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 17 May, since which I have nothing from you. This will serve to inform you that I have received £12:15:9 of Thomas Eden & Co., the net proceeds of 2 hhds. of tobacco per the Annapolis which I have placed to your credit. I have wrote W.D.&J. so often and so fully of my distressed situation that I would suppose it had roused every feeling and exertion in their powers to save me by remitting, but, to my inexpressible sorrow, I daily see the hour approaching and much fear a long confinement will be my doom, which will be my award for the imprudent attempt to make a competency too soon. . . . If I would ever so fane return home, I cannot these 12 months for the tradesmen will by no means agree to my going. And, suppose they would, how are we to be supplied with goods? There is no one here who will agree to ship even small cargoes and that will never do for us. Besides the saving made by my transacting the business, there is more than a £100 a year clear in your pockets though I have repeatedly wrote your house that to import less goods and solicit the consignment of about 1,000 hhds. [tobacco] a year would yield us more money than selling goods will. That quantity [tobacco] would yield us £1,500 and the whole expenses of transacting the business would not exceed £500. I think it our interest to fall in that business immediately; you may depend on my assiduity and care.
87b. I apprehend your J.D[avidson's] time is taken up in the store and about the books. I know he is exceedingly clever at collecting and therefore do recommend that you'll employ some other person for that purpose (of bookkeeping) and get him to take his horse and fall to work immediately and not let those who has gone from this place so much outdo you.
I want a certificate to cancel a tea bond in the name of W. Purdy for the tea shipped in the Eden, S. Nicholson; you'll have it made out before you put this letter out of your hands and scold J[ohn] Muir [deputy naval officer] for his neglect. Send them by way of New York, Philadelphia or any way to me that I may obtain [i.e. recover] the penalty, which I am obliged to pay down in money, and overhaul every cargo shipment and send me the necessary certificates to cancel all my bonds. There must be 2 in the name of Nash, Eddowes & Martin to cancel wine bonds.
I am dunned and tore to pieces. Pity me and exert yourselves and, although we have fallen so far off our original scheme and the remittance has not been more than a quarter part of what I had a right to expect, yet, can you manage to extricate me out of the present embarrassments, I see no reason why we shall not conquer our original wish.
Geo. Cook wrote me that he had a subscription for 200 hhds. tobacco. If they'll consign it to me, I would be glad you would charter him a ship. It will be a £100 apiece [in profits for each partner] and serving of him. Do Charles set down and write; that's a comfort if you can add nothing more to him who is with love to Cathy and Polly, most truly. . . .
I have omitted no opportunity of informing you that we are disappointed in any assistance from Mr Hanbury, in which I am too fearful you have rested satisfied and not exerted yourselves in that manner you otherwise would have done and which has and will distress me beyond conception. I too fear that instead of your pushing the ship home loaded that you'll be indifferent about the matter, apprehending that it will be displeasing to Hanbury as interfering with his interest; should which be the case, what a fine situation am I in. Your worst constructions can't equal it and there is no conveying a just idea without feeling it personally. It's cutting to have a fellow tell you that you have not complied with promise and that you must fix a day for payment and that he insists on it. In this situation, what can I do when I have not five pounds in the world ? I do beg time, show them the noted bills and promise to do all I can, but neither you nor I can suppose they will long continue to be fed with mere promises, more especially as there is no appearance of any produce coming home, which would weigh much with them and which many of them have urged me to recommend to you. Indeed, it has taught me whom to apply to again and whom not and this you may be assured of, that there is a number of rascals in the City of London who only wants to get hold of you and then make their advantage of you. I will do every thing I can that's consistent to an honest man and never betray you or lead you in dishonour.
Mr Purdy has just been with me about the [tea] certificate. We propose to petition and bribe the officer for 3 months' indulgence and, if we can't succeed in that, nothing will do but the payment of the penalty, the whole of which I must borrow if I am obliged to give 10 per cent premium. I hope this will be sufficient warning for the future. . . .
The foregoing is a copy of my last per Capt Miller via Philadelphia since which I have nothing from you. I am surprised I have not yet received your orders. Other people's have been to hand some time and they are preparing to go out with Nicholson who has bought Banning's ship and is afitting out and will sail by the 1st of next month. If we miss that opportunity, I know not of any other afterwards. There is no goods to Annapolis but a cargo to the Williams's and some woollen goods for R. Cowden.
I can't say but that I am really anxious to see whether the tradesmen has any confidence. Indeed, if we have such credit, I am desirous of pushing the business, as sure I am that we shall never meet with another opportunity to equal the present. I have nearly completed a state of my affairs and they stand fair and ready for the inspection of our creditors whenever any one choose to compel me to lay it before the whole. Though I hope that will not be the case, as most of the tradesmen seem desirous of our going on and indeed I find but very few troublesome and they are your cursed 8 or 10 pound gentry, in which I am rather misfortunate, having divided my orders amongst a number in order to obtain our goods at the best terms, some of whom is not acquainted with export business and dun my soul out for their money at the very 12 month [limit]. I have paid every [bill of exchange] acceptance I was under and satisfied a good many of the very needy ones [among the suppliers] by which means I have been debarred from doing that justice to some of the creditors whose debts ought to have been paid in February and [as] I could [have] wished and there still remains unpaid £1,835:9:0 of whose Nash & Co. debt makes £792:18:0 and which they are willing to stay for till 1 January next. On a rough state I find the amount of our debts due in course of the present year to amount to £9,600, a much larger sum I fear than you'll be able to remit me and let alone anything to indemnify the returned protested bills [for] which you ought to calculate a full half as much more. Though trust on your exertion to send it me in bills, tobacco or somehow or other or my poor body must pay for it, which I am the more ready to submit to, knowing the many advantages I obtain in the management of our matters that any person would not trouble their heads about. Tell [brother] Tom to make himself easy on my account, that I grow more callous and begin to submit to fate with a good grace. . . .
