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LLOYD, THOMAS, commander of the garrison at St John’s, Newfoundland; d. 1710.

Of Welsh origin, Lloyd. was commissioned second lieutenant in the Newfoundland Independent Company, 16 May 1701. He acted as paymaster, rose to be senior lieutenant, and, on the departure of Captain Michael Richards in 1703, succeeded to the command of a garrison of 88 men. He rapidly became unpopular for many reasons: he tried to mobilize the inhabitants of St John’s for war purposes, forcing them to build guard houses, to help in fortification works, to undertake guard duty, and to contribute financially towards maintaining spies at Placentia (Plaisance); he forbad the soldiers to buy from the inhabitants and made them purchase rum and other necessities from him; he sold the garrison’s provisions and commodities to the colonists at high prices; he hired out the soldiers for fishing in the summer season, taking most of the hiring-fee for himself. Many of these activities were not unusual for military officers posted overseas, but in Newfoundland their effect was more oppressive because of the lack of local magistrates. Lloyd’s violent temper and vindictiveness further contributed to his unpopularity. He could be efficient, courageous, and capable of a degree of military initiative, but he was willing to let his men and his command decline to pursue his financial interests. His violent quarrels with the choleric chaplain, the Reverend John Jackson, helped to range town and garrison into two camps of which Lloyd’s was much the smaller. Described by some as a cheerful man, Lloyd was defiantly unconventional; he refused to attend church, and scandalized many by playing the flute on the Lord’s day.

When Captain Timothy Bridges came out as convoy commodore in the summer of 1704 to inspect the island and exercise a measure of judicial authority, he found inhabitants and fishing captains united against Lloyd. His soldiers were threatening to desert unless he was removed, and his second-in-command, Lieutenant John Moody, expressed his sympathy with them. Bridges decided in October to take Lloyd home with him, though later he denied having formally suspended him. In the long dispute which followed, Lloyd behaved with great astuteness. He obtained favourable testimonials, and explained that the soldiers were mutinying not against him but against their superiors in England who had kept them too long (since 1696) in Newfoundland. He made light of the personal charges levelled against him, maintaining that they resulted only from the essential disciplinary measures he had instituted. Bridges himself reported that Lloyd had “acted like a man of honour and [a] good governor.” Although suspicion remained, the board could do no other than report that “the evidence . . . does not prove the misbehaviour alleged against him.” Lloyd succeeded in persuading the board that the commodores of the annual convoy, who were “not acquainted with the discipline of land forces,” should no longer be given authority over the military forces in Newfoundland, but his request to be allowed to try offences by court-martial was refused. It was decided that a new company should be raised to replace the old. Lloyd’s commission was dated 1 May and he received his brevet as major on 20 July. In June 1705 news came that Moody had bravely and successfully held Fort William when the French had attacked St John’s the previous January; this enabled Lloyd to demand more troops and stores for a punitive expedition against Placentia. Delays, however, held back the proposed sailing until September and the expedition was countermanded.

Lloyd arrived with his new company in mid-October, to the astonished anger of some of his old opponents. Yet from 1705 to 1708 Lloyd behaved with great circumspection. He made a close alliance with the more influential residents and visiting fishing captains, such as Arthur Holdsworth. They, in turn, mobilized support for memorials in his favour – memorials often strongly reminiscent of Lloyd’s own style of writing. His attempts to blacken Monody’s reputation in 1706 brought a revival of the old charges, and on 29 March of that year the Board of Trade declared that Lloyd had behaved badly to his soldiers and that his charges against Moody were malicious. The secretary of state, however, was more concerned with Lloyd’s military conduct, which seemed satisfactory. He had chased off raiding parties during the winter of 1705–6 and planned, but did not carry through, an overland attack on Placentia. In 1707 he cooperated in a combined operation with the naval squadron against the northern French fishery. A militia was being built up, local commanders were appointed, and defence measures taken against French raids. The new fort in St John’s was constructed, and, by the end of the fishing season in 1708, the bulk of the population was induced to retire there for winter quarters. The commodore in 1706 and 1707, Captain John Underdown, spoke highly of Lloyd, though he afterwards admitted that Lloyd had evaded all attempts to get him to account for the provisions in his possession. Early in 1708, there were fresh complaints by a small group of Newfoundlanders led by William Taverner* who maintained that the colonists were “spit upon, kicked, beaten, wounded,” and exploited by Lloyd. However, the commodore for 1708, John Mitchell, whose military control over the garrison had been restored, wrote enthusiastically about Lloyd to the Board of Trade and added, “I do not apprehend any danger for the winter.” This letter was read by the Board of Trade on 19 Jan. 1709, four weeks after Lloyd’s garrison had been overwhelmed by the French, and about three weeks before news of the disaster reached England.

