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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I wrote you the 22nd ult. per the Nancy, Capt How, and enclosed you bill lading, bills of parcels and invoice of sundry goods amounting to £7,830:9:7. You'll find Trunk No. 106 containing cloth cardinals [ladies' cloaks] not sent, in consequence of which it will reduce the amount to £7,723:12:6 which is the sum I have debited you with and which sum I am in hopes you'll find right. I shall forward you the remaining articles that was left out in Capt Maynard, who will sail about the 10th and by whom I will send you a duplicate of the last invoice.
I mentioned to you in my last the dreadful state of affairs in general though then but only trifling to what they are at present, and, indeed, they grow more and more alarming every day. It is said this day the Ayr Bank is stopped and that there is only four houses will stand in Glasgow. What for a situation will you be in, I can't hardly imagine. It is hardly doubted that all your Scotch factors will be knocked up. I recommended to you caution in the last [letter] respecting the purchase of Scotch bills, but now let me beg of you not to have anything to do with them at any rate, for I assure you I am very doubtful that the ones I have by me will go back; indeed no one will do anything with them; they are all so frighted and I assure you that it is not only my opinion but everyone's else that there will be a total bankruptcy with the Scotch in most countries.
It is said today that another tobacco merchant has stopped and it is doubted whether or not more will not in a few months. Should that be the case and you have spirit to borrow and confidence in me, there must be an opening for us to push in the tobacco trade, especially as all purchase will be at an end with you, but remember that I must be on another establishment [allowance for expenses] should that be your determination. I only mean this for your speculation amongst the people, and indeed there is one other reason which is a doubt of scarcity of bills [of exchange] amongst you. My opinion of your prudence will hardly allow me the liberty of recommending to you caution in using my hints; they only are intended for your consideration.
I wrote you the first inst. per the New York packet. I now enclose you a duplicate of the invoice of goods per Capt How and his second bill lading, the amount of which I have placed to the debit of your account. I mentioned pretty fully in my last the situation of affairs here, since which there has been only three or four stoppages, two of whom has shot themselves. The discontent, anxiety and uneasiness painted on each brow for days past is not to be expressed, though, amongst all the misfortunes, I am happy that I can tell you that the Bank of England came to a resolution of supporting the Ayr Bank and that will go on again. From this act of lenity, it's hoped they will not persevere in the ruin of the whole nation and that they only did it to squash an excess of a vile circulation of paper. There is a number of Scotchmen now in town, amongst whom is John Glasford, striving to compromise matters. I can't as yet recommend to you the purchase of [Scots] factors' bills. I will keep the most watchful eye on matters and inform you by every opportunity, but, in the meantime, say little and use caution. I long to hear from you. I begin to grow of a craven disposition. . . . I will write you in a few days by Maynard in whom I have shipped the remaining part of your goods. I am tolerably well. . . .
My last was the 4th inst., since which I have none of yours. Enclosed you have bills parcels, bill lading and invoice of goods amounting to £358:18:7 which is placed to your debit. They are those goods that was left out in How, and indeed the order is not yet complete, the nails, part of the sugar and spotted flannels being still left behind. I can't help dreading next spring; our debts are so large and the quantity of goods in your place makes me fearful that you'll not be able to turn yours into bills [of exchange] without you can do which, the Lord knows only what will become of poor me. There will be fear, at least of losing one of my arms by tugs and duns. I am excessively anxious to receive your next for I have £1,200 to pay in the course of this and the next month and only £800 in hand to pay it with. You must be sure to make a point of remitting a sum to indemnify the shipping charges as well as to pay for the goods as they become due; indeed, the [shipping] charges are all ready money and that no trifling sum where the quantity of goods are as large as ours are. I was alarmed a day or two ago by the stoppage of T[homas] P[hilpot, Maryland merchant]. I don't know as yet how he will settle matters. It is said that he will be supported and go on again; if he is not, those bills drew on him will be returned under protest. However, at any rate it must ruin his business in your country and it will be well to have an eye on the drawers of any bills you buy drawn on him for the future. I have reason to doubt many others are pushed very hard whom few would suspect and I wish many on your side of the water mayn't suffer by them. I hope in God you will take care of me, but, unless I can hear a little oftener, I am fearful. Indeed, you may judge that I am anxious to know what face matters bears with you, more so from the dark situation they are in here. I hear that West & Hobson has shipped a cargo of goods on board the Adventure, [Capt] Maynard, for your place but on who's account or whom for I can't tell more than a new concern or for one they never shipped for before. I will write you again in a few days; in the meantime, make proper use of my information. . . .
