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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My last letters were of the 2nd and 8th ult. per the packet, since which I am favoured with yours of the 26, 28 and 30 October covering sundry first bills for £626:2:9 which are all accepted but the following: Buchanan on Perkins & Co. and Stone on Russell. I observe what you say in yours of the 26th about the government of yourselves in the purchase of bills; it requires the strictest attention as by one stroke our whole profits may be swept away, though I find the Scotch factors' [bills of exchange] has the preference here and think you would be secure in them. In the same letter you promise to attend to my request in referring to the dates of letters, but say that excessive hurry prevented you from referring to those already received. The nights was long enough and it would not have hurt one of the youngsters to have set up and done it.
Yours of the 28th was attended with a letter and order for goods from Richard Tilghman Earle & Co. who informs me that you'd engaged my shipping the goods, but for what reasons you had formed that connection, they say they suppose you had advised me. You only tell me that you had entered in such an engagement for this cargo only and if I am of an opinion that 2½ per cent is not adequate to risk, advance and trouble, I am to settle the matter for the future. In the first place, your entering in such an engagement deviates from our original intention; the next, there is ready money advances for freight and all the charges, besides a good many goods must be paid for at 6 and 9 months as grocery, shot and china, sugar at 2 months and tea, if on the best terms, ready money. If you had but attended to this, I am persuaded you would not [have] entered in any such engagement, but, as you have done it, I will ship them although we should be losers by it, which we run a risk in, for simple interest and brokers' fees will amount nearly to the commission. I am at a loss what to do respecting my answer to them, the more so from their insinuation and reference to you for your reason why you engaged. I can't help it but I must tell you that you have acted with impropriety either in making this engagement and keeping your reasons from me for so doing. By it you have led me in the dark and left me to blunder out as I can. Indeed, we have as much as we can turn our hands to to find money to answer our own engagements, let alone any other which you ought to [have] maturely weighed; and I will add, though good as the gentlemen may be, there is no house in London at this time would ship them goods for 2½ per cent [commission] without other views. I'll suspend saying anything farther on this head until I have your long letter that you promise; then I will answer them fully on the subject. In the meantime, inform them that their goods is preparing and shall come by the first and most convenient opportunity.
59b. Yours of the 30th says nothing either about one thing or another so that there is so much for that. I have received certificates to cancel my wine bond and tea [bond] per the Nancy and I still want certificates to cancel wine bond in the name of Nash & Co. and tea bond in the name of W. Purdy. The time is nearly expired and I beg you will attend to sending them enclosed to me.
There is now 7 bills lying noted, 5 of which there is no doubt will be protested and the other two is doubtful, so that you may judge I am very bare [of cash] after paying our debts due last month. Indeed, I had not enough by £200 or upwards, so that I have that to pay out of the next remittance I receive, Mr Potts' bills [of exchange], shipping charges on Earle's goods and £4,000 for the goods per the Eden.
Ships has rose very considerably lately [in price] and it's very probable that they will keep up. I can't account for it any way, unless it's owing to the great loss in the last year. Should you purchase any tobacco in the spring, don't give more than 12/6 sterling [per 100 lb.]; at that price we should make money, especially if it could arrive here in May or June. The situation of the tobacco gentlemen is truly deplorable. There is few who can find money to pay their acceptances and, for fear of meeting their immediate fate, they protest everything, though I incline to think that will operate like slow poison and must bring them to their end one day or other, for it undoubtedly must ruin their interest with you. The purchase of tobacco [in America] alone for this last year has been a most dreadful stroke upon the trade and one other such would quite overset it.
There has failed a house in Amsterdam lately of the firm of Clifford & Sons which has threw them in as much confusion as Fordyce & Co. threw this place and it has had no less effect here than the failure of three or four very capital houses already and many more it is supposed must soon follow. Its consequences will not even end there, for it must affect the tobacco trade very much as that [Holland] was a market our greatest dependence was on for the Maryland tobacco. I wish that some of our trade may not fall under this stroke, for many of them has shipped tobacco to Amsterdam on their own accounts and drawn bills which will very probably return protested.
