The Letters of John Paige, London Merchant, 1648-58. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1984.
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30. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
15 Feb. 1651
a. I have received yours, 14 Oct., per Mr Steward to which have partly given answer via Amsterdam per Mr Thomas Yardley, who I hope is safe arrived with you ere this time, where I have given you notice of the safe arrival here of the ship Elizabethand likewise the Blessing. May please to take notice that I have sold all the wines that came in ditto ships, save 6 pipes which are not merchantable, at £25 per pipe, ⅓ money, the rest at 3 and 3 months [see 11b note]; only I am to abate £14 upon one great parcel which I sold some winecoopers.
The sale of said wines did give me much anxiety unto whom I did let them go, the times being crazy at present especially for vintners, as some will find to their cost before this year goes about. For those which I have sold unto, I do not anyway doubt of their performance, which is no small heart's ease to me. My ambition this year was not so much for prizes as good able men. But to tell you the truth, the wines were not so good as I did expect, insomuch that many of my old customers bought of old Rowland Wilson who hath had two ships of very rare liquors. Rouse's ship's lading were all sold at £27 per pipe and Mr Audley's ship's lading was sold at £29 per pipe ready money. Indeed they were the best wines that ever I tasted. As I am informed, they were Don Alonso de Lugo's, Bartolomé de Ponte's, Juan de Mesa's, and Diego de Benitez'. I do admire that Mr [John] Turner's wines should so exceed yours and all other men's in proof above £5 per pipe. The company [i.e. Henry St John, Rowland Wilson and Martin Bradgate] is now sending Peter Steward [the Island Merchant] for San Lucar with a cargazon of £14,000. From thence he carries pieces of eight for Tenerife as I am told. I believe their drift is to engross all the choice puestosin the Island (the word came from one of the company's mouths here), yet I question not but others may have a small share with them. I do admire you did not make better use of the oppourtunity which you had in having 2 ships there so timely and not buying their lading before the fleet's arrival. I am confident you might have saved in price above £1,500 what you gave afterwards, but now it's too late to recall what hath been omitted.
I perceive you have sent Mr Brampton [the Matthew] for the Barbary Coast. I have paid £300 for men's wages and am now suddenly to pay the other £300 to the owners. I have motioned to some of them for 4 months' time longer upon the ship if need require, which I am partly promised by some, so hope shall send you an order about it per next conveyance. I have paid the master's bills of exchange here for 1,850 kts fish which he received in Newfoundland by my order.
I cannot but give you a hint of the general proof of wines this year. Garachico proved the worst; Rambla had better bodies though green; Carrera and Realejos both green and small bodies. Orotava malmseys prove the only wines both this year and the last. Though there have come home but few, yet there are above 1,500 pipes unsold. The ablest vintners will not meddle with ordinary wines if they can have good wines for love or money. Jerez wines prove pretty good, and for Malagas, they prove extraordinary rich, worth more money than Canary at present. I am confident that if you do not beat down the Islanders in price that vintners cannot hold to give such prices another year. I have not had the fortune this year to have one good parcel of wines, insomuch that I have partly lost my fame with the grand vintners, whereas last year none so much in their books as I was. But I hope next year you will endeavour to vindicate my credit again by loading some rare liquors. Though but few, yet will be more acceptable than a great quantity ordinary.
30b. If you can with convenience, I would wish you to keep Brampton out till next vintage rather than to send him home with India goods, they being much out of request at present and here are great quantities expected home daily from San Lucar, being the Nueva Espanafleet and the galleons are both arrived very rich, worth 25,000,000 [Rs]. The most part of the pieces of eight are Peru coin, which breeds great difference [see 27b]. I did insure £2,500 on Brampton homewards this vintage; but seeing he came not, I have taken it off again for ½ per cent. Wheat is very dear both here, France and Holland, and likewise in the Eastland, Danzig, so I conceive no great quantity will be shipped for your parts. God sending Brampton well back to you with his lading, I question not but you will make a gallant business of it. I am told you intend at his return back from the [Barbary] Coast to send him for Ireland with some vidueño wines, which you may do well to forbear that design because wines are no commodity there at present, being overlaid with Jerez and refuse wines from hence.
Of late, by very great chance, I have discovered a knavery that was shown us by Shadforth [the Elizabeth] when he was loading at Rambla. It seems they staved a pipe of wine of ours which the master never made you acquainted withal, but he and his men very orderly mended up the pipe and went and overdrew at least 15 pipes to fill up the other. To give you the relation how I came first to discover it will be too tedious, but he being gone for Newcastle, I was fain to enter an action against 2 of his men and had them in the counter 3 days till at last they discovered the truth to me, so that I shall make Shadforth pay dearly for it ere we are ended. It seems Shadforth made a protest against you for not giving him his full lading. To avoid vexation we put it to arbitration, who awarded me to pay him £18 for 5 ts. He swore point blank that he could have carried 15 ts more, which carried the business against me, but I shall cry quits with him ere long.
I have received from Mr Jewell [supercargo on the Elizabeth] an account of our Barbary voyage which is far short of what I expected. He writes me that you are mightily well contented with it. For my part I am not. I have questioned John Clarke [pilot of the Elizabeth] how several things were sold (who, I conceive, knows very well), who informs me of much more than Mr Jewell makes us good, which he will depose upon oath if occasion. As for example, the guns he makes good at 4Ds and Clarke swears that they were sold at 4½Ds, which is £50 upon that one parcel. Now I am loath to question a man but that it is unsufferable. What makes me to have a jealousy is that he carries out [for his own account] but 25 guns from hence, which I spared him, and nothing else; now the proceeds of them and his commission could never load so much corn as to come to 27 pipes wine which he loaded in Shadforth. Pray give me 2 words advice per first how many fanegaswheat he brought for his account. As I am informed the 1/6 part was for his account.
Mr Warren hath bought a ship of 200 ts and intends for the Barbary Coast about June or July. This ship was entered for San Sebastian in a politic way, so that I knew not of her going till yesterday. By the next I shall be more larger, which I conceive will be a month hence by our State's fleet which are bound for Barbados, being in all 10 sail of gallant ships which intend to stop at Santa Cruz [de Tenerife] to refresh and take in some wine for beverage. …
31. to William Clerke
17 Feb. 1651
a. I have received yours, 18 and 30 Dec., per Capt. William Pyle [the Swan] and Mr Audley. My last unto you was via Holland per Mr Thomas Yardley, where I wrote you the needful. I have written you and Mr Paynter at large per this conveyance of your joint business, to which desire reference, under which covert I sent you a letter which I received from Mr Henry Hawley. He writes me that he sold his wines very well and hopes to make a good business, for which I am very glad. He writes me that he sold the small vessel which he went in [from Tenerife to Barbados] and that after sale of her is now demanded of some which have power to stop her at Barbados, so is like to have some trouble about the business. He writes me to stop the proceeds of 10 pipes wines which you should have consigned me in account, ditto vessel, which I conceive you did not load by reason of the scarce year. I have written Mr Hawley to get himself out of the island before our State's fleet comes there. He advises shall have no occasion to value himself on me for your account, which agrees with your desires. I doubt he cannot send those blackamoors which you desire to have.
I perceive by yours the oversight in not buying up your wines before the fleet came in was chiefly committed by Mr Paynter's covetousness, which I am sorry for it, not knowing when you may have the like opportunity again. In case that Brampton [the Matthew] come from the Barbary Coast with his lading wheat, you may keep up the price, for I durst say there will none go from Holland nor France any. The Eastland is frozen up.
The bills of lading for the wine in Shadforth [the Elizabeth] and Webber [the Blessing] came in the same conformity and for ditto accounts as they went out for. Whereas you desire to know the particular proof of each ship's wines, the truth is Shadforth's were the better bodied wines, but they were bad enough both, being very green, not so good as Mr Wilson's wines by £5 per pipe. Likewise Mr St John's proved pretty wines and also those which you loaded for Mr [Stephen] Slaney's account in the Championproved better wines than those which I had by £3 per pipe. …
31b. Good hides worth at 6d per lb; ginger, £3 10s per cwt; Campeachy wood worth, clear of charges here, £15 per t; cochineal mesteque worth 32s per lb; campechena at 6s 6d per lb; sylvester not worth sending; indigo garbled, 4s to 4s 4d per lb; Varinas tobacco is risen within this 10 days, worth at present 6s 6d per lb if right. In the 2 fleets that are come to San Lucar there are not 200 chests and that worth nothing, being half rotten, sold at 10Rs per lb. I have written into Holland about the orchil, who write me that 300 kts will cloy that country, there being no vent for it. What I shall advise you is to secure some good puestos against next year, which I conceive will turn better to account by far than any other goods that you can send.