I wrote you the 13th per Mr [Lloyd] Tilghman since which there has been nothing from your parts. I now forward in Mr Ridley's care the remainder of Watson & Scott's shoes amounting to £14:10:5 as per bill parcel and invoice enclosed which are placed to your debits. In several of my letters I desired you would be careful in transmitting me certificates to cancel my bonds in the customs. You have never done it, or, if you have, you hain't mentioned it to me. It is undoubtedly requisite that we keep as clear of them as possible. I can't help observing with concern the manner of your exhibiting the complaint against Nash, Eddowes & Martin. They undoubtedly have deceived themselves as well as you. They, I well know, charged me lower in every instance than they did others and they likewise have taken the utmost pains to find out and introduce me to the most capital houses, of different occupations. However, all those matters are not to be put in competition with worse usage than we receive from others, and I most readily agree with you it is right to leave them.
I particularly mentioned and stipulated it with you, before I came from home, that you should, in forming your schemes, dissect the articles and not lump matters. In every instance hitherto they have been lumped, as thus, £10 worth glassware. You must on a moment's reflection see the ill consequence that attends it and, indeed, it will evidently appear on opening the goods there, when you find you are crowded with over quantities of one kind, from having too many of the old on hand. It is a matter that has puzzled me much, the most so in the calicoes of anything. You ought to see what you have on hand and what has been the most saleable; of such goods order the greatest quantities; but it is impossible for me to tell and in course may overload you too many of a sort. If you would say the quantities of each sort and affix prices, it would be of prodigious service to me in looking out the goods, as I should make out the orders blank and take your order in my pocket which would serve as a check for me. I must beg you will confer with Mr [Matthew] Ridley on this subject whom I beg leave to introduce to your particular notice. You'll find him very sensible and clever and he will give you a very general idea of business here and open matters more clearly to your satisfaction than I can on paper without spending more time than I ought.
45b. I am doubtful you will be puzzled to make a full remittance; you ought in that case to form an agreement with Lux & Bowly or some other friend to draw you two, three or four bills at 60 days sight on their correspondent, which bills I can discount and raise money on, and indeed if [I have] no occasion to use them, they will only lay by me. It can be of no disservice to them and of use to us, as you may always replace the money to answer their acceptance.
I have thought and am almost determined to leave our bankers [Hanbury, Taylor, Lloyd & Bowman]. They are too close and no ways friendly in helping a man out on a dead lift [emergency]. There is many others who would do those matters for one with pleasure. Indeed I propose opening an account with the Bank of England as soon as I am in cash and always keep a little in their hands; they by that means will be ready to discount for me.
I find it impossible for me to do without a boy [in the counting house]; our business has increased so much. I am now on a treaty with one and propose to allow him 10 guineas the first year and his parents to find [i.e. provide for] him. Should you approve of it, I suppose you will allow it a charge against the company; if not, say so and I will bear it myself. Indeed, it will save us money for I can with his assistance do without employing a broker in the Customs House and whose fees soon amount to the boy's early wages.
45c. I am sorry to inform you that it is whispered Barnes & Ridgate is like to fall in those perilous times. It is supposed that they have been dabbling in paper with Philpot. I know they are much distressed and, what adds to it, Hanbury & Co. pushes them as hard as possible. I would have you use the utmost caution in mentioning it. It's a very delicate point and I expect you'll not betray my confidence. You will have an eye to any of their bills that may be offered you. I have kept my letter open as long as possible in hopes of having it in my power of giving you some agreeable account of T. Philpot's affairs, but am sorry to inform you that there is many doubts arises whether or not he will go on again and I am of opinion he will not from this circumstance, his answering to the bills (which are noted) that he will pay them in a day or two. I am willing to ease him and the drawers all I can, but, unless they are paid in a few days, I will protest and send them via Philadelphia. There is a considerable Spanish house failed of the name of Colanthes [Lewis Collantes & Co.?] and a [London] Philadelphia house has stopped today under the firm of [Richard] Neave & Son. (fn. 1) Good God, where will it end? I do most earnestly entreat you to exert yourselves in remitting and indeed, unless you do, I don't know what will be the consequence, for I assure you that there is not people enough wanting to make a handle and an advantage (whenever we fall short) to our prejudice. . . .
The bearer of this is Mr [Charles] Carroll's Adam who, by ill advisers, left his master here. He has since commenced a penitent and put himself under Mr [James] Anderson's and my direction in procuring his return. He has signified to me that he is ashamed to face his master on which I promised you would go with him and which promise I beg you will fulfil. I have done this with an intent to serve Mr Carroll [barrister] and the poor devil and shall be happy to hear that it meets with his approbation. I know your compassion for the unhappy and willingness to relieve which makes it needless to apologise for this trouble.
I wrote you the 17th ult. per Mr Matthew Ridley, since which I am favoured with yours of 15 May and 19 June covering 11 first bills amounting to £642:13:3, all of which are accepted except Hudson & Lawson's, Jo. Ward's and William Smithson's which are noted; the fate of Dr [John] Stephenson's [Stevenson?] I can't as yet inform you of; it's not yet returned from Haverfordwest where it's sent for acceptance. I shall forward you whatever of them is protested as soon as the time is expired. I now forward you 3 protests, amounting with charges to £85:10:7 which you will please to pass to my credit.
