Joshua Johnson's Letterbook 1771-1774 Letters From A Merchant in London To His Partners in Maryland. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1979.
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The two foregoing is mine per the Annapolis, Capt Eden, since which I have nothing from you. I am informed by Mr J. Hanbury that they had a charter in the Kitty & Nelly for 250 hhds. You did not tell me so, therefore I will disbelieve it until I hear farther from you. Indeed, if you had agreed to give him a preference, I should esteem that promise void when on the receipt of my letters you'll find he would do nothing for you. Depend on it that they are not fitten to manage business; their fortunes puts them above the necessary attention.
I observe what steps you have taken to prevent the planters drawing. Be not too cautious, but suffer them to draw about £5 per hhd. after the ship sails. I will manage to pay their bills somehow or somehow. I suppose a good many of them will order goods. I should be glad they would, and that I could have their orders early that I might have time to look them well out. Pray don't you think it advisable to send out a small ship early with the planters' and our goods to Patuxent? I would be glad of your opinion and instructions. I am clear in it and think an early load of good clean tobacco would turn out well; it has ever been the case. Therefore, provided you should close with me in opinion, . . . you had better make our intentions known by going amongst our friends and prevailing on them to get some of their tobacco ready early for us that the ship might meet with dispatch. It is that and that only which has made Molleson so very popular amongst the people, their and his being first here in market.
I observe your commendation of exactness and dispatch. You may depend on my closest attention to the business and let me at the same time assure you that there is not that mystery in selling tobacco as is generally believed. Those who have had the management of it has indeed very prudentially strove to make the people believe it was so. I have rather been attentive to that branch ever since I have been here and fear not of giving equal prices where I have an equal advantage. It will be requisite that you forward me some money from time to time to make my entry with, and that you by no means agree to ship cargoes to any but such as Nat Hammond [Annapolis], William Lux & Co. [Baltimore]. They generally have money in hand, as has H. Darnall at Pig Point, if you can get him, and T. Reynolds in Calvert County; [in their cases] I should be glad [of exceptions] as it will be a means of securing some good tobacco and of very good men. I do imagine you might get Mr Darnall through Mr [Charles] Carroll [of Carrollton whose wife was a Darnall].
The Adams's bill on Bell is paid, Joshua Dorsey's bill on Mildred & Roberts is noted. I will write you again in a few days by Capt Lane who goes out in the Maryland Planter for Mildred & Roberts and by the packet on Wednesday next. ...
The foregoing is a copy of my last per Capt Jarrold. The wind has been so long west that all the outward bound is still in the Downs so that it is probable this may reach your hands long before mine, which was wrote three weeks ago per the Nelly Frigate. I am exceedingly anxious to hear from you expecting that you have my letters respecting Hanbury's matters. It would be of infinite service to me in regulating myself at this time. I have always cautioned you against him and told you that you must not rely too much on them. They are by no means men of business for O. H[anbury] has been out of town now 2 months and John might as well for he does nothing; therefore, you may judge whose hands matters goes through and, when that is the case, why should you be so anxious to form a connection with them? For my part, I am against it and do most sincerely caution you against it.
Tobacco that is clean and any colour will command 2¼ a 5/8 and fine 3d. a 3½ but your dark browns, either Eastern Shore or Potomacs, 1¾d. and no demand at all for the latter. I therefore do hope that you have not any of the last in the Kitty & Nelly. If you have, it will hurt the sale of the better kind. Capt Coulson's load is the best that has been to market this year and Mr Russell has sold it for the same money that the other from Patuxent was sold for, though it is the general opinion that there was a farthing per pound difference.
105b. C. Carroll of Carrollton has sent me [David] Kerr's bill on J. Buchanan & Son for £202, the balance due Colonel [Charles] Hammond's estate, which bill is noted and I fear must go back owing to Cowden's not informing them of Kerr's marriage [to Hammond's widow] and ordering them to pay his draught. It will lay me under a disagreeable circumstance as I fear either to suffer his [Carroll's] bills to go back or be under a disagreeable advance which I cannot as yet determine, especially as Mr Carroll insinuates in his last letter that he should order the remainder of the £200 to be paid into the hands of the [Buchanan] trustees, which carries the appearance of his intention to do nothing more with us and, if that is his intention, I see no reason why we are to be made cat's paws of.