My situation is very ticklish, but I support it with a good face under expectations that you will exert yourselves and forward me the needful. Unless you immediately do, I am afraid of the consequences. I will write you again in a few days and inform you of every motion that is likely to affect us and forward you some protests.
I wrote you the 6th ult. per the packet, since which I have yours of the 14 and 18 November covering sundry first bills and their seconds for £523:5:8 all of which are accepted but the following: Ireland's on Buchanan; Cook, Hemsley & Tilghman on Perkins & Co.; Sprigg on West & Hobson; Cowman & Selman on Russell, but as they are directed to [James] Anderson by Mrs Tasker's endorsement, I hope he will pay them for her honour.
Three small bills drew by you have been presented to me as follows: to Edward Lloyd Esq of 2nd July £5:6:9, to J. Hamond of 9th November, 2 bills, £6:8:0 and £13:7:10, which I have paid due honour to, although you never advised me of that to Lloyd. I likewise received your order for the rigging of the ship and Whitchroft's for jewellery, in yours of the 14th, which I confess astonished me not a little to find you had so soon forgot your sufferings in that way from Knap. I will execute this if we have so much credit but I absolutely will never another for him and let me recommend to you to take security of him before the delivery of them to him. The order enclosed in yours of the 18th is getting ready and will come with Earle's goods in all this month. I cannot read the conclusion of your letter of the 14th without feeling; you seem to signify that I was continually pressing you without a cause and did not make proper allowances for the remittances made and your having so much to do. You do mistake; I am not so insensible of business but that I know you are hurried, but still you must admit the necessity, nay you will candidly confess it, when you are fully acquainted of the situation things are in here and the absolute necessity for your exertion to support us through our engagements. When you have considered that, I doubt not but you will allow the pressingness of my letters and earnest desire of your answers to be no more than justice to ourselves.
60b. I will now give you as near a state of affairs here as I can and leave them for your consideration. In the first place, you must have conceived from the number of failures, which I advised you of from time to time, that the worst was not come and this has ensued. The tobacco merchants protesting all their correspondents' bills has made each of them very needy and would have been the means of overthrowing the following had not their friends stepped in with a support—P[erkins], B[uchanan] & B[rown], J[ames] R[ussell] and W[lliam] M[olleson]—which enables them to hold up their heads; what will become of these two houses time will evince— C[hristopher] C[ourt] and W[est] & H[obson]—from the excessive distress they labour under I am fearful the period is too near, unless they can raise assistance as the others has done. These matters I foresaw and meant to prepare ourselves by urging you to remit me, but, as that is not done, I am fearful that we must follow the example (not by getting assistance for you know that is out of the question by our having no family connection here or friends to help us) in stopping, for I can by no means see how we are to complete the payment of £5,000 that is due on this and the next month in bills and tradesmen's accounts, so that I would not have you to be alarmed at hearing I am commenced a companion with poor J[ohn] B[arnes] in the King's Bench [prison]. He was confined several days, but I believe that he is only an inhabitant of nights now.
I shall send you in a day or two four protests for £326:11:0 and Stone's on Russell in the course of this month for £47:9:6. Those added to them already sent will show you the situation I am in; indeed, I have not enough to pay the bills as they become due and what I shall do to pay the shipping charges of the goods now coming and the freight and duty on your cursed tobacco I know not, nor can I imagine. Indeed your sending the tobacco home at this time is one of the most inconsiderate things that ever was. It has, in the first place, shut us out from all assistance and brought the immediate resentment of the [tobacco] trade against us; in the next, which indeed is the most considerable, it will lock up between three and four hundred pounds at least three months and from the present price you may expect a loss of £4 per hhd. at least. I can't omit informing you that I have been refused credit by two houses; their letters I will enclose you with the protests and annual accounts in a few days per Capt Carcaud by whom I shall more fully write you. I expect you will keep in confidence what I have hinted and make all reasonable advantages from it.
