Joshua Johnson's Letterbook: 1772 (Jan - June)

Pages 23-40

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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21. (p. 48) to the firm per the New York packet 1 January 1771 [i.e. 1772]

I have only to inform you that I wrote you the 28th ult. per the Caroline [Capt Pearson] who is bound for Annapolis with goods. I heard a day or two ago that the Trimley [Capt Page] had put in Little Cowes to repair some damage that she had received and that she was not sailed the 25th ult. from thence. This circumstance still proves the more misfortunate as in all probability my intention in being first will be baffled. However, I still have hopes, as the wind came to the eastward on Sunday last and continues so, so that she will get out of the Channel and the Caroline can't reach the Downs [from the Thames] while it continues. I would have you to send to Laidlow and desire that he would hold his vessel in readiness and take the goods on board as soon as the ship arrives [at St Mary's], provided she is not arrived before this reaches your hands. I am glad to hear that you were all well by a letter from Lux & Bowly of 26 November. It's odd you can't meet with those opportunities. I have not time to say more than to compliment you and yours on the New Year and hope it may prove a fruitful one to you in all respects.

22. (pp. 50-1) to Charles Wallace per Carcaud 1 February 1772

I am duly favoured with yours of 26 November and am heartily glad to hear you were all well. You tell me I know you are no writer; pray what does that signify? You know whom you write to and you know too that it is requisite or business cannot be done. Therefore, I do insist on it that that can't be any apology and expect you will act the part of a young lover. As the ice is broke, you will write me very fully and as freely by every opportunity for the future. I am very thankful for the many intelligences you have given me and for no one more than the expected union between the Major and Miss P[eggy] S[trahan]. It to me opens a future happiness to all concerned in the building. You tell me that you intend to secure my part of the house from the weather and let it lay till you have my directions. I don't know what to say to you about it. I am afraid it must lay at least until we see what success we are likely to reap from our business, for, should that not prove successful, the finishing of it now will wade me out of my depth and may be the means of sinking me. I have done my utmost to procure you those [building] tradesmen but have not had it in my power and God only knows whether or not I shall....

I will send you the goods ordered for your own use with the next cargo and shall pay all the attention that is requisite both respecting the credit and quality. I will take care and have the requisite done with the plate warmer and another returned in its room, and punish the rascal by leaving him as soon as I can do better or as well. I have made the demand of Capt Curling for £3:7:6, the amount of your order; he answers that he does not owe you anything as he knows of, but will look over his papers and let me know; as soon as he does, I shall inform you.

I have no letter from [brother] T. J. though you tell me he wrote me by that conveyance. I long indeed to hear from him. Give my kind love to our house's families, T. J. and his and all other real well-wishers. . . .

23. (pp. 51-2) to John Davidson per Capt Carcaud 1 February 1772

I have only to enclose you a letter from your friend J[ames] Gibbs and two orders drew by Keith Wray on Thomas Adderson for £4 Maryland currency and on John Adderson for £2:11:0 sterling which I beg you will receive for him and remit to me. He is useful to me here, which will, I hope, sufficiently apologise for troubling you there. Charley [Wallace] writes me in his that the house was so far done that he was then taking down the scaffolds, that he should plank up the windows of my part and wait my directions about it. I have not money to complete it, therefore do not know what to do, for, as matters are, I shall be asinking the interest of what I have already expended on it. I would therefore wish to complete the store and let it, it will save me somewhat of the interest as well as keep the people from hurting the rest of the building. I shall write you again by and by....

24. (p. 52) to the firm per Capt Thomas Eden 6 February 1772

I thought to have wrote you fully by this opportunity, but misfortunes baffles the most ablest of their expectation. Mine has been a most severe fit of sickness which confined me in bed four or five days. The principal and most alarming symptoms were a fever and an inflammation on my lungs though, God be thanked, I am so far recovered as to have strength to sit up and write you this to convince you I have nothing to fear but a relapse which I shall avoid, although it be to your immediate prejudice and which I assure you gives me the utmost uneasiness. I shall ship the goods in all this month notwithstanding and hope by the 15th.... I shan't be able to see anything of them myself. E. H. Porter (attorney for Wm. Potts [of Barbados]) has drawn on me for £136:16:1½ which I have paid and charged to Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. I have likewise paid Capt Nash £3:12:0 for Baines & Rawlings per receipt enclosed, agreeable to your directions, and charge it as above. You may depend I will lose no opportunity of informing you of my recovery and am with my most sincere love to my brother and his family and both yours. . . .