The number of bills which are noted amongst your last remittance has distressed me for it has prevented my making distributions of part which would be a means of keeping the tradesmen quiet and easy and I have determined not to strip myself for fear of the appearance of your draught to J. Dick & Stewart. And while I am aspeaking of bills, let me recommend in future that you never draw again on the same terms. There is too little dependence on anything you can send me to risk my not being able to take them up [i.e. pay them]. It will not be amiss to forward me all the bills and heavy guineas as you can lay your hands on by Kitty & Nelly. It will enable me to make entry [of the ship] at once without laying me under any difficulties. And pray for God sake do all you can to enable me to pay the tradesmen; you must agree with me that it is high time they were paid and I assure you that they begin to think so too, for they grow very pressing. I will write you in a few days per the Maryland Planter. . . .
My last was the 6th ult. per the packet, a copy of which you have on the other side. Since which, I am favoured with yours 31 August and 11 September ordering insurance on 250 hhds. tobacco per the Kitty & Nelly, insurance on the ship and freight, which is done at the sums stipulated. I am surprised you have ordered no insurance on either iron or lumber but suppose that that order will accompany yours of the 8th or 13th per Payne. You tell me, in forming this connection, that you have been careful in procuring me the best sort of tobacco and that you expect my attention to the sales and [that] regular correspondence with the shippers will establish us for the future. You must remember I proposed often to you this plan of business and was I not to exert myself to execute the sales and management of it to satisfy, you might with justice complain, but, if you have confidence in me, trust me, on my honour, that nothing on my part shall be wanting to confirm us with credit and honour in the business.
I think you are too cautious, more especially as there is a full crop on the ground. I am satisfied you might load a ship or two in Patuxent the next year and I could wish you would push the scheme. I can manage 2,000 hhds. easy enough with two clerks and a boy and I fear not in giving satisfaction, provided I have an equal chance with others. And you need not be so cautious about their drawing; so that it be not before the ship sails a month, I shall be able to manage the payment of their bills.
I observe the value you put on the Kitty & Nelly and your insinuation that no one would offer less. If you will consider the number that will be sold, I am of the opinion it would raise doubts with you. However, rely on it, I will do the best I can.
106b. I fully agree with you about Richard Earle & Co. and could be glad never to have anything more to do with them as I neither like the concern nor their conduct. I am glad that you are so well satisfied with the Hanburys' refusal to comply with the [letter of] credit sent me. Perhaps you view such a connection now with a different eye. You know my opinion was that they wanted every requisite but one (which is money) to make a man desirous of a correspondence with them. However, you have severely paid for your attachment to them, and I as severely from their refusing to let me have the money.
You still seem afraid of pushing into the consignment business and say that we had better risk chartering in the country than keep ships of our own in the trade. I differ with you in opinion and think this reason will convince you: how are we to get out the planters' and our goods? Pay freight for them? No, that will never do. If we keep only one ship in the trade, the saving will nearly defray her expenses and I am confident you may always load her without purchase. Consider the matter one moment and you will agree with me.
Yours 14 September brings me the pleasing account of the Kitty & Nelly's fast loading. I shall begin to look her arrival by 15th or 20th inst. and shall make all the preparation in my power for her reception, though it is impossible to avoid the slander common amongst the trade which you hint at. I seldom associate amongst them and only treat them with distant respect. It gives me life, your intention of chartering an early ship for Capt Belt and sending him away so as to arrive here one of the first. It will be agiving me an equal chance with others and I then doubt not of establishing ourselves fully to our own and correspondents' satisfaction.
106c. I am this moment favoured with yours of the 8th and 13th. Yours of the 8th orders me to pay to Wm. Johnson £42 on account of Mrs Middleton and to send you his receipt. You omitted to direct me where Johnson lives and there is so many of the name and occupation that it is impossible to find him. You had therefore better draw a bill [of exchange] to Mrs Middleton and let her remit it.
