) And I also submit, as our greatest loss of People arises in a great degree from a depression of Spirits; from the dread of the term of confinement whether the longest period might not be reduced to six & the sentence of shortest confinement for smaller offences to one or two years; in which time or never with proper management greater alterations may be made on the habits and minds of such prisoners.


Sect 2. I submit whether the longer period above could not apply to those who receive his Majesty's mercy for Capital Offences.


Sect 5. The extension, to the navigable rivers, propose to be added in the first section if approved of will necessarily apply here & the Direction or limitation under the Trinity House will be confined in that case to the River Thames tho' I humbly submit whether the word direction ought not be left out that appearing to me to belong more properly to the Secretary of State & the power of limitation will sufficiently guard against any prejudice to the navigation of the River under the care of that Corporation.


Sect 6. The Extension will also apply here & I submit whether after the word mark it might not be proper to add except where an Embankment is to be made; in this have in view the repairing and improving the sea walls of the several rivers upon which the convicts may work.


Sect 7. I submit whether the penalty here should not be increased.


Sect 9. ...


Sect 15. [concerning escapes] ....the fear of doubling their term of Labour having but little Effect upon the minds of People of that Class.


Sect 19. It would be a very agreeable circumstance to me if in this Clause a Power was given to appoint a Deputy who in case of Indisposition or absence of the Overseer would in that case make the necessary return to the Court of Kings Bench.


- suggestion that persons employed by the Overseer who were neglectful of their duty or suffer any convicts to escape may be punished by fine or imprisonment.


I submit whether some Provision should not be made in the New Act touching the fee of the Coroner which under the 25 Geo: II chap. 29 seems at present to fall upon the County where such inquest is taken. The fees &c to the Jury paid by me will be brought in perhaps more properly with the other Extra charges of Bounties, prosecutions &c or may appear to you most fit. Is not some provision of a Burying Place necessary together with the Expence which tho' small must attend each funeral; for what is already past I shall submit to you in an Account of the Extra Charges.


I am


Campbell shortly wrote to Akerman the keeper at Newgate.

Campbell Letter 50:

London 20th March 1777

Richard Akerman

The King having been pleased to extend his pardon to eight convicts on hard labour on the River Thames I am directed to signify to you that part of these Vacancies are to be filled up from your Gaol and that the sooner you send five or six of those you think most fit, the better.

I am ([43])


Campbell Letter 51:

Mincg Lane 28 Mar 1777

Richard Akerman

In consequence of directions signified to me this day from the Earl of Suffolk I am to inform you that the ship Tayloe lying at Woolwich is readying to receive all such Convicts as are in your Custody under Sentence of Hard Labour on the Thames, and it is his Lordships desire that they may be removed from your Goal accordingly I am


Historical records are confused about hulks developments to mid-1777, which seems to coincide with the confusions presented by lack of sensible chronology evident in Campbell's Letterbooks. Tayloe was put back into commission. In April as well, Campbell purchased for a hulk from the navy, the French capture, the 600-800 tons Censor. A new contract was drawn between Campbell and the Treasury in April, and the merchant wanted his payments to be made quarterly instead of half-yearly, for the improvement of his liquidity.


On 23 April, 1777, it was reported that the convict ballast lighter working on the Essex coast was blown over the river by Woolwich by wind, when fourteen convicts rose on their keepers, cut one on the shoulder, and escaped. A naval officer at Greenwich met them and persuaded eight to return to captivity, the rest continued off. ([44]) In late November 1777 one of the convicts at work on shore hid in rushes, then committed a night break-and-enter into a gardener's house, only to be chased and caught by the gardener, so he ended back on the hulks, "severely flogged". So continued the list of escapes which bound the peace of the hulks' neighbours in fear.


During the year, John Howard published his now-famous book, The State of the Prisons, in which he castigated the hulks. ([45]) When Campbell read Howard's book he immediately decided to adjust the convicts' diet. The improvement was enough to be noted by the convicts next time they spoke to Howard. And after later interviews, Howard thought the men looked a little healthier. Censor 731 tons, had been added to the hulks establishment by June 17777.


