ROOPE, JOHN, engineer and Gentleman of the Ordnance in Newfoundland; d. 1719.
Roope served in the Irish transport and had been in Newfoundland before being assigned by the ordnance as an engineer (under Captain Michael Richards) to lay a boom across St John’s harbour to protect it from French attacks. He arrived in St John’s on 5 Oct. 1703. When he saw the vulnerability of the colony, Roope wrote asking that 2,500 soldiers, artillery, and 15 or 16 ships of war be sent to seize the French forts in Newfoundland, especially at Placentia (Plaisance), and in Acadia (Nova Scotia). The War of the Spanish Succession had reduced the number of English vessels engaged in the fishery, had practically closed the Mediterranean market to the English, and had therefore increased the desire of merchants and planters to have the French eliminated from the fishery.
In October 1704 Roope promised to finish the boom shortly; he would have finished it long since if Captain Thomas Lloyd had given him the required assistance. In his report he criticized the New England traders “coming hither in shoals,” bringing rum, and carrying off seamen; the Scots who were “prying into the trade,” who worked for low wages and could undersell the English; and the garrison’s officers who traded privately, and illegally, and whose conduct should be inspected yearly by the commodore and the fishing admirals. Such comments from a supporter, in the main, of the West Country interests did not sit well with the men concerned: Lloyd, John Moody, Colin Campbell, John Jackson, and Archibald Cumings, all blamed Roope after Auger de Subercase’s attack on St John’s 21 Jan. 1704/5. Roope and his fellow engineer, Lieutenant Robert Latham, were accused of dissuading the inhabitants from aiding the garrison, and Campbell accused Roope of having had treasonable communications with the French. Roope’s later explanation for the French knowledge of the fort’s weakness was Lloyd’s barbarous treatment of his soldiers, 30 of whom had earlier deserted to the French at Placentia.
When Subercase’s troops left St John’s they took Roope with them. His enemies said that he went willingly, though he maintained that he was forced to go. After eight months at Placentia, Roope was exchanged for some French prisoners held at St John’s. He sailed for England in November 1705.
Between January and March 1705/6, he attended several meetings of the Board of Trade, and gave his views on how Newfoundland might be better defended and governed. He urged the local election, rather than royal appointment, of the governor and of the militia. Although it had not accepted an earlier plea for local civil government, the board obviously had confidence in Roope’s opinions. He had shown objectivity and insight in explaining to the board the failure of John Graydon’s expedition in 1703, and the charges and counter-charges that bombarded the board after the capture of St John’s in 1704/5. Roope requested repayment for his great losses, and further employment. In April 1706 their Lordships promised to do what they could for him.
Roope accompanied the train of artillery to Spain as a Gentleman of the Ordnance and was storekeeper at Alicante Castle after it was taken in February 1706/7. Some time later he was among those captured at Villaviciosa, where he “lost all.” He was in Barcelona in 1712 when the war in Spain was virtually over and the artillery trains disbanded. In 1714, on half pay as a lieutenant, he attended the Board of Trade to present some amendments to the parliamentary act desired by the West Country traders, a paper on the curing of fish, and an account of the island of Menorca (now also British). In September Dartmouth nominated Roope as surveyor of Newfoundland, but William Taverner* won the commission. Roope was appointed a fireworker in the Royal Artillery 26 May 1716. It appears that he lived in Menorca for several years, but his interest in Newfoundland continued until his death. On 12 Feb. 1718/19 the board consulted him for the last time, before ordering some West Country mayors to carry, as ballast, materials to build a stone redoubt at the entrance to St John’s harbour.
PRO, B.T.Journal, 1704–1708/9, 1708/9–1714/15, 1714/15–1718, 1718–22; CSP, Col., 1702–3, 1704–5, 1706–8, 1712–14; C.T.Papers, 1714–19. G.B., Parliament, Proceedings and debates respecting North America (Stock). Dalton, English army lists, V, VI. Lounsbury, British fishery at Nfld. Bernardine Pietraszek, “Anglo-French trade conflicts in North America, 1702–13,” Mid-America, XXXV (1953; new ser., XXIV), 146–48.