I wrote you the 7th per the New York packet a copy of which you have on the other side. I have now to acknowledge receipt of your 7th ult. which brought me 13 first and second bills amounting to £927:13:9 and your order for the fall goods. As I have but just received your letter, I can't as yet tell what will be the fate of the bills, but you thus much may rely on, that Geo. F. Hawkins' must go back, likewise Orme's. Indeed, I propose to have Orme's protested today and send it back that you may secure yourselves of Belt [an endorser] as I am told every farthing Orme has is under a mortgage to Russell.
I have not had time to look over your orders but, from the bulk of paper, I apprehend that they are large. I will set about making out the orders immediately and offer them to the tradesmen and prevail on them to execute them if I possibly can and send them to you or otherwise you lay without until you can forward me a sufficient sum to discharge our present engagements and re-establish our credit again. I am sorry for your perseverance against Nash, Eddowes & Martin, as they are the only house that I know would put up our linen goods, though you may rely on it that I will not apply to them if I am obliged not to send the goods. I would not have [you] to depend by any means on the goods coming for I rather incline to think that I shall not be able to ship them out. Should I be able, they will come by Capt Nicholson who will sail by the first of next month.
I observe you say that you had chartered the [new] ship to J[ohn] Buchanan for £7 [per ton]. I thought I had given you a sufficient case not to take less than £7:10:0 [per ton]. However, as Buchanan has failed, you had better relinquish the charter and load her home to me. We shall make a great deal more of her. You say that you expect she'll produce ready money on her appearance here; it shows how little you know of matters. She in the first place is to lay 20 days to deliver and then, if sold immediately, you have only ¼ part down and the remainder in 3 months.
I wrote you that I was about making out a state of our affairs. They stand as follows: due to sundries in February last £1,835:9:0; in April £234:1:4; in June £6,493:2:4; in July £300:2:7; in the course of the year £563:0:6 so that I must have £9,500 between this and New Year's day to make up our payments and which I fear is too large a sum for you to accomplish, though this I again tell you, that you must get it and depend no more on Hanbury nor anyone else. I will write you again today by the same opportunity if the ship don't sail. . . .
I wrote you the foregoing yesterday per Capt Osborn. I omitted telling you that I had not received your letter 22 May which I suppose was to have come by the packet. I wonder at it, if so, because I received a letter from I. Harris of the 28th and should have supposed that they would have come together but there is a general complaint amongst the merchants of having no letters from their Baltimore correspondents which makes us incline to think that the letters have miscarried.
I have just received answers to all the bills presented for acceptance but T. Reynolds on J. B[uchanan] & Son and C. Grahame on J. R[ussell]. A list of the noted you have at the foot of my letter so that you will be able to judge what I am to expect from such remittances. I well remember that I desired you would send to Philadelphia to purchase your bills, that the bills drew in Maryland was good for nothing or so much so that, if the people had a right to draw, the merchants was not able to pay and would in course protest. I again recommend it as the exchange [in Philadelphia] is nearly the same [as in Maryland] and indeed I believe lower and you will there get such bills as may be depended on. I am tore to pieces for money and what to do I cannot tell. I wish to God it was possible to put you in my place for 1 month; you would then feel for me and exert yourselves, for I conceive that neither of you know the want of money and therefore unacquainted with that companion called a dunner.
I have set about the orders and hope to have them in the tradesmen's hands in the course of next week (if we have so much credit with them as to put them up for us) and must if possible get them out in Nicholson who is the last ship and who brings out all the Annapolis goods, amongst whom T[homas] B. Hodgkin has a cargo from Kelly, Lot & Co. I have but very little time and much fear they will be too late for the Provincial Court. I shall write you again tomorrow by Capt All. . . .
|£ 50:||G. F. Hawkins||on O'Neill|
|100:||E. E. Orme||on J. Russell|
|74:4||John Laveille||on W. Molleson|
|10:6||A. H. Smith||on ditto|
|8:||S. Hardesty||on ditto|
The foregoing is a copy of my last per the Mary & Elizabeth, Capt Mesnard, via Philadelphia in which I promised to forward you a protest for the non-acceptance of Orme's bill and which you have now enclosed. You ought to forward it to Belt as soon as possible that he may fall on some mode to secure himself of Orme, for I am told that he wanted C. Grahame [Russell's chief agent in Maryland] to endorse his bill, who refused it and told him that it would not be paid as Russell would not advance any more on the mortgage of his estate. And while I am thus speaking of returned protested bills, let me desire you'll take some immediate step to secure ourselves against T[homas] Gassaway and J. Gone [?]. You must admit that a continuance of renewments never discharges the debt and, whilst you are persevering a hope, it often happens that the principal proves good for nothing and I doubt we shall too severely pay for that experience in the loss of Barnes & Ridgate bill, and I would not say but Brown, Perkins & Buchanan. I have now enclosed you account of sales of 104 hhds. of tobacco, the net proceeds of which I have carried to your credit and which you'll be pleased to debit me with.
