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Duncan Campbell to John Campbell of Salt Spring                          14th February 1767

Per the Jupiter Captain Pain


[The subject of this purely personal letter from Campbell to his brother-in-law is death in the family. He has heard that Captain John Campbell had lately died in Jamaica and he replies now with news of a female relation having died in London. Although Campbell uses only her family nickname, ‘Peachy’, it can be deduced from the letter that she is a sister of ‘Mrs. Campbell’ - his wife Rebecca - and of Deborah and Douglass who are also in London. John Campbell of Salt Spring is their brother, which explains why Campbell takes particular care to describe the intimate details of ‘Peachy’s’ last few days and moments, and the natural distress of ‘her poor sisters’.  ‘Mr Launce’, in whose family vault in Hackney ‘Peachy’ had been buried, was their uncle, James Launce of Hanover, whose sister Anne was their mother, the wife of Dugald Campbell of Salt Spring.]



Dear Broth[er]

          Since my last of the 3 Novr I have received your two letters of 29 Augt & 5 Octr. The melancholy news of Capt John's Death [1] I had heard before your letter came to hand. The many & repeated examples one has of the losses of friends & relations ought to be sufficient to prepare & fortify us with Resolution to support our selves under the Will of Divine providence whenever it is pleased to visit us with afflictions of that sort I am sure my family for some months past have had in that respect, & it is with the Greatest Concern I must acquaint you with an event of it.

Poor Peachy has for a long while been in a Declining Way though not so much as to raise any fears in us of Immediate Danger & I was flattering myself that the Spring so nigh at hand with proper exercise would have been a means of restoring her to health and strength. But the 27 or 28 of last month when I was at Gravesend despatching Jack Somerville[2] who now commands a Ship for us she was taken suddenly ill. As soon as I heard of it I dreaded the consequence as I was afraid her weak state could not support any new Disorder. The Physician who attended confirmed in my fears. She was in little or no pain after the first two days, her greatest complaint was a shortness of breath & pain in the side, which was followed by a purging to remove both or each.  You may be sure everything was done & with some success but her weak state & disgust to taking any type of food or Medicine occasioned her wasting Daylie till the 5 of this month at 4 o’clock in the morning when without pain or fear she resigned herself to His hands Who gave her life. I never saw a Nobler instance of the consequences of an Innocent and Virtuous life. She knew herself dying & turned inwards at the approaching Summons to her Eternal happiness. She went of with a smile & was perfectly sensible & spoke till within 15 minutes of her Death, which came on so gradually that the Physician & myself were at a loss for five minutes to know whether She was gone or not. I buried her on the 12 in the most decent and genteel way in Mr Launce’s vault in Hackney. I need not tell you what Distress her poor Sisters were in on this occasion, their affection to each other, manner of living together will best express that. Poor Mrs Campbell who had been for long distressed with sick children at home has been very ailing ever since. She is now drinking the asses milk for a most obstinate cough and I think it has done her some service. I have taken Debbie & Douglass home to my house where they shall now remain, it is their desire to do so & it shall be their own fault if they are not happy with me. Debbie I think has held out better than I expected as she has been a long while ailing.[3] Douglass feels this stroke much & I hope it will be a means of turning her thoughts to more solid enjoyments than those her Mind seems formerly bent upon. Ever mince my last my girls inform She has altered her behaviour for the better in a high degree. I am sure She has most excellent examples in her sisters however as I would wish to secure her against all Dangers I would still advise you to follow the hint I gave you by Neil Somerville [4] but of this your own judgement will direct & I submit. Debbie shall stay with me, she will be a noble pattern for my children to copy & from what I understand she declines the thought of going to Jamaica while the other would probably chuse it & I make no doubt but in a short time might make a very desirable connection.[5] 

I was extremely glad to be informed by our Attorney in Virginia that Mr Campbell [6] had told him he was making ready with all expedition for a voyage to your Island & I hope long ere this time you & he have met & will soon settle your Affairs so far as to enable you to make a trip home. I am sure from all accounts I hear your health requires it. No one circumstance can soon happen that would give me more pleasure than a meeting with you. Mr Stewart [7] & myself continue much in the same way as when I wrote to you last, he has hardly had ten days health since that time so that no opportunity has offered for an Eclarissment[8] but please God before many months are past any matters between us shall be settled after which you shall hear fully from me. I flatter myself that long ere time the Orange Bay is safely in Green Island & that she will meet all the countenance & despatch in your Power & that by her return I shall be furnished with your sentiments on her future voyage.

I understand from Mr Currie[9] that he has abruptly wrote you of the melancholy incident which has happened in our family without consulting me or having since taken any ____about the matter. Their conduct towards your sisters in general & on this occasion in particular has by no means pleased me.


[Campbell now refers to another recent death in the family, that of his sister Mary the wife of Richard Betham, a judge of the Vice Admiralty Court, whose home was on the Isle of Man.]