You tell me that you are apprehensive my fears aggravated my distress. You may be assured they did and well they might when I saw those whom we supposed had ten times the capital [we had] falling under the calamities of the times, [and] the utmost of your efforts baffled by protests. What could I think or what would you have thought? I confess my mind was wrecked and I was for a month in a state of despair. This, was you to consider it, would apologise for the pressingness of my letters.
I observe a fear glimmer through that sentence of your letter where you say 'independent of the tobacco business which you are so willing to promote and perhaps at an expense which all we can do in it will not bear'. Did I ever give you cause to complain of my extravagance or imprudence? If I have, you have never complained of it. Why then will you hint those insinuations? It touches me and I feel it most sensibly. Try me and if there is cause to complain, drop the scheme.
I received in your sundry letters 15 bills amounting to £439:2:4, seven of which amounting to £232:2:6 are noted for non-acceptance as per list enclosed. I now forward you 4 protests amounting with charges to £385:2:0¾ which I have placed to your debit. The bill [of exchange] of [David] Kerr's was remitted me by C[harles] C[arroll] of Carrollton Esq with intent to take up some bills drew on his account which I have done. They, with his bills on me, will take the whole of that bill. Therefore, as we were led into an advance, I think we are entitled to the damages [incurred for nonpayment]. Mr B[uchanan] says he owes the money but that Cowden [not Kerr] ought to have drawn. You will get it renewed and send it with the proper papers when it will be paid at 10 days' sight....
I wrote you the 3rd by this conveyance and enclosed you David Kerr's bill on J. Buchanan & Son under protest, amounting with charges to £203:3:9¾ which I desire you will not call on him for but return me the protest again as early as possible, the [Buchanan] trustees having met and agreed to pay me the money on my countermanding the protest. This circumstance was rather unlucky as I had only sent it [the protest] away [to America] but two days ago and they having since met with some certificates etc. in the hands of O. Hanbury & Co. that satisfied them Kerr had a right to draw. They have not only agreed to pay me the money but have done it on my indemnifying them, which I have done and must have back the protest in order to cancel my indemnity. You will pay particular attention to this business and say nor do anything on it.
The Kitty, [Capt] Mallet, is up [scheduled to sail] for the 20th inst. and the Nancy, [Capt] Coulson, for 20th next month, by both of whom I will write you. The Caroline, Capt Lynch, has run on an anchor in the river and there is three or four feet water in her hold. I would have you to look sharp after Capt Dorsey or you will lose the money for his bills. He is so much indebted to the people here that I doubt he is afraid to come home.
I am favoured with a letter from your C. W[allace] of the 8 September who tells me that he has promised the people to allow them all the bounties and drawbacks on their goods and a discount [for early payment to suppliers] to any who shall have money in our hands at the time I ship the goods. I shall pay particular attention to his engagements and exert myself to leave him fair with the people, but still I can't help wishing he had not made them those promises as they accumulate a great deal of [bookkeeping] work and trouble. You may rely on my attention to the sales of tobacco, purchase of goods and regular correspondence with the people and that I shall regulate the prices [of the tobacco sold] according to the quality as near as possible. I thank you for your kind hint regarding frugality. I am far from altering my mode of living; indeed, if you knew Joshua in Annapolis, he's still the same Joshua here. London has not operated on him as a laxative in his expenses as it does the most of his countrymen; he is obliged to be decent and I assure you he is no more. However, push your plan; our credit revives and matters look calm and serene and we yet shall be able to live and well....
The two foregoing are copies of my last per the packet, since which I have nothing from you. I have now to confirm my desire that you will do nothing with Kerr's protest but to return it immediately again that I may cancel my indemnity lodged on receiving the money.
I am now in hourly expectations of [Capt James] Buchanan's arrival [with Kitty & Nelly] and have got myself fully prepared for the reception of him, therefore shall not be reduced to the necessity of some, and who hold their heads high, of selling before the tobacco is landed to raise money to pay the duties. I believe it to be a fact and, when that is the case, it establishes the prices and the other merchants who could hold out are compelled to sell at those prices. I most sincerely wish that the trade was in the hands of honester men and a little more unanimity. It then might be conducted with pleasure. I am vilified at a devil of a rate. I mind it not, nor would I have you, but push on quietly, evading any alterations in the business, and a few years will prove to you the utility of my advice. If [Capt] Buchanan arrives next week, I hope to escape the frost and by that time the market will be pretty thin of good tobacco, when I hope to obtain a good price for it, unless, unlucky, Richardson and Henrick pops in; in that case, they will hurt me. The present price is better than it has been for good [tobacco], and if you can push home Belt so as to arrive in June with a cargo of good, it will establish us in the business beyond a doubt. I shall write you in a day or two by Mallet. . . .