I have made out all the orders [for export goods] and are adelivering them to the tradesmen. Who will and who will not execute the order I can't as yet tell, but could wish with all my soul that the ship was to stay another day that I might be able to tell you my fate. I am put more to it than I ever was in my life to know what to do. You order me not to take goods of such and such people. You most assuredly don't attend to my situation. Those people we owe considerably and, was I to desert them, it would be our immediate ruin, for I have it not in my power to pay them and should therefore be arrested immediately; and indeed their whispering on Change that we would not pay would effectually do our business. Though thus [?] much I will do if I can: not to send the prints from Nash & Co. and will take care to get rid of the others complained of by degrees and as fast as I can, but until then you must adopt the old saying when needs must, the devil drives and therefore be content with what you can get in those hard times.
92b. I have but this moment received your letters 22 and 24 May and have only time to remark your case, under hopes that Hanbury would do the thing that's clever and, in case of his refusal, you desire I would point out a house of reputation who will manage matters for us. I will only tell you for answer that we are in as good (although bad enough) credit as any house in our trade, that I have exerted myself, beyond what I thought possible, to support us and it behoves you to take care of me, for even a hint of my going would ruin us and nothing but my continuance can help us through our engagements.
I have finished delivering out the orders or nearly so, and have the pleasure to inform you that there seems the utmost willingness to execute them and if they are done by some whom we would wish to have excluded, you must be content and not scold me. I have only 10 days to ship this cargo or I should lose Nicholson (by whom I propose to ship them) and there is no other ship agoing after his. I will save her if possible and, if I can, you may expect her by the last or I hope by the middle of September.
Under the rose [sub rosa] I have a hint that P[erkins], B[uchanan] & B[rown] must stop, that Brown and his wife has left England and gone out in [Capt] Mitchell to Virginia. Improve on the hint and secure ourselves immediately. I will again tell you that I am determined to continue here and face the worst of it, if my fate be to die in a dungeon. You'll therefore regulate yourselves by exertion and extricate me. . . .
The above is a copy of my last, per Capt All, via Philadelphia, since which I have nothing from you, although Capt Caucard [Carcaud] is just arrived from your place and by whom I did expect you would have wrote.
From my repeated requests and instructions what to give for tobacco, I expected that the new ship would have come home loaded to me. It would have been the only thing you could have done to have supported my credit here, but, as it is, I see myself involved in a thousand difficulties and how to extricate myself I know not. Indeed, it is impossible so long as you continue to remit such vile, good for nothing paper [bills of exchange] and in such small quantities. . . . It is only doing the part of a partner to give you information for your regulation for the general interest. I meant that in recommending to you to send to Philadelphia for bills, but so long as you continue to take such as Buchanan's, etc., so long shall we be asinking. Indeed I have to tell you this for your comfort, that it's thought Perkins, Buchanan & Brown will not pay 10/ in the pound. Now where will you secure yourselves? There is no Hemsley & Tilghman [whose endorsements they surrendered] and my hints was not worth attending to.
I have delivered out all the orders and shall be able (from the people's confidence) to ship almost all the goods, but the woollens; I shan't be able to ship more than half of them, having not so much credit. I have exerted myself in order to get them away by Nicholson who sails on the 1st next month. That, add our bad credit, will probably induce complaints, but, whenever it does, put your hands to your hearts, and ask if it is not your own faults. I have not more than 10 days to make out the orders, and ship the goods, yet you expect it done and you have months and yet could not forward them before. Indeed it is equally as odd, your never sending me the amount sales and expenses of storekeeping, although you order me to call my creditors together and lay our affairs before them. Do you not think it a natural question from our creditors, what is your sales, and what is the expenses of carrying on our business? Most undoubtedly, and then what a pitiable figure I should make in answering: I don't know; my partners have not furnished me with the accounts. I have endeavoured to convince you of the necessity, therefore hope you'll do everything consistent and requisite even by writing by every opportunity and long letters; they really are pleasing to our creditors.
93b. Capt Nicholson has not engaged his ship to any one; therefore, as I apprehend it impossible to pick up bills [of exchange] sufficient to answer our purpose, I think it prudent to buy two or three hundred hhds. tobacco at Elkridge [on Patapsco], Indian Landing [on Severn], and from Pig Point upwards, on Patuxent, provided it can be had at 10/ or 12/ sterling [per cwt.]. That would help to discharge our debts here and at which prices we should make a commission. I have mentioned my intention to him and engaged his promise to give you a refusal. T. Reynolds' bill [of exchange] on J. Buchanan & Son is good and C. Grahame will be paid; the others I doubt must go back.
I am told today that Capt Carcaud is to sail for Maryland again on next week; he will have but very few goods for our province, and I believe none for Annapolis, those that are for Annapolis being engaged to [Capt] Nicholson. . . . You tell me that goods are likely to be scarce and that we should be able to sell any quantities. I will ask you what purpose it may answer to sell those goods when our [debt] collections will not indemnify the first cost of them. I will say none, and that we had better to end at once, than be compelled to lodge our effect in trust and give 10 per cent for the collection. Indeed much more depends on [debt] collection than sales, and, after sinking our capital, if you can't remit so as to indemnify the purchase, you may judge we are going behindhand, desist in time, [rather] than have me locked up during the remainder of my life; and to avoid which I am determined not to ship any more goods after this cargo, until you release me from the present distress I am plunged in. I will write you again by Carcaud, Nicholson, and the packet. . . .
