1804 - Captain Tucker and the fiscal of Curaçoa


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Colonial Expedition - Captain Tucker at Curacoa 283

Many persons, who concurred in the expediency, doubted the right, of detaining these ships ; and many, again, to whom the legality of the act appeared clear, were of opinion, that a more formidable force should have been sent to execute the service, in order to have justified the Spanish admiral in surrendering without an appeal to arms.

The affair naturally created a great stir at Madrid, and on the 27th of November an order issued to make reprisals on English property ; but it was not until the 12th of the following month that the King of Spain issued his formal declaration of war, nor until the 11th of January, 1805, that Great Britain directed letters of marque to be granted against Spanish vessels and property.

Colonial Expeditions - West Indies

Viewing the success of Captain Watkins at Curacoa in September, 1800, * without apparently taking into consideration, or attaching the proper weight to the circumstances out of which it arose, namely the occupation of the whole west part of the island by a French republican force of six or seven times the strength of the Dutch garrison, Rear-admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth the commander-in-chief at Jamaica, flattered himself that he had only to send up a line-of-battle ship or two, and the inhabitants would again surrender the island to the arms of his Britannic majesty.

Nor was the rear-admiral the only British officer who had taken such an idea into his head, grounded upon the same partial view of the previous surrender. When, in the middle of the year 1803, intelligence of the declaration of war against Holland reached Port-Royal, Jamaica, the 10-gun schooner Gipsy, Acting-lieutenant Michael Fitton, was despatched to Curacoa, to warn any British cruisers that might be lying there, of what had taken place, in order that they might provide for their safety. Arriving in the harbour of St.-Ann, the Gipsy found at anchor there the 18-gun ship-sloop Surinam, Captain Robert Tucker. To this officer, in as secret a manner as he could, Lieutenant Fitton communicated the intelligence, and advised him immediately to get under way. " No," says Captain Tucker, " I'll summon the fiscal to surrender the island to me. " In vain did the lieutenant represent the folly of such a proceeding ; in vain did he point to the numerous batteries around the harbour : Captain Tucker went on shore, and made his proposal in form. The Dutch authorities had received no official account of the war ; but they took the captain's word, and not only his word, but his sword, and his ship, and all that were on board of her. Knowing well what would happen, Lieutenant Fitton, in the mean time, had weighed and stood out ; and the Gipsy was soon chased off the port by two armed

See p. 60.

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