I have now advice from Lisbon of the Brazil fleet's arrival there with 35,000 chests of sugar; so that of necessity they will be cheap all over Christendom, that quantity being enough for all nations. The [English] merchants [in Portugal] are all out of prison upon bail. I have advice that hides are worth there from 3,000 to 3,500 réies which is money enough. There's great hopes that our States and their ambassador here [Guimāres] will conclude a peace. As soon as it's effected I shall advise you and, if you please, I will bear a share with you on a design that way. I have yet one chest of campechena left and the indigos, save a few which I formerly writ you of that I sold. The times are very dangerous, which makes all commodities at a stand; nothing doth off so well as good tipple. The lena noel is all unsold.
I have paid your bill of exchange for £45 in favour of Mr Leonard Clerke as soon as ever I received your letter per Mr Audley. The very next day I remitted Mr Richard Baker of Madrid a bill of exchange for 12,000Rs plata doble to be paid by himself after 30 days' sight, which bill I conceive may be in Madrid within this 20 days being 15 days since that I sent it per post overland, first and second bill. In my opinion I have it upon very good terms, considering the value of pieces of eight here: I gave 8 per cent. Now I must confess I could have remitted my money for Antwerp at double usance, and from thence to Madrid at double usance, and have saved 4 per cent. But then it would have been 5 months before the money would have grown due, which peradventure might have proved [a] prejudice to your affairs. So I thought rather to remit it directly from hence and not to run the risks of several men's bills. I think there have not broken so many merchants this 7 years as within this 6 months past, and yet I doubt many more will follow. Amongst them are 2 Canary traders, by name Mr Henry Lee, brother to Robert Lee at Mr Campion's; likewise Mr Norton the packer, partner to Mr William Clapham, is broke for £12,000. Several other men I could name, but it will be too tedious. I conceive in the order which you gave me about remitting the money to Mr Baker you did mistake; your letter mentions but £3 sterling, but I conceive your meaning was £300. You being a friend and I having confidence that you will allow of what I have done, made me not to waive the business so much as I should have done were it another's. Therefore, pray per first give a confirmation to what I have acted.
31c. I shall excuse you to Lawrence Browning in the best manner I can when he comes home, the poor man being a prisoner in Ireland, was betrayed ashore, he putting in there coming from the Canaries. God sending me life and health this summer, I will both draw out your account and all men's else. I am sorry that you should be so long without yours, but for the future I shall be punctualler in that particular. It's an old proverb and very true: short accounts makes long friends.
I wish that you may continue your resolutions of what you writ me about, that is to act no man's business but your own, which I conceive enough to employ any reasonable man. If so be that you had laden those wines which you have shipped for Mr [Stephen] Slaney's account and others for your own account these last 2 years, I believe you might have had £3,000 more in your purse than you have, which the commission comes not to £300. I have given Mr Paynter a hint about the same, which I hope he will take into consideration and not plunge himself into engagements for a poor 3 per cent. And besides that, there is another inconveniency: in regard that you load quantities for your own accounts, if so be that yours prove anything better than your principal's, then you are presently exclaimed on. So that considering all things rightly, you had better give 3 per cent to be rid of business, than to have it in these times.
Here is mighty great preparation making for next year for the Canaries, especially by way of Spain, chiefly to carry pieces of eight from thence. Likewise here will go from hence quantities of goods in James Blake [the Constant John], which is now entered in the Custom House for the Canaries. What encouragement they have I know not. I perceive you have taken to freight our small bark, the Susan[Capt. Giles Paynter], at such a rate as I doubt will hardly find victuals and pay men's wages. I take notice you have bought 80 pipes wines in Garachico for several years, which, if the price be accommodating, I hold it well done in regard you say they will be ready with the first to be shipped, which will be no small advantage to you in their sales. I should be very glad to hear of the Susan's arrival at Bilbao, in regard you have so great an interest. If your order comes, I shall make some assurance on her.
I am informed by a friend that Mr Bradick and Mr Richard Lant have broken their partnership. I have long looked for it, therefore do not much admire at it. He [Lant] being a man of a malicious spirit, there are no words bad enough for you. I never knew a man bear such a perfect hatred to one as he does to you, but it's an old saying that cursed cows commonly have short horns. I think you need not much care for what he can do to you, yet threatens that if ever you come home he will order you. Formerly he did pretend to be my very great friend, but now I am out of his books.
Sir, as a loving friend I cannot but acquaint you of my late change from a bachelor to an honest man: I have married Mr [Gowen] Paynter's daughter [Katherine]. Wishing your presence to honour us, but nevertheless seeing could not enjoy the happiness, have emboldened to present you a pair of gloves, as accustomary, desiring you to wear them for my sake. When God sends you well home, I shall be ready to do the like for you. …
32. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
6 March 1651
I have written you at large per this ship both particularly and jointly, to which desire reference. The occasion of my writing to you at present is chiefly to give you notice that I have received yours copy [of] 19 Jan. and 30 ditto, via Bristol, which came to my hands this instant. The original of 19 Jan., which I conceive came by Mr Oliver, is miscarried, he being taken by 3 Jersey men-of-war and carried into Scilly, so that I know not what goods to send for Mr William Clerke's account, being the memory is lost. But I hope by Capt. Cramp shall have it, otherwise I desire may have order per first what to do.
According to your earnest desire I have motioned the business to Mr Brampton's [the Matthew's ] owners here for 4 months' time longer above the 20 months which I formerly hired her, who have granted my request, Mr Richard Hill and Mr Murwill by name. If this ship stay but 4 days longer I shall send you their order to that purpose, they having writ down to Dover to the rest of their owners to sign it. Of this you may be confident, to which purpose Mr Richard Hill hath written the master per this conveyance, as he tells me, of which you may acquaint Mr Brampton.
I shall endeavour to get Mr Clerke's assurance done on the Susan [Capt. Giles Paynter] from Tenerife to Bilbao and back, which I doubt will be at 10 per cent. I have letters, 18 Feb., from Bilbao. Then she was not arrived; God send her well at last. Here is a ship now going for Bilbao per which via shall write you a few lines, and likewise tomorrow I intend to send a letter via Nantes by one Mr Salter which is there in Cruchman's ship, bound for Tenerife laden with linens and pipestaves consigned to Mr Stephens and Body. Here is now ready at Gravesend Peter Steward [the Island Merchant] and our ship [the Mary], Mr Chalke, both bound for San Lucar, from thence to the [Canary] Islands. As I conceive, here's great preparation making for next vintage via Spain notwithstanding I have shown your letter to several whereby they may see the misery that is befalling them Islands if so be that rain do not fall speedily. Pray when Brampton arrives, let me know what success you have had in the voyage, where he brings corn [from the Barbary Coast] or no. Here is this day advice from Seville that the sickness begins at Gibraltar again, so that is much feared it will break out again in those parts this summer. …
33. to William Clerke
15 March 1651
… I have received yours, 19 Jan., copy, via Bristol. The original is miscarried, which seems came by Mr Oliver. In ditto letter you mentioned something of a memory for some goods which you desire I should send you. Had you sent the memory with the copy letter, I should have made them ready to send with the first, but now I am blindfolded, not knowing your will. But I hope by Capt. Cramp you will enlarge, whereby I may be able to comply with your desires.
I have now made a policy upon the Susan, hoping to get it done for 9 per cent. If Mr Davies and Ackland [Paige's correspondents at Bilbao] had order to give me advice, perhaps it might save you money, for I am persuaded she is arrived, as I learn by a shipmaster that came from thence. But I, having no certainty, durst not forbear making your insurance upon such a slender report.
Per advice, Varinas tobacco is risen much of late, worth at present 7s per lb if right, and I am confident it will rather rise than fall. In case that you can have hides cheap, as I believe you will, I conceive it will turn to account, if freight cheap, to send some here to land at Dover and so to ship them for Lisbon, if you send none from thence thither. I make no question but we shall have a peace with Portugal very speedily. I have endeavoured of late much to sell off your lena noel which dries very much up, insomuch that it is worse for the stillers. The longer it's kept the less it is worth for their use, and warehouse room is very chargeable, so that if I can get £12 or £13 per t I am resolved not to keep it. There are but 3 men in town that buy the commodity. Mr Bulkley sells at £10 and £11 per t and tells them he hath great quantities in the Canaries. And for your indigos, they daily fall, are scarce worth 4s 6d per lb garbled, so that now I wish had taken our first market. All commodities at present are at a fall. Trade is much decayed and in these uncertain times we know not whom to trust, being weekly we hear of some or other break. I am informed that your hides [on the Susan] for Bilbao will come to a good occasion. …
[P.S.] If you write Mr Hawley, the bearer hereof, Mr [Abraham] Langford [who is going in the fleet for Barbados] I know will endeavour to deliver it him, if possible to be done.
34. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
15 March 1651
… [L]ittle or nothing hath offered worth your notice, only at this present our States and the Portuguese ambassador are upon the matter agreed, which if the business take effect, I shall write you via Bilbao. I have advice from Lisbon hides are worth from 3,000 to 3,500 réis per hide, which is a great price. If so be you have no employment for Brampton [the Matthew] at his return from Barbary, it would be a good design to send him for Lisbon with hides and 20 ts logwood. A small vessel's lading of West India goods would vent pretty well in Nantes at present, as Mr Holle writes me. Linens were never cheaper this 7 years than they are now in France. All sorts of West India goods here are drugs, no vent at all for them. Varinas tobacco is risen much within this month, worth at present 7s per lb if good, and I am confident will rather rise than fall. Ginger garbled worth £3 15s per cwt. For all other commodities, not worth sending.
Here enclosed I send you a brief letter from Mr Brampton's chief owner, Mr Richard Hill, who gives him order for 3 or 4 months' time more, if so be that you please to keep him out, I having agreed with the owners for said time to pay after the rate of our charter-party, £85 per mensem.
Here is Mr James Blake [the Constant John] now making ready to be gone for the Canaries within this month, who will go as full of pack-goods as ever he can stow for several men. What encouragement other men have I know not. I am sure you give none to send goods. …
35. to William Clerke
25 March 1651
… [H]ere is arrived Capt. Cramp per whom had advice you have let out Mr Brampton [the Matthew] to come home, which in my opinion have done very well. Better do so than keep her out upon monthly pay upon uncertain employments. I am sorry the Barbary voyage [of the Matthew for wheat] proves so unsuccessful. May please to take notice that I have made insurance for your account upon the Susan for Bilbao and back for 8 per cent, which I think is pretty reasonable considering her burden and force. There's insured £700; I hope tomorrow to get the other £100 underwritten.
Per advice Varinas tobacco rises daily, worth at present 7s 6d per lb if right. The enclosed came to my hands yesterday. Mr Hawley [who is sailing from Barbados in the Medea with sugars] writes me that he will be speedily in Amsterdam if pleases God. Mr Blake may be ready to go hence for Tenerife a month after the date hereof, in which ship [the Constant John] I would have sent you your goods if could have a memory, which I hope will come per Mr Brampton. In the interim I shall provide the ozenbrigs and hounscots which your letter specifies. This I send down to Plymouth per post. …
36. to William Clerke
4 April 1651
… I have written you and Mr Paynter at large per this conveyance under covert Mr Ackland and company [of Bilbao]. I have this instant advice of the Susan's arrival at Bilbao. The insurance was done out and home for £800. As yet no news [from] Mr Henry Hawley. …
37. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
8 April 1651
… Mr Brampton [the Matthew] is now unladen and going to be girdled in the dock. I shall endeavour to freight him per t and send him you at vintage for our accounts, empty, except I receive your order to the contrary for corn. I am confident there will go such quantities that it will be very cheap with you, being every man hath order for that commodity. I do now daily expect answer of my letters from Middelburg where I have given express order to buy up 80 or 90 ts wheat, which I am confident will be effected. [William] Webber is making ready his ship [the Blessing] with all expedition that possibly can be. I doubt not but shall dispatch him hence within this week, God sending him well to Middelburg. He will be laden in 3 days so that you may depend upon his coming, God sending him in safety. The corn shall go for our accounts, but, if you please, I desire to have no interest in the Newfoundland fish [Clerke and Paynter intend to send the Blessing on to Newfoundland] because I have made a kind of promise never to deal in that rotten commodity. I shall buy 1,400 kts which, I conceive, will load her. If you excuse me of the fish, I shall take it as a courtesy, of which I desire your answer per first.
Cramp's wines, laden by Mr [John] Turner, prove but ordinary; likewise those which Mr [John] Webber loaded in Brampton are but little better. At the first of the year they would have yielded £25 per pipe, but now I am confident they will not yield £21 per pipe, wines being fallen within this 2 months £5 per pipe, notwithstanding there have no quantities come home this year from Malaga, Jerez [or] the Canaries of what hath come in former times, which you will admire at. All the reason I can give is that we have here very sad times and little money going. Wines being drawn at 10d a pint, men do give over drinking it, and the vintners do very much complain of their draughts. They pay their money very slowly. I do begin to find it so, at least. Except you send very rare liquors next year, they will not turn to account as you do expect. You may be assured the vintners cannot give the prices this year to come as they did the last. All those men which have their wines upon their hands unsold will not get by £5 per pipe for them as much as they were offered at first of year, which is no small loss. I am glad all yours are disposed of. I hope I shall be well paid for them though I believe long after the dates appointed for payment.
I never knew men break so fast as now, insomuch that makes all trade at a stand. One man durst not trust another. Per advice from Amsterdam, Mr Isaac Ellis is broken for near £15,000, they having his person in prison, upon which here broke 2 merchants of this city; men that were engaged for him deeply are now utterly undone.
The fleet which was bound to reduce Barbados have now given over their design, as I understand, which is what I have to say at present. This goes per a small Southampton man which is now at Plymouth, as my cousin John Paige advises me. …
38. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
10 April 1651
… I have written you at large per this via already, to which desire reference. Mr James Blake [the Constant John] may be ready to go hence for Tenerife within this 10 days, per whom shall advise you the needful. Mr Webber [the Blessing] may be gone hence within this 5 days. His lading of wheat lies in readiness for him at Middelburg where I make no question but he will have a quick dispatch. The Portuguese ambassador and our States are near agreed; there's not above £20,000 between them in their demands so that I think it would be better for to send Webber for Lisbon with hides than to send him for Newfoundland. Hides are worth from 3,000 to 3,500 réis per hide, which may serve per advice. …
39. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
6 May 1651
a. … I have received yours, 8 March, per Mr Brampton [the Matthew] who hath promised I shall have his ship for the vintage if no good freight proffer before. I have made over the freight homewards to him, which is received in to a small matter, besides which I shall owe near upon £200. When I had news of his first arrival, I was doubtful had brought me some West India goods, which would have come to a miserable market. He was far more welcome to me with nothing than though I had had his full lading, by which you would have lost 30 per cent besides the freight. I will not excuse Duarte Enriquez for £1,000 loss upon the parcel. Hides worth at present 6d per lb; ginger garbled, £3 10s per cwt; logwood clear of charges here, £14 per t; cochineal mesteque, 28s per lb; indigo garbled, 4s 4d per lb; campechena, 6s 6d per lb; Varinas tobacco if right worth 7s per lb; that which Duarte Enríquez loaded in Brampton will not yield here at most above 5s per lb, being not excellent. Sugars are very cheap at present; good whites worth £6 per cwt.
And amongst all nothing a greater drug than Canary wines, here being at present above 1,500 pipes unsold in town, which are as good as those which were sold at first of the year for £25 per pipe, and now I am confident they would sell them for £20 per pipe with all their hearts, which is no small loss to them which have not sold. I am glad I took my first market as it now falls out. Indeed wines are such a wasting commodity that I do not delight to keep them upon my hands as some men do, yet I never was a spoil-market to undervalue the commodity. These times do much impoverish the commonalty insomuch that these men which formerly did drink wine have now scarce money to buy small beer or ale. The vintners do very much complain of their draughts, and it's not without a cause. Those men which formerly did draw 80 pipes per annum will now scarce draw 40 pipes, so that they will have many remaining against new wines come home. So that we must not expect the prices of these 2 last years. If so be the Islanders should stand upon their terms this next vintage as they did last, if you take my advice, load not home a pipe for your own accounts. I do foresee so much that we shall have a glut next year, and the vintners do begin to tell us that we have had the time of getting this 2 or 3 years, but next year we must leave it and they must take it. If ever the [Vintners'] Company wants to have the upper hand, to say a good quantity of wines in town, then they will blow upon our wines and have them upon their own terms, for here is a generation of new traders that will sell upon any terms to make monies to pay for their goods, which they commonly take up at 6 months' time. Except you can procure the wines to be afforded here for £19 or £20 per pipe, there will be no good done by the trade. Nevertheless, men do run on to provide for the vintage [as] though there were great encouragement here, as per this ship [the Constant John] you will see, who goes as full as she can stow. And here is Crispe [the Prosperity] that goes the like, who may be gone hence within this 3 weeks.
I am sorry your voyage [the Matthew's] for Barbary proved unsuccessful; no remedy but patience. Mr Warren is now gone for the [Barbary] Coast with a ship [of] 200 ts and carrieth about £2,000 cargazon. Likewise Mr Wilson is setting out of another ship of 300 ts which carries a great cargazon, upon whom goes William Cowse. I am very confident they will come to a sorry market. I shall not interest you upon that design this year, which may serve per advice.
