1699, Andrew and Jeronimy Clifford plead for support in their dealings with the Governor of Surinam

Transcription from ‘Petitions in the State Papers: 1690s’, in Petitions in the State Papers, 1600-1699, ed. Brodie Waddell, British History Online, Andrew and Jeronimy Clifford of London, merchants, late inhabitants of Surinam in the West Indies. SP 32/13 f. 243 (1699).

The peticion of Andrew and Jeronomy Clifford.

To the King’s most excellent majestie

The humble peticion of Andrew and Jeronimy Clifford of London merchants late inhabitants in Surrinam in the West Indies.


That your petitioners were by many unjust sentences of the governour and councill of Surrinam, excessively fined, and imprisoned, and the liberty of transporting their effects denyed them contrary to the articles of peace between England and Holland anno 1667, and 1674, to their damage of twenty thousand pounds sterling and upwards.

That your petitioners formerly applyed to the governour and councill of Surrinam, to the West India Company of Holland proprietors of that colony, and to the States Generall for satisfaction for their damages without obtaining any relief.

That thereupon your petitioners in June last humbly laid their case before your majestie by a peticion the copy whereof is hereunto annexed, praying your majesties interposition to the States Generall, whereupon your majestie was graciously pleased to recomend the same to Sir Joseph Williamson your majesties ambassador at the Hague who delivered in a memoriall the second day of September last in the behalf of your petitioners

Your petitioners thereupon by order of the pentionary again peticioned the States Generall and produced proofs of all the matters complained of which were examined and allowed of by two advocates appointed by the States Generall for that purpose, but the said States still decline giving relief to your petitioners in the premisses, and only referr him to the ordinary courts of justice, whereas by the charters or octroys granted to the West India Company there, the ordinary courts of justice are forbid to intermeddle with sentences passed at Surrinam soe that your petitioners are wholy deprived of means for their relief

Wherefore your petitioners most humbly pray the continuance of your majesties favour, and that you will be pleased to give such effectuall orders, as that your petitioners may obtaine reasonable satisfaction, for their damages, and may be permitted to transport the small remainder of their effects from Surrinam without molestation.

And your petitioners shall ever pray etc.

Report by Aelwyn Taylor

The Clifford brothers, Andrew and Jeronimy, were traders and slaveowners in Surinam in the West Indies which was controlled by the Dutch. They a dispute with the Governor and suffered a loss of £20,000 due to him allegedly not abiding by treaties between the English and Dutch of 1667 and 1674. They petitioned the King for support.

The Clifford Brothers

Jeronimy Clifford was baptised on 24 May 1657 at Egham, Surrey where his name is recorded as Jeronemy Cleford and his father is shown as Andrew Cleford.[1] He married Dorothie Masman on 2 August 1683 at Holy Trinity Minories, City of London and was buried on 14 September 1737 at St Mary Magdalen, Southwark, recorded as Ironimus Clifford.[2] Dorothy Clifford was buried on 2 June 1708 at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney.[3] Andrew Clifford was buried at St Dunstan, Stepney on 31 December 1701.[4]

Although the birth, marriage and burial details above imply this is a London-based story, the petition shows that it was an international situation involving Surinam in the West Indies.

The petition is one of many that Jeronimy Clifford made during his life. The tale of the Cliffords became well known and was recorded in great detail in published pamphlets and books.[5] The many petitions and accounts of ensuing legal proceedings contribute to the length of the book published by Say in 1763.[6]

The situation

Surinam was first settled by the English in 1650 and Andrew Clifford bought a plantation there. A Zeelander named Abraham Crijnssen captured the colony from the English in 1667 and by the Treaty of Breda (1667) the Dutch kept Surinam while the English kept New Amsterdam (New York). The Treaty of Westminster of 1674 was the peace treaty that ended the third Anglo-Dutch war. Signed by the Netherlands and England, it renewed the Treaty of Breda. Although these Articles of Peace included terms which gave the right to all the inhabitants to maintain or sell their estates in Surinam, the majority of English families decided to leave.

In 1675, Andrew Clifford, sold his plantation to Rowland Simpson for a Bill of Exchange and returned to England. However, the Dutch wished Andrew Clifford to remain in Surinam so arranged for the payment to be prevented and although he returned the following year with Jeronimy, they still failed to get their money.

