Page:Devonshire Characters and Strange Events.djvu/294

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234
DEVONSHIRE CHARACTERS

island from Lord Gower. He was a man of substance, a native of Bideford, and had inherited a fortune of £40,000. His predecessors had been successful merchants, carrying on trade with France, Portugal, and the colonies.

In 1749 he aspired to get into Parliament, and was elected for Barnstaple. He had in 1745 presented to the mayor and corporation a large silver punch-bowl, which still forms one of their cherished possessions, and has recently been copied in Barum ware for presentation to the association of "Barumites in London."

When, however, the borough authorities received the bowl, they discovered that they had no ladle, and this they humbly and respectfully intimated to the donor. So Benson added to his gift a silver ladle, with the inscription, "He that gave the Bowl gave the Ladle."[1]

Soon after he entered into a contract with the Government for the exportation of convicts to Virginia and Maryland, and gave the usual bond to the sheriff for so doing. But instead of doing this he shipped them to Lundy, where he employed them in building walls and other work in the island. Every night they were locked up in the old keep of the Mariscoes. He regarded himself as king of Lundy, and ruled with a high hand.

Presently he got into difficulties through smuggling and piracy. In a cave he stored his smuggled goods, and a raid was made upon these. He was exchequered, and fined £5000.

A fieri facias was directed to the Sheriff of Devon to levy the penalties, under which the officers seized a large quantity of tobacco and other goods secreted in

  1. R. Pearse Chope, "Benson, M.P. and Smuggler," in the Hartland Chronicle, 1906.