I was suspicious the quantity of goods per Nicholson was too large, but there is no more than you ordered and not that complete. If you was to dissect your orders properly, you would then be better able to judge at the amount, but, so long as you continue to order in the manner you have, you will not only be deceived in the amount but often have too many of a sort.
I observe what you say about Birmingham. I went there with intent to make our purchases from time to time, but, on finding their credit was only 6 months, I saw it would not do, that we had it not in our power to make payments at the time, which compelled me to decline any thoughts of being served from there. I have not shipped the nails ordered in your last order, owing to my expectations of having money to spare, after complying with my engagements, to pay for the nails, but I find it not the case and am afraid to send them. The price is considerably lower than they were and for money might be got cheap. I lie under the same predicament as to sugar which must be paid for at 2 months. You desire that I would say the sum it drawbacks, it is 14/6 per cwt. with a deduction of 3 per cent for paper and strings. I should have informed you so much before, but thought you was convinced as to that drawback. The reason it was not included in the account of drawbacks [sent to you was that] I had not received it; they are longer coming around than any other except the certificate debenture.
47b. Pray forward certificates to cancel my tea bonds and all others that's requisite to cancel those in the customs. You must get one from Wolstenholme [collector of North Potomac] to cancel the tea bond per Page [to St Mary's] in the name of William Purdy. I received invoice and bill of lading from William Potts [of Barbados] for rum etc. shipped [to Maryland] in the Fortune, [Capt] Thomas Moore, amounting to £581:17:1 and invoice etc. of 20 barrels sugar per the schooner Sally, [Capt] J. Leighton, amounting to £124:12:9 but a few days before I received yours, and, as the insurance was not made owing to my insisting we would give but 1½ per cent, we saved the insurance on that per the Fortune; the other I am at a loss what to do with, for you say that you have received per the Fortune rum etc. amounting to £706:9:10 which is the amount in both vessels. I wish you had been a little more exact, and from this saving I hope you will always pay attention to advising me for the future. Both sums turned into sterling is £543:9:1, the appearance of [Potts'] bills for which I am in daily expectations of, though badly provided for discharging of them, owing in part to those [bills of exchange sent me but] returned protested.
I observe with a feeling attention what you say respecting the sales of goods and join you in wishes that we may be able to go through our scheme. Shall we be able to weather the ensuing year, I am in hopes it will answer our utmost expectations as the quantities shipped will be far less than they have been. I have had my eye to it in our last purchases and have contracted with all the tradesmen at 12 months except Jennings which is at 6 months. I shall want a good deal of money this fall to make payments of Potts' bills and for the goods per Page.
47c. Pray forward me the money for nails etc. shipped by Russell for the [dockside] building. I am glad to hear of Richardson's arrival and hope the young men answered your wish and that you got the goods safe. It is odd that other people can find so many more opportunities than you can of writing. It is certainly the want of attention and undoubtedly so in not acknowledging the receipts of my letters, for want of which I know not but a number of them mayn't have reached your hands. I repeat my request: pray let one of the boys take the dates of each and send me.
You mention that you had sold some goods for tobacco receivable at August Court at the market price. I hope you will sell it in the country as the price here will by [no] means indemnify the price given there. The many failures has caused a stagnation to everything and almost every merchant notes the bills [of exchange] drawn on them, so that it requires you use the utmost caution on your parts that you have good endorsers to those bills you purchase. Hanbury & Co. protesting Barnes & Ridgate's bills has knocked them up from doing any more business here. Indeed Mr Ridgate nor Philpot has not behaved genteel in their matters. However, it is no matter to us. Ridgate offered their business to several merchants here, all of whom refused it. Philpot has compounded with his creditors thus: 5/ in the pound to be paid on the first year and 5/ the next, for which they have acquitted him unless he has honour enough to divide the overplus, if any, amongst them. I should have wrote you by the packet but I went out of town for my health by the advice of the physical faculty and I can assure you that I am much better than I have been since I came to England.
47d. There is a number of ships to be sold and scarcely any purchasers, such is the difference of times between this and the last autumn. I have not ventured to form any connections with the wheat people as I am and have been fearful of the risk. Indeed, our friends Herries & Co. bills has been thrown out of the bank some time ago and I thought it prudent to adopt the old proverb that drowning men would catch at straws; therefore it was best to avoid them for fear we might sink sooner than we would choose. There is a box of books for T. Jennings Esq which Mr Dulany has sent him and recommended to our care. You'll see that they are delivered. Enclosed you have bill lading for Mr Jennings' box, a case for Mr Harwood and a box types and 2 bags of ink for Mrs Green, amounting to £8 as per bill parcel and invoice enclosed which are placed to your debit. If all the tradesmen was as troublesome as those two have been, God keep me from having anything to do with them. I can't leave you without remonstrating to you the necessity of making full remittances and them early, for now is the time we shall be pushed and the whole body of our merchants are waiting with the most ardent wishes for it. For God's sake exert yourselves and let's disappoint them. We shall establish ourselves beyond a doubt for the future if we can rub through the next year. I will write you in a few days by Capt Thomas. . . .