* * *


In May-July 1777, The London Magazine ran an illustrated story on the implementation of the Hulks Act. The hulks Tayloe and Justitia were depicted lying quietly on the Thames, the north bank of which was bare. On the south bank were the prisoners, operating a pile driving machine at the Butt for the erection of a wharf. But the artist depicting Tayloe, which had been decommissioned by the time the article was actually published, however, mislabelled the "hulk" as "Taylors". Who knows? Had this not happened, pre-Revolutionary links between Campbell and the Virginian family Tayloes might have been explored before this? ([46]) Another article profiled the famous felons, George Barrington and David Brown Dignam. ([47]) Incidentally, a depressed George Barrington on his second stint on the hulks, after 1778, attempted suicide with a penknife. Such suicides or attempted suicides - deaths in custody - are a matter entirely absent from reports on life on the Thames prison hulks, as are injuries from fights amongst prisoners.


Given the "jealousy" of Trinity House about Campbell's convicts working river ballast grounds, the following letter is humorous, more so if it is suspected that the problem given Campbell was created deliberately...


Campbell Letter 52:

Mincing Lane 17 Sept 1777

To the Supervisor of the Ballast Office

Trinity House

On the 18th of August Last a Loaded Lighter No 24 belonging to your corporation from carelessness and neglect run on board a ship of mine the Orange Bay Lying at anchor in Bugsby Hole homeward bound from Jamaica & by the violence of the Blow and the Ships immediately making and continuing to make a great Deal of water, tho before perfectly tight, I am very apprehensive she has received Considerable Damage. I think it my Duty to acquaint you of this Circumstance & that the Ship will go into Mr Graves Dock at Limehouse on Friday next where I request you will be pleased to order a proper Surveyor to Attend & to Examine into the Matter. The Pilot Mr John Aydon and the Officers of the Ship will be ready when called upon by your Board to give every Satisfaction as to the Fact. And as you will of Course Examine them it may at present be unnecessary for me to trouble you with a Longer detail.

With very great Respect

I am


And there followed another report on hulks management.

Campbell Letter 53:

Sept 18 1777

William Eden Esq

When I had the honour of delivering to you my last Report of the Convicts ordered to Hard Labour on the River Thames, you would of course observe that our Number, notwithstanding those Pardoned & dead in the intermediate stage between that & the former Report, still exceeded the Compliment contracted for; since that time 11 have been pardoned & Discharged, and Twenty Six new Convicts Rec. as the Keepers of the County Goals are daily bringing up and applying to receive their several prisoners ordered to hard Labour I am much at a loss how to conduct myself, not having Received Orders to make a proper provision for the accomodation & employment of these additional people; I therefore request you will permit me through your means to submit this Circumstance to the Earl of Suffolk & that I may be favoured with a few lines in answer for my better Govt from the best calculation I can make there seems to be about 90 or 100 Convicts from the different goals & the Sessions at the old Bailey still to be provided for. With the greatest Respect

I am ([48])


'Becoming resignation to the divine will':


For government, the "gaol problem" persisted. On 18 September, 1777, Campbell professed himself at a loss to cope with prisoner numbers. The hulks were overflowing despite the fact that while transportation was impossible, the magistrates had responded by ordering more whippings. Campbell said the keepers of the county gaols were "daily bringing up" their convicts ordered for hard labour. Gaol fever also persisted as a threat to the community, and by December, Campbell was complaining that convicts arriving at the hulks were already ill with gaol fever.


Colin Currie in London was still bothering Campbell and his Jamaican correspondents. In all, Campbell was so distressed by events, he was again considering the dictates of the Divine Will.