The foregoing is a copy of my last per Capt Sutton via Philadelphia, since which I have nothing from and since which Frank & Bickerton [of London] have stopped. The principal part of their connections were to Virginia. Their creditors have had a meeting and their affairs appear so fair and clear that they have determined to support them and have given them 12 months, 18 months and two year to complete their payments in. I was much alarmed at hearing of their stoppage as they undoubtedly were saving, industrious, and very deserving.
The creditors of Perkins, Buchanan & Brown have had several meetings, at some of which it has been proposed to make them bankrupts and opposed for this reason, that they having assigned all their effects and debts over both in this and your country to particular people, whom the creditors think are not intituled to hold them and if they should [retain the assets], which I am told [John] Dunning [the famous lawyer] says they will, there will not be half a crown in the pound for the other creditors, and I fear that we must come into that composition with the rest of their returned bills, which you took in renewment for Hemsley & Tilghman's.
There has been several meetings of the creditors of Barnes & Ridgate's, the event of which I can't as yet inform you of, though I doubt poor Barnes is doomed to lay a long time here in gaol from the extreme inveteracy of the tradesmen against the concern. The goods you ordered are shipped on board the Molly & Betsey, Capt Nicholson, by whom I shall write you very fully tomorrow. . . .
I wrote you the above by Capt Carcaud. I have only time to inform you that Capt Nicholson clears today and that his ship goes down immediately. I shall write you a very long letter by him and I fear a very disagreeable one. However, it can't be hope [i.e. helped] and I have done my utmost to send you the goods on any terms though you will think with me that it is very hard to have them addressed to anyone besides yourselves as Mauduit [& Co.'s goods] are to D. Dulany Esq, who is requested not to deliver them before you lodge security. You no doubt will wonder at my submitting to it. I knew not of his [Mauduit's] intention but the very day before we were to have shipped, the goods packed and trimmings put up for them in a different package. Those circumstances, added to my not having time to try anyone else who could not have got them ready, made me acquiesce and it now remains with you to settle the payment with Mr Dulany.
There was several others who solicited my orders, took them and even went so far as to look out the goods, order the trunks to pack them in and afterwards wrote me letters (which I will enclose you) of excuse for not shipping of the goods. That being the case, and all of the other tradesmen being ready, what was I to do ? I could not tell to omit sending the linens and prints. I knew that would never do and who to apply to ? I was at a great loss. However, I determined to try Nash, Eddowes & Martin who very cheerfully undertook to get them ready and ship any quantity we pleased to order, although they had but 3 day. I mentioned to them the unhappy difference between you and them and that I was forbid to take of them. They again repeat their sorrow and are willing to make any abatement you think reasonable, and, more readily to convince you of their uprightness of intention, they agree that your having those goods or not shall be optional. Therefore, should you not choose to have them, deliver them to my brother Tom and William Lux, who are to sell them for their [Nash & Co.'s] account. So much by way of preparing you. You see what a stroke credit has received and what a struggle I have had to supply you. Indeed, if any man breathing had told me once that I could have put up with such treatment I should have told him he knew me not, but I am confined and I must submit for the general interest of the whole and wait for a favourable opportunity of retorting.
The following will nearly be the amount of the cargo shipped by me: £5,172:16:6; by Mauduits—£421:4:7, which I hope in God will arrive with you in all next month, doubting not of a ready demand for them and your more than common exertion to forward me a remittance sufficient to extricate me out of this cursed distress I am plunged in. A more ready step I can't recommend than by sending me a quantity of good tobacco (of Western Shore), for indeed all your bills [of exchange] are good for nothing and while you continue to remit them, they must go back and I must be distressed. I shall return you tomorrow near £300 under protest. Those returned before and these have plunged me in the utmost distress together with a dependence on Hanbury who absolutely refuses to do anything for me. You must feel and pity my situation and you are in honour bound to relieve me. . . .
The above is a copy of mine of yesterday, per the packet. I now forward you enclosed bill lading, bills of parcels and invoice of goods amounting to £5,172:16:6 and 4 protested bills amounting to £298:3:1 which I have placed to your debits. It being ill convenient to me to pay Capt Nicholson the freight and primage here and he having occasion for money in your country, induced him to take my draught on you of this date, payable at ten days' sight for £124 which I have credited you with and which you'll pay proper attention to and charge to my general account.
It has not been in my power to execute your order in every degree you expected and I could wish, the following articles being left out: leather, India chintz, worked muslin aprons, half the quantity of oznabrigs and full or more than half of the woollen goods and one half of the porter. Perhaps you may imagine that it was owing to want of industry that they were not sent. In the first place, your order reached my hands so late that I had but 12 days to save [Capt] Nicholson; in the next, the many failures and shortness of our payments has given such a state to my credit that there was the greatest indifference amongst the tradesmen whether they executed one's orders or not; some absolutely refused and several (whose letters are enclosed) who showed the utmost willingness, nay gave me the trouble to look out part of their goods, ordered the necessary packages and then wrote me letters that they would not ship the goods without security. The time for shipping of them had nearly expired and what to do I knew not, for the other goods were ready and indeed ordered down, so that it was impossible to countermand them without alarming the town of our badness of credit and to send a part without a regular assortment I know would not do, and to apply to any new house I likewise knew would not do at this time. I therefore thought it most prudent to closet with Nash & Co. who at that instant solicited my order and this instance of confidence I hope you'll pay proper respect to and, if their goods are not the best in the world, I think the notice of only three days will apologise for them in a great measure and again the many friendly services and indulgences given us at this time of general want and distress. However, after all, if you should not agree with me in opinion and decline taking the goods, be pleased to deliver them to my brother Tom and William Lux to whom I have forwarded an invoice (a copy of which you have enclosed) and empowered to sell them for the account of Nash & Co.