The ship's not going so soon as I expected affords me an opportunity of forwarding enclosed Hudson & Lawson's bill on Herries & Co. under protest, amounting with charges to £100:5:9 which you will pass to my credit.
There has been no arrivals since writing the above although we are under hourly expectations of [Captains] Elder, Christie and Deshield. Push those fellows for the money on the protests or [for] better bills than these are.
I wrote you the 20th and 22nd inst. by Capt Bishoprick and enclosed you 4 protested bills amounting to £185:16:4 and invoice and bill lading for printing goods amounting to £8 all of which you will pass to my credit.
Stevenson's bill on Clibborn, Summers & Co. [Haverfordwest] is good; the time is not yet expired of Ward's and Smithson's; as soon as they are I will forward them [back to you protested] unless paid. You have enclosed bills of parcel from Nash, Eddowes & Martin made out as shipped at the short price which they beg you will compare with your neighbours and note the articles higher charged than theirs are. They still urge that they have given us a preference in every instance to the goods shipped for [Robert] Couden, [Thomas] Hyde, [Samuel Harvey] Howard and French [local rivals] and say that they are positive that no one in the trade can serve or has served us lower than they did. I can't nor don't pretend to justify them; however, should be glad of your remarks on their bills [of sale], as they are very uneasy about the complaints.
Those bills [of exchange] being returned has left me short of cash and I am in daily expectations of Mr Potts' bill, to answer which I shall be puzzled unless I am lucky enough to receive from you a supply; the Lord knows how you will make out for me against the fall and next spring, as I shall want very large sums to comply with our engagements and a part of which you can't too early forward me. The distress amongst the tradesmen is truly alarming. They are calling on me almost every day and begging for God's sake to spare them a little money, although their goods were delivered us only in June or July and not due till this time twelve months. Judge you the situation I am in and have compassion on me by enabling me to comply at the time agreed for these goods when the case may be altered to that of 'Sir, my bill is due and I insist on having my money'.
There has been no stoppages of consequence since my last. It's whispered that a New York house will soon be obliged to give up and many doubts still remains about one of the tobacco merchants and I fear the high price of tobacco will act to forward his end.
It is said that there is two northern houses [London houses trading to northern colonies] propose to extend their connections from New York as far south as Baltimore, one of which is no less a man than Mr [William] Kelly who read the address to Lord Hillsborough. If he is as intrepid in success in his mercantile plans as ready to address an arbitrary courtier, he must soon appropriate the most of the business to himself. [Captains] Elder's and Christie's ships are arrived but brought me no letters, although other people in Annapolis could find time and conveyance of writing as late as the 9 July; it is damned hard, though I will write you by the packet. . . .
I had wrote you this morning by Capt Thomas who will sail in a few days, since which I am favoured with yours 2nd July covering 4 first bills [of exchange] for £327:11:1, two of which on Barnes & Ridgate is noted, and enclosed you have protests for non-acceptance by which means you may hold them to security till the time of payment is elapsed when I will forward protests for non-payment.
I would have you by all means to take security and be as expeditious as you possibly can, as I am doubtful they are not very good, from hints here. I have taken this method to secure ourselves and have had only a few hours to save this opportunity by Capt Falkner via Philadelphia. I doubt not any neglect on your parts. I will write you in a few days per packet and inform you the success of the others [bills of exchange] which lays till Monday for acceptance. . . .
My last to you was the 29th ult. per Capt Falkner via Philadelphia covering protests for non-acceptance of Turner's two bills on Barnes & Ridgate for £161. Since which yours of the 8 July is come to hand and brought me one first bill for £150 on J. Buchanan who has noted it. Hopewell's and Tilghman's bills are good and placed to your credit. As soon as ever the time expires of the others, you shall have them under protests unless paid. Together with what bills is already returned and those lying in suspense has no doubt baffled your expectations as well as mine and it will therefore require your utmost exertion to replace those and a farther sum of twelve hundred pounds by the first of December to enable me to comply with our engagements like men.
You say in yours of 2nd July you had just discovered an omission in not sending me the second bills for £181:7:2¾; it's equally surprising to me that you have never discovered a like mistake in not forwarding me the seconds of those remitted 15 February and 10 March amounting to £504:12:0½. It's true they are all good but that can't be any apology for your not sending them. I have frequently wrote you of it and you will pardon this plainness in urging the necessity of references to the dates of the letters you write me and those you receive from me, as well as listing the first and second bills you send on the foot of your letters. It's no restriction, but what is strictly observed by all merchants.