Campbell Letter 54:

Hawley 30 Oct 1777

John Campbell Saltspring

original by O. Bay

Copies by Saltspring

& Landowery

.... this letter is intended merely on the subject of your concerns with CC .... I saw the Assignees yesterday who told me they are advised to hold me bound for your appearance in England before the End of next October unless I will give them a promise of settling these Accounts. My answer was I could not come into any sort of Engagement on that Score till I heard from you .... settle ... by an amicable suit in Chancery .... I stand bound for your appearance within the time limited. Goodman has no doubt but than an Injunction will be granted in Chancery to stay proceedings ..... however if you wish to leave the Settlement of the dispute with CC to Arbitration .... Mr Cheap and John Campbell promised me a State of the Ships Logwood and Draw Backs .... John Campbell of the Hope ..... his brother Colin ...the operation of the Bond .... ([49])


Campbell Letter 55:

London Dec 8, 1777

Mrs. Harriot Colden in New York

Before I received your Letter ...... your very great Loss in which I most sincerely Sympathise and condole with you; .... Your description affects me much; you are indeed at an early period of life brought to a severe trial and Conviction of the Instability of human happiness, but I hope and trust in God all your comforts, nay, all your pleasures are not gone; the same divine hand who takes away can restore tenfold, look forward to your boys ..... a fortitude which breathes thro' your letter and which never forsakes a virtuous mind ever ready to submit with becoming resignation to the divine Will .... You will receive herewith a Letter from your Father to whom I refer you for particulars of his family. ([50])


By 19 December, Campbell wanted to attend the Treasury to speak with John Robinson and others about the manifold aspects of the "gaol problem", which was obviously out of control. (By 29 December, others had also been considering similar problems, such as William Smith MD, who wrote to William Eden on hard labour being substituted for transportation.) ([51])


Campbell Letter 56:

Mincing Lane 19 Dec 1777

John Robinson

I attended this day at the Treasury in hopes of having the honour of seeing you for a few minutes in order to explain a matter in which I am afraid my Lords of the Treasury or myself have misconceived each other as I understand the minute made in consequence of the conversation I had with their Lordships intimates my being obliged to provide another Ship of two hundred and forty tons for the reception of the additional convicts.

......< /p>

I am likewise given to understand that their Lordships minute intimates this new Contract to expire in March 1779 .... I humbly submit whether it might not answer their Lordship's purposes to lengthen the present contract to the 12 of July 1779 .... ([52])


The 19th December would have been a black day for Campbell. The General Assembly of the state of Virginia, where he had significant investments, had taken the enormously symbolic step of expelling all British merchants and factors.


* * *


[Finis Chapter 19]

Words 8241 words and footnotes 9664 pages 17 footnotes 52


[1] Hogg, The Royal Arsenal, p. 454.

[2] Notes to Campbell Letter No. 44: Transcript from ML, A3225. Campbell to John Hammond, 2 Aug., 1776. This was in answer to the very first query Campbell had on the use of the new Act, for a prisoner who would otherwise have been sentenced for transportation to North America.

[3] Notes to Campbell Letter 45: Transcript from ML, A3225. This letter, undated, is on the last page, p. 554, of Campbell's first volume of Business Letter Books. By all appearances it was written and sent to William Eden in October 1776, when some difficulties in implementing the Hard Labour Bill had become apparent.

[4] Transcript from Private Letterbooks, Vol. 2.

[5] Duncan Campbell Letterbooks, Private Letterbooks, Vol. 2, either Oct. 1776 or Oct 1777 (?). Notes to Campbell Letter No. 58: The original is undated. By placement in the Letterbooks this letter could have been written in October 1776 or 1777. The letter following this in the Private Letterbooks Vol. 2 is also Campbell to William Eden, concerned with the "expence of the Publick Business", representing a similar dating problem.

[6] Duncan's brother, Neil (born 1734), had found work as a clerk at the Board of Ordnance at Woolwich Warren in 1775, with the help of the Duke of Argyll. Neil, resident at Woolwich, had an eldest daughter, Ann.

[7] Campbell to William Eden, nd, probably Oct. 1776. "I have taken no notice of any advantage which may be reaped of the sand or soil from the Thames..." Campbell to Eden, 18 Sept., 1777, "I am at a loss how to conduct myself, not having Received Orders..."

[8] Branch-Johnson, English Prison Hulks, p. 5, pp. 11-12; On 6 Oct., 32 men escaped from Tayloe. O'Brien, Foundation, p. 91 on prison reformer John Howard appalled at the hulks conditions.