39b. Whereas you desire me to return Brampton [the Matthew] with his lading of corn at vintage, I have considered that then every man will be sending, being their ships go empty, so that it is probable there will be a glut. Upon which I have given order to my correspondent Mr Baldwin Matthews at Middelburg to buy me up 80 ts of the very best wheat he can get, which order of mine is effected by ditto and hath been ready bought this 5 weeks. You may please to take notice that our ship Blessing [Capt. William Webber] is now at Gravesend ready to go for Middelburg with the first wind to take in ditto corn, where I am confident she will be dispatched in 4 days, so that I hope he will come into the Downs soon enough to have the company of Mr Blake. The winds proved contrary this month, otherwise Mr Webber might have been well in his way for Tenerife. Besides, just as he was ready he received an unhappy mischance: the ship grounded upon an anchor in the Thames and sunk, which proved chargeable to the owners, as he will inform you.
Now whereas you advise to have ditto ship go for Newfoundland and Bilbao, if you so please may send her there, I shall send the master credits to buy up his lading. For my part I shall desire to have no interest in codfish designs because I have made a promise never to deal in such rotten commodities as long as I live. In case that Portugal continue wars with us, then all the fish goes for Spain and Biscay, which of necessity must be a very drug. Now in case that we do conclude a peace with Portugal, as we shall know within this week at farthest, then you may send her for Lisbon with hides which are worth 3,500 réis per hide, which is the gallantest design you can send her. Of this I hope to give you a further account ere this ship [the Constant John] be gone out of the Downs. But if not, I would not wish you to send her for Newfoundland. However, I will send credits that shall be in readiness against his coming there.
If so be that I do send Mr Brampton at vintage, I shall not send any corn in her, except your further order, because I send Webber unexpected by you, which I hope will come to a far better market than at vintage. However it falls out, you may not blame me for, God knows my heart, my endeavours are for your most advantage. Our corn cost in Holland £40 per last, Flemish money, which, by my calculation, will come at £12 sterling per t, which is about 22Rs per fanega. I am informed that there is a Fleming that goes from hence with corn, which ditto ship brought in, which they paid 54s per quarter for it, which is about 20 per cent dearer than ours, so that if they do good by theirs, we must do far better by ours. I wish that your advice had come for corn per the Bristol man as it did by Brampton. You should have had 3,000 fanegas there by this time.
In the former part of my letter I have given you a hint of what is likely to fall out next year concerning our wine trade. Yet I would not have you altogether disheartened. I make no question but you can do as well as great Mr [John] Turner, and I hope, if my wines prove accordingly, to do as well as old Rowland [Wilson]. But I shall entreat you to be very curious in your selection, which is the main principle, for ordinary wines are never in request though the year be never so scarce here. Now in case that I should not be able to resolve you per this conveyance concerning the peace with Portugal, then you may conclude that there is nothing effected. Now if that should not take effect, then your only way is to load some hides, etc. and send her [the Blessing] directly for Nantes where I am confident we shall have a good return as hitherto we have no embargoes. Therefore you need not much doubt. I refer you to Mr Holle's advice, who writes me [from Nantes], and send via Bilbao. If you send her for Newfoundland, I will not excuse for 40 per cent loss upon your fish. The corn in Webber goes for our accounts in equal thirds. I shall make insurance upon him for the major part. …
40. to William Clerke
8 May 1651
a. I have received yours, 5 March, per Mr Brampton [the Matthew]. My last unto you was via Bilbao, which I hope came in due time to go per the Susan. The insurance upon ditto ship is made according to your order, home and out. I wonder you did not give Mr Ackland [Paige's correspondent at Bilbao] order to advise me of her arrival. If had been punctual might have saved insurance thither, for the ship was arrived 18 days before the insurance was fully made. Your insurance on the Medea [on which Henry Hawley was sailing from Barbados to Amsterdam with sugars] I have done at 4½ per cent, God bless her well to arrive. In my opinion she begins to tarry.
In my last I advised you of Mr Isaac Ellis, his failing for a very great sum of money, so that I have sent your packet for Mr Hawley unto my friend and correspondent Mr Tobias de Hem in Amsterdam, who hath written me that will assist Mr Hawley in anything that shall be requisite, which I am confident he will really perform, he being a very punctual man by what I have found. Before your contradicting order came, I had bought up 30 pieces of excellent good says, which, if I cannot dispose of them suddenly, shall send them you in Mr Edward Crispe's ship [the Prosperity]. As yet I have had no answer from Mr Baker [at Madrid] about the £300 which I remitted him, at which I do wonder, but I am informed is daily expected here overland.
Per advice this day here came letters from Bilbao wherein they advise that Mr Pawley of Madrid is failed once more for great sums of money. Here is such breaking abroad and at home every week and I protest I am fearful to trust any man. I am confident his failing in Madrid will break 2 able merchants in this city, one of which I was like to take his bill for 12,000Rs to be paid Mr Baker for your account, but I bless God it's otherwise ordered. Yet, if it had so happened out, I could not have remedied it. Thus you may see the danger of these uncertain times that where a man thinketh himself most secure commonly is in most danger. I am glad you did send home Brampton and not to keep him abroad on monthly pay upon uncertain designs. Ships by month eat deep without very good employment.
Concerning your lignum rhodium [in a London warehouse], I do admire who should persuade you to have it sent for Rouen, I having letters from thence weekly where they advise me that 5 ts will cloy the place, and it is not worth above £18 Flemish per t, which is not £10 sterling. Besides, there will arise charges. I am resolved to put it off here for £10 or £11 per t rather than put you to more charges or risks, which may serve per advice. When I send your account you shall also receive the weight of your indigos. How to send you the net weight I cannot tell because they are most unsold; it is the greatest drug that is this day in London. Trade much decays, insomuch that dyers do not use half the quantities as formerly. By estimation here is enough of that commodity in town for to serve it this 5 or 6 years. There's scarce a ship that comes from San Lucar but brings 100 or 200 chests, besides great quantities from East India. You may very well conceive it's no content to me to have them lie in cellar. If you are any way enforced to take goods of the [West] Indians, let it be good hides, which is the staplest commodity of all India goods; and if we have peace with Portugal I am confident they will rise there. Besides, they are a commodity that will yield money, and I know that this year you will have them at the [Canary] Islands upon very reasonable terms.
I have given order for the 2 cables to be made. Likewise shall provide the bays and strong waters to be sent in first ship at vintage, on which you may depend shall be punctually effected, all according to your directions. I am upon making a truck for the strong waters for lignum rhodium, but you may be assured that I will have as good as though I paid ready money.
40b. Your calculation of effects might have been excused though I had not effects in my hands, yet your order should have been put in execution to the full. You estimate to have the half of 373 pipes, and, whereas you strange at the short weight of the leña noel, it was weighed by the Custom House beam, and Mr Blake [master of the Constant John] had always there a man to take the weight. How the weight will be at the delivery again I know not. Likewise for the weight of the indigo in Capt. Pyle [the Swan], as yet is all in cellar. Now for the chest of cochineal, I saw it weighed both at the Custom House and when I sold it, and upon my conscience there was not an ounce more than what I advised you. Sir, it's no novelty, the wanting weight upon such kind of goods. I do find generally all men complain, yet that is no reason to excuse me, neither shall it be a rule for me to walk by. Had I trusted another to see the weight, then I should have had a jealousy it was mistaken, but in such kind of valuable commodities I always see the weight myself. I am confident that your weighing by a steelyard is no exact weight.
My correspondent in Rouen is an Englishman, Mr Humphrey Wilkings, a man whose face I know not, only have now and then some letters directed to him to send overland. I shall, according to your desire, procure you a Dutchman to do your business if occasion should proffer, which I shall give you a further account of per first. But if you take my advice, have nothing to do that way. If you send a ship for France, let her go to Mr John Holle [at Nantes], which is a far better market than Rouen, and if you have occasions for roans, giving him timely advice, he will provide them. I would not wish you to send the ship for Amsterdam because India goods are there a very drug, there being great quantities.
Now in case that you send the ship [the Blessing, on her return from Newfoundland,] at neither of these places, but send her home with wines, then I pray let them be choice or none. I hope you can have them there upon as good terms as any man, and I make no question but I shall sell them here for as much as another, so that without doubt you will do as much good by the trade as any man. Though in my joint letter I have given you little encouragement, the prohibition of French wines still continues and I see no likelihood taking it off, which will somewhat advantage us in the sales of our wines.