I wrote you the 3rd per the New York packet, which I must beg leave to refer you to. I can't omit informing you that unless I am lucky enough to receive an immediate supply and that considerable, it's probable we shall go to pot. We owe upwards of £4,000, which will become due in next month and I have not a shilling to discharge it with. I doubt not but you will hear the dreadful situation we are in here before this reaches you, but, whether you do or not, I can't omit telling you that three or four houses had nearly stopped lately and that two others are still much suspected. Indeed I tremble for fear they should, for, if they do, we most surely must have many more of our bills returned than is at present, and the quantity already is so great that I know not what to do about it. The Bank [of England] continues not to discount and they have by that means distressed the whole mercantile body and, unless they relapse [i.e. relent] soon, I fear the whole nation will become a bankrupt.
The loss on tobacco is nearly £4 per hhd. and there is no purchasers at market, so that it is not only the loss but the holders can't raise money on it at any rate. There was a considerable quantity contracted for the other day to pick [select] at 2d. and to take it running [without selection] at 1¾d., so that you may form a good judgment of the purchasers last year. I think if you could buy at 8/4 [sterling] cost of goods for Western Shore tobacco, it would answer our purpose, could it be shipped to arrive here by July, but higher than that would not do.
|Bills [of exchange] payable as advised and not yet appeared||503:14:2|
|[Assets on hand:]|
|Accepted bills and cash||503:14:2|
|6 noted bills||180:11:1|
I have now before me your letter of the 17 of November, for which I return you my thanks. I presented your order on Thos. Eden & Co. for the net proceeds of 2 hhds. of tobacco per the Annapolis and was answered the tobacco was not sold. When it is, I will receive it and pass it to your credit. You say that your hands was so full this fall you scarcely knew how to turn yourself. I wish that you may not find them much fuller the ensuing summer; for my part, mine are full every hour and the storm continues gathering so fast that I am fearful I shall be compelled to make a retreat to St George's Fields [Southwark, adjoining King's Bench prison] where I must lay and exercise my philosophy until it's in your power to relieve me. I assure you without jest I am affright, for do your utmost and you can't guard against the people's protesting their correspondents' bills; and, if that is the case, that [bills with] the greatest [names] are to go back, what have I to expect or you to do? Why I'll go to gaol and you to stop. But, could we make friends to assist us through the payment becoming due punctually, why then indeed it would more than answer our highest expectations, for the business of Annapolis will be in three or four hands; the others will have no more goods shipped them until they fix on new correspondents. . . .
As for getting [building] tradesmen I find it impossible, especially men of character and such you want. Whenever you charge me with any commission, you may rely on my care in the execution of it and should it not please it will be the want of judgment. I am well satisfied of the fatigue, both in body and mind, you labour under about the [Capitol] building and wish you were rid of it. Indeed, it gives me uneasiness that ever you troubled your head about it, the more so you should be a loser on our account. I have had a begging visit from old [John] Barnes already and suppose shall have more. . . .
I wrote on the 5th per Capt Love: I now forward you enclosed 4 protests amount with charges to £327:15:0 which you will pass to my credit. I have likewise enclosed you a small protest belonging to my father drawn by McPherson on Barnes & Ridgate for £5:15:9, including charges, which you'll be pleased to manage for the old gentleman and remit the money to me. You have enclosed your account current, balance due me £11,020:7:11, which hope you'll find right. There is annexed to it the following: accounts commission, accounts drawbacks and debentures, discount accounts and charges of merchandise, all of which are for your examination.
I mentioned pretty fully in my last the state of things here, but, for fear that should not reach you so soon as this, it may be requisite to relate them again. The purchase of tobacco added to the failures in Holland etc. has almost ruined the merchants and, in order to prevent their immediate stopping, they have determined to protest everybody's bills, though, notwithstanding that precaution, the following houses must have stopped had not their friends lent them immediate assistance: P[erkins], B[uchanan] & B[rown], J[ames] R[ussell] and W[illiam] M[olleson]. The latter was assisted with ten thousand pounds, the others I can't tell to what amount. The two following houses are much suspected: C[hristopher] C[ourt] & Co. and W[est] & H[obson]. Unless they are lucky enough to get assistance and that soon, I fear they can't stand it long. This being the case, you may well suppose that a great part of your remittances [in bills of exchange] must go back. You must therefore be the more cautious for the future and purchase bills of those whom there is the least suspicion of. I understand that T[homas] Buchanan is not a partner in the house. You must therefore guard against his renewment of his bill. And I have a hint there must a Statute of Bankruptcy issue against Barnes & Ridgate; you will therefore take particular care to secure ourselves before it extends to our country.