96b. Mauduit's behaviour has been the most extraordinary I ever met with. I, from owing them the greatest sum, made them acquainted with my disappointment with Hanbury and asked their opinions frequently and from their apparent openness I thought I had secured a friend in any emergency. On the receipt of your orders, I waited on them, told them that you had ordered goods and asked them if I had not better try my credit to send them. They was of the same opinion, but advised only to ship half of the woollens. I thought it wrong to oppose them and acquiesced. Well, the day before the goods were to be shipped, they sent for me and told me that the debt we owed them was so large that they could not ship the goods unless I could pay part or give security. I saw their drift, that it was to secure themselves in preference of the other creditors and at once told them that I had and would act alike to every man, that I would suffer imprisonment rather than act partially, that [they] knew the step taken by you and that the security individually was sufficient. They answered that that [letter of credit] was void by my contracting for more than the sum offered as security, which [it] undoubtedly is, the sum being exceeded by three or four thousand pounds. They then proposed to send them out addressed to some person there and several was mentioned. I objected to none but they seemed to approve the most of Mr [Daniel] Dulany, to whom they are come and to whom I think it advisable to make the best terms you can with, for fear of aggravating them to egg on others to distress me, they having it in their power to rule a number of people here, and it will be my interest to act with duplicity in turn until I get clear of them. I scorn the act, but revenge calls aloud for it. I hope you'll assist me through it. They have wrote you a pompous letter which I now forward enclosed with the rest. From the truth of the foregoing facts, I think you can't arraign my conduct. I have done more than I thought I could for I have bore with refusals, insults and meanness, all to support our credit with you and I hope gratitude and honour will prompt you to use more than common exertion to enable me to extricate myself with honour. . . .
I wrote you the 5th by this opportunity but the wind being contrary and the Pool so very full of shipping has prevented Nicholson from getting down which gives me this opportunity of writing. And I'll add a disagreeable one it is, as the wind for these several days has been strong at east, which would have shoved him in the trade winds, had he been lucky enough to [have] been in the Downs, and shortened his passage very considerably, but, as it is, the Lord knows when he will get clear of the land.
There has nothing happened since my other letter except that Perkins, Buchanan & Brown's creditors have had another meeting in which there is no final resolution taken. It was strenuously urged by some to make them bankrupts and opposed by others. However, the general opinion here seems to be that there will be a statute [of bankruptcy] and, in case there should, they will not pay 2/6 in the pound. I am told that Barlow, Wigginton & Francis [London merchants and wholesale linendrapers] who has assignments from them to the amount of thirty odd thousand pounds in your country, sends out a ship directly and that Mr Wigginton is to go out to collect effects to send home by her. From the number who are making collections with you, I suppose we shall be shoved out. Don't submit to it; get J. D[avidson] to put on his resolute size, get on his horse and stick close to them [the firm's debtors] until you can collect a sufficiency to support our credit. I presume it will not be amiss to caution you against running too deep with Governor Eden; he owes very large sums here. They tell me that [his debt to] Perkins, Buchanan & Browns amounts to £5,000. Take the hint and get out as soon as you can for fear of the consequences.
97b. I have not as yet received a line from Richard Tilghman Earle & Co. acknowledging receipt of their goods, much more a remittance to reimburse the charges. I could wish that we may not have reason to complain of that correspondence. I apprehend the account of [John] Buchanan's failure soon would reach you and that it would make a material difference on the face of matters with you for, ay, what will you do with your charter? Don't you think you had better [have] followed my advice as matters have turned out ? But the misfortune is, I can't see and therefore my hints are deemed useless. Well, I will once more resume the liberty of advising you to be cautious of entering into any considerable engagements on J[ames] A[nderson]. He, poor fellow, is exceedingly pushed and, to tell you the truth, I am uneasy for him. Take care how you speak, for you know it is death to your great ones [Anderson's Lloyd and other relations on the Eastern Shore] to have any such a thing said of their relations. The other few I believe will weather through it from the exceeding exertion of their friends on your side and insure to themselves and families fortunes.
I only wish to be master of one five thousand pounds money at this time and clear of all other engagements. I most undoubtedly would employ it in the tobacco business and think my risk covered with a fortune. I have convinced you, I hope, of the exceeding ill treatment I have met with from several tradesmen, therefore will not recapitulate, only that Mauduit's behaviour to others as well as to me has been so exceedingly ungenteel that I begin to fear the villainy of him and hope to get rid of him by all means, therefore pray you to put it in my power. I have a whisper this moment that two New York houses must give way today. Such times has never been in the memory of man and what will and can be done there is no telling, for the distress has proved so general that it has caught hold of the tradesmen and they cannot wait any longer, so that I should not be surprised at a general revolution of the mercantile world. I will therefore again beg you'll more than exert yourselves and send me a remittance of something or another that will save us from the common fate and save him his liberty who is on all and every occasion. . . .