[9] Oldham, Britain's Convicts, pp. 34-40.

[10] O'Brien, Foundation, pp. 89-90; Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, p. 43. Frost, Convicts and Empire, pp. 3-5.

[11] Branch-Johnson, English Prison Hulks, p. 4.

[12] Oldham, Britain's Convicts, pp. 34-43.

[13] Duncan Campbell Letterbooks: Transcript from ML, A3225. Branch-Johnson, English Prison Hulks, pp. 10-30.

[14] Campbell to Isaac Wood, Lincoln Castle, 6 Sept., 1776

[15] Shaw, Convicts and the Colonies, p. 45. I am grateful to Mollie Gillen, who sent a copy of George Moore's memorial, HO 42/9 fo. 565, annotated, "in July 13, 1786": copy courtesy PRO, London. John Cobley, The Crimes of the First Fleet Convicts. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1970.

[16] Branch-Johnson, English Prison Hulks, pp. 4-10. No orders: Campbell to Eden, 18 Sept., 1777.

[17] Howard's evidence: To Committee of Inquiry, April 1778, House of Commons Journal, Vol. 36, p. 926.

[18] Watson, Geo III, p.38. Howard is treated also in Flynn, Second Fleet, p. 9.

[19] Elizabeth was baptised 17 December, 1776 at St Dunstan in the East: Parish Registers of St Dunstan in the East, MS 7858/1, p. 17, for 1776.

[20] Dr Sherwin spoke of a birth of a daughter to Campbell about 14 Nov., 1776; ML A3232.

[21] Paul R. Johnson, (Ed), The Economics of the Tobacco Industry. New York, Praeger, 1984., p. 6; not until after 1816, with various war disruptions, did US tobacco production reach the production volumes seen before 1776.

[22] Clarence L. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris: Revolutionary Financier (with an analysis of his earlier career). New York, Octagon, 1972., p. 6, p. 19.

[23] Barbara Tuchman, The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution. Maine USA, Thorndike Press, 1988., p. 32.

[24] Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, Revolutionary Financier, p. 21.

[25] Ferguson, Purse, p. 72, says that the US government was a virtual partner in privateering exercises.

[26] Sumner, Robert Morris, Vol. 1, p. 129. By January 1779, Braxton complained of low tobacco prices and wanted to trade with Holland, via Antigua or St Eustatius.

[27] Jacob Price, `One Family's Empire', p. 168, p. 196, and p. 193, Note 102, citing W. Russell account book, 1774-1783, MS 1989, Maryland Historical Society; and Griffith, Annals of Baltimore; Archives of Maryland. After the Revolution, William Russell became a judge after having been a JP.

[28] Charles Grahame in Maryland was an agent for James Russell brother of William; T. Thompson, `Personal Indebtedness', p. 23.

[29] Ellis P. Oberholtzer, Robert Morris, Patriot and Financier. 1903., p. 323; Dutch bankers helpful to Morris were Willink and Co.; Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, Revolutionary Financier, p. 208, Notes 42- 48, Morris dealt with John Parish of Hamburg via John Ross who handled Morris and Willing abroad. Ross had an account with Parish of up to 200,000 sterling and dealt in his own private capacity with British traders via John and William Craig, Delap and Conyngham, Ver Steeg cites the Account Book of John Ross, PHS, p. 1, p. 59.

[30] Samhaber, Merchants Make History, pp. 284ff; a French financier Walkiers was acquainted with the American banker, Morris, US ambassador to Paris, who once stayed at Parish' house, Altona, just outside Hamburg, with a result, Parish became the first US Consul in Hamburg.

[31] Sumner, Robert Morris, Vol. 1, p. 6, p. 128.

[32] Sumner, Robert Morris, Vol. 1, p. 35.

[33] T. Thompson, `Personal Indebtedness', p. 24.

[34] Sumner, Robert Morris, Vol. 1, pp. 158ff.

[35] Ferguson, Purse, pp. 195-196.