63b. I have frequently strove to convey to you an idea of the distress amongst the tradesmen. . . . Their credit is as bad with the manufacturer as the merchant's is with them. They have, I am informed, refused many merchants credit. Whether it be from that or the present face of times I know not, but this I am well assured of, the merchants will ship but very few goods this year and, of course, goods will be goods with you. I have been refused credit by two houses; their letters you have enclosed. I waited on Barclay in consequence of their refusal and remonstrated to him the hardship; they answered that the times were such that justified them, and that, was they to indulge us with credit, other people would expect the same and they were determined to stop their hands until they saw what turn affairs took. I make no doubt you have heard J[ohn] B[arnes]'s fate; indeed I mentioned it in my last and therefore will not recapitulate it.
I am requested by Messrs Frank & Bickerton [London merchants] to beg the favour of you to inquire who John Hamilton & Son of Charles Town, Cecil County, are, their characters and circumstances; and you'll oblige me particularly to make the most minute inquiry about them and forward it to me as quick as possible. These gentlemen has a considerable sum at stake and the earliest intelligence may be serviceable to them. You'll do it in a manner that will not convey an idea of suspicion.
63c. I will now proceed to answer your letters of the 14 and 18 of November. The order for rigging is in the tradesmen's hands and will be sent you in all this month. You say you had heretofore informed me of purchasing Eastern Shore tobacco for goods; if you will recur to your letter, you'll find that you only say you had sold a quantity of goods for tobacco, but whom to or where the tobacco was to come from you never hinted. But I rested satisfied, as it was receivable at August Court, that you would not allow more than you could sell it for and that you would have made a point of selling it [in Maryland], but, instead of that, you now tell me after keeping it 3 months you could not sell it, and have engaged to ship it me. It most surely will produce a loss of £300 large odd, besides drawing on me the resentment of the trade, a stroke of which I have already felt, from the refusal of two tradesmen and the difficulties I shall labour under in raising money to pay the duties, freight etc.
You have forwarded me an invoice [i.e. order] of jewellery for Whitchcroft; it is preparing and shall come with your goods, but be advised to take security before you deliver them; it's too much money to trust him with without it. I beg you to avoid any more such agreements as I am determined against the execution of them, for many reasons, though think this alone sufficient: was he to die, who would buy those kind of goods? Why nobody, and they would be a dead loss. Indeed our capital will not admit of our giving such credit for so little profit. We must therefore confine ourselves to these kind of goods that will yield us more and do less.
63d. I will take care to pay your draft, but you ought to advise me whenever you draw and not leave me to judge by your handwriting as you have done in the bill to Lloyd of £5:6:9. You hint that the remittance of £523:5:8 was superfluous and might be distributed amongst the needy tradesmen. You certainly make no allowance for protests. When you consider that there is £1,400 and odd [bills of exchange protested and] returned, I fancy you'll allow the £500 will barely pay the bills drawn on me, let alone shipping charges of the goods now acoming and the payment to be made the tradesmen for the goods shipped last February, the amount of which you'll see at the foot of my letter and admit the improbability of my doing it. When you see this and reflect on it, you can't but pity my situation, knowing how it must hurt one to be dunned and perhaps arrested and tormented. Rouse your feelings, exert yourselves in my immediate relief and take care to indemnify me against June or else that will be our utmost period. You'll say that I am scared; I admit it and you must admit the reason.