The foregoing is copies of mine per Nicholson since which I have received yours 20, 24 and 30 June, covering 19 first bills amounting to £479:12:6, all which are good and passed to your credit, but Richard Green's on West & Hobson for £10, J. Mackall's on O. Hanbury & Co. for £20, and Reeder on J. Russell for £21, all of which will be protested and must go back. Stewart's on Dunlop is gone to Glasgow for acceptance so that I can't say what may be its fate. I have now forwarded you six protests amounting to £268:6:11 which you will be pleased to pass to my credit.
I have received one thousand Spanish [silver] dollars per Capt Wilsoon and shall sell them as soon as it is in my power. The ship's arriving but the day after my knowing you had sent them saved to us the insurance, which would have been one guinea per cent. The Clipping Act has produced such a plenty of gold, and the scarcity of bills from the West Indies such quantities of silver that the gold and silver smiths will not give the standard prices for it, and the most that is given is £3:17:6 per oz. for gold and 5/2¼ per oz. for silver so that, after reducing foreign gold to the English standard, there will be a loss of near 10 per cent on the nominal valuations. The dollars will neat about 4/61/8 a ¼ so that they will not bear freight and insurance, but should there be any alteration either way, you may rely on my informing you of it.
98b. You fall on me without mercy for proposing to you to enter into the consignment business, and ask me if I do not think we are already engaged in as much as we can well manage, that if I am not afraid of tiring out our friends by being security for us, without engaging them for the further sum of £3,000 to carry on that scheme, where there can't be a further probability of success. I could say a great deal to confute you, but think that this will be sufficient. I did not recommend to you to borrow three thousand pounds for the purpose of carrying that scheme in execution. I told you that a capital of £3,000 was sufficient to answer every purpose here to the extent of my scheme. Supposing we had two ships in the trade, that would bring us home five hundred hhds. each and which quantity, I did apprehend, was to be had amongst our friends, at this general time of distress amongst the merchants in the trade and the fear on the parts of the people to entrust their tobacco in their hands. Add their [the merchants'] determined resolutions not to ship any more cargoes [to American traders], nor pay their draft where there is no effects in hand. Those were my reasons, together [with] the great opening at this time and an intention to contract the immoderate extent we are giving credit on retailed goods, to establish ourselves a snug comfortable trade and to release our friends of their engagements for us. I confess I proposed the scheme and am still so far from being wavering in my opinion that I have the most sanguine expectations of its answering and indeed much better than I had a right to have hoped at that time. However, as it unhappily has been the case of different opinions, I will promise not to trouble you again on that head, nor presume to chalk out schemes to you in future.
98c. From a rise in exchange [rates] with you and the fall in specie here, I know not what to recommend as a remittance, unless it be flour or wheat; the first is now selling for 48/ per barrel, which is ready money and yields a very considerable profit to the speculator. Mr Molleson was offered the cash for Wilsoon's load [of flour] by several before he arrived. There is a great want and everyone seems to be of the opinion that it will continue, the more so from the exceeding heavy rains we have had lately which has destroyed a good deal of the present crop. I think it your interest to barter goods for one or two thousand barrels [flour] and forward them immediately.
Capt Christie is arrived in whom has come passenger Mr Dundass. I have seen him, but from his shyness I can't find out his errand here, though apprehend it to be on a similar plan of mine. Pray what do you think of Mr [John] Buchanan's affairs? Do you not think they have made a fine kettle a fish of it? Indeed, I am pleased that the Kitty & Nelly has escaped their clutches and am glad I shall have nothing to do with them. I understand T. Reynolds [of Maryland] has £1,100 in his [Buchanan's] hands. If you can get his bill at sight, it will be paid. I would wish to caution you against putting any belief in Mr [James] Russell [of London, then visiting Maryland]; he will tell ten thousand lies and make as many promises which will induce the planters to draw [bills of exchange] and the trustees are determined to protest [such bills] where there is not effects.
You seem exceedingly anxious to know the fate of your letter of credit [to Hanbury]. I am not surprised at it, especially at this time, but the fate of which I so often mentioned and sent you different ways, that it is almost impossible but some of my letters must have reached you before this and will only caution you not to attempt that scheme again, especially on one of the same cloth [i.e. another Quaker], for I will tell you now as I have always done, that there is no trusting them. If you should incline to do anything in the flour way, I would have you to be close and expeditious as you will have the advantage of the difference of time between this and the packet's sailing, by whom I expect many orders will go. I am dunned very hard; exert yourselves and extricate me, or I shall not say what may be my fate after next term, perhaps a gaol. I have heard my brother Tom is ill. Pray for God sake let me know for, if he is and there is a probability of his death, I will set off immediately, [even] if I am obliged to run away, that I may have it in my power to assist his children. . . .
