Politics and mapping
Holland worries that a new boss might not be a good thing
Editor’s note: This is one of a series by Earle Lockerby recounting the details of Capt. Holland’s Survey in 1764/1765. This submission is for the week ending July 25.
On July 20, 250 years ago (1765), something happened in London that Captain Samuel Holland found somewhat disturbing, once he knew of it. Given the slowness of communications across the Atlantic, three months would pass before Holland would learn that on that day Lord Hillsborough ceased to be the president of the Board of Trade and Foreign Plantations, a body that played a major role in the conduct of colonial affairs, including having responsibility for Holland’s General Survey that began on Saint John’s Island.
Lord Hillsborough, born Wills Hill, and later styled the 1st Earl of Hillsborough, was one person that Holland had cultivated in 1763 while in London. It was under Hillsborough that Holland had been recommended to King George III for the position of surveyor general of the Northern District. By the time the news of Hillsborough’s leaving the most senior position in the Board of Trade reached Holland, he had completed his large map of Saint John’s Island, having given Hillsborough’s name to the largest river and bay on the Island, and had moved on to Cape Breton.
In a letter from Louisbourg on Oct. 27 to his London agent, Richard Cumberland, Holland wrote: “A few days ago I was informed of a change in the Ministry, and that Lord Hillsborough had left the Board of Trade, which gives me no little concern.” The changes were occasioned by a change in administration - the Marquis of Rockingham replaced Lord Grenville as prime minister. While surveying and mapping on Saint John’s Island, Holland wrote several letters to Hillsborough to apprise him of the progress of the survey and mapping. From these letters, and also letters to John Pownall, the secretary of the Board of Trade, we gain a considerable amount of information about the Island and its residents, principally 30 families of Acadians, that is not reflected in the large map itself.
As it turned out, Holland needed not to have worried. Hillsborough was replaced by William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth who stayed the course at the Board of Trade. Before Holland finished the survey of Cape Breton, Hillsborough was back in his old job at the Board. Though this stint lasted less than half a year, Hillsborough once more served as president of the Board of Trade from January 1768 to August 1772, by which time Holland was well into his survey of New England. In a further “musical chairs” rotation, Dartmouth came back to the post at this time and served until December 1775.
As the general survey progressed in New England, it was not machinations in distant London that Holland needed to keep an eye on. It was ferment and gathering storm clouds at his back door. The Boston Tea Party occurred on Dec. 16, 1772. The first military engagements of the American Revolution were the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Soon Holland’s personal safety was in question. In the fall of that year he sailed for London, bringing the general survey to a premature end.