The French at Placentia, primed through an exchange of prisoners, sent Saint-Ovide de Brouillan [Monbeton*] with 170 men to attack St John’s. About 4 a.m., 21 Dec. 1708 (1 Jan. 1709, n.s.), the French crept into the covered way in front of the main gate of Fort William with their ladders and were pouring over the ramparts and pulling open the half-secured gate when the sentinels gave the alarm. Lloyd, who had bad a cheerful farewell to a friend at midnight, ran out in his nightgown to the ramparts shouting “Fight, Boys!” but there was no serious opposition to the attacking forces. Lloyd himself was overwhelmed and bundled into his quarters, where he was seen sometime later “very heavy ey’d and little notice taken of him.” The militia from the new fort could not get into Fort William to help as the sally port was locked. Captain George Vane failed to force the men to come out of the guard-room and engage the French, and the fort surrendered after only a few shots were fired. The new fort made some resistance but surrendered on reasonable terms. The disaster could not have been more complete. The French took nearly four months to destroy St John’s and to shift guns and equipment to Placentia. They retired before the fishing fleet came in under convoy (Commodore Joseph Taylour). Lloyd and his nephew, Thomas Phillips, were shipped to Placentia. From there he wrote several letters, asking to be exchanged and to stand court-martial. Taken to Quebec in a sloop in May, he put in again at Placentia in November on his way to La Rochelle. At Placentia he managed to send a letter giving details of French dispositions in Canada and denouncing what he described as the cowardice and treachery of Vane.

At the inquests after the disaster it became clear that Lloyd had neglected his company until it was ineffective and its morale low. Although he had some staunch supporters in St John’s, most of the men under his command hated him. After the surrender of St John’s to the French, accusations of treachery were made against Lloyd, but it seems more likely that the fort was taken “by neglect.” Lloyd had consistently exploited and maltreated his troops, and, according to Vane, some of them said that they were glad the French had taken St John’s “provided Major Lloyd was hanged as they hoped he would be.”

By October 1710 news of Lloyd’s death in France – apparently in a duel – had reached England. In March 1711 his outstanding pay and allowances were impounded because of the corruption which had by then been proved against him. His brother, David, was unable to clear his reputation.

D. B. Quinn

PRO, Acts of P.C., col. ser., 1680–1720; B.T.Journal, 1704–1708/9, 1708/9–1714/15; CSP, Col., 1702, 1702–3, 1704–5, 1706–8, 1708–9, 1710–11, 1711–12; C.T.Books, 1704–5, 1705–6, 1706–7, 1708, 1712; C.T.Papers, 1702–7. Dalton, English army lists, V. M. A. Field, “The development of government in Newfoundland, 1638–1713,” unpublished M.A. thesis, University of London, 1924. La Morandière, Hist. de la pêche française de la morue, I. Prowse, History of Nfld. Rogers, Newfoundland.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

D. B. Quinn, “LLOYD, THOMAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 3, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lloyd_thomas_2E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/lloyd_thomas_2E.html
Author of Article: D. B. Quinn
Title of Article: LLOYD, THOMAS
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1969
Year of revision: 1969
Access Date: September 3, 2014