- William was a Firewarden in Kingston, Jamaica, 1805-06, was an Agent for the Naval Yard at Port Royal, Jamaica, 1815-16, and was a signatory of the "Act for the Incorporation of the Highland Society of London, 21st May 1816". He was also a planter and seems to have owned more than one plantation, was a Justice of the Peace, a troop commander and a merchant. He lived in St. Catherine for some years and then moved to St. Mary, Jamaica. He let the Earl of Dundonald borrow money from him, reputedly £10,000, on one of the Earl's adventures in South America. Apparently William went to South America to keep an eye on his money, or to try and retrieve it, and died there, probably of yellow fever. It is not known exactly when or where he died. Amongst other things in his short life, he was the Comptroller of His Majesty's [George III] Customs in the Bahamas.
There exists an oil painting of him and he is described as being "extremely good looking, with blond, short curly hair, and a lovely face - strong and yet accustomed to smiling, and very good features." He wore a stock inside his silk-looking jacket, and this stock was held together by a pearl topped pin. The portrait was held by Fanny Saffrey, but is now in the hands of Joan Hoseason.
William registered arms on 24th March 1808. The arms patent reads: William Hoseason, of the Island of Jamaica, descended of the family of Aywick. Bears quarterly, First and Fourth, Argent, an arm in armour, holding a pair of balances Azure, and in base a sword and Roman fasces in saltyre, both Proper for Hoseason: Second and Third, Or, a saltyre and chief Gules, the saltyre with a mullet of the first, with a crescent Gules for difference for Bruce of Urie. Crest; an eagle reguardant rising from the top of a rock, all Proper. Motto; "In recto decus."
There is another copy of William's matriculation which reads:
"Hoseason, William Esquire of the Island of Jamaica descended of the Family of Aywick Zetland whose ancestors following the Norwegian and Danish Custom assumed untill of late as a Surname, the Christian name of their Father and held for many generations the respectable office of Under Foud Lagman or Lawrightsman (Synonymous with the present office of Sheriff Depute) of the Islands of Shetland; Bears quarterly First and Fourth Argent an arm in armour Holding a pair of Balances Azure and in Base a sword and a Roman Fasces in Saltyr Both proper for Hoseason. Second and Third Or a Saltyr and Chief Gules, the Saltyr charged with a Mullet of the first, with a crescent Gules for difference being the Arms of the said William Hoseason's Maternal Grandfather Major William Bruce son of William Bruce Esquire of Urie by Katherine Henderson of Gloup his second Wife:- Crest an Eagle Reguardant rising from the top of a rock all Proper. Motto In recto decus. 24th March 1808 John Ker L.A.C."
- According to his Will, William spent the last few years of his life in Valparaiso in what had just become the Republic of Chile. He had gone there as prize agent to the Naval Squadron that Lord Cochrane¹ had assembled following his appointment by the new Chilean Government as "Vice-Admiral of Chili, Admiral, and Commander-in-Chief of the Naval Forces of the Republic."
It is not known how or why William became involved with Lord Cochrane's activities in Chile. They were not kinsmen but there was a connection between the two men as William's brother Thomas had married Lord Cochrane's first cousin, Angelica Cochrane and doubtless they met in London sometime in 1817, possibly, shortly after Lord Cochrane had accepted the appointment offered him by the Chilean Government.
There are several things that suggest that William and his family, together with his son-in-law, Edward Bancroft, junior, came back to England sometime in 1817. First, Ursula Bancroft, the Bancroft's eldest daughter was baptised again (she had already been baptised in Kingston, Jamaica in 1815) at Margate Church in April of that year by Edward's brother-in-law, the Revd George Lamb and Eliza Hoseason was a godmother. Also, in the October of that year in London, Edward's wife bore him their first son, Edward James Bancroft. Second, it is unlikely that William would have become involved with Lord Cochrane had they not had the opportunity of meeting each other in England. Third, in order to have sufficient funds to act as a prize agent, William had to raise some money and this he did by mortgaging his wharves in Kingston, a house and several domestic Negroes in Jamaica, to his brother Thomas. It would have been difficult to set up this mortgage had William not been in England.
As far as it is known, William had not previously been a prize agent but he obviously was much tempted by the prospect of working for Lord Cochrane and his Squadron as, in view of Lord Cochrane's exploits and success elsewhere, it promised considerable rewards. (William's Will indicates that he was entitled to receive 5% of the agreed prize value and, no doubt there were other opportunities, such as money lending, which could turn a handsome profit.) Lord Cochrane, for his part, would have been happy to have someone, with links to his family and of known probity and commercial experience, to carry out such an important role.