You may please to take notice that in this ship, the Constant John, James Blake master, I have loaded for your account 200 guns and 6 barrels of very fine powder, as per invoice and bill of lading appears. I would have put 4 barrels powder more aboard, but the master told me he could not take in one more, his powder room being full, which may serve per advice. You may do well to send away the Susan[Capt. Giles Paynter] with as much expedition as may be that she may get there [to the Barbary Coast] before William Cowes who will be gone hence within this month. Mr Browning hath been with me several times. I have excused you in the best manner I could. He tells me that he will not build till next vintage after this, so that you will see him there about October. When you write me hereafter via Holland, pray direct my letters to Mr Tobias de Hem, and at Middelburg to Mr Baldwin Matthews. For what concerns the joint affairs, I have written you and Mr Paynter at large, to which desire reference. I hope you will persuade Mr Paynter, so far as that Webber [the Blessing] may not go for Newfoundland, Lisbon is the only voyage. Now in case that fail, then you may send him with a small cargazon for Nantes to Mr Holle or to any other place where you shall think fit.
40c. Now concerning your Guinea design, it is a business of much difficulty and requires a great deal of extraordinary care, notwithstanding I shall account all my pains therein too little to serve so good a friend as yourself, and rest assured that there shall be nothing wanting in me. I have discoursed with Mr Jewell about it, whom I find much unversed in those parts, likewise knows not what is proper for those parts, which I shall take that to my care if he do proceed. But I must tell you, we must have a very able merchant to go along with him that is well acquainted with the coast, otherwise the design will come to nothing. Besides, men are subject to miscarry in those voyages, being unhealthful, as you did hint to me in your own letter. Now in case that I should procure another able man to go with Mr Jewell, you must think if he be a man of any worth or parts that he will not go as an underling but be in joint commission with Mr Jewell, which I find Mr Jewell somewhat unwilling, though I see little reason because he cannot do the business of himself alone. Now in case that we can get a man upon other terms, then I shall be very glad, but if not, then we must go the other way, which, if Mr Jewell shall refuse to condescend unto, for my part I will have no interest in the design, of which I shall be more larger in my next when we have had a little more conference.
I have any time this month been looking out for a ship and cannot meet with any master that will go that way except those which have ordinary sailors. We must have a frigate that will sail well, or else the blacks may chance to be starved before they arrive at their port. I proffered Mr [Garvis] Russell for his new frigate [the Katherine] which is just the burthen of Sidrake Blake, £160 per month for 8 months certain and 20 months if occasion, which is an unreasonable freight, £20 more than she deserves, and yet cannot get her. They ask £170 per month, which I will never give. I doubt we shall be forced to freight a ship and victual and man ourselves, which will be chargeable. There is not one in 20 masters that will go this way, though you would give them double freight, because it is a sickly voyage. By the next I shall be able to give you a further account of the business. Mr Jewell tells me that he cannot hold above 1/8 part at most, so that there remaineth 3/8 parts. I wish you had referred the business a little more to me and less to some else peradventure it might have been ordered a little better for our benefit.
The bearer hereof, our friend Mr William Bradick, will deliver you another letter. It will seem strange to see him in those Islands again. He hath passed through a great many troubles here of late days, and I think he would hardly have come off clear if I had not stood by him when all his pretended friends failed him, especially Mr Richard Lant. To give you the true relation of all passages, it would be too tedious, so I refer you to his own relation. …
41. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
29 May 1651
… I have advice that Webber [the Blessing] was laden some 8 days since with wheat, who I hope may be with you as soon as this comes to your hands. The treaty between the Portuguese ambassador [Guimāres] and our States is broken off insomuch that they have voted him to depart the Commonwealth within this 3 days. My uncle George Chappell carries him away, so that now we may expect no peace with Portugal. Here enclosed I send you a letter which if you send Webber for Newfoundland may carry with him. No man here will scarce adventure upon fish insomuch that the West Countrymen must be forced to carry it to a market themselves, which will be bad enough in regard the Portuguese trade is shut up which used to vent above 60,000 kts, all which must now go to Spain. Wherefore, upon no terms let him not proceed that voyage; rather keep him at the Islands till vintage.
I am now upon freighting Brampton [the Matthew] whom I intend to send with the first fleet at vintage. Men do now begin to freight ships for the vintage already. I do long to hear from you to know how the year is like to prove. This goes via Topsham by an uncertain conveyance, otherwise should be larger. …
[P.S.] As yet no news of Mr Hawley's arrival [at Amsterdam].
42. to William Clerke
2 June 1651
… I have written you larger in the joint letter, to which desire reference for what concerns the general business. I have freighted Brampton [the Matthew] for the vintage for our accounts in thirds. As yet I have no certain news of Mr Hawley's [the Medea's] arrival [at Amsterdam], but there is a ship arrived in Zeeland that came in company with the ship Medea who supposes that he is gone by the back of Scotland to avoid our Parliament ships. God send good news. I hope to write you of his arrival per next.
Now concerning our Guinea design, may please to take notice that through much difficulty and great pains I have freighted a ship for that design by name the Swan whereof Capt. Pyle is commander. The condition, shall give you an estimate hereunder. I was about several ships, but no masters would go upon any terms, so that I was fain to close up with Capt. Pyle, though not upon so good terms as I would wish. I shall now go [about] providing the cargazon and give Mr Jewell [supercargo on the Swan] a speedy disp[atch], hoping to have him ready by 20 July at farthest. I shall advise you in my next the share which I intend to have in ditto design.
I wonder that I have not heard from Mr Baker concerning the bill [of] £300 remitted him [at Madrid] for your account. He is daily expected here via Bilbao, God send him well. I wish he had sent the licences [see 43n] to go with Mr Jewell. …
[P.S.] The heads of Pyle's charter-party, viz. the ship at £150 per month, 8 months certain, 20 longest; to pay 6 months' pay after 8 months' service, the rest at his arrival here; to carry 32 men, 20 guns; to pay port charges as customary; to go so far as the Line [the Equator]. …
43. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
2 June 1651
… Mr Webber [the Blessing, on her way from Middelburg] touched at Dover, and not finding any letters of mine, was informed not to proceed for Tenerife with his corn, although had no such order from me. So sent me up an express that would stay at the Isle of Wight till my further order, which, for ought I know, may lose a good passage by that presumption, as I may term it, which makes me now send an express on purpose to get him gone, being a fair wind. Here enclosed I send you a letter of credit in case he go to Newfoundland, which by no means let him go for former reasons given you. Besides, I doubt it will be too late.
May please to take notice that I have yesterday freighted Mr Brampton [the Matthew] to go for the Canaries for our accounts in equal thirds at vintage. I am to give £4 per t. There are above 15 ships already freighted for vintage, which is a thing never known, so rare. Men run on as though there were very great encouragement. What wines you load at the vintage except they be rare you had better send none, for I am confident they will not be so much in request this year as last except very good. Mr Rowland Wilson hath now received letters from Mr John Turner of 15 April via Bilbao from Tenerife, which is a great satisfaction towards his proceedings. No man else hath a line. I admire you did not write per that via a letter; now were worth 10 another time.
This day I have received letters from San Lucar of 7 May where they write me of Mr Chalk's [the Mary's] and Steward's arrival there, who are both bound for the [Canary] Islands. Likewise they advise that Sidrake Blake and a great Fleming is there arrived from your Islands, wherein is come the old [Capt.] General [of the Canaries, Don Pedro Carrillo de Guzman], for which am very glad that you are rid of that torment. The Portuguese ambassador [Guimāres] is now at Calais, who stays there to take shipping. My uncle George Chappell is now going to take him in and to carry him away for Lisbon. The treaty is quite frustrated and no hopes of peace with them, which may serve per advice.
In case you do not send Webber for Nantes, I conceive you had better keep him there till vintage. Had not the business of proceedings fallen out cross, he might have been with you long ere this, but we cannot be against God's decreed will. Wind and weather hath proved cross and the owners a little perverse, which at present I cannot give you the full relation, being somewhat tedious. Webber is not so discreet a man as I take him to be. God send him well this voyage, we shall go near to change a master, which you may keep to yourself. He writes me that he was informed in Dover that much corn hath gone from Cadiz for Tenerife, which I hear no such thing, neither have any such advice. If had, cannot now remedy it. The quantity which he hath aboard is not much, but I conceive you can very well dispose of it to your parishioners were there a glut, as I hope there will not be. This staying of his in the Isle of Wight will hinder above 200 leagues' sail. He might very well be there within 2 days after James Blake [the Constant John], which may now prove to be longer.
Mr [John] Turner advises Mr Wilson that Jenkins was coming home from the Islands at the date of his letter; as yet is not arrived, so that I doubt cannot be well. I have not heard from you since Brampton came home. …
[P.S.] Mr Webber's ship goes per month. I am to give £62 per month for 8 months certain and 20 months if need require, which may serve per advice. Tomorrow we are to have a letter from the Council of State unto the King of Spain about our general business, upon which I hope Mr Breton will be able to do something against Don Pedro's coming. (fn. 1)
44. to William Clerke
6 July 1651
My last unto you was 2 June per Mr William Webber [the Blessing], where I wrote you briefly giving you to understand that I have freighted Capt. Pyle [the Swan] to go your Guinea design, though with much difficulty and trouble. Since which, have freighted a small frigate of 30 ts [the Turned-out] to go with him, being absolutely necessary for the rivers. I am to give £9 per month and I to victual and man, which in my opinion is very reasonable, she being brand new, never made a voyage, and must of necessity sail singularly well. Likewise I have bought up near £1,000 worth [of] goods already proper for that place, which now I wish I had the money again in my purse.