In consequence of your request, I inquired of Barclay about the bill Worthington endorsed; they say it had been presented and that they should protest it. I would, if I had it in my power, take it up but I can't spare the money. The mistake in Jennings' [London glover] and [Robert] Withers' [saddler] bill [of sale] shall be rectified and the difference placed to your credit. You are desired to sell the same for what you can, rather than return them. You quarrel with [Charles] Wilkins [oilman] about the quality of his white lead; you must consider the price charged for it and then you'll allow it could not be the best quality. However, I have ordered that coming from another. When the shoes and boots arrives from Bristol, I shall wait on Mr Pritchard and present them to him. Until then, I will forbear saying anything more about him.
63e. Your proposition in sending back everything you don't like, you must give me leave to reject. I can't nor will by any means agree to execute another order under those restrictions and satisfied I am you would do the same, was you here. You can't have considered the matter. I am sure if you had, you must admit the necessity of keeping in favour with the tradesmen. You know very well that we are dependent on each other and quarrelling with them would do ten times the injury that a few shillings' loss on a parcel of goods would. Besides it is a task I abominate and will not undertake to drive people to do that I would not do myself. I beg you would coolly reconsider the matter and relent from that determination. It would make me very happy. Otherwise, should you persevere in it, I do beg an amicable settlement and be done.
Should you determine to import largely this fall, you must provide some money to purchase sugar, tea etc. or I shan't be able to send it you on tolerable terms, but I am afraid it will not be in your powers. There will be but very few goods sent out this year. You will have but 4 or 5 cargoes at Annapolis and they but small. T[homas] H[arwood of Annapolis] is to have no more from Russell and [John] Buchanan [& Son of London] must shut up, so that if you can manage to keep up our credit, I think a cargo of about £6,000 will be the very thing for us.
I wrote you 5th per Capt Carcaud to which I beg to refer you. Enclosed you have invoice and bills parcels of goods amounting to £8:6:10. . . . Since my writing you last, old Russell has stopped. Some say he is to go on, others that he is to wind up. However, this you may depend on, that there is a letter of licence handing about amongst his creditors for an indulgence of twelve months and his standing depends on the success of that letter. One [John] Inglis is to go out immediately to Maryland to settle his affairs there and from the nature and disposition of the man, if his power will admit, they [the Marylanders] need expect no mercy. A number of others are in the most dubious situation. . . .
I wrote you very fully on the 6th inst. per Capt Carcaud, since which I have none of yours. I now forward enclosed bill of lading, bills parcels and invoices of goods amounting to £2,120:16:7 which are placed to your debits. I have made out separate invoices for the goods for the store, those for the ship and those for Whitchcroft, judging it more convenient to you than blending them together. Whitchcroft's order is not quite complete; the workmen could not get the clocks done in time. They are now in hand and will come with the other materials by the next opportunity. Everything is sent that you ordered except the sugar, nails and canes. I have not money to pay for them and I can't get them on credit at any tolerable price. I suppose you'll be surprised when you see the amount. I assure you that I hardly thought it was half so much until I had collected all the bills parcels together. Should there be complaints in these goods, it will not surprise me, as the tradesmen are so very indifferent whether they execute one's orders or not; and indeed I am informed that many of them has refused and returned the merchants their orders again. It has not been the case with me, except two or three, but there is not that solicitation that is common so that you may judge our shipping goods is at an end unless you can remit me a sum sufficient to make good our payments as they become due, which I am very fearful you cannot.
65b. I will, as soon as I get rid of this business, inform you how matters will stand with us, as I suppose all the bills [of exchange being sent] will make their appearance by the last of this month and I shall have paid all the bills [of exchange] due in it. I am informed that Molleson did not ship £4,000 in Carcaud and that he has absolutely refused to ship more than Robert Cowden's; West & Hobson ships but very few and J[ohn] B[uchanan] & Son scarcely any, so that the whole amount will not be more than one of them used to ship. It will be a means of ridding the country of those goods on hand and of great advantage to them who can import, as the profits must be much more considerable than they have been, but I must beg you'll not think of ordering more unless you can remit a part of the money as was originally proposed. I have enclosed you a copy of my letter to Earle & Co. in which you'll see the terms I have stipulated with them, provided they order any more goods. They have been exceedingly lucky in having these goods as none of their neighbours will get supplied with half their usual quantity.