51b. I am happy to hear that those young men are likely to do well and hope they will answer your purpose. The books and locket shall come by the next opportunity and hope the latter may remove that coolness you mention which originally was owing to the fellows imposing on me. I am glad to hear C. W[allace] goes on well with the Stadt House [Capitol] and hope he will extricate himself of that undertaking to general satisfaction.
I am uneasy at your complaints about the sales, the more so as it's the only dependence we have to support us through our intentions, should which fail, you well know what a deplorable situation I must be in, having cut off every immediate connection in your place and settled here at a considerable expense which will be a dead loss to me on my return, as well as a disadvantage in setting out anew in the woods. However, I totally agree to acquiesce in your determinations, either in continuing or stopping, it being so much more in your powers to judge how matters are likely to end than it is in mine. One caution I only desire you will have an eye to: not upon any consideration in the world to involve our friends in any scrape. I had rather commence a beggar than be the instrument of distressing a friend, his wife and children.
The appearances so far as I can see are favourable to us here, there being much fewer goods sent to Philadelphia and Maryland this summer than usual. Indeed, there is a stoppage of credit and will be more considerably so when the goods shipped last fall and spring becomes due. We are in credit for any amount and if it is possible for you to enable me to be punctual, we may weather it and to our wish; therefore am of opinion that a few goods early to assort those on hand would not be amiss. You may depend on my using every endeavour to remove those complaints. I am glad to hear rum sold so quick. You have never acknowledged the receipt of the sugar; it has puzzled me how to act; the bills [of exchange from Barbados] have not as yet appeared.
My last was 2nd ult. per New York packet, since which I am favoured with yours 15 July, 13 and 21 August. That of the 15 July covered 2 first bills [of exchange] £105:18:0 which are good and passed to your credit; those of the 13 and 21 August brought me 9 second bills, all of which are accepted except the following: Gassaway on Russell, C. Hodges on Philpot, J. Ramsey Hodges on ditto. and Hemsley & Tilghman on Perkins & Co. As soon as ever the time for payment expires, you may depend on my forwarding them to you under protests. I now forward 3 protests amounting with charges to £220:11:10 which you will place to my credit. I don't recollect ever to have said anything to you on the subject of protests. I therefore now take the liberty to recommend the utmost activity in procuring renewments [new bills to cover the value of protested bills plus penalties]; the disappointment will urge the necessity and no one ought to expect indulgence.
We have had many failures since my last, but none to affect our trade. What will become of your merchants, the Lord only knows; their correspondents here seems determined to ruin them, or at least their credit by protesting all their bills; indeed it seems to be an unvariable rule with some to note every bill that is offered to them. I assure you that the face of everything begins to wear quite a different aspect here. The tradesmen have not that demand for their goods; the merchant can't get around his remittances; the tradesmen's bills are due; they push the merchant; he is soured and swears he will not for the future pay your gentlemen's bills or trust them with goods. Indeed they speak so plain as to say, such a gentleman and such a gentleman owes me the immoderate sum of so much and I can't even hear from him; it won't do; I am determined to push them. Amongst the rest there are a good many of your townsmen so that you may be assured you'll not have such large importations in Annapolis for the future and I think much fewer sellers to oppose us soon. Therefore, I am very desirous to push our scheme, if you find it practicable to make tolerable remittances for a while, when I see that a little time will leaves us victorious in the market and I hope crown us with the laurel we so earnestly struggle for.
52b. Your letter 15 July alarmed me with an account of the small pox being in Annapolis. I assure you I was so much hurt by it that I was unwell for a week; the thoughts of having so large a cargo as that is per the Nancy to arrive at that dreadful period, promised us nothing but ruin. But the Almighty of his ever goodness has stopped that most dreadful disorder, I am informed by Mr French. In yours 13 August you seem determined to persevere in our original intention and again recommend to me to use all my endeavours. You may depend on it I would rather suffer death than be wanting to the trust imposed in me and I promise you nothing shall be wanting on my part to forward us to the summit of our wishes. Yours of 21st mentions the receipt of a letter from [Christopher] Richmond, since which I have the pleasure to hear by Capt Smith that he spoke him just off the Cape and favoured with a fair wind so that I have hopes the goods reached you by the 5th ult. which would be in an exceeding good time for you and I hope will meet a ready sale.
Mr J[ohn] Barnes is arrived here; you can better judge his situation than I can describe it, therefore will only say it is truly pitiable. I have not seen him these several days; when I did, it was a matter of doubt whether or not his creditors would suffer him to return. Hanbury has the ship and cargo.
