Narrative of the Spanish Affair

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Narrative of the Spanish Affair



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[Page 1]

In October 1762 a Cartel Ship from the
Havannah bound for Cadiz arrived in Virginia in
distress, having in board Don Pedro Bermudez second
in command in the sea service at the Havannah,
several other Officers and a Lady with 116 Spanish
soldiers, and sailors. I received orders from Mr. Fauquier
Lieutenant Governor of that Colony, to provide Houses
for them and to supply them with fresh provisions
during their stay. This introduced me to an
Acquaintance with those Gentlemen and the Lady,
which was afterwards improved into respect and
Friendship by their polite and genteel behaviour :
an I was unhappily soon furnished with an occasion
for the utmost exertions of humanity in their
service, by a riot in which they were most barbarously
and inhumanly treated - - I sent a particular
account of it to the Lieutenant Governor, and wrote
several letters afterwards to him on their Affairs -
A polite Correspondence was carried on between him
and the Spanish Commander, in which the latter
frequently expressed himself in the most obliging
terms of my civilities to them. - They were detained
till late in February and left me with expressions
of great regard and friendship, promisting to write
to me after their arrival in Spain; and frequently
said that in the representation they should
make to the King their Master of what happened
to them in Virginia, they should take such
notice of my behaviour to them, as they did not
doubt would procure an honourable mention of me

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by his Minister at the Court of London - happy
in having contributed to alleviate their Distress, I
neither asked nor expected any other Reward.

Intending to go to England that summer
upon private business Business I waited on the
Lieutenant Governor to ask his commands. He
said he had sent home Copies of all the papers and
letters relating to the Spanish Affair, in which
he was pleased to add, I had so eminently distinguish-
ed myself and that he had lately received a letter
from the Earl of Egremont, one of his Majesty's
principal Secretaries of State expressing his Majesty's
abhorence of the cruel treatment those people had
met with and his approbation of the civilities that
were afterwards shewn to them; and desiring to be
informed of what further happened to them during
their stay in the Country. - I told him I should be
glad to have the Honour of carrying his Commands
on that subject, which he approved of, and sent
me soon afterwards a letter to Lord Egremont,
and one for the Lords of Trade, accompanied by the
following ~ to myself. I have inclosed to you two
letters purporting that you are the Gentleman
who signalized yourself by granting protection
and shewing Civilities to the Spaniards, and
that you are more capable than any other
person to give His Majesty or His Ministers
any further Light into this Affair that they
may require       soon after my Arrival I was
informed that Prince [?] the Spanish
Ambassador had been enquiring for a Gentleman
of my name from Virginia, and I was accordingly

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introduced to him by the Spanish Agent. ~ He
was pleased to speak very favourably of my attention
to the Spaniards in Virginia, and desired to know
wherin he could serve me; the Agent intimating
at the same time that I might have a Sum of
Money if agreeable. - I beg'd leave to decline accepting
any pecuniary reward, and said I should be happy
if through his Excellency's recommendation to the
King's Ministers I could have the Honour of obtaining
some civil Employment in America. - He accord-
ingly recommended me to the late Right Honourable
M<supr. Grenville, then First Lord of the Treasury, who
did me the Honour to express himself in Terms of
the highest Approbation of my Behaviour to the
Spaniards on that unhappy Occasion; and after
satisfying that upright Minister that I was
qualified for any Office in the Revenue of the
Crown in America, I was appointed by him Surveyor
General of the Customs in the Eastern - Middle
District of North America. - I continued to execute
the duties of that Office during all the disturbances
occasioned by the Stamp act, and until the Establish
ment of a Board of Customs took place; and I had the
singular good fortune to obtain very full and repeat
ed approbation of my Conduct from the Board of
Customs in London, with whom I officially corresponded,
and at the same time to meet with no unpleasant
or disagreeable circumstance to myself in the discharge
of my duty

Cha Steuart

London 26th.. August 1789

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Copy of Narrative

Original Format

Ink on paper


Steuart, Charles, 1725-1797, “Narrative of the Spanish Affair,” Special Collections, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, accessed February 1, 2023,

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