I am greatly obliged to you for the affectionate enquiry after my sister’s children.  Their loss is indeed a great one but it is some comfort that the oldest is now a woman and able to give attention to the younger ones. I think there is only four a____ Viz. Henny, Betsy,[10] Anna & Campbell. Campbell is not above two years old if so much. Betham wrote me very lately that in a short time he had hopes his place would be worth between £300 & £400 per annum ___ now better than £200, so that if he lives with frugality in that cheap country where he is he may provide for his children very comfortably.


[The letter concludes with a momentarily tired and melancholic Campbell appearing to have second thoughts about plans for increasing his business with Jamaica.]


            My Dear Sir let me entreat you endeavour to manage your matters do as to be at liberty to give me some assistance should my situation require you to make any alteration in my favour and also keep my friend James Crooks[11] as much disengaged as you can for it is impossible I can long go through this scene of fatigue and anxiety, no man that has already had his share of both & is not more desirous of Business than of health would do it and since my last I have been reduced to the chance of a Dye, Stay or go. But while you are so engaged I can have no relief. Your own and one or two more business would be sufficient to support my family and as to having a view of making money at this time of the day with such an extensive family it is a thing with my small capital I have no right to expect. But if I can save what little I have got I shall be thankfull, there may be great Deductions from that before I see it in ______

[1] John Campbell, master mariner, died at Orange Bay, 29 July 1766. He was the surviving brother of James Campbell of Orange Bay [d.1744, in Jamaica] and of Peter Campbell 1 of Fish River [d.1739, in Jamaica]

[2] John Somerville, a nephew of Duncan Campbell

[3] Deborah Campbell’s  ailments continued; she died within a few years, in London

[4] Neil Somerville, Campbell’s nephew and master of the ship Orange Bay

[5] Douglass Campbell, the youngest of the sisters, born after her father’s death in 1744, did not return to Jamaica. In 1776, she married Dr. John Sherwen of Enfield and died in England in 1804

[6] John Campbell of Black River, son of Colin Campbell [d.1752, in Jamaica] and a grandson of  Hon. John Campbell [d.1740, in Jamaica]. He had left Jamaica for Virginia in 1756 but returned in the Spring of 1767 to sell his Jamaican properties in order to clear his debts.

[7] John Stewart, Campbell’s partner in ‘Stewart & Campbell’ of London, merchants. Stewart suffered badly from the gout

[8] Stewart did not wish to get involved in Jamaica trade and accounts between himself and Campbell needed to be clarified

[9] Colin Currie, London merchant, a cousin, and a grandson of John Campbell of Black River. Campbell and Currie did not see eye to eye

[10] Campbell’s niece Elizabeth Betham married William Bligh who later commanded Campbell’s ‘Britannia’ on the Jamaica run

[11] James Crooks of Crooks Cove plantation, Hanover, a 1st cousin to John Salt Spring



To John Campbell, Salt Spring, Hanover                                                            15 September 1767


[Following the death in February of John Campbell’s sister, ‘Peachy, Campbell is back to business as usual. Despite claiming ‘little new matter’, the letter is not short. ‘Account sales’ of cotton, sugars and rum are discussed but are omitted in this transcription as much of the letter continues on the subject of family health, and prospects for his son Dugald and his nephew Francis Somerville. The debts of John Campbell of Black River, now in Jamaica after 11 years in Virginia are mentioned again, and hopes of future business with James Kerr and John Tharp are also raised. There is no clue about the identity of Captain John’s son except that his ‘honoured father’, was perhaps a late relation.]


I wrote you the 19 June a very long letter by Doctor Murray which I hope ere this time reached to your hand. As I was very full therein I have but little new matter for the subject of this letter. Since my last I was favoured with yours without a date by the Green Island covering account sales of the sundries per ‘Orange Bay’ which I am perfectly satisfied and much obliged to you for the trouble you have taken…

            I am extreamly sorry you still complain of that same head ache in most of your letter. I am in some degree however pleased to find you entertain thoughts of spending next summer with us which will I think be the means of recovering all these complaints. For God’s sake leave no stone unturned to accomplish it. As Mr. Campbell[1] is now with you you have an opportunity which I hope you will  not lose of settling every matter with him. as I was full in my last on that head I refer to it. I long, nay I want much to see you here for many reasons. In my last I told you I was indifferent how few were concerned in the Orange Bay besides ourselves….

Upon the whole I request that before you leave the island you will take some pains in informing me yourself how matters stand with such of your neighbours as you think might be reliable correspondent because let matters stand as they will between J[ohn] S[tewart][2] & myself I should wish for my boy Dug[ald]’s[3] sake to have some connections with Jamaica, it may be some introduction to him if I have, which he perhaps may extend. Mr Stewart remains in Stater Quo  much afflicted with the gout so that nothing yet has been done between us.