I can't omit informing you that I have been arrested at the suit of Watson & Scott [shoe suppliers] and lugged to a Counter where I was obliged to enter bail for my appearance; it will not come to trial as they have brought this action wrong, which will cause a nonsuit, but it has given me a good deal of trouble and put us to some expense. What was their reason or whether or not they were egged on to do it I can't tell; it's very rascally usage, the more so as I paid them for all the shoes but those per How and Mr Ridley and they were not due 2 months when the writ was served. I have already punished the scoundrels and will continue to do so in order to convince them and their adherents that we despise them and their low menace. I have not got duplicates of their bills; I desire you'll not fail in forwarding them to me, as I have reason to think they are wrong and differ from the order given them.
52c. The firm of [William] Molleson's house I expect will be altered as he has taken his brother [Robert] in partnership; you may see his drift. I should be glad to know how the people will stomach it.
You have not mentioned anything lately to me about the ship. If you propose to build her and send her here with tobacco, I would recommend to you by all means to send her out so as to arrive here by the first of June; you may be assured of a better price for the tobacco than if later, but if it's of the new crop and anyways coloured, it will sell well and if you determine to keep the ship arunning I can send out the fall's cargo and you must get what orders for goods you can of the Baltimore gentlemen. I will likewise send a parcel of servants. I would not be understood by no means to recommend the purchase of a cargo of tobacco. If our friends has confidence in our managing their tobacco and would consign it us, I would not hesitate in purchasing a little to fill up the ship, but on no other terms.
I have repeatedly desired you would send me certificates to cancel my tea bonds in the Excise Office. Pray get that from [collector] Wolstenholme in the name of William Purdy and forward immediately, or I am afraid I shall be obliged to lodge the money for the penalty which will not be clever. I do most earnestly desire you will give me some idea of our affairs; you have never done it yet.
You will judge from the protests returned and the bills noted that I have nothing like enough to answer the payment of the goods per Page and Mr Potts' bills [from Barbados], the latter of which has appeared and is under my acceptance; you will therefore do what you can in forwarding me a sum sufficient to answer all. I must once more beg of you to acknowledge the receipts of my letters and refer to the dates of yours. I never shall know when I am right without them. I will write you again in a few days.
My last was 12 July per Capt Maynard since which I am favoured with yours 24 August. In a letter from W. & D. of the 17 August, they say that the 3 bills remitted by you on the 25 March amounting to £55:9:8 were on account of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. I have turned to your letters and find you take no notice of it there. Therefore on a presumption that they are right I have charged you to them for £55:9:8.
There was a report here last winter that a petition was exhibited against Mr [Benedict] Calvert [collector of Patuxent customs district] to the Lords of Treasury complaining of neglect of duty and your being employed as deputy and at the same time concerned in business. I took every step in my power to find out the petitioners, wrote J[ames] Gibbs [absentee comptroller of Patuxent] of it and told him my intention of throwing in a counter-petition, craving time for Mr Calvert to make his defence. I applied to the receiver general of the customs here for his assistance, who satisfied me that the [Treasury] Lords would never proceed against him without hearing his defence. I knew Mr [Anthony] Stewart was in his company often and I assure you he never hinted anything of it to me. I was told by Mr Key that Williams the Inspector General said at Russell's that it was very probable Mr Calvert would lose his place. I suspect that the complaint was from S[tephen] W[est], but I am assured it is not. Indeed, old Russell threatened to complain against you and him about a certificate for the cordage, which I could not help resenting. I will be on the watch and should I succeed in discovering the author you may depend on my letting you know who he is.
The innovation that has happened here and in Scotland will not affect the trade in the manner you suspect. It's most certain the exports of goods will be inconsiderable to what they have been, but I apprehend that [Maryland] exchange [on London] will not get above 662/3 per cent [or par] from two reasons. The wheat business will always furnish some bills and the Scotchmen have raised money by annuities and other devices sufficient to carry on their business. The price of tobacco must fall, though they who has experienced the sweets arising on the sales in the country will probably continue to be their own merchants [i.e. sell their own tobacco in Maryland] and undoubtedly so when the [poor] sales of the present consignment reaches their hands; and should it be the case that they compel the merchants to make another purchase, I am pretty clear that it will leave but a few in the London business and of course the Scotch will run away with all the trade.
I have not seen Charley Calvert; he is gone to Eton. You may rely on it that I will do everything in my power to serve him, but, Jonny, what can any man do with a young giddy lad here where he can't cast his [eye?] on the street but is saluted with temptation? There is no government over youth here and London is the last place I would recommend to send them to. I shall be glad to hear from you and beg you will present my most respectful compliments to Mah, your Nelly and the little ones. . . .