I am duly favoured with yours 8 September and for which I am thankful. You tell me that it is impossible for you to give me a minute state of our affairs but believe we are no losers as yet. If I could even suppose that we were not gainers and pretty considerably so, I should, and I think not without reason, curse my hard fate and, if wishes would restore me to my former small way, I would gladly relinquish the present. Your expectations seems to be raised on the consignment business. Pray don't you think that we had better relinquish a considerable part of our imports [to Maryland] unless you are sure we gain on them and push the other scheme [tobacco consignment] where there is a certainty of gain (unless you form disadvantageous engagements to hurt us). That, I am of an opinion, will be most conducive to our mutual interests and further it by my sincere wishes that you would expedite Belt's loading so early as to have him here by the middle of next June. It will at once convince the people that we are in earnest and act to establish us on both sides the water. And further, I would recommend to you to have the new ship ready to succeed Belt immediately and push her away as quick as possible.
I beg you will pay particular attention to the planters in Calvert [County] as I assure you they are the most advantageous correspondents by much, as they seldom draw any bills and mostly take out the proceeds in goods. I would wish you to go down amongst them and make yourself well known and the house.
You recommend to me care and attention in the purchase of the planters' goods. You know that I am a judge of them and you may rely on my seeing every piece of them, and, as for the sales of tobacco, I hope to fully equal our neighbours so that you may be left fair with the people and be enabled to beg as hard as any of them.
109b. The packet is arrived and no letters from you. What can be the reason? You ought by no means in the world to omit writing by her as the conveyance is so very regular and safe and by other ships so precarious and, supposing that the Kitty & Nelly is not fully insured and those ships by whom you have ordered the additional premium should have long passages and she be lost, don't you think you would be blameable? Most assuredly, and as we have entered in this business you must be indefatigable in riding [about soliciting] and writing me by every opportunity. It is further necessary that you have a proper eye over the captains and make them be industrious.
I could much wish to get Henry Darnall of Pig Point in our interest; he is a sure correspondent [and] it would help our interest at that place very much. Tom Reynolds too of Calvert I could wish to get and should be glad you would take your horse and go and offer our best services.
I find you have agreed to allow the people all the drawbacks and debentures, and [discounts for] prompt pay to those who has money in our hands at the time of shipping their goods. Those allowances shall be made to those you have promised but you ought by all means to avoid introducing any new mode in the business. It has been tried by West & Hobson and found to avail nothing. Besides it is only raising their expectations for no purpose, as their goods never will amount to so much as to indemnify the charges [fees, etc.] of a debenture; and, instead of allowing them prompt pay, I think interest [on balances in the firm's hands] the most eligible, provided you are determined to give up those advantages that everyone very justly detains. Consider the matter for the future and don't be precipitate in your promises.
I am very considerably behindhand in our June payments and shall want considerably in February next. I hope you will take care of me against the time. If you can sell goods this winter for 300 hhds. of good clean Eastern Shore tobacco, ship it so as to arrive in March or April; it will do pretty well [if bought] at 14/ [Maryland] currency....
Above is a copy of my last per the Betsey Richmond. The packet is arrived; I have no letters from you by her. I am amazed at it, as I expected to have had your orders for further insurance, but, should they come by Richardson or Hanrick, there will be no such a thing as to get them done as we have accounts here of the 12 October that she [Kitty & Nelly] was loaded and would have sailed but sprung a leak in the river and it was doubted whether she must not be unloaded. I am exceeding sorry for it for many causes. The frost will have shut up all the rivers in the Baltic which will prevent any's being exported and compel me to keep it [the tobacco] till March. That, of course, will keep a great deal of money locked up and prevent my forwarding the planters their accounts of sales so early as you will expect and I wish, besides baffling your intention of its paying off our debt to the tradesmen. I do sincerely wish that you had dropped me a line. The accounts received by others are generally exaggerated in order to intimidate the interested, though, this I assure you, I was on the point of insuring our commission and only put it off from day to day for your instructions per the packet when this cursed account arrived and baffled my intention. However, on the arrival of your letters per Richardson, I will insure if they cooperate with my sentiments and with the proverb that half a loaf is better than none.