Neil & Francis [Somerville] sailed on the 1 Aug. from the Downs for Philadelphia, I did not send him to Newcastle for fear of making him so late. I hope by this time he is in Delaware River & will be with you by the latter end of November at farthest. I flatter myself he will have a speedy & beneficial sale. Mr Kerr has been on terms for a vessel to go the same voyage but has not fixed one as yet from wherein I hope you will have no ship to interfere & may therefore hold up the price. Mr & Mrs Kerr [4] & Capt. John’s son embark in the ‘Thames’ [Capt.] Laird beginning of next month. If Kerr goes into business here a partner may be wanted. I think he will not upon his return be ____. Make your own use of this hint. I have not seen Capt. John’s son a long while he seldom comes near me, his turn and mien seem very different. I wish he may turn out equal to the expectations his hon[oured] father formed of him. If you can manage matters I think the ‘Orange Bay would be a very proper conveyance for you home as you would have there all things at your own command, a very agreeable circumstance on a voyage. As I shall have bills drawn upon me from Philadelphia as soon as the cargo of the ‘Orange Bay’ is shipt I must entreat you will endeavour to remitt me something on that account as soon as it can be collected from the sale. I wrote you on this head in my last to which I refer…

You will see I have not done this business in the name of the house as it arises chiefly from my private concern in the ‘Orange Bay’. Your account which shall be sent you as usual is charged with £42.1.4 paid Frank Somerville for which according to your desire I have taken his order on you. I could have got him a berth in Grenadoes but kept him in ignorance of it as I would much rather he was settled with or near you. I think he is a young fellow you may confide in, he is steady & sensible but you must know his Qualifications much better than I do & therefore I shall only request you can keep him with yourself with convenience & afford him encouragement such as you think he merits & that you will do it because I think he may one time or another be a very useful man to you and of course serve himself. But if your other engagements interfere with his remaining at Salt Spring I need not fear you will introduce him properly when opportunity offers. Mr Kerr has promised he will not fail to secure him if he should want employment & thinks he will have an opportunity soon after his arrival on Mr Hall’s [5] estates which are all to be put under his management.


[Campbell returns to the subject of the health with news of John Campbell’s remaining  sisters in England. They had spent some time at the Kent seaside town of Margate. The disappointment in not receiving something from Jamaica by Captain Ratcliffe’s ship is perhaps a reference to the habit of relatives exchanging gifts in time for Christmas. Other letters refer to yams, sugar, tamarinds and cigars being received in Britain; relations with Currie cousins have clearly soured.]


            Your sisters and three of my little folks spent six weeks at Margate. Mrs Campbell and Douglass I thought received great benefit from the bathing but notwithstanding all that Mrs Campbell had the misfortune to miscarry a few days since after she was six months gone though thank god she is in a good way now & I hope will not feel any of the consequences that often attends such accidents. Poor Debbie was too tender to bathe and I am & I have been always persuading her to take more air and exercise but she is so very apt to take cold that she is almost afraid to come out of her chamber. This conduct I opose as far as I can without fretting her for her bad state of health occasions a small matter to give her uneasiness which obliges me to let her have more of her will in these respects. She has within this day or two gone out & I shall endeavour all in my power to encourage her to continue so to do for if she does not gather some show of strength & health before the cold weather comes on I own I shall be afraid of the consequences. Your sister has expected a [_____] by Ratcliffe[6] but was here fully disappointed. She has not [______] of it this year though frequently in our neighbourhood but as there is now no connection between Colin Currie & myself I suppose the girls are excluded. Of course it is no matter, they have never had more than bare civility from that quarter & though they have not themselves I have often taken notice of it.

            Since writing the above I recd yours of 25 July. I am much obliged to you for the concern you express about the short remittances. I beg you will not in any degree incomode yourself on that account it would give me great uneasiness if I thought you did. I refer to what I have said already about Mr. Tharp in answer to yours on that head. You will oblige me much by the particular sums of Richmond[7] & John Campbell’s[8] debts which I am to charge to you. I cannot make that charge till I have the amount from you. all my family join in love to you & I am

[1] John Campbell of Black River, recently returned from Virginia

[2] J S: John Stewart, Campbell’s London partner

[3] Dugald Campbell, his eldest son

[4] James Kerr, from Dundee, his wife, Mary Dehany, daughter of David Dehany of Point, Lucea.

[5] Thomas Hall, St. James. James Kerr & his brother-in-law Philip Dehany were planting attorneys for the estates of; Dehany is also brother-in-law to Thomas Hall

[6] Captain Charles Ratcliffe, a ship master employed by Colin Currie

[7] Richmond is possibly a property in Jamaica, of which there were several in different parishes. This reference may be to one in St. Mary where John Campbell of Salt Spring and John Campbell of Orange Bay are known to have travelled on business

[8] Presumably John Campbell of Black River , note 1 refers



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