I wrote you the 7th per packet since which I am favoured with yours 13 August via Liverpool and 17th per Capt Smith. As the packet will sail in a few days, I shall omit writing you fully by this opportunity as there is a probability her letters will reach you much sooner than this will. The locket, books, etc. are all ready for the first ship that offers to your place though I have but little expectation of any sailings before January; the merchants all seems afraid of trusting the planters again and are determined to act on the defensive for fear of being drawn into another purchase which would stagger the strongest amongst them. Indeed the times are alarming to all who are concerned in that commodity, as it is daily falling and I doubt will leave a clear loss to the holders of 25 per cent or more. Was we possessed of one £5,000, next spring would be the time to make our push for the consignment of tobacco, as the planters will all be in arms with the merchants for giving them so little for their tobacco and protesting all their bills, for they are determined not to pay a shilling more than they have in hand. Indeed they are not able to do it; they are so hard pushed that a tradesman can't get a shilling of them, although the debts are due 15, 16 and 18 months. Will it not surprise you that C[harles] C[arroll] of Carrollton's [one of the richest men in Maryland] bill on J. Buchanan to B. Calvert are noted? I think if we had money to spare it would be the most profitable business. . . . For God's sake, avoid 60 day bills [of exchange]; it is so long before one can return them that we lose considerably in interest. I have sent you some papers for Mrs Green. . . .
I wrote you the 30th ult. per Capt Belt via Virginia. I have a letter of the 4 September from Lux & Bowly [of Baltimore] acknowledging the receipt of mine of 22 June per Capt How which gives me great pleasure to hear of his arrival. The quantity of goods shipped this fall is inconsiderable to what everyone expected the 4 June when I wrote you that letter. Perhaps it was a scheme of West & Hobson and Molleson in saying they had large orders preparing to ship in order to intimidate us, but I rather incline to think that the face of matters here, add to it the bad remittances, determined them not to execute the orders. The complaints from everyone of remittances and number of protests will warrant me to say that there will be fewer merchants with you than is at present and of course much fewer goods imported, which makes me desirous of pushing our scheme, the more so as declining of it now would leave each of us at a loss to begin anew and it would take nearly the same time and trouble to collect and settle our matters now as it will at the expiration of the partnership. Those are the motives that activate my desire. However, I freely acquiesce in your determination as I do not, nor never did, think but you would be guided by prudence and act for the interest of the concern. The probability of its success is much more in your powers to judge of than in mine. I know not, you do, what are your sales, profits and expenses by them and the goodness or badness of remittances. You must form your judgment and determine accordingly.
55b. Provided we continue, my opinion is that we ought to stick nearer to the original plan and at any rate not to [let the firm's imports] exceed £12,000 worth of European goods and £1,500 of West India. You will find that, well managed, will leave us more gain than £20,000 would otherwise and not straiten you in remittances so much. Indeed, once we could fix to sell that quantity to good men, it will strip us of the risk we run in trusting, which we are compelled to when we have more goods than we know what to do with, the importing of which I am altogether against and therefore hope (if you order again) you will model your scheme accordingly.
You have mentioned nothing about the ship [being built] lately; the price of them is considerably fallen here and a vast number at market for sale and but few purchasers. If you can get her tobacco loaded home, it would do; otherwise she will sink us money, and, if you propose to load her to me, she ought to be here early in June or the last of May; in that case, you might venture to send 100 hhds tobacco on our own account, if of the new crop and good in colour and quality, provided the price is not too high, and you must in that case forward me a remittance to answer the advance of the duty.
From the strictest observation and inquiries I am of opinion that the many failures in England and Scotland will not affect the trade in the manner you apprehend; instead of throwing the business entirely in the London channel, I think it will increase to Scotland, especially if they can make their purchases with you for goods and part bills. I am the more justifiable in my opinion from the declarations of the merchants here, that they will curtail their exports and not purchase any more tobacco for the future. Many other reasons prompts me to believe it will be so, the very considerable loss on this [year's tobacco] purchase and the badness of remittances will disable them in future, in pushing the trade to such extremes. On the other hand, the Scotch bankers [i.e. the Ayr Bank] . . . have acted with the usual craft (peculiar to that country) in procuring money on annuities etc. to answer the purpose of supporting their merchants.
55c. I have just received a letter from Mr Potts enclosing me bill lading and invoice of 50 hhds. rum and 6 hhds. spirit amounting to £862:17:4¾ Barbados currency, shipped you in the Betsey, [Capt] Garrard Brown, which I have insured at 2 per cent. I shall note his bills for the want of your advice unless I receive it before the bills appears. You did say in one of your letters that you should order more, but have never mentioned a syllable since about it. There is a necessity of being exact and this instance will, I hope, added to my repeated remonstrances, make you so for the future.
Enclosed you have Turner's two bills on Barnes & Ridgate under protest amounting with charges to £161:17:0 which is passed to your debit. I have four bills amounting to £473:0:9 now lying noted; the fate of 3 will be determined in a few days and, if protested (as I suppose they will), I will lose no time in forwarding them. Hemsley's & Tilghman's will not be due till some time in December. The bills returned with those lying in suspense has laid me under difficulties in making our payments now becoming due of £1,200 and I do not know how to accomplish it unless I am lucky enough to receive from you a supply, not having by me any [cash] to spare from the payment of Potts' last bills. For your regulation, I have given you at the foot of my letter the sums we owe and the months that each sum becomes due in the course of next year; it will enable you to form your remittances. I shall at the expiration of the year forward you a more particular list of our debts with the other accounts. . . .