25a. (pp. 53-5) to the firm per Capt Smith 18 February 1772

My last was of 6th inst. per Capt Eden informing you that I had been ill and but then very weak and low. By God's assistance I have been on the recovery ever since and am now able to go to the counting house and do the business immediately requisite. I have not as yet been outdoors and my physician says it will be exceeding wrong to go out these 9 or 10 days to come for fear my very low weak state may bring on a relapse which is absolutely necessary to avoid. It has proved a most unlucky affair to you as well as me, I having just finished giving the orders out for the goods ordered in yours of the 26 November, fixed the 10th inst. for the day of shipping and was in hopes to have got them away by the 15th at farthest but, as it has turned out, I have not seen any of the goods nor can I get the tradesmen to bring me the bills of parcels so that I fear it will be the 25th before I get them away. Mr [Christopher] Richmond has been so kind as to look me out the fancy goods.

I mentioned in my last that E. Harris Porter (attorney for William Potts) had drawn on me £136:16:1½ which I had paid and charged to Wallace, Davidson & Johnson as well as £3:12:0 paid J. Nash for Baines & Rawlings per 2nd [bill of exchange], receipt enclosed and agreeable to your directions.

The order for this cargo was the most imperfect I ever met with; pray let them copy agreeable to the invoice sent you, striking out what articles are not wanted and add what are for the future. For the dissection of the orders are a great deal indeed, for give an ironmonger an order for silk and he will undertake it. I am heartily sorry that the goods did not reach you time enough for the Provincial Court and, if fretting would have sent that rascal Williamson along, I am sure I should have blasted him to you. Your selling so low rouses those concerned here. I wish it may answer.

25b. I will save all I can in bounties, drawbacks and discounts to help out. I find it troublesome deducting the charge of commission at the foot of each invoice and think it a disadvantage as thus, should you at any time sell at so much advance on the foot of the invoice, you'll lose that 2½ per cent. In my invoice book the commission must appear, or we lose it [from insurers] in case of loss [at sea], so that for the future you shall have credit for the amount at the end of the year, the same as the discount account.

I have enclosed you your general account, balance due £2,015:10:1, which hope you will find right. I think you'll not grumble at the discount account as it yields near 5 per cent on all the moneys remitted in the last year and I think the drawbacks etc. no trifling object neither. As you justly observe, I am so fond of gain that I shall pay away all the last remittance, take the discount and trust to your activity for a remittance of £12 or £1300 to pay our debts due in July. Therefore look to it or we break. The bills per Nicholson are all good except Fran. Wheat's which is protested in part £50:18:8 and charges 5/9. I have enclosed the protest and charged it to Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. I have not sent you copies of all the accounts. I am not able to write them out; as soon as I am, I will and forward them.

What together with sickness, physicians, apothecaries, etc. has made me very poor indeed, but am still in spirits and hope to return from my exile and enjoy the sweets for my banishment by and by. Since prayer is become fashionable in our house and I so lately having need of it, I will end in that way: may your sales still increase and the elbows of your coats be worn out in weighing the Jon. [Joannes] Pistoles [coins], etc.

26a. (pp. 55-9) to the firm per Capt Nicholson 25 February 1772

I wrote you the 18th per Capt Smith and enclosed Henry [sic] Wheat's bill on Court protested for £30:18:8 and your account current, for the last year, balance due £2,015:10:1, which I hope you'll find right. I have now to acknowledge receipt of yours 3 December covering an additional order for goods and 9 first bills amounting to £311:18:10. Purviance's two bills are noted; Daniel Stephenson's [bill] gone to Whitehaven for acceptance; the others are accepted.

