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Lewis Cuthbert and the Jamaica Provost Marshalcy

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Jim Brennan
Ancestors? My grandparents had parents?
Ancestors? My grandparents had parents?

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Location: West bromwich


PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:41 am    Post subject: Lewis Cuthbert and the Jamaica Provost Marshalcy Reply with quote

I hope I can clear up some of this.
The Provost Marshal's appointment was what was known as a patent office. This meant that the rights to appoint to it, and to its income, were handed over by a Crown document to a private person, in this case a Berkshire lawyer called James Hayes, from time to time also an MP. Hayes made over the right to the emoluments of the office to a crony of his called Richard Aldworth, who later metamorphosed into a Rochard Neville, who in the 1790s became Baron Braybrooke of Audley end, by inheritance. He survived Hayes, who died as Chief Justice of Anglesey in 1800.

Aldworth/Neville put the office out on lease in seven year terms, at an annual rent of £2000 sterling. (It was reckoned to be worth £7000 annually). It was the third most lucrative office on the island. Whoever held the lease was fundamentally unaccountable to anyone in Jamaica - simply to Aldworth/Neville/Braybrooke. In theory he wasn't supposed to leave the island, but in practice no-one could stop him. He could depute whosoever he pleased, at any level, up to and including that of the Provost Marshal General.

Lewis leased the office from - as I understand it -1774. At his death in 1802, the last lease he had renewed wasn't due to run out until 1807, and his son George seems to have taken over until then. (The math doesn't work out, but on Hayes's death in 1800, the then Governor of Jamaica seems to have concluded that the lease ended too, and there may well have had to be renewal proceedings then. There's a chunk of documentation in the National Archives at kew i haven't been able to get at yet).

The lease needed cautioners, and Lewis seems to have struck up an arrangement with the then Stepney partnership of Robarts, Lilley and Tierney. One of the Tierneys, James, was an attorney to the Supreme Court of Jamaica in the 1780s and made George Cuthbert, Lewis's brother, an executor of his 1783 will, but its not possible to say whether he was the link. His brother, George Tierney, was one of Lewis's creditors, because after James death his estate proved hard to settle (James's will had warned it would be) and is actually the "Kearney" named in Dibson's account of the Castlehill disposition of 1795. This is simply a literal. He was also Abram Robarts's brother in law, and became one of the leading figures in the House of Commons between 1800 and 1830.

In the 1780s Lewis seems to have been an absentee from Jamaica. He was resident in Bath, Somerset, and will have deputised George - who was married to his wife, Jane Pinnock's sister. Lewis, among other things, placed his son George in the Inns of Court from Bath. His father in law sent a son to Cambridge, but this was not on Lewis's horizon.

Lewis seems to have gone back to Jamaica in 1789 before George's death. The reason isn't known. But he lets it be known after George's death, when he resumes the post of Provost Marshal, that George has been 'improvident'. In the early 1790s Lewis is back in Britain, but it's not clear how much time he spent in Inverness. He does, however borrow heavily, not just from Robarts but also from Alexander Cuthbert in London (who also has Jamaica interests), and also from Inverness Royal Academy, for which he had been the principal Jamaica fundraiser.

At the same time he finds places in the Provost Marshalcy for two Inverness kinsmen, Thomas Alves of Shipland ( who is at Montego Bay) and Alexander Alves. In 1791 Thomas Alves failed, and his security, the Shipland estate, is handed over to Lewis as payment. Lewis promptly sells it, over the protests of Baillie of Dunain, who wants him to keep it on to give Alves a chance to redeem himself. Lewis is scathing about Alves in reply, though he kept Alexander on, and Alexander deputised for him on his short return to the UK in the early 1790s.

Lewis spends much of the 1790s as a plantation attorney (this wasn't a lawyer's job and I can find no trace of any legal qualification for Lewis or his brother George, though that may not mean much. An attorney in this sense was someone with a 'power of attorney' - i.e. a manager. The usual rate was 6 percent of the profits).

Lewis proposed to pay his debt to Robarts by shipping sugar to him on csignment, but the French war and the maroon revolt of the mid nineties, in which the provost marshal would have been heavily involved, put a stop to any prospect of that. So we come to the handover of the title to Castlehill. A judgement of the Court of Session recounted in the January 1833 Court of Session determination on the Castlehill estate indicates that this, despite its appearance, was further explained in an accompanying letter as a disposition in security against the accumulated debt - i.e., that it wasn't made over to Robarts irrevocably, but to be held against an eventual possible failure to pay the outstanding debts. In other words Lewis was gambling on a possible rising market in land prices. This is why he was able to instruct that the estae be sold in his will, and also why Robarts didn't take full possession until Lewis's death. Until then, Gilzean ran things as Lewis factor.

I hope this helps a bit.

Jim Brennan
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2010 2:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Thank you again. Your postings are always immensely helpful. I have made reference to this posting on the Cuthbert of Castlehill web page and will correct the information on Lewis asap.

Ryk Brown
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Descendant of...well, all of these families, except for the ones that my wife is descended from, save for the ones we share in common...Eek! I married my cousin! Embarassed
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