Mr Baker is come from Madrid and brought no commission [see 43n], upon which I showed him your advice to me. He denies that ever he writ positively he could procure it, but says that if he could possibly he would, which excuse does not agree with your advice. I shall be more larger in my next concerning this particular. In the meantime, you are very much mistaken of Mr Baker if you take him to be your friend. I believe you will find a great deal of self-ended treachery in this business. My opinion is that Mr Baker aims at the same business and so endeavours to frustrate you. I acquainted him how I had per your order freighted a ship [of] 300 ts for the design and had bought up £1,000 in goods, who replied in a slight manner that I must sell the goods again and release the ship. I replied it could not be done under £500 loss, to which he answered if were £5,000 he could not help it. So much for your pretended friend Mr Baker.
Now I have laboured what I can but cannot obtain a commission from our States [so that the Swan might go to Portuguese Africa with a letter of marque] against the Portuguese upon no pretence whatsoever, being they expect to have another ambassador from King John, so that are now calling in all private men-of-war commissions. So that now we have begun, we must go through as well as may. Your only way is to compound with the [Capt.] General [of the Canaries] in time. I am almost in the mind to have Mr Jewell stop one day with you to take your good advice.
Blessed be God, Mr Hawley [the Medea] is safe arrived at Amsterdam with his sugars, which came to a reasonable market, worth 7½ stivers per lb, and small charges. In regard there hath gone great quantities of corn to the [Canary] Islands from hence and Holland, makes him at a stand whether shall freight a ship or no, and the more because we could not hear from you, neither by Jenkins, Warren, nor this Southampton man, at which I admire.
I have received your credit, 24 April, via San Lucar and accepted the £400 bill of exchange which Mr Abraham Lee [of San Lucar] drew upon me at 20 days' sight, which bill came 12 days before any credit or letter of advice, a thing not usual. Upon which it was like to go back protested had not your letter of credit come in the nick of time. All which might have been imputed to Mr Lee's strange way of drawing bills without letters of advice. Besides, you should have done well to have given me timely notice whereby I might have been provided. I must be fain to borrow every penny for present, being the vintners pay extremely slowly, as I have formerly advised you. I am confident I shall not be paid for the wines by Christmas next. Therefore, I pray hereafter give me notice when you intend to value yourself on me. For other business I refer you to the joint letter. …
45. to William Clerke
26 Aug. 1651
I have written you and Mr Paynter at large in my joint letter, to which crave reference, being somewhat straitened of time at present. Per Mr Russell shall write you at large, who will be gone within this 3 days, in which ship [the Katherine] you may expect your goods. These chiefly serve to give you notice, seeing you so earnestly desire it, that this day Capt. Pyle's ship [the Swan] is gone for Gravesend with our small pinnace [the Turned-out] to proceed on our Guinea voyage, though with as much trouble and difficulty, I think, as tongue can express. If I might have £500 I would not undertake the like business again. In fine, thanks be to God, I have almost overcome.
Now I want nothing but money. I cannot get in my money from vintners insomuch I am at a strait. Your bill [of exchange] of £400 payable to Mr Henry Lee of San Lucar I have paid, but was fain to borrow every penny of the money. And now to help all, you have drawn several other bills upon me, at which I much admire. You do not consider the slow payments of the vintners and the disbursements I have been out for you, especially this Guinea design, so that I shall not be able to satisfy all your bills.
In my last I gave you notice of Mr Hawley's arrival at Amsterdam, who writ me last post would remit his money for Madrid, for that corn was very dear in Holland would freight no ship. What reason is for it he knows best. I writ him that you did expect him [in Tenerife] according to your former order.
When Webber's bills [of exchange to pay for the Blessing's fish at Newfoundland] come, I shall be put to it. I never was so short of money as this year since I came to England. …
46. to William Clerke
6 Sept. 1651
I have received yours, 24 and 27 July, via Topsham and per Mr William Bradick. For what concerns your and Mr Paynter's joint affairs I have written you at large, to which desire reference. To comply with your very earnest desire, may please to take notice that I have dispatched away from hence Mr Richard Jewell upon Capt. Pyle's ship [the Swan] and likewise a small frigate of 30 ts [the Turned-out] with a complete cargazon, both for the river Gambia, the Gold Coast and the Bight [of Benin], all which stands us above £1,700. The particulars of which you may expect per Mr George Kilvert per whom shall write you at large. Ever since I knew what business was I never undertook the like. Indeed I was not sensible of it before had undergone it. I protest if I might have the ¼ part of the cargazon I would not be bound to do the like. I do not write it in a boasting way to applaud myself, but Mr Jewell was an eyewitness to all. For 10 weeks' time I had no quietness. After Pyle had sealed [the] charter-party, he like a knave discovered the design and would not proceed the voyage, notwithstanding I had bought £1,000 worth [of] goods. The one-half thereof was aboard so I was fain to sue him in the Admiralty Court, where, it please God, I overcame him. The copy of all shall send you per Mr Kilvert. Here is no commission to be procured from our States nor the States of Holland [allowing the Swan to go as a private man-of-war] against the Portuguese, upon no terms. Therefore you must endeavour to compose your business with the [Capt.] General [of the Canaries] there.
My cousin Mr John Paige of Plymouth advises me that he loaded on Brampton [the Matthew] 319 bushels wheat for your, Mr Paynter's and my accounts in equal thirds, to whose advice I refer you. I loaded aboard the Katherine frigate [Capt. Garvis Russell] 10 pieces Colchester bays for your account and 2 new cables, the invoice of which you shall have per next.
The trouble in dispatching the Swan hath made me neglect my writing you and other friends per the first ships at vintage, so that you must have patience until the second fleet arrives, which I hope will not be long after. Only what I shall desire is that you load none but choice wines for your account, though they cost something in price and payment more. The price here will make amends, if good. I have observed ever since I received wines from you that you have every year loaded better wines for other men's accounts than for your own, especially to Mr [Stephen] Slaney, for which I think you have no great thanks. I would have you to take the parson's proverb, that is, to christen your own child first. Since others have had the cream other years, pray reserve that for yourself and let them have some milk, 'comprehending much in a few words' [Ecclesiasticus 32:8].
If you can buy a parcel West India hides reasonable, I conceive they will turn better to account than dear wines, worth at present 7½d per lb; and if our peace be concluded with Portugal, I am confident they will be somewhat dearer, which may serve per advice. …
47. to William Clerke
10 Sept. 1651
a. … My last unto you was of 6 instant via Plymouth per Mr Taylor, where I wrote you a few hasty lines. I purposed to have written you per Mr Russell [the Katherine], but being then upon dispatching Mr Jewell [supercargo on the Swan], I was resolved to follow it and leave all other business.
I shall give you a brief narration of some passages concerning our proceedings, for to give you the whole will be too tedious. As soon as ever I had agreed with Capt. Pyle [the Swan], within 6 days I got him to seal our charter-party, for I was jealous of recantation. Upon which I went providing the cargo and got him to take in £600 in goods because would make a beginning and by that time I had near provided all things to go aboard. Comes Pyle to me and says that all his men that were shipped had forsaken him, saying they would not go no Negro voyages, and for his part would not go if would give him £1,000, telling me the voyage was unlawful [because of the Guinea Company's monopoly of that trade] and that he valued not the sealing of the charter-party a button and that I might even take my goods ashore, discovering our design to every man. Thus he went on in a malicious way, endeavouring to destroy our design which had cost me so much pain. But since I understood he was put purposely to spoil our voyage by many of the Guinea Company, notwithstanding I had such high opposition, I thought I had reason and equity on my side. I immediately got out an admonition out of the Admiralty Court to bring Pyle's person to appear before the judges and to show cause why he did not proceed according to agreement in charter-party. The business was 2 days debated before them by our counsels. Pyle brought several witnesses to prove his pretence, which was the unlawfulness of the ports, but my witnesses were more material in the business, upon which Capt. Pyle was notified by the judges' sentence [24 July 1651] to proceed with the ship else to forfeit the penalty of his charter-party which is £2,000 sterling.