The additional order did not reach me in time enough to have all the articles in it added. I shall send them by some other opportunity. I now forward enclosed bills parcels, bills lading and invoice of goods amounting to £5,566:16:10 which is placed to the debit of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. The amount far exceeds my expectation, as I suppose it will yours, and yet your order is not strictly complied with. The china and many other things are left out and but a very few added, occasioned by my not being able to go out. There is a sale at the India House when it's thought next month both china and tea will be cheaper. Indeed my principal reason for not sending some china was after the 10th or 20th of March we are allowed the usual drawback of 30 odd per cent on all china exported so that we shall have it on the usual terms again. If tea is low at the March sale, I propose to sport a little in that. I think it will be to our interest as in September the Act of Parliament ceases for the allowance of £23:18:7½ per cent. (fn. 1) You'll not fail in forwarding certificates to cancel the bonds for the tea; the penalty is heavy. Not only that, but a neglect of those matters makes people cautious and fearful of being one's bondsmen.

26b. I note the complaints in your letter and must refer answering many of them until I am better able to write. However, I can't omit taking notice of the comparison you draw between the goods sent and your hurried up scheme, together with your doubts of the tradesmen being set upon imposing on me. Admit it: can you blame me? Did I not always tell you I was doubtful of it through my ignorance in the business and was I not loath to undertake it for those reasons? Consider again that we were pursuing a scheme of business that met with opposition from all the trade. I set down amongst a numberless quantity of people recommended to and known by whom? Why, the very people who will take you by the hand and tell you that they are happy in an opportunity in which they can serve you and at the same time would do you all the injury in their powers. This was my situation and by these men recommended, so that it can't be any wonder if I was bilked. However, I promise you, whenever I find out a fellow who has taken any advantage of me, he shan't have it in his power to repeat it again. Therefore I will most certainly turn off those you have exhibited complaints against.

You mention J. Dick & Stewart's importation with intent to rival us. Don't be afraid of them; Anthony [Stewart] will soon be gone [from London] when matters will get in the old channel again. I pretty well know how J. B[arnes] stands with the tradesmen; he is long winded and as for their [Barnes & Ridgate, local rivals] and Pinkney's united plans, we will if possible overset them.

26c. You recommend to me assiduity, care and industry and tell me that our well doing depends totally on it together with judicious choices of the goods I send. It is impossible that everyone's taste should be alike and may I be believed when I declare I am not wanting in either of the first and, if in the latter, charity will prompt you to compute it to the want of judgment. On the whole I do for the best and am fully satisfied that you act up to everything you recommend to me.

I shall pay particular attention to your agreement with Mr Potts and have to request that you will, immediately on the arrival of the rum and sugar, write me a line acknowledging the receipt of it. It frequently may save us the insurance as advices from Barbados are generally a long time getting to hand.

I had taken a vast deal of pains in the dissection of this order and thought to have been able to put it in your power to outdo any of your opponents, but misfortune has persecuted me so severely that I can't even promise you anything in favour of this cargo more than [that] most of the goods are bought of the makers. It's true Mr [Christopher] Richmond [Marylander visiting London] has been so obliging as to look out a great many of them, but I can't say anything for or against his judgment of goods, only that we are much obliged to him for his trouble in that and his assistance in getting them away. I have given them to [Capt] Nicholson agreeable to our C. W. request. I got B. Kenton to get the large cask made; I have not seen it but hope it is a very good one as it is very dear.

26d. You will observe that I ship the most of the goods at the long price and enter them out myself. In consequence, there is many things that will appear very high, as low calicoes British manufactured, but when 6d. per yard is deducted for the excise duty you'll find them as low, ah, I will say lower, than your neighbours and so you may regulate your prices on all the goods that drawback anything, as you are in possession of the cockets that will show you which goods they are on casting your eye on them. You will observe that all the India goods are charged at the short price. I receive excise duty on calicoes, linen and shirtings cleared by Nash & Co. in this cargo £56 odd, but I always had my eye on retaining that as so much profit where we sold [in America] at a [per] cent advance. The tea is purchased in the India House and charged at the short price; that is, the drawback is taken off and you are to have no farther allowance than 6½ per cent discount, which on the gross amount is £7:1:5, so that I received a discount on the drawback as well as the neat sum. I did not care to send you the broker's bill of parcels: there is many allowances that is not proper for the purchasers to see. Therefore, [I] modelled this myself for you to sell by, but, as I hold it criminal to keep anything from you, I have had it copied and enclosed it, but I must beg you will show it to nobody.