110b. I am sorry that your C. W[allace] have promised the planters to allow them the drawbacks and debentures. The quantity of goods they order that draws back anything is so inconsiderable that it will puzzle one and take up more time than what is obtained is worth. And I am rather surprised at his agreeing to allow them discount or prompt pay for the money they have in our hands and laid out in goods for them. You will consider in future that we are only cash keepers to them and must have a sum sufficient always by us to answer their draughts or orders. Therefore I hope you will be particularly careful not to alter the established mode and custom of the trade either by promise or anything else hereafter; and I hope you have taken the precaution to send me a list of those to whom the promises were made for my government.
I have recommended to your notice the people in Calvert [County]; they are looked on here the most valuable correspondents by a great deal, for they very seldom draw any bills but almost always take out the proceeds of the tobacco in goods, by which means we have the use of their money twelve months before we are called on for the payment of them. You will do well therefore to push an interest in that county. The tobacco is of good copper colour and answers pretty well. I am exceedingly indifferent about having anything to do with St Mary's or Charles County's tobacco for it is in general very bad stuff and only hurts the sale of the good. I recommended to you to proffer our services to H[enry] Darnall and T[homas] Reynolds. They are both excellent correspondents. I hope Mr C[harles] Carroll would be useful to us with Mr Darnall. If we could get him, we might expect a little of the Pig Point tobacco with old Russell. I desired you would keep a list of those who chose to insure their tobacco and forward it to me for my regulation. I hope you will not omit it. I am of an opinion that a small store at Queen Anne [town near Pig Point] managed by a clever fellow would get us a great deal of tobacco; pray do give me your thoughts on it. All your bills has appeared but one, and have my name to them; the one still to come is the £66 and went to Philadelphia.
110c. I advised with you in one of my letters respecting our address. I should like to have your instructions as I am of an opinion it is requisite and to sign by the same firm you do there will not do, as it will prevent any recovery by action at law, as I am told; if the ship should be addressed to me separate, I shall take the liberty of signing our letters thus—J. Johnson & Co.—until I have your further orders. However consult with T[homas] J[ohnson, his brother and a lawyer] and he will put us to rights.
I hope to hear by next packet of Nicholson's arrival and that you got the goods safe and have found a ready sale for them. I am very suspicious that you will be displeased with many of them and the putting of them up, but I flatter myself that you are too well acquainted with my situation to blame me or think it owing to neglect. I shall look for your orders very soon and hope that you will always forward them in future to give me time....
I wrote you to purchase three hundred hhds. of tobacco and forward it me per Nicholson and that I had engaged his promise of a preference to you. I wish that you may have done it at the prices limited in my letters. It will answer our purposes and be so many guineas in our pockets besides. I am under no doubts but that you might fill her up on consignment if not fill her entirely. We have less trouble with Eastern Shore tobacco than Western and it requires judgment to make the assortments of the latter and very little on the former as it is nearly of the same quality. Besides I think your friend O. Hanbury & Co. deserves to be pushed out there [Eastern Shore] and everywhere else by you.
110d. Your C. W[allace] tells me in one of his letters that he believes we are no losers as yet on the sale of goods. Indeed we ought not and, on the contrary, I expect very considerable gainers, or I know not what will indemnify our living and the expense of carrying on the business. My expense this year is very great, indeed more so than heretofore, and it must continue, you may well judge, to increase. Therefore, I think you ought to give me your proposals, to take place from the 1 January next for a proper provision to carry on the business, as I must have a dwelling house, counting house and sample house besides proper assistance, all of which will come to a good deal of money; and it is the more requisite to have a house of my own that I may be enabled to entertain (when convenient) our countrymen that comes here. You know the advantages arising from it and, in that case, you will consider the furniture will cost me no small trifle, though, as that expense ought justly to be my own, I would not have you think of it. And, as my living will be discretionary, you had better lump that and suffer me to make an account of house rent, taxes, clerks' wages and charges of merchandise separate. The net gain on each consigned hhd. of tobacco will be fully one guinea. If you can manage to obtain a thousand or two hhds. per year, I think I will venture to say that I can do the business with two clerks.