Above is a copy of my last per the Sir William Johnson, Capt Deane, via New York. I received a letter a few days ago from Duff & Welsh [Spain] informing me that their crops had failed and they should want very considerable supplies in the course of next winter and spring from America unless Barbary and Sicily permitted a free export. In that case, they say American wheat may rule from 36 to 40 and flour from 38 to 40 rp [reals of old plate, per—?] which prices, I hope, will induce speculation, and procure a considerable remittance. They tell me that they cannot procure anything more on account of [former firm of] Charles Wallace & Co., so that you may now know the ultimate [fate] of that transaction. I pretty well informed you what was doing in wheat and flour here; the prices still keep up and some of the new crop has been sold for 8/6 per bushel Winchester measure. Mr Molleson sold his best flour for 46/ and the other for 45/ per barrel, which prices must neat the owner seventy or eighty per cent. If you should incline to speculate, I would recommend flour, that you ship it in a fast sailing ship and let there not be too large a quantity of it together, 1,500 barrels being enough in one vessel. Again I would recommend not to ship very heavy barrels, as we find a barrel to answer as well of 212 lbs. as those of two hundred and forty.
Mr [John] Buchanan has sold Capt Christie's load of tobacco, I am told for tolerable good prices. His friends has had many meetings since Christie's arrival to consult and fix a plan for his going on again, but there was such dissension amongst the trustees that that frustrated everything and has fixed a determination for his winding up.
99b. By Capt Eden, who is just arrived, I am favoured with yours 15 and 17 July which brought me seven first, second and third bills amounting to £991:16:5, all of which are accepted but the Adams on J. Bell for £9:6:0 that is noted for the want of advice. I observe what you say respecting of the people's sending home specie. In the first instance, I am sorry for the occasion, in the next, for their loss which will fully equal 72½ per cent [? recte 12½ per cent] with you and therefore recommend to you not to think of sending home anything but silver and guineas that will weigh 20/. The latter I can pass for 21/ and which by much is the most profitable. I am sorry that you took my request of your sending me ten thousand pounds amiss. I am now sensible that it was not to be done but, at the time I wrote you that letter, everything bore the appearance of destruction, and I was much afraid that we must suffer in the number. However, your activity has kept up our credit beyond what I had a right to expect and [I] hope, with the renewment of the protested bills and the sale of the ship, [it] will make us square with our creditors up to the next year, when you must begin to think of that and push your Mr Earle & Co. whom I have not heard a word from as yet.
I have settled a great many accounts by hook and by crook and the interest account does not as yet bear that terrible appearance I was fearful of. On the whole I have done my utmost and am almost positive you'll be pleased with my management, as I can prove to you that I have saved to the concern very considerably by sticking to it and managing business by myself. The greatest part of our creditors are thoroughly satisfied with our exertion and very ready to indulge us. There is some scabby sheep whom I have put a proper mark on and, as soon as I am clear of them, will tell them my mind. I have taken every step in my power to prevent Mr [Charles] Carroll's [of Carrollton] bills from being returned and think there is no doubt of my accomplishing of it. I have wrote him by this opportunity telling him so, to whom I refer you. You complain of the largeness of the charges on protests and hint that the notary does us wrong. If you will attend to them, you'll observe they are on people out of the city which occasions it. But to convince you that there can be no fraud, I would wish you to compare notes with your neighbours. The notary's fees are established by law; they are sworn and dare not take more than the stipulated sums by that regulation. I will write you again in a few days by Capt Greig. . . .
I am the more desirous of knowing how my private matters stand, that I might regulate myself respecting other matters, but did not expect that you would or could take up your time about them and let the concern suffer, though was in hopes [young] Tom [Johnson] could have managed that business without neglecting the store as he might have done that by candlelight. From his total neglect in writing me, I fear he has turned indolent; if so, pray exercise your authority and push him on to industry. It will be adoing him a friendly act. Be pleased to make him take copies of my accounts and send me a list of balance of my old books. For it will not do to lose what we had obtained by industry and I think for the sake of each and the whole of our interests that you had better get some steady person to keep the books and for you to attend to the collecting of the old and new debts. It is a matter of full as much and more consequence than selling, for you are and must be sensible what sums are lost in neglect of that kind. When you consider this, you will agree with me that it avails nothing in labouring so hard when the whole profits are sunk in losses. I don't mean to insinuate that it is the case with you but I mean to advise a step to prevent it in time.
I was a little surprised to hear that Lloyd Dulany had married B[etty] Brice, but much more so to hear that [brother] James [Johnson] had married Miss [Margaret] Skinner. You accuse me of slyness and hint that some of my good friends had been busy with me and the Crehold ladies. A man must possess true courage indeed to engage the matrimonial way, in those hard time, especially with your thousands. It requires a longer sighted one than I am to penetrate through the gloss that sixteen thousand would give and am content to let the more enterprising enjoy the charmer with all her charms. . . .
The foregoing is a copy of my last per the packet, since which I am procured with yours 4 July per Captain Love, enclosing me a certificate for the tea per Lynch. Colonel Sharpe [former governor of Maryland] and Mrs Ogle [widow of former governor] came up yesterday. I only saw them in the post-chaise. The colonel looked just the same as usual. I observe what you say about the legislative body and am exceedingly vexed at the conduct of the Upper House [probably on church taxation]. This step must evince the least discerning of their determined resolution to distress the community by opposing every and the most salutary offers from the Lower House. I have taken the liberty of communicating that paragraph of your letter to a public coffee house, and given a gentleman a transcript for [secretary of the province] Mr Hamersley's perusal.