My ready money purchases with freight etc. will take all the money I have in hand. You must therefore by all means forward to me £1,300 to make our payment of part of the balance per account sent which is due the 20 July next, the remainder not till the first of November. And you must provide for the payment of the rum etc. as well as a remittance to answer the charges of shipping the fall cargo and indeed to pay for many things which can't be had on tolerable terms without cash, such as sugar, tea, ribbon, etc. Shortly [surely], an allowance of 10 per cent which I have [been] allowed on many things is an object well worth attending to and on that principle we had better borrow money [rather] than purchase on the terms others do. We then not only save the interest but make full 6½ per cent to ourselves [difference between 10 per cent earned and 3½ per cent cost of money borrowed] on the money borrowed.

26e. I can't let my surprise slip: pray, how came those bills of Purviance's of the 14th in your letter dated the 3rd? It would amaze some people, but I suppose you mistook the date from the hurry of business or rather you write to me so seldom that you thought it of no consequence. You'll excuse me, but attention both to that and often writing is very serviceable to you as well as me. Instance: had you noted your complaint against Rowlatts [oilmen], I should not have sent anything in this cargo from them, but, as it was, I thought we were well used and gave them our orders. I am of an opinion that the quantity of goods will overdo your place and that you will find it requisite to send some to Baltimore or Frederick Town. I think if you can lay your hands on a clever fellow, the latter will answer very well. However, I totally leave those matters to your better judgment.

You tell me that the calling of a milliner or tailor is more recommendable in one than the consequence of a merchant. Either of the professions are to me not despiseable but my opinion is, let a man act in what character he will, that there is a certain dignity to be supported in it, without which he is presently reduced to the scoff of the people and called a miserly pretender of a profession he is not entitled to. And when I can no longer support the character I now personate, perhaps I may commence either milliner or tailor; and I don't think I can before, for, when I try to sew, the needle always pricks my fingers and makes them sore....

27. (p. 59) to Charles Wallace per Nicholson 25 February 1772

Enclosed you have bills parcels, and invoice of goods amounting to £5:11:6 to your debit, which I hope will arrive safe and please. The salts etc. I ordered the tradesmen not to send, thinking it prudent to wait until I am able to see to them myself. Your bill on Gale is good and passed to your credit. I have given you credit £1:5:0 for the plate warmer returned by Nicholson and sent a fashionable one out in its stead, for indeed there is no such a thing as any one of the other sort to be had. I take the liberty to caution you particularly against trusting C. W. Peale [the artist, then of Annapolis] and if you have done it, secure yourself as soon as possible; make proper use of this caution and wait the event of your hearing more. I likewise beg you will take care of French. I do not like his character by any means. I am but very poorly yet and never been out of doors since the 27 of January but hope I am getting the better of it.

28. (pp. 59-60) to the firm per Nicholson 28 February 1772

I wrote you fully by this opportunity; therefore have only to request you will observe that I have charged £3 too much insurance on the foot of the invoice. Be pleased only to credit me with £5,563:16:10 instead of £5,566:16:10. The hat band crape draws back only 19/3 11/20; per lb. which you must take notice of in forming your price. The wind being foul has prevented the ship from falling down to Gravesend before today. [Capt] Nicholson is to meet her there in the morning, clear her and proceed to the Downs as fast as possible, where I hope he will be time enough to embrace the first wind and have an equal chance with [Captains] Smith, Lawrence and co. who are bound to your place. I have the pleasure to inform you that I am better and hope as the spring advances to obtain a perfect recovery of my health. I shall drop you a line in a day or two.