[36] Ver Steeg, Morris, p. 206, Note 39.

[37] Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, Revolutionary Financier, citing T. P. Abernethy, `Commercial Activities of Silas Deane', American Historical Review, XXXIX, p. 478. But Ver Steeg feels the link was much more with French merchants. Ver Steeg, Robert Morris, Revolutionary Financier, pp. 16-18; the trade between North Carolina and Southern states and Martinique was quite helpful by April 1777; a dealer was Chaumont in France, an influential French merchant. Other titles of interest here include: Esmond Wright, `Benedict Arnold and The Loyalists', History Today, Vol 36, Oct. 1986. pp. 29ff. Further reading: J. G. Palmer, Bibliography of Loyalist Source Material. Meckler Books, 1984. Wallace Brown, The Good Americans: The Loyalists in the American Revolution. New York, Morrow, 1965. Catherine Crary, (Ed.), The Price of Loyalty. McGraw Hill, 1973. Esmond Wright, (Ed.), The Fire of Liberty. London, Hamish Hamilton, 1984.

[38] Jacob Price, `One Family's Empire', p. 193.

[39] HRNSW, Vol. I, Part 2, pp. 508-642, variously giving the Banks-Richards correspondence.

[40] On the hulks: Christopher Hibbert, The Roots of Evil, p. 139, pp. 153-201.

[41] Note to Campbell Letter No. 49: From the Private Letterbooks of Duncan Campbell, Vol. 2.

[42] Campbell to William Eden, 12 January, 1777: Sec. 1. "England", because only English jurists imposed the punishment of transportation-to-labour.

[43] Note to Campbell Letter No. 50: A note to this letter added: 24th Desired Mr Akerman to send down 8 people.

[44] Hogg, The Royal Arsenal, pp. 454-455.

[45] On Howard, see also, Robert Alan Cooper, `Ideas and Their Execution: English Prison Reform', Eighteenth-Century Studies, Vol. 10, No. 1, Fall 1967., pp. 73-93.

[46] In The London Magazine issues 8 May, 1777 p. 265-July 1777. (Copy, Dixson Library, UNE).

[47] The career of George Barrington, who died mentally ill in Australia, is profiled in Frank Clune, Rascals, Ruffians and Rebels of Early Australia. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1987., pp. 3-5. It is difficult to establish which ship transported Barrington to Australia; Clune suggests the Active of the Third Fleet, and discusses the many contradictions in information attributed to Barrington.

[48] Transcript from Vol. 2 of Private Letterbooks of Duncan Campbell, ML, A3231. Note to Campbell Letter No. 53: Branch-Johnson, English Prison Hulks: The convicts raising ballast at the Warren did so under Thomas Powney, Clerk of Work to the Ordnance Board. Powney once estimated the value of convict labour at 1/3 that of the value of work by free labourers. By 1800, Powney's estimate remained valid for the work of convicts in both England and Australia.

[49] Transcript from Private Letterbook, Vol. 2. Note to Campbell Letter No. 54: Goodman was then Campbell's attorney in London.

[50] Note to Campbell Letter 55: Part of the ps to the letter concluded - "from my Books balance due you 176 pounds 18/-. Interest at 5 per cent will be continued on it whilst in my hands". Betham's daughter Henrietta Maria Colden became widow of Richard Colden who died 14 Aug., 1777. Her sons were later educated at the High School, Edinburgh.

[51] P. Mander-Jones, Manuscripts, p. 23, papers of William Eden., Observations 29 Dec., 1777 from William Smith MD to Aukland. On Eden: G. C. Bolton, `William Eden and the Convicts, 1771-1787', Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol. 26, 1980., pp. 3-44.

[52] Note to Campbell Letter 56: Transcript from Private Letterbooks, Vol. 2. An extra ship: Campbell to John Robinson, Treasury, 19 Dec., 1777. Variety: O'Brien, Foundation, pp. 92-94, p. 135; Alan Frost, Convicts And Empire: A Naval Question 1776-1811. Oxford University Press, 1980., pp. 6-7.

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