In 1683, Jeronimy married a widow named Dorothie Masman (or Dorothea Matson) who had inherited Courcabo, the largest sugar plantation in Surinam, when her Dutch husband died.[7] It was 1500 acres with a mill, a boiling room, a dwelling and an overseer’s house, a cook room, a cattle house and 22 huts for 117 enslaved people. In 1684, it was agreed that Andrew Clifford could leave and transfer his business interests to his son, but conditions were put in place. Jeronimy was required to repay the debt still due to the Governor of Surinam plus annual interest. To ensure that he did not leave the colony, Jeronimy Clifford and his estate were put under formal arrest for two years.

Couracabo was a significant plantation producing one sixteenth of all of the sugar in Surinam but according to the Clifford brothers, the Governor continued to oppress Jeronimy in various ways. He decided to move to Jamaica and bought some land there, but the Governor of Surinam made an order in 1687 to stop him leaving which was contrary to the peace treaty. Many other allegedly devious and corrupt strategies were used to take his estate or ruin him financially including trying to deceive his wife into believing rumours about Jeronimy so she would divorce him, but this failed. Nevertheless, Dorothie Clifford returned to London in 1687. The huge fines that were imposed on Jeronimy Clifford were to be paid in pounds of sugar.

Following a dispute about the sale of an enslaved person and Jeronimy Clifford’s failure to take an oath of allegiance to Holland, as well as official disapproval of the wording of some of his petitions, Jeronimy was imprisoned for seven years in Fort Sommelsdijck in 1692. In 1694, he petitioned King William for help and through the intervention of the sovereign he was released in 1695. He travelled first to Barbados and then to Amsterdam arriving there in October 1696 still seeking repayment, recompense and justice from the Society of Surinam in various compensation proceedings including sending in his book of accounts.[8]

The petition by Andrew and Jeronimy Clifford made in 1699 briefly stated what had happened, requesting further assistance from the King to pressure the Dutch authorities to allow Jeronimy to transport what remained of his belongings from Surinam. The case was discussed by officials in March and May of that year.[9]

When King William died and was succeeded by Queen Anne, Jeronimy Clifford continued to petition the monarch. One petition was referred to the Lord’s Commissioners for Trade and Plantations to report on and though the English authority was sympathetic to his claims, none of his requests achieved Clifford’s aims. In 1704, Jeronimy Clifford was arrested for debt as he had no access to his money in Holland or to his effects in Surinam and he was subsequently sent to the Fleet Prison.

Jeronimy Clifford died intestate in London in 1737 at the age of 80. He never returned to Surinam.

In June 1759, appointed legal representatives having carefully reviewed and examined the case, presented a petition to the sovereign with a claim and demand against the Society of Surinam for injuries sustained and injustice done to Jeronimy Clifford in the colony from 1667 until his death. They presented the information to the Directors of the Society of Surinam in 1762 and it was published in 1763.


[1] ‘Find My Past’: https://www.findmypast.co.uk/transcript?id=R_965225007

[2]  London Metropolitan Archives: https://search.lma.gov.uk/LMA_DOC/P69_TRI2.PDFMS09243; London Metropolitan Archives:  https://search.lma.gov.uk/LMA_DOC/P71_MMG.PDF P71/MMG/007.

[3]London Metropolitan Archives: https://search.lma.gov.uk/LMA_DOC/P93_DUN.PDFP93/DUN/128.

[4]  ‘Family Search’: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JZCJ-9XV.

[5] British Library: J. Clifford, The Case of Jeronimy Clifford Merchant and Planter of Surinam(1711); C. Say for W. Bristow, The conduct of the Dutch, relating to their breach of treaties with England (1760); C. Say, The Case and Replication of the Legal Representatives of Jeronimy Clifford (1763).

[6] ‘Jeronimo Clifford’: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeronimo_Clifford.

[7] Say, The conduct of the Dutch, p. 116.

[8] The Society of Surinam was a Dutch private company, set up in 1683 to profit from the management and defence of the colony of Surinam. It had three participants, with equal shares in the costs and benefits of the society: the city of Amsterdam, the family Van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck, and the Dutch West India Company.

[9] ‘William III: March 1699’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: William III, 1699-1700, ed. Edward Bateson (London, 1937), pp. 77-123. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/will-mary/1699-1700/pp77-123; ‘William III: May 1699’, in Calendar of State Papers Domestic: William III, 1699-1700, ed. Edward Bateson (London, 1937), pp. 152-211. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/cal-state-papers/domestic/will-mary/1699-1700/pp152-211.

This report is part of a series on ‘Petitioners in the reigns of James II, William III and Mary II, 1685-1699’, created through a U3A Shared Learning Project on ‘Investigating the Lives of Seventeenth-Century Petitioners’.