After this was ended Pyle comes to me and says would make ready his ship but desired me to excuse his person going the voyage, being his wife would not permit him to go such an unhealthy voyage. Upon which I considered that to force him would not do well; and, weighing all things, I condescended that he might stay at home provided always that I might have no master but with our joint agreement, which accordingly he granted. And so we got his chief mate formerly to go master, whose name is Henry Pulman, a man that I have known this 7 years and truly I conceive him every way to be as fit a man as Capt. Pyle himself. After all this, then they complained they could not get men for money to go such a voyage. Likewise I freighted a small frigate of 30 ts [the Turned-out] to go along with the great ship, which is absolutely necessary for the rivers upon the coast; which vessel we are to victual and man.
47b. Here I send you a true copy of Swan's and frigate's charter-parties and likewise of my proceedings against him in the Admiralty Court. More I send you an invoice of our cargo and what the frigate stood set to sea and per store for the voyage. I have disbursed some small trifles since the account, likewise purpose to have £1,000 insured upon the general account for 8 months certain and so many more as we shall think fit until intimation of a cessation. When I received your advice at first to go upon this design, I was not sensible of what I undertook. I have ever made assured of myself for these 10 weeks. I bless God that all business that ever I undertook in my life did never give me such vexations as this. I do not speak it to applaud myself, but Mr Jewell is and hath been an eyewitness to all the transactions. If you would give me a quarter part of the whole cargo, I protest really I would not act the like business again; but I thank God I have now overcome it through much difficulty and vexation of spirit, and the ship and pinnace are both gone out of the Downs the 8th instant with a fair wind. The Lord send them a good passage and safe to return.
We have notice here that Negroes at the river Gambia are very scarce and dear. Our cargazon was most sorted for that river. But since I provided a parcel of brass bars and other commodities proper for the Bight [of Benin], so that if the first fail the other might take, I hope the proceeds of our cargazon will buy 300 blacks and load a £1,000 besides in beeswax, elephants' teeth and hides, all which commodities may have at the river Gambia. The making of our voyage will really be the quick dispatch of our ship upon the coast, which I have pressed to Mr Jewell many times and find him to be sensible thereof. He carries a young man [Thomas Dixon] along with him that hath the Portuguese tongue and is a pretty understanding man, by what seemed to me. He lived some years in Lisbon in your brother's house. I did endeavour to get another second but could not meet with any to my mind. I trust in God Mr Jewell may be with you in the month of February next at farthest.
You are interested ½ part in this design, and Mr Jewell 3/16 part, and myself 5/16; part as per bill of lading and invoice appears. I write my fatherin-law to take 1/8 of my part, which I conceive he will accept of, when not I will hold it as now I do. You see how much our cargo amounts unto besides insurance, likewise freight at 8 months' end, all which will stand us £3,000 which we shall be out on this design, which is a great deal of money. So that you must act your part in 2 things: the first is you must make way with the [Capt.] General [of the Canaries] in time whereby the ship may be received when it please God she arrives. For my part I have endeavoured to get a commission both here and at Holland [allowing the Swan to go as a private man-of-war] against the Portuguese, but none will be granted here nor there for love nor money, which may serve per advice. What the times hereafter may produce I know not. Nothing shall be wanting in me to procure it. Secondly, you must from the receipt go on providing some lading for the ship Swan whereby she may come directly home from thence, though she comes half empty, for £5 per diem arises high notwithstanding she is the cheapest ship that ever went freighted for Guinea. Pyle scarce knew what he did when he let her. I have formerly written you the slight answer Mr Baker gave me about the business of the commission and how much mistaken you are in taking him for your friend, but [by] your last I see you perceive his intentions. You know I cannot send the Spanish ambassador's letter except had a commission granted. [See 43n.]
47c. I am glad the guns and powder came so opportunely to go per the Susan [Capt. Giles Paynter]. I am informed that corn is scarce upon the Barbary Coast, insomuch I doubt the ships will get none. Those wines which you bought last year which you intend to load upon the Susan are very cheap as this year falls out. I wish they [i.e. the Canarian winegrowers] may not play the knave and mix them with vidueños. Both in those and all others which you load for your own proper account, I beseech you have a special care in the selection. It imports your own profit and my credit here. Pray do not this year, as you did last, load the worst wines for your own account and other men the best. I would have you to follow the parson's rule, to christen your own child first. It is very honest policy. Mr [Stephen] Slaney hath not spared in charging tonnage on you this vintage. In my opinion he was very sensible of the badness of the vintage before he took freight upon Taylor, therefore cannot plead ignorance, which peradventure he may to you. And whatever business or designs you intend for the future, pray let them be kept private from some which you have in your house, for other men know your intentions before my letters come to hand. These things are not convenient in our affairs. It proves many times disadvantageous and prejudicial to my negotiations here because envious men will thwart me in my proceedings. I have forborne a long time to write you concerning this particular, but I cannot hold longer. Therefore, pray endeavour to prevent it for the future.
I have written Mr Paynter very earnestly about the loading of rare liquors. Now in case the wine should not prove excellent with you, then you may buy some hides and fill up part of your tonnage. And among all, pray load good cask and see that they be well rabbeted, for soon is 4 or 5 per cent lost, which comes to a good sum of money.
I delivered Mr Jewell a packet of letters for you to be sent per Mr Russell [the Katherine], which seems came too late, so he writ me would leave them aboard the Admiral in the Downs to go per the first ship for the Canaries. In which packet were 2 letters from Mr Hawley which I hope will come safely to your hands.
47d. Whosoever did acquaint you about observing season of the year for wheat in Holland, to say that in Sept.-Oct. were the best months for buying by 20 per cent, tell him from me he is in an error. Corn is now dearer 20 per cent than it was when Webber [the Blessing] loaded; therefore you may judge whether that observation be right or no.
You may please to take notice that I loaded aboard the Katherine frigate 2 new cables and one truss of bays for your account. The ship's sudden departure left my bills of lading unfirmed. I do not use to omit such things, but to tell you the truth I left all business to do to dispatch away Mr Jewell [and the Swan for Guinea], which I think to you may be a sufficient excuse.
As concerning my kinsman you write for [to come as an apprentice], I did 12 months since write you about him, but seeing you never gave answer to that particular, I did before your advice came to hand promise him to my father-in-law and accordingly did send him to him over upon Mr Russell. I wish with my heart you had advised me of your want a little sooner. However, I am now endeavouring to get you a youth that shall be for your turn, which I make no question but shall procure one suddenly; it may be to go away in Jenkins if possible. You may depend I will send you over one; therefore make so good a shift as you can in the interim.
By your last I see you have drawn several bills of exchange on me unexpected and contrary to your advice of 10 March, at which I wonder. That bill of £400 payable to Mr [Abraham] Lee [of San Lucar], I borrowed the money and paid it. Likewise have accepted your bill of £100 to James Blake [master of the Constant John] to pay at 50 days' sight; and that payable to Mr Casby's order is paid. That [of £84 for freight] to Mr [Giles] Paynter [master of the Susan] shall pay, but the bill of £150 payable to Mr Breton not come to hand. I doubt shall hardly be able to pay it, yet I am loath you should have it go back. But one thing you should consider, what I wrote you by James Blake, how miserable the times were and how slowly my wine debts come in. Besides, I have disbursed near £400 upon the Swan's cargo for your account and other ways. As you well know, if I had the cash of my own stock in hand, I valued it not to supply it. But I have a great part out of my hands, insomuch that I am much straitened for money at present, which is a very discontented life. And were you not a real friend of mine, I should not do what I have done for treble commission, for I value a quiet life more than much gain. Therefore, for the future, pray order your business in such a manner that I may always have money in cash to go through my business with courage. I know not what I shall do for money to pay Webber's bills of exchange [for the Blessing's fish at Newfoundland] and likewise customs and freights of wines at Christmas. All these things must be considered.
I know you will strange very much I have not sent you your account, which I cannot absolutely finish because I have been overbusied of late days. …
48. to William Clerke
28 Sept. 1651
… May please to take notice that I have disposed of 6 chests of your indigos unto Mr Thomas Canham at 4s 8d per lb, to pay at 6 months' time. And after the bargain was made, I found him inclining to recant, saying that Antonio Fernandez [Carvajal] sold at 4s 2d per lb, which was very true, insomuch that I was fain to take half with him rather than to have them turned down upon my hands. We sent them for Lisbon where they were sold very well, as it happened, 750 réis per lb. There remains yet 8 chests in cellar and one chest campechena grain. As for your lignum rhodium, I cannot dispose of one t for money nor upon truck, insomuch that I doubt warehouse room will eat out the principal. Besides, it dries very much. I would willingly dispose of it upon any reasonable terms. Those chests indigo which remain unsold are the best of all the parcels. I proffered them at 4s 2d per lb garbled but cannot get above 4s per lb and at time [i.e. to be paid for later]. So that now I am resolved to keep them until I hear from you again because for future when you send me any goods, pray give me such order as that I may send them to any place where I shall think most convenient for your most advantage, if you can repose so much confidence in me. If you think it convenient, I will send them for Lisbon for your account. Of this, pray 2 words per first opportunity.