29. (pp. 61-2) to the firm per packet 4 March 1772

I wrote you the 25th and 28th ult. per Nicholson, 29th and 2nd inst. per Kilty, to all which I beg leave to refer you. I shipped in the Eden [Capt Nicholson] the goods you ordered on the 26 November amounting to £5,581:15:8 and charged them to Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. I wish there may not be just cause of complaint against many things. However, if there is, I can't help it. I did not see the goods. But, whatever there may be that bears the face of imposition, note the articles and the name of him who put it up; I will try to get an abatement on them all but Ainsley, who requests that you will sell anything sent by him [pottery and glass] on his account if you don't like them. You will find some irregularity in my charge here and the invoice. The occasion was my covering £150 more than there was occasion for, which reduces the insurance £3 and an omission in Ainsley to give me the bill parcels for the glass. I have sent it by Capt Kilty and hope it will be in little after the arrival of Nicholson. Nicholson left Gravesend on Sunday with a fair wind down the river and it came round to the eastward on Monday morning where it has continued ever since so that it is beyond ill luck if he does not get out of Channel, which, should he be so lucky, I hope he will be with you in April. The additional order did not reach me time enough to include those goods amongst those per the Eden (as I wrote you). I am apreparing the orders and will send them out with what may be left out in the last order.

I wrote you that I should pay away all the money I had in hand and depend on you for a remittance to make payments of our debt due in July of £1,300. It is all gone and I do beg you will attend to the supply and send as fast as ever you get it. I shall give you near 5 per cent on all the money remitted by Nicholson after paying £170 additional charges and £200 for sugar. I am still very poorly and not able to walk out. I will write you by Anthony [Stewart] who sails about the 20th. I can't inform you anything worth your notice, only that Mr [Charles] Carroll [barrister] and his lady will take their departure in May or June and a number of others of our countrymen, who has scattered their few loose shiners and now return to do penance. I doubt you will have me on my return indented to you a servant. The damned doctors has ruined me; it has cost me £40 or £50 already. I pray you may never have occasion of them.

30. (p. 62) to the firm per Capt William Maynard 6 March 1772

I wrote you the 4th per New York packet to which I beg leave to refer you. I now forward you a bill of parcels of the whalebone amounting to £18:10:0 which you will be pleased to pass to my credit. I have sent Mrs Green [the printer] some papers and magazines. I have the pleasure to inform you that I was out yesterday for the first time and found no ill convenience from it. I have not heard a word from Nicholson since he left Gravesend.

31a. (pp. 66-8) to the firm per Capt Hanrick 25 March 1772

My last was 6th inst. per Capt [William] Maynard, since which I am favoured with yours 23 January. I observe with particular attention what you say about Herries & Co. [buying agents for French tobacco monopoly]. I differ with you in opinion about their making their purchases in Glasgow and the other outports (their commission only extend to the outports; another has it for London) and indeed there is no contract; it is all done on commission at a limited sum. I have made inquiry about the validity of the house and find it encouraging. Therefore, you may depend on my profiting by any commission they choose to entrust us with. I have not seen them as yet, but I shall wait on them soon, if they do not on me, and will inform you of everything material.

I have taken an amazing deal of pains and cannot execute Mr Clapham's order at your limitation. The lowest that I have as yet met with is 10/a 10/6 per ream of all insides. I shall continue on the lookout and, if I can get it, will forward it to you; if I can't, shall wait your farther instructions.

My sickness has prevented my going to Bremen as I intended. I am now just on setting out to Bristol and Birmingham where I must fix a correspondent to ship our nails and some other trifles. As I have determined to send you out in Capt Richardson the goods you last ordered with what remained of the old order and his sailing by the 10th of next month will hurry my return.

31b. The 5 bills for £175:9:8 are good and passed to the credit of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. I want a £1,000 or upwards against the middle of next July to discharge our debts due then. I have enclosed you account current, an account drawbacks and debentures, an account of discounts and the account of charges of merchandise, which you will examine and say if right. I was applied to by Mr [Maurice] Griffith to get someone to settle an account with the Revd R. Ried for him. I recommended you and hope you will oblige me in doing it; should there be any occasion of a suit, commence it immediately and transmit me an account of expenses as they accrue. Mr Griffith is a manufacturer of tobacco and a Virginia merchant; on the whole he is a plain old fashioned gentleman and is fond of giving me any instruction in his power.