Capt McKirdy is arrived [but] I have not your letters owing to that cursed foolish way of [captains'] keeping them to deliver in person. You ought to write on your letters, 'to be put in the Post Office immediately on their arrival', for the loss of interest on the time would more than pay double postage and, if I could but prevail on you to write me by the packet and send your bills [of exchange], it would be a considerable saving in the course of the year. I will explain to you that it would, in quoting a late instance. Gilbert Buchanan wrote his father 1 October per the packet; that letter has been to hand these three weeks. You wrote the 28 September per Ferguson which letter I received the 26 [November]; it brought me 25 first and second bills amounting to £729:4:6. Now give yourself the trouble to calculate the interest for 3 weeks; you'll find that it would fully [have] paid the postage and, in case of insurance, it is almost unforgivable, as the conveyance [via the New York packet] is so quick and secure to any other.
110e. I have enclosed you a list of the noted bills. I fancy it will not be the most pleasing to you; however, I assure you that it is not to me, as it keeps us most devilishly behindhand. W. Lux & Bowly writes me you could not take in their tobacco. Why in the name of God did you not keep it for Nicholson? If you are scary, we never shall cut any figure in the business. And I am confident you might load him with ease on either shore and that there was nothing necessary but to go amongst the people and ask for their tobacco. If you mean to do anything clever, you must stir about amongst them. Philemon Warfield has drew to John Dorsey on W.D. & J. for £15 on the 15 September. I have no advice either from you or him of the draught and of course have noted it, but hope the ship will arrive before it becomes due that I may be indemnified in my conduct either way. It is a critical circumstance and you ought to give me the most exact information of every bill you suffer to be drawn for fear of my blundering, as a protest at this time might ruin us in the business.
I have said nothing to you about money matters for a long time. You know well enough how requisite it is to forward me a sufficiency to pay up our debts and keep a little in hand to answer any of our correspondents' draughts; if you can but do which, never fear the most. Let what may be said, we shall do and better than a number of others. I have shifted and cut somehow or somehow to reduce our creditors to sixteen, all of whom are content to wait with me though I ought to divide upwards of five thousand pounds amongst them by Christmas. Notwithstanding all that has happened, I have a pleasure of informing you that we are in top credit and that it is generally said our payments has been the best by far of any in the trade. I am much elated at our present flattering prospect, in good health [and] good spirits....
P.S. I shall write you by the packet and forward what bills may be protested. Capt Hanricks arrived [in the river]; no letters up. The Letisse is arrived. McKirdy is now with me. Mr Lux & Bowly's bill is good; have charged you as you directed.
I wrote you the 29th per Capt Mallet very fully, a copy of which shall go next opportunity. I have now to acknowledge receipts of yours of the 20 and 28 September and 4 and 16 October, all of which I will answer fully by next opportunity. The sundry bills therein enclosed are all good, but those which you have a list of enclosed. I now forward you Hudson & Lawson's bill under protest amounting to £225:5:9 to your debit and which you'll pass to my credit. I could have wished that the packet had but stayed one other day; I should have been able to [have] forwarded you a good many more bills protested. Enclose you two bills protested for nonacceptance, one of them J. Hamilton on W. Molleson who tells me it's good for nothing; the other Hawkins & O'Neil on Mildred & Roberts, addressed as per advice of H. Hopwell, they having noted a number of bills under the same circumstances and his endorsement, and a declaration that they would not pay them when due, calls for your immediate attention, as I doubt matters are not so well as I could wish.