Your brother, Mr George Clerke, is daily expected from Lisbon here, who, I understand, intends to make a speedy return thither again. God sending him well to arrive, I shall kiss his hands in giving him a visit, and if he return before I receive your answer, I will presume so far as to send your indigo per him, though I do not usually do such things.
Your bill of exchange, £150, payable to Mr Breton I have accepted with all the rest you have drawn on me according to your last advice per James Blake [the Constant John]. I was loath any should come back again though I wrong myself, but how I shall get in monies to pay them I know not. You cannot imagine the miserable times for trading which are here at present. I never knew such an alteration in so short time.
I trust in God Mr Jewell [supercargo on the Swan] is at his port by this time. Here is at this present 2 of the Guinea Company's ships now in Downs bound for the same ports, so that I hope our ship will have the start of them for sale of our goods. There is no hopes of procuring any commission against the Portuguese [legitimizing a slaving voyage to Portuguese Guinea], so you must use your diligence there to make way with the [Capt.] General [of the Canaries] against our ship's arrival th[at] there may be no stop. And withal you must lay up a good round parcel West India goods whereby the ship may be upon employment, for we are at great charges. I have made insurance for £1,000 upon ditto ship for the general account for 8 months certain and more if need require at 20s per month per each £100, which, I conceive, is as cheap as ever was done that way. Likewise I have insured £1,200 upon the Susan homewards [from Tenerife to London] for your account at 4 per cent. I hope by this time Mr Hawley is gone from Amsterdam with his wheat for Tenerife. He had trouble there, which he will inform you at large.
In your last le[tter] you desired me to get you [a] pretty youth to live with you [in] apprenticeship, which accordingly I have used diligence to get one, but the time is so short that they cannot make ready to go over per Mr Jenkins. But by the first ship that goes after him, you may depend upon it, I shall perform your desire in sending you a youth for your turn. I am now about 2 which are very good scribes and of good parents which will give £1,000 bond for their truth. I make no question but I shall agree for one of them. …
[P.S.] Here enclosed I send you an invoice of what goods I loaded aboard the Katherine frigate and Peter Bonadventure.
49. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
28 Nov. 1651
These chiefly serve to give you notice that this day I received a letter from John Brampton, master of the Matthew, who is safely arrived in the Downs with 40 pipes of wine and 50 ts of Campeachy wood, as he advises me. He would not send up my letters for fear of miscarrying, therefore I have the less to answer. I wish you had not laden a stick of wood, for I think it so great a drug as lignum rhodium and there is £4 per t custom upon it. Except I transport it, I conceive I shall not sell it here for above £10 per t aboard ship. Considering breakage and charges, there will be 30 per cent out of the principal loss.
I am informed wines are both bad and dear and that you have made a general agreement the [English] nation throughout [to limit your purchases of Canary wine]. I wish there may be no Judas amongst them. If they prove well I shall look upon it as a miracle. I do not like that Mr [John] Turner keeps his ships behind; formerly he used to dispatch them with the first. I do not like his tarrying. If in case he should break your agreement, I question whether you or any man could recover a penny forfeiture because Mr Rowland Wilson [Turner's partner in London] hath my lord [Bulstrode] Whitelocke, one of the Keepers of our liberties of the Great Seal, to his friend (who married his [late] son's wife), a man very potent both in Parliament and Council of State.
I writ you a few hasty lines via Bristol per one Mr Marshall who is bound for the Canaries, and this goes via Amsterdam per uncertain conveyance. There are 4 Flemings arrived from Tenerife which came in 6 days since. I wonder you would not afford me 2 lines to intimate what you intend to load upon Brampton because I insured so much more than we have upon her, so that we shall pay £60 premium for nothing. If you had given me advice, then I could have intimated unto the insurers and have taken them off what I pleased, whereas now I cannot. The like upon Giles Paynter, the Susan, who I understand came out with Brampton but by very foul weather parted 100 leagues off Land's End and as yet no news of him nor Robert Newman. Taylor and Huberly are arrived in the Downs. Notwithstanding there come so few Canaries, yet I question where they will sell at last year's prices. I know not how I shall have monies to pay freight and custom.
I understand Webber [the Blessing] was arrived to a good market with his fish; likewise Mr Russell [the Katherine] writes me Mr Jewell [supercargo on the Swan] came part of the way with him. If I have no more effects, I know not how I shall be able to pay the first 6 months of the Swan's freight which is £900 in all, which, I pray, consider my engagements. God sending the ship well to arrive with you from Guinea, pray send her upon no designs because she is too great charge and too big. In the interim my earnest desire is that you would go on providing her cargazon of West India goods in time. Hides worth 7d per lb; ginger garbled, £4 per cwt; best cochineal, 30s per lb; campechena, 6s 6d; sylvester, 4s; indigo, 4s 8d. I hope the new act of prohibiting Flemings [the Navigation Act, 5 Oct. 1651] will make West Indian goods rise here. As yet we have no news of any ambassador from Portugal. …
50. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
8 Dec. 1651
… I have received yours per Mr Brampton [the Matthew] as also per Mr Giles Paynter [the Susan]. I should answer your letters particularly as I received them, but time prevents me that I cannot. I have landed the wines out of Brampton and likewise out of the Susan. I did expect greater quantities in both ships, but I find by your contract [among English merchants in the Canaries] that you have laden your proportions allotted you, so that I cannot expect you to fare better than other men, it being a general calamity as I may term it. But seeing the quantities were so small, I did conceive that you would have been the more curiouser in your selection whereby to have sent special good liquors. But instead of doing so, I conceive you have recovered up your old debts or at least bought some low-price wines. If not so, you have much undervalued your judgements or palates. If this be your proportion of firsts, I could wish that I had not had the tenth. Such a parcel of trash I never saw in my possession, and which parcel proves best I cannot discern, they being poor green flashy stuff. I know not what to do with them. There's at least 8 pipes unsound in both parcels. No customer of mine will look upon them, they have such an ill report. The vintners have named me 'the Canary Scavenger', a name very proper for such a dirty commodity. I question though I should have good wines another [year] where vintners will buy them because I am now so much disgraced. If I had not written you sufficiently of the inconveniency of bad wines, it would never have vexed me, but from Jan. to Sept. in all my letters I never omitted to give you a hint. Peradventure you will answer unto what I have said that you cannot load good wines when there are no such to be bought. If I should require such impossibility, I should think it an unreasonable thing; but when generally other men's wines shall rise good and those which you load to be trash, not so good by £8 per pipe, surely you must give me leave to write my mind freely and not to soothe you upon such apparent losses as this will prove to you and myself.
Those wines in Capt. Huberly laden for Don Balthazar de [Vergara] Grimón's account prove generally fine wines. Mr Newman's wines laden by Mr Bulkley prove likewise pretty wines. And those which Mr Bowridge loaded in Mr Taylor, Don Luis Benitez' wines as I am informed, prove best of all. Mr Lant told me this day that he refused £26 per pipe for the parcel, and I believe they will yield 20s more at least. Whereas ours, I will sell them with all my heart for £18 per pipe. I cannot say that there's one good pipe in the whole parcel. Other men have above half part fine wines that will serve to drink without help of Malaga [admixed]. Were I sure that wines would yield the price at the Islands as last year, I would return you over some of these, otherwise I must be fain to sell them to young vintners or to those which drive a country trade, which commonly pay one half and run away with the rest. Such is the torment of bad wines. All the men that know you do admire at your mistake and with much reason they may. Peradventure you may conceive that I am in some great passion; though I were, yet I am sure it does not overcome my reason. Neither do I undervalue your wines a farthing because you shall be sure I shall show them to some which shall certify you the truth.
The Susan and the rest of the fleet had very bad weather homewards and parted company; all came in single by themselves. Giles Paynter cut his mainmast by the board, staved his boat, threw one of his guns overboard. The ship was underwater 2 hours insomuch that the sea unstowed his wines and staved several pipes, which he and his men have deposed upon oath before the judges of the Admiralty Court. And the Trinity [House] masters have cleared them from damage so that now I must come upon the insurers as average. I believe the 43 pipes will not make out 32 pipes full.
Whenever it pleases God to send the ship Swan and frigate [the Turned-out] to arrive with you, pray think not of sending them anywhere but for England because they are too chargeable to be kept upon monthly pay. In the interim pray go providing her cargo of goods against her coming, which I hope may be in Feb. I know there are as good wines left in the Island as any that came in these ships. …
[P.S.] As for the Campeachy wood, it's yet aboard Mr Brampton, it being a commodity that I always objected against, it being a very drug. Varinas tobacco, if right, worth 6s per lb; indigo begins to rise, worth 5s per lb, which may serve per advice.