You [Marylanders] are very wrongfully represented here and much want an active person [i.e. an agent] to contradict misrepresentations and state them in a proper light; but, as it is, the very trustees [of Maryland's paper money reserve fund] are arrant courtiers and their whole view is emolument and contracts. But, so far as I have been able to discern, there is an infatuation amongst you to a certain O[sgood] H[anbury] whose connections [with Lord Baltimore] alone ought to raise in you a jealousy, a removal of whom I apprehend would be a means of removing a considerable grievance. However, I submit to superior judgment about the men [trustees], but I will not give up my knowledge in a fact that the business [of the trust] is wholly transacted at a banking shop [Hanbury, Taylor, Lloyd & Bowman], where neither of the other trustees [Grove and Russell] attends or knows anything about it.
Mr Molleson has had three tobacco ships, one flour ship and another hourly expected, a most lucky man. . . . Mr Bickerton, a partner to Mr Frank, having occasion to go to Virginia and Maryland, to settle their affairs and my knowledge of him here, induces me to give him a line to you, and your friendly reception of him will particularly oblige me. Capt [Thomas] Eden has put the Annapolis up for the 25 of this month for your place, by whom I shall write you again. The distribution [to the suppliers] of the last remittance [from Maryland] has revived our credit somewhat and a continuance of your exertion will soon put us upon top credit. Enclosed I now forward you an account sales of the 1,000 [silver] dollars and which can't but please as it is higher by a farthing per oz. than any sold here for a long time. You'll be pleased to charge me with £224:10:10 the net proceeds. . . .
The foregoing is a copy of mine per the Nelly Frigate, Capt Greig, since which I am favoured with yours 24 July. I observe that you say the Kitty & Nelly was ready for launching but that you had fixed on no plan of her loading. I wish you had as the season has pretty far advanced and I would wish her to avoid a winter's passage. Indeed, I am the more anxious from a report circulated here by Capt Lane of your loading her [with tobacco] on our joint account and he adds that [Capt] James Buchanan is to have her. For God sake, why could you not say so much by some opportunity or another, for there has been enough of them. It has been productive of one good, I have not had three duns since he reported it on Change, for I believe it has had pretty general credit given it.
You told me that Capt Eden brought certificates to cancel the tea bond for that sent out by him. If he had them they are mislaid or lost, for I can't get them, so that it will be requisite that you write Mr Briscoe to forward me duplicates by the first opportunity.
Enclosed you have two protested bills amounting with charges to £34:14:5 and bill parcels for two mourning rings ordered by your J. Davidson for Miss Turner price £4:4:0 which you will be pleased to add to the bills and pass to the credit of my account. The rings are in a little box and in Capt Eden's care. All the bills are good and the only one whose fate is not known is the Adams's on J[ohn] Bell. . . . I much want a copy of Banks & Lowden's bill parcel of the hats that went by Capt How. There is a difference between us of £5 which is much too great a sum to lose. Let me beg of you to attend to those matters; they are really of more consequence than you heretofore have thought them. Capt Sewel is just arrived; there is no letters up from him, only two or three for Molleson. I hope I have some from you, I am exceedingly anxious to know what you are doing. . . .
I wrote you the 22nd per this opportunity, since which I am favoured with yours of the 20 August covering 10 first bills amounting to £1,091:4:8. which are all accepted but the following, A. H. Smith for £20 and Hudson & Lawson's for £350. Should they be good they shall be applied as directed, otherwise returned by the first opportunity.
I observe what you say about the Kitty & Nelly and that Hanbury is to have a preference to others for what you can't fill up. I am suprised that you should thus stick so close to a man who cares not a fig for you nor your interest, but you must do as you will. I have not, nor shall not, deliver him your letter as he did not do the thing he ought to have done. You tell me that you have forbid the people's drawing [on the firm in London] or you could load her [with tobacco consigned] to my address. Let them draw at the rate of £5 per hhd. provided it be after the ship sails. I will manage to pay the bills somehow or other. If this trial is encouraging, I shall send out an early ship to Patuxent with what goods you order and the planters' goods that she may be early at home next summer.
I shall sign all my letters in future by the names of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson that I write to our correspondents and it would be well you would attend to the same and not sign by the names of Wallace & Davidson. I observe that you have agreed with J[ohn] Ball [Annapolis shipbuilder] for another ship. I think you are very right, but pray have her ready by June at farthest. I shall pay particular attention to your draughts when they appear. Pig iron as well as bar depends more on the place of its make than anything else; if from Baltimore, pig from £5:5:0 to £6:5:0 [per ton], if from anywhere else, £5; bar from £14 to £16:16:0. To those whom you advance [payments on tobacco consigned], you had better take their bills on us [in London] at about £5 per hhd. and get what tobacco in every ship to us you can after our ship is full.
Depend on my care, assiduity and attention for our friends' interest. We are again in credit and shall keep it, in spite of O. H[anbury] and all the rest of our foes. Let Charles attend to the tobacco business and J. D[avidson] to the store and we shall do well. You must keep a list of insurance and take care to order it in time. I can't transact the business here for the allowance you make me, as I must have two clerks and house room. Therefore shall charge all the expenses to charges of merchandise unless you forbid it and say what you will allow me. Depend on me, I will die before I forsake you. Push the scheme and I am sure of success unless you agree to ship cargoes [of British goods on credit] which I beg you'll not. Only establish one [store] at Pig Point on our own account and another at Marlboro or Queen Anne [all on Patuxent]. Both of you go to every warehouse and declare our intention. I will write you in a day or two by Jarrold and by the packet. . . .