Since my last and in the course of last week, old Russell made a stop, notwithstanding the support gave him by the tradesmen. There was a letter of licence pushing about for several days craving 12 months to collect and make payments but that has met with a repulse from a house and, unless they can be softened, I can't say what may be the end. I hear that one [John] Inglis, his clerk, is to go out to take the management of his affairs in hand and collect the debts due to Russell, so that there will be serving all before them. The pride of the family won't admit it was necessary, but say it is at their particular request in order to wind up his matters. Don't you believe a word of it. I would have you to guard against purchasing bills on the following houses: P[erkins], B[uchanan] & Brown; J[ames] R[ussell]; J[ohn] B[uchanan] & Son; W[illiam] M[olleson]; C[hristopher] C[ourt] & Co. and W[est] & H[obson]. They protest everything that's offered them; indeed it is reported here that W.M[olleson] has noted T[homas] Contee's [his principal agent in Maryland] bills. I know that W[est] & H[obson] has William Lux & Bowly's. I assure you that I am very suspicious that some of the rest will make a baulk between this and the last day of next month, though it's hardly probable that some of them will weather over the first of June. They lie under such an amazing acceptances and the Bank will not discount their paper.
65c. Capt [Thomas] Eden's man has blundered in the receiving the goods, which has puzzled both him and me very much, though I have his bill lading signed agreeable to my invoice. You'll pay very particular attention to the receiving them and settle matters amicably with him. I have sent in his [Capt Eden's] care a bundle of fishing rods and 6 pair foils for the store; the reason why I did it was I had no package that would hold them. . . . I could not execute the last order for 40 gross porter under six shillings. [Benjamin] Kenton [wine and beer merchant] insisted on it that he should lose by it at that price, owing to the rise of malt and I thought it imprudent to send it different prices in the same ship. This now sent, he tells me, is 4 years old and for the same everyone except ourselves pays 6/6. I had not money to go to the India House for the tea and was compelled to purchase of the grocers. I bought Earle's of the same; it varies from his orders, he having ordered 1 cwt. bohea, 2 quarters [56 lb.] congo and 28 lb. green; had I sent it agreeable to that order, it would have been subject to the excise duty and, of course, made a difference of 23 odd per cent (fn. 1) against them. I have therefore sent them half a chest bohea and a chest of congo and left out the green as the smallest package from India is above half a hundred. You'll communicate this to them for fear of their finding fault. You'll take care to hurry them their goods as quick as possible. . . .
I wrote you the 15th by this conveyance but as Mr Court [London merchant] follows the ship to the Downs, it gives me an opportunity [by him] of acknowledging receipts of yours 25 December and 2nd January. The first brought me 24 first bills [of exchange] amounting to £925:11:7 and the latter brought 22 first ditto for £1,004:13s., all of which is accepted but those at the foot of the letter: they, I am sure, must go back. I received your letter ordering insurance on the tobacco but three days before I received the bill lading. As the wind was fair, I determined to risk it until today, when I intended to do the insurance, but fortune favoured me and we have saved 30 guineas out of that bad bargain. What I shall be able to do in the sales of it, I will not say, but you may depend the very best I can.
I have repeatedly wrote you for certificates to cancel my bonds [given on export of drawback or bounty goods]. For God sake, what is the matter [that] you don't attend them? You must know the ill convenience it will lay me under to lodge the penalty in money. You must hurry that in the name of William Purdy per Capt Page as the time is nearly expired. Don't trust sending them to the owners of the ships. I suspect that it was sent but kept from me. You'll take care of the one for the wine and tea per the Annapolis.
Capt Eden is so obliging as to take charge of a pair of Chinese pigs for me and will do me favour of delivering them to you; you'll oblige me in accepting of them. Mr J. Court, the bearer of this, is a brother to Mr [Christopher] Court here. He has ever treated me very kindly and a return of your notice and any service you can render his brother will add to the obligations I already lie under to you on that score.
66b. Poor old Russell has the additional misfortune to lose the Galloway, Capt Bishoprick, on the coast of France near Boulogne. He still makes his appearance on Change but no fixed resolution is yet taken whether he is to be made a bankrupt or stop and wind up. I will inform you as soon as there are.
