DESPARD, Edward.

[Account sheet, with manuscript docket title:] Account of contingent expences incurred by the Superintendent of His Majesty's affairs in Honduras,

from the 25th June to the 24th December 1789, in the execution of his office, and of the Super-intendent's salary for the same time.

(1789) Stock Code: 135127
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Account sheet for six months' expenses in Honduras by Edward Marcus Despard (1751-1803), Superintendent of Honduras, later executed for treason, despite the appeals of Nelson, with whom he had worked closely during the San Juan Expedition. On Honduras Despard sought to give the same rights to freed slaves as to white settlers, claiming that British laws saw no such distinction.

Despard's account sheet comprises double entries recording both the Jamaican currency and the Sterling conversion, the list most notably including "the maintenance of five negro men attending the superintendent when visiting the different rivers and settlements, and keeping up a communication with the inhabitants", an expense that came to 204 7s 6d. The other entries are mostly for salaries, subsistence expenses for men on jobs, and boat hire. Despard has signed the document at the end, with the total expenses coming to 763 18s 1d.

The situation on the island was precarious, with 200,000 slaves to 12,000 whites. The slave owners were frequently dissatisfied with the British administration, although there were no questions of independence due to their reliance on the British army and navy, and their fear of insurrection.

The planters were infuriated by his conduct, even more so when he married a young black woman. Despard faced great hostility from the white settlers, and he was summoned back to London in 1790 and suspended. The investigation into him did not fixate on his financial claims, and "there was never any suggestion that he was financially dishonest or corrupt" (Jay, p. 201), but while under investigation, his expenses were not paid, his salary was halved, and he had to hire lawyers to defend himself, resulting in his imprisonment in late 1791 for debt. Together with accusations that he was involved with the Irish Rebellion, he spent much of the 1790s incarcerated - his wife Catherine began her campaigns for prison reform based on his experiences.

After three years' imprisonment without trial under Pitt's emergency powers, he was released to a hero's welcome. By then disillusioned with the British government and empire, Despard formulated what became known as the Despard Plot in 1802, in which he planned to seize the tower of London and the Bank of England and assassinate King George III, which he hoped would lead to national uprisings. Despard was caught one week before the plot was to be carried out, and was executed along with six of his co-conspirators - initially sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered, the sentence was reduced to a hanging and beheading to prevent public dissent. Horatio Nelson, who had served with Despard on the San Juan expedition, testified for his character in words which were widely reported: "We slept many nights together in our clothes upon the ground. In all that period of time no man could have shown more zealous attachment to his sovereign and to his country than Colonel Despard did".

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4 pp. folio, written on 2pp., folded four times with manuscript docket title.


Lightly browned, expertly restored with repairs to splits along folds and removal of old tape, one repaired split slightly impacting on signature but without loss, light creasing. Still overall in good condition.


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