I am now on the lookout for [Capt J.] Buchanan as [Capt] N. Richardson is arrived who left the Capes the 1 November and understand by him that he has had fine weather. [Capt] J. Richardson is in, as is 4 or 5 more, which has produced a stand with the [tobacco] buyers, as they all report that you have a very full crop now in the house and not shipping enough to bring the present or old crop home. I am now engaged with our mutual friend D. Bowly [of Baltimore], or I would be very full [in writing] tonight. However, you must excuse me, as I assure you I am unexpectedly pleased with his presence and shall do all in my power to make his stay in London agreeable to him. I wait your letters that he was to have brought with impatience —I expect them soon—as they will instruct me how to act. I observe you say that the Betsey is to bring home the tobacco that [James] Buchanan left out and that G[eorge] Buchanan or Nicholson was to take all up the Bay. I hope you will take care to order insurance on them in time. I will attend to every request in your letters to the utmost of my power and I assure you that neither labour, pains, nor anything else shall be wanted to render everything agreeable and advantageous to our friends....
I take this opportunity to forward you copies of my two last per Capt Mallet and the packet, since which I have nothing from you. I have been in daily expectations of [James] Buchanan's arrival, for this fortnight past, and the more so from Coward's, Richardson's, and Lawrence's arrival, who must have sailed much about the same time. I begin to grow rather anxious, as I am assured by numbers that his ship had been leaky, notwithstanding you have never mentioned it, nor provided against it in your order for insurance. We have had a long spell of easterly winds which has occasioned frost, snow and stopped all the exports of tobacco for this winter, so that Buchanan must lay over till next March or April before I shall be able to sell it [the cargo of tobacco] which will hurt us much. Therefore, you can't be too early in forwarding me Capt Belt next spring to enable me to make our June payments.
The price of ships are now very low, owing to the number at market for sale. That would determine me against selling the Kitty & Nelly [J. Buchanan's ship], had not our merchants run headlong in a determination of sending a number of ships out very early. I can't foresee any reason for it, unless the already too rotten part are determined to burst and reduce the other part to a dwindling distemper. In that case, I think it prudent to use gentle means and push on slowly and secure. We shall, I am assured, hereafter find the utility of the prescription and, if I don't mistake, our friends will have cause to agree with me.
112b. It is already notorious that those [planters, etc. in America] who have had permission [from London merchants] to draw at so much per hhd. has their bills [of exchange] noted and must be protested. Be careful of whom you buy bills; a great many are very bad. I have some now by me protested and shall have more soon, which shall go by [Captains] Coulson, Sewel or Nat Richardson, all of whom will sail in the course of this month and by whom I will write you very fully. Mr [Silvanus] Grove promises to pay Mr [Ignatius] Perry's bill and that he will write him fully, which is all the answer I can obtain. I will write Mr Perry by Coulson, but in meantime inform him this much. With what bills I have by me protested and those noted amounts to a thousand pounds, which keeps me behindhand very considerably in our payments. It's therefore necessary you use your utmost to forward me a sum sufficient to discharge all that is now due and indemnify the shipping charges on the goods now getting ready.
Earle & Co. have never vouchedsafe to forward me an acknowledgement of the receipt of the goods, let alone any money. You must look sharp after them, for I am convinced they are shufflers. Our D[aniel] Bowly is with me; he has hinted to me their plan of business. I can say nothing to him until I hear from you respecting that business. McKirdy's ship is to be sold and I believe Mr Bowly will buy a vessel for him. If so and I should sell the Kitty & Nelly, I shall send Mr Carroll's goods out by him. I am in hourly hopes of hearing of Buchanan's arrival by whom I expect the planters' orders for goods. I am in good health as is Mr Bowly. ...
The foregoing is a copy of my last, since which I have nothing from you. I observe what you say in your letter 20 September that the tobacco consigned me might be turned into cash and the net proceeds applied towards the discharge of our debts. I hope you have not relied too much on that, as it has happened in this case that the ship has not sailed or arrived by two months so early as she ought and in future I would not have you by any means to trust too much on such a remittance, as you may most certainly depend on a disappointment. It would have been lucky for us if she had arrived by the time expected, as it would have enabled me to have paid off all our debts up to February, but, as it has so turned, we must still be behindhand with some. I should be glad your order for insurance on the Elizabeth was at hand as she is a new ship and will have a winter's passage, which probably will cause damage.