I now forward you enclosed J. Stone's bill under protest amounting with charges to £42:15:3 which you'll pass to my credit. Those remittances has been exceedingly lucky as they will enable me to hold up my head until you can forward me a sum sufficient to discharge all our debts up to June; it will take not much less than £2,500 more. I observe that you have mine of 7 October. It's odd you had not got that of the 30th via Virginia and 4 November per the packet as I know they were arrived, but, when you do get them, pray comply with your promise; take time and speak fully on them. If it is possible for you to remit me so as to make good our June payments, we should be served with goods on much better terms than we have been hitherto and the difference would be more than the interest of the money and in that case I should wish to ship about the same quantity you had last fall. From W[illiam] M[olleson] accepting those bills we had on him, I suppose the report circulated here a few days of his protesting T. Contee's bills to be false. I would hope that they may all do better than suspected. However, it will not be amiss to have good endorsers. . . . Bills that will be protested
|J. Stone on Russell||£50:—:–|
|T. Buchanan on P[erkins], B[uchanan] & B[rown]||25:16:8|
|J. Boyd on C. Court & Co.||5:16:6|
I wrote you the 15th & 19th ult. per Capt Eden and enclosed you invoice of goods amounting to £2,120:16:7 and one protested bill for £42:15:3. I hear that the ship [of Capt Eden] still continues in the Downs wind-bound, for which I am very sorry as it will be a means of throwing all the ships in on you together and prevent us from the advantage we had a right to expect from being first.
I shall make an entry tomorrow or next day of the tobacco and prepare for selling it as soon as possible as it is probable I can't do much better than taking the price now going and which, God knows, is very little.
There has nothing happened in the stoppage way since my last that concerns our country though I think there was twelve in last Monday's Gazette. It is again said that Mr Russell is to send out two ships, that Linch is to have one and go to Patapsco and the other is to go to Patuxent, but that he is to ship no more goods. I am told that Harris[ons] & Ainsley [London merchants] has shipped Robert Cowden [of Annapolis] upwards of £3,000 in goods in Capt Frost, and that they are fine and intended for Annapolis. I should be glad to know if they are not shipped on speculation; if so, I hope they may burn their fingers. Capt Samuel Nicholson has come to a determination to charter a ship and send out Capt Hynson in her to Chester [Eastern Shore]. Capt Hynson has a subscription of 200 hhds.; add that to the interest of Nicholson's friends and it's supposed she'll meet with dispatch.
The sums given for chartered ships here are £8 per ton and 2/3 port charges provided the charterer puts in his own captain and £7 per ton and 2/3 port charges if the owner puts in his captain and few ships to be had on those terms, especially small ones. I mention this that it may regulate you in the disposal of yours. The lumber is a matter well worth your attention as pipe staves, if good, are valuable here and at any rate we shall get little enough by her, save all we can. If it was possible to put another ship of 400 hhds. [tobacco capacity] on the stocks and you could have her launched and loaded, even with part tobacco and part lumber, so as to arrive here in March next, she would sell well and yield a considerable profit, but I apprehend, from the fullness of the crop of tobacco, it would be no hard matter to load her by making her a general ship [accepting freight from anyone]. I would have you think of it.
From the present prospect, I think it not advisable to order goods unless your sales and collections are such as will warrant punctuality. Our debts at present amount to upward of £14,000 and I think it will be much more to our credit and interest to do but little until we see our way clearly through what we have done. I must beg you will exert yourselves, without which we must undoubtedly fall to the ground. . . .
I wrote you the 3rd per the packet which I beg leave to refer you. There has a house stopped of the firm of Bozanquet & Co. [Bosanquet & Fatio] since my last for upwards of £200,000. Its connections were to the Mediterranean, Holland, Portugal etc. and [Richard] Bozanquet was an [East] India [Company] director. How far it may affect our country I will not pretend to say, but you may depend on it, that it will in a more or less degree, as the chain of business may comparatively be compared to a tree and every failure is as great a loss to the commercial world as the branch (when lopped off is to the tree). The bearer of this is Major [Robert] Molleson, brother to Mr William Molleson, whom I wrote you some time ago was to join his brother in partnership. He now goes out to make himself known amongst the people and to expedite the remittances. I can't say that I am acquainted with the gentleman more than how do you, or so, but shall be obliged to you show him any kindness you conveniently can. . . .