I wrote you the 4th per packet and last night I received yours 14 September covering 4 first bills amounting to £102:18:1, the fate of which I can't as yet inform you. I now forward enclosed 3 protests amounting with charges to £74:8:0 which is placed to your debits. You say that you were disappointed in a £300 bill; it is a most mortifying disappointment to me, for I am put to my wits to make our payments. You desire that I would forward you the protests. I fancy the receipt of my letters will fully satisfy that desire. I complained about the shalloons when put up but I could not get better. The Caroline, [Capt] Pearson, is lost, ship and cargo; bad luck for old Russell, his commission was not insured.
I wrote you the 17th ult. via Philadelphia and enclosed you 3 protests amounting with charges to £74:8:0, since which I am favoured with yours 22nd September covering 9 first bills amounting to £476:19:6, which are all accepted but McPherson's on B[arnes] & Ridgate, Craufurd on Philpot and Key on J. M. Jordan; as soon as the time expires I will forward them under protests. Hemsley's & Tilghman's still lays in suspense; a few more days will determine its fate, though I am fearful it must go back. I said enough in one of mine of the 4th ult. to encourage you to purchase Scotch traders' bills. I think you may venture to do it with a great deal of safety but let them be payable in London and at 30 days sight. I likewise mentioned in that letter the sum we shall want in February, but for fear of any miscarriage I repeat it: it must be upwards of £4,000 besides a sum to answer Mr Potts' draught and to pay for the sugar you now order, which will be nearly another £1,000. I too recommended that, if you found yourselves pinched, to borrow; my opinion is that we had better pay interest than suffer in credit, provided your determinations be to continue.
You say by way of apology that you were so busy in selling that you could not write me fully by that opportunity; query, are you so night and day? Though, indeed, it's always been so in every instance and I begin to grow too fearful of its continuance, however, I will venture to ask you to write me by every packet. The winter coming on will prevent the ships from being regular and it's seldom or ever that a letter miscarries by the packet.
The goods you order shall come by the first opportunity though I don't believe there will be any till January and perhaps then late. I have been inquiring what would be done against the next spring in exports and am assured that they will be considerably less than usual, the merchants having come to a resolution not to ship goods in that immoderate extent they did in the last year. I have been very poorly this fall and compelled to leave town. I am much recovered and once more enabled to stand the disagreeable damps and smoke of London. . . .
I wrote you the 2nd inst. by this conveyance, but the mails not closing before today gives me an opportunity of acknowledging receipt of yours 26 October per the packet. That letter has been to hand these five days and no tidings of Richardson or his letters as yet. I wish you had sent me the second bills per that conveyance. I want them very much and pray for the future don't omit writing by every packet; it is much the quickest and securest way.
I am told that you propose sending 100 hhds. tobacco home in Galloway's & Steward's new ship and that it is the produce of the Eastern Shore. Unless you got it at a very low price, you might as well have thrown your money in the river for you may be assured that you'll lose by it, the price for that sort of tobacco being so very low here. Besides, there is no probability of its selling till next spring, the navigation being shut up in the Baltic till March and the duty on it must be paid, which too must be ready money and that will lay dead at least 3 months. Besides, if that was really your intention you ought to have communicated them to me that I should have been in some measures prepared for the reception of it, but I hold it not good policy that others should communicate your schemes here before you make them known to me. I understand that you and S[tephen] West has had some conversation about the ship, but can't learn what his proposals were. I shall omit saying anything about her in this as I have given you my sentiments fully before.
I shall pay attention to Mr Potts' draughts when they appear, your acknowledging the receipt of the rum being at last advice sufficient to justify me. There has nothing happened since my last worth noting. There is no orders as yet delivered; the tradesmen and the ships will be very late this year. Enclosed you have Hemsley & Tilghman's bill on Perkins & Co. under protest, amounting with charges to £400:5:9, which you will be pleased to pass to my credit. I have 5 more bills lying noted for £150, which must, I am sure, go back. Those disappointments are enough to baffle all your attempts and will compel me to beg the tradesmen's patience. Pray take no more 60 day bills, the time is too long. I beg you will take the most expeditious step to forward me a renewment for this bill, and that at 30 days. New Year begins to draw near. I can't tell how I may make out, but I doubt badly enough; therefore exert yourselves and assist me against February. That will be the heavy month with me having Potts' bills to pay and the tradesmen for those goods per the Eden. I am in expectations of hearing from you fully by Richardson after whose arrival I will write you again. . . .