I am much pleased that you paid D. Dulany for Mauduit's goods. Your order on me was presented for payment and paid before your letter came to hand, but, immediately on the receipt of which, I sent for him [Mauduit], paid him off taking £17:10:0 for discount of those goods sent to Dulany, told him he was a mean puppy, a significant rascal and a deceitful fellow and that I ever would treat him as such, that we then made a final close with them and that it was only the want of means that prevented my taking [earlier] the pleasure I then enjoyed. You seem to lay a stress on the word confide; what could I do but offer confidence to them [Mauduits] who always had proffered services? You would at such a time have done the same and have thought with me that it was an asylum. It's true I too soon saw my mistake and was sorry for it, but, had I have paid them before I did, it would have distressed me very much and perhaps have answered their intent in knocking us up. It has made a good deal of noise and I am told he has complained heavily to Hanbury and others of my ill treatment to him. Nash, Eddowes & Martin house is dissolved and it is now Peter Martin who still continues to act the most friendly part to me; he told me the other day that he had heard of Mauduit's behaviour to me and that if I had but made him acquainted with it that he would have been our security.
I observe that you have done what I had recommended in my letter to you of the 29th ult.; I shall pay particular attention to it, though I still wish that you would say whether I shall sign Wallace, Davidson & Johnson or Joshua Johnson. If the former, which I think most eligible, you will fill up your endorsement on the bills, payable to Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. I should be glad you would contract to supply M. Ridley [merchant at Elkridge] with cash for his bills; you may be sure they are good. I am preparing the goods you ordered; they shall go by the first good opportunity to your place. I shall write you in a few days. . . .
P.S. Enclosed you have McKirdy's order on [Isaac] Harris for £11:11:0; if good, carry it to the credit of his account with C[harles] W[allace] & Co. I made an insurance for Harris [Annapolis blacksmith and shipowner] on his vessel that is lost on which I shall recover for him £230 odd pounds sterling; a government [i.e. advice] for you.
The foregoing is a copy of my last per the Hetty, Capt Robinson, since which there is no arrivals from your country. The wind shifted to the westward yesterday for the first time for these three weeks and I now have hopes that my next will convey to you an account of [James] Buchanan's safe arrival. The weather continues open which keeps up the exportation and has left but very little [tobacco] in the market, so that I have still hopes of selling early in the spring.
Mr [Silvanus] Grove, I hear, has sold Richardson's load or shipped [it abroad] on a joint account; therefore query whether or not his accounts will be so pleasing as the people may expect. And, if not, you ought to be indefatigable in your solicitation to secure what of his friends you possibly can in our interest. I hear that Mr [Osgood] Hanbury complains heavily of your treatment and says that you have interfered with him by soliciting his friends for their tobacco and which they would have shipped him, had you not have done it. I always expected as much; and when that is truly the case, what does the utmost delicacy avail? Be silent and get every hhd. you can from them in future, is my exhortation to you. I need not tell you that there is almost every means made use of to crush us. Some of the tradesmen are very much our friends and others who are immediately under the guidance of our foes are as great enemies. Therefore, it is the more necessary to forward me a sum sufficient to pay up our debts and to answer the draughts of our friends with you. Can you effect which, we need not in a very little time care what they can do. I do therefore recommend to you to lessen your imports, to add three thousand pounds to our stock and to keep two ships of our own in the trade of about 400 hhds. each. They would be loaded early and you might always build or charter a ship to bring home the later tobacco. That would be a snug, clever business and which I could manage very well. Though, after all that I have said, a great deal depends on the dispatch and captains, for, if he is idle and not saving, the ships will soon eat us out. I am preparing the orders that is come to my hands and much wish them by Buchanan. I will write you again in a few days interim. I am very well and with compliments of the season....
I wrote you the 24th per this conveyance to which I must beg to refer you. I had yesterday an account of the Kitty & Nelly's safe arrival at Dover. I can't as yet ascertain what passage she has had or whether or not she has had bad weather and damaged any of her cargo. I have only a moment to save [the opportunity of] Capt Richardson and to add that I am with wishes of a merry Christmas, a happy New Year and many of them to you....