I wrote you the 6th inst. per Major [Robert] Molleson. I there recommended that gentleman to your notice, but in such a manner that I hope would not draw your particular attention. Indeed, it was to keep appearances, as I assure you my opinion of him is that he is not the [blank] thing by any means, as you soon will see from his pretended consequence. I yesterday landed seventeen hhds. tobacco and 8 of the 17 [had] cut [off] from 5 to 800 [lb.] damaged and the whole of them is the damnedest vile trash that ever was seen and I am exceedingly fearful that I shan't be able to get 1½d. per lb. in an average so that you may rest satisfied with a loss of £600 and upwards.
I was twice yesterday with poor J. Barnes. He had obtained permission to be out in the Rules [area adjacent to King's Bench prison in which prisoners for debt could walk] which is, although bad enough, better than being confined in the walls of the King's Bench; but the damned villains thought that too great an indulgence and last evening lodged a detainer in the Fleet and sent a habeas corpus to remove him there. It is a vile place and ten times worse than the other and, if possible to be had, he must get a habeas corpus to remove him back [to King's Bench]. This scene of persecution is enough to make one tremble, but I hope in God that your care will remove any doubts of my suffering in that way.
The people are now calling on me for our February payments. I have nearly divided what money I had amongst them and they must stay for the remainder until you can forward it me and I think it will not take less than £2,500 to carry us through till June. All Mr Potts' bills were presented [to me for acceptance] in one day and will become due in April, which will push me a good deal. Ellis' bill is accepted. . . .
My last was the 11th per Capt Frost since which I have had nothing from you. I have got 44 hhds. tobacco now on shore and find that none of the last two landings cuts anything near as much as the first did, so that I hope the worst was first.
I have had an offer from Capt Banning to join us in a small vessel to put in one Capt Woolf and send her to Wye River [Eastern Shore], where Banning says he and Woolf could load her without the purchase of a single hhd. The offer is so very advantageous that it has almost tempted me to engage in it. Those reasons I presume would have justified me to you: Mr Hanbury's not sending out a ship, Banning's throwing all his interest in our service and no cargoes to be shipped nor bills paid before rendering account sales.
What to judge of the ensuing summer I can't foretell, but I confess that I am very doubtful matters will be run in still greater confusion than they have hitherto. The merchants are determined not to pay any man's draughts farther than there is effects in hand and then not until the tobacco is turned into money. Some answer to a presentment of a bill, that we have so many hhds. of tobacco in hand but will not accept the bill; if you'll keep it, we will pay it provided the tobacco sells for so much or the amount of the tobacco in part.
70b. I have repeatedly hinted to you that I thought we might do something clever in that way [the tobacco consignment trade] provided you would enter into it with spirit and activity and not agree by any means to ship cargoes [of European goods on credit]. The present distressed times and the many failures will warrant us success and then suppose that we could get 1,000 hhds. on consignment, it would equal the profits of [an] £8,000 cargo [of goods sent to Maryland] and put you to much less trouble and no risk. On the other hand, as long as we have credit and can ship such quantities of goods, we shall always be pressed to pay for them. Those and many other motives makes me recommend a trial. If we have success, it may be a means of establishing a house for our successors. It's true there must be an alteration in the present [partnership] agreement as it would be impossible for me to execute the business on the terms I now do, though you shall find my requests to be reasonable for I do declare I only wish or want to share fate with you.
For God sake exert yourselves and forward me a remittance to answer June and July payments. Unless you do, our present plan and every other one will be at an end and perhaps me an inhabitant of the Fleet or King's Bench. I mentioned in my last that poor Barnes was in the Rules. I now with sorrow tell you he is locked up in the King's Bench and the Lord only knows when he may be released. I go and mingle a tear of condolence with him every now and then. . . .