From the General Collection.
Document No. 161.
We are indebted to Miss C. Quayle, of St. Saviour's, Jersey, for the original A.L.S. of the following,. The letter is important. It will be seen that it is dated 26th March, 1822. It is generally known that Col. Mark Wilks was Governor of S. Helena from. 1813 to 1816, when he returned home to his native Island. He resumed his membership of the Keys and eventually became Speaker. It was not known, however, that Col. Wilks ever had an offer from the English Government to resume the government of St. Helena. This document, addressed to his younger brother, Captain James Wilks, certainly proves that he had, and also that he declined the very great honour proposed to be conferred upon him. James Wilks, who was the eldest son of the Rev. James Wilks, V.G., married Catherine Cosnahan, was born 7th August, 1759, and had issue one son and two daughters. He died on 23rd July, 1837, aged 78 years. He was the Customs officer at Castletown, and lived in Arbory Street, adjoining the house now called Paryys, and later built Westham. A portrait of Captain James Wilks has been kindly presented to the Manx Museum by Sir Mark Collet.
London, 26th March, 1822.
My dear James,
This is the first day that I have been able to decide whether I positively would or would not accept the Government of St. Helena. and perhaps it is so, because it is the last allowed me by the East India Company to say yes or no to their offer. H.M. Government were thus compelled to make the decision, on which my answer would finally depend. It is quite un-necessary to trouble you with the various aspects of a great combat between the West and East ends of the Town regarding so unimportant a personage as your young brother, who received as many compliments in the controversy as would have served a man of ordinary vanity for half a life time. It has terminated in the guarantee of H.M. Govt. for the benefits of a Regiment when it shall come to me with the option of taking or leaving the Govt. of St. Helena - and I have finally and officially declared that I decline the Government; thereby spontaneously giving up a brilliant accession to my fortune, in exchange for the liberty to consult my health and inclinations, and to do as I please and as I can on inferior means. I beg you to state the substance of the foregoing to my much valued friend the Lieut. Governor and to our friends and relatives the Cunninghames.
I shall now have breathing time to be able to consult with you on the chief subject of your last letter touching the expediency of retiring or not retiring. it you wish my opinion on the subject. In which case tell me the precise receipts of the office of every kind - the lowest super-animation they can restrict you to, and the highest they could give if so disposed: As a general proposition I should say this is the worst time in the world to make the attempt : and that rub on should for a short time be the order of the day.
It has been a source of great pleasure, that the battle to which I have alluded has brought me into frequent intercourse with the Duke of Wellington. I was the mere object of the fight, and not at all one of the combatants, until near its close, when I took up a strong position under the banners of that great Captain and closed the campaign in my own way. It is a gratification equally solid, that not one of the powerful friends on whose good offices I reckoned has in the slightest degree disappointed my expectations, and that not one among them waited for solicitation; an accomplishment at which I fear I should have exhibited all the awkwardness of inexperience.
My old wife is at this moment busily employed in packing up certain dyed articles, and appendages not belonging to them, which she says are to go directed to the care of Messrs. Burrough and Fleetwood; they will go off to-morrow, and Catharine may make her calculations regarding their arrival. Said Catharine is to know that Mr. Curwen has just left this for Workington, where he will be till about the 20th of April.
She joins in affectionate remembrances to you all with yours ever.
P.S. Afternoon. - After all, the Court of Directors make such a point of my going that it seems doubtful whether I can parry it. James Wilks. Esq.,
Castletown, Isle of Man.