As things turned out, the venture was ruinous for William and, in financial terms, costly for Lord Cochrane. Lord Cochrane, despite his outstanding naval successes against the Spanish, falling foul of the jealousies and machinations of the Chilean junta and William being caught up in the dishonesty and financial mismanagement of a bankrupt government.
With the advantage of historical hindsight it is easy to question the wisdom of William embarking upon a venture like this in a revolutionary republic such as Chile; a republic, moreover, still very much in its infancy having only come into existence in 1810. Doubtless, it seemed a wonderful opportunity to make a fortune, something that might have been quite difficult for William to achieve in Jamaica or elsewhere at that time.
In all probability, William travelled to Valparaiso with Lord Cochrane and his family. Despite having accepted the appointment in May 1817, Lord Cochrane did not set out for Valparaiso until the summer of 1818, sailing there directly from Boulogne, so William had plenty of time to prepare for the venture.
The reason for this delay was that the Chilean Government had commissioned a steam warship to be built and equipped in England under Lord Cochrane's supervision; a project, no doubt, that owed much to his enthusiasm for the potential of steam power. Unfortunately, there were difficulties over the funding of this commission and the Rising Sun, as she was called, was not ready in time and he had to sail with out her. From William's point of view, this inauspicious start was to be a harbinger for the whole, unfortunate venture.
Matters did not start smoothly in Chile. There was a group of three naval captains, two British and one North American, who supported the former Chilean Naval Commander in Chief, Admiral Bianco, and who schemed to keep him in that position, or at least to have him share that position with Lord Cochrane. Unhappily for them, Admiral Bianco expressed his willingness to be Lord Cochrane's second-in-command leaving the group much dissatisfied. Their subsequent loyalty to Lord Cochrane was always in doubt and they chose to use other prize agents to act of them so the scope of William's agency and, therefore, his potential commission was much reduced. William mentions a Mr Davies in his Will who was Captain Guise's agent; Captain Guise was one of these three captains.
It would appear that the Chilean Government were not ungrateful for Lord Cochrane's early successes but following his capture of the Spanish stronghold, Valdivia, in February 1820, from which there was much booty, difficulties over prize money and his Squadron officers' and seamen's pay began to emerge. Indeed, on that occasion Lord Cochrane had to threaten to resign his commission in order to get his men paid and the prize money nominally awarded. Lord Cochrane's share of the prize money is said to have been valued at 67,000 dollars² and, in addition, he was awarded a grant of land at Rio Clara. In the event, the prize money was never paid to Lord Cochrane or anyone else and his land at Rio Clara was later confiscated.
Similar difficulties with the Chilean Naval Squadron's pay arose during the liberation of Peru in 1821, a problem that Lord Cochrane solved by taking possession of booty seized from the Spaniards and raising 285,000 dollars from its sale. Arrears of pay became a critical issue again when the Squadron once more returned to Valparaiso in 1822. This time, it would appear, that Lord Cochrane's efforts on behalf of his officers and seamen were to no avail and, eventually, his own position became so undermined by the conduct of the government and by the revolution aimed at ousting Bernardo O'Higgins, the then "Supreme Director", that he tended his resignation, took up a similar appointment with the Brazilian Navy and sailed from Valparaiso for Rio de Janeiro in January 1823.
Two years later when William was writing his Will, things had not improved. The Government still owed 300,000 dollars worth of prize money; the officers of the Squadron were still not being paid. This situation left William in serious financial straits; he was not able to recoup the monies that he had advanced to various officers for their share of that prize money and he was unable to claim his commission of 15,000 dollars on it. Worse still, Lord Cochrane owed him money.
It appears that Lord Cochrane was indebted to William "upwards of 27,000 dollars" of which 17,683 dollars, five reals, "exclusive of interest and commission", had been lent by William from his own funds, greatly to his financial embarrassment.
Lord Cochrane appears to have given William an order on the Chilean Government to cover his debt but the draft was not honoured. William died with the hope that his executors would be able to collect something from the Chilean Government and his personal debtors but it seems that nothing was ever recovered.
- Medical Notes: In circa 1824 or early 1825, William suffered a stroke which paralysed his left arm and left his whole body considerably weakened.