The following failures has lately happened: Sir J. Dorniner [Hon James Dormer] of London for a considerable sum, Varduc & Co. of Cadiz for 600,000 dollars. Such devilish strokes makes me afraid of the commission business and I doubt some of our country would wish they had less to do with it. Mr Lookup's relation died at the Hague in October last and instead of being worth £60,000, he hardly left enough to pay his debts and discharge a few trifling legacies, though he has left a character far from an amiable one. There has been inquirers with me about your Mr Lookup and from whom I culled that he has wrote that he was deeply engaged in the law, very successful. I don't know that he ever had any business in the law. I was answered that, if there was a probability of his getting anything, there was hopes of the payment for books etc. and lastly they told me that he was a writer for a newspaper here.

From a strict inquiry about [Charles Wilson] Peale I am satisfied and refer you to A[nthony] Stewart for an account of it. I am achaffering with some joiners and hope to send them out by Richardson. The man who works for me has been active and promised them all the instruction that is necessary. Master [William] Davidson's hat was in a box of Geo. Cook's. I shall be glad of his Mamma's commission to whom and J. D. I give joy on the birth of a son and a brother, to all of whom present my compliments, as well as Mr Wallace. I am better though far from being well.

32. (p. 68) to the firm per Capt Robinson 15 April 1772

My last was 25 March since which I have none of yours. Purviance's two bills are paid and duly passed to the credit of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. Enclosed you have bill parcel, bill lading and invoice china amounting to £75:11:6 which is placed to the debit of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. I waited till after the [East India Company's] sale under expectations that it would be cheaper and a greater variety, but was most unluckily disappointed, there being no other patterns than those sent in 16 ships' cargoes and all kinds except plates and dishes being very dear. You recommend the purchase at the India sale. If our capital was £20,000, it would hardly admit of it, there being such quantities of one kind in a lot that it would take a capital sum before you could make up an assortment. I have just completed shipping the remainder of the goods in Richardson by whom I shall write you fully in a day or two.

33. (p. 69) to Charles Wallace per Capt [Joseph] Richardson 15 April 1772

I wrote you 25 February per Nicholson since which I have none of yours. I now forward enclosed bill parcel of salts etc. amounting to £19:15:2 which hope you will find right and prove satisfactory. I have taken pains with them and flatter myself that they are not only genteel but cheap. I am sorry to say that I still am unsuccessful in the receiving your money of Curling and Miles. Curling hesitates and won't remember anything about it and Miles is run from this to Scotland so that I am doubtful about ever getting it for you. I am but just returned from many of the manufacturing towns, a particular account of which I refer you to my letter to Wallace & Davidson. I am surprised that I had not a line from none of you by this packet. I shall write you again soon and until then am with my love to Mrs Wallace and Polly....

34. (p. 70) to the firm 17 April 1772

The bearers Benjn. Sprigs and Jno. Donlson [Donaldson] are 2 young men whom I have engaged to go out on the terms you stipulate in your letter; they are both recommended to me as sober, honest, industrious men and well qualified to extricate themselves of their undertaking. I have engaged the payment of £12 sterling for their passages and taken their joint note to be repaid you as soon as they are able. I expect that you will prove 'patterns' [patrons?] to them and fully comply with my promise in assisting them to work, advice, etc., all in your power. They propose at first to make trial themselves, and have engaged a person to procure hands hereafter, provided they find it to answer. I have not the least doubt but that the business will answer their utmost expectation and hope their behaviour will be such as to merit the recommendation of....

[enclosure:] I promise to pay unto Messrs Wallace, Davidson & Johnson of Annapolis in Maryland twelve pounds sterling money of Great Britain value, jointly and severally received of them for the payment of our passages to Capt Joseph Richardson as witness our hands and seals, London 16 April 1772.

Witness J. R. Benjn. Sprigs

Jno. Donaldson

35a. (pp. 71-2) to the firm per Capt [Joseph] Richardson 17 April 1772

I wrote you the 15th by Capt Robinson and enclosed you invoice of china amounting to £75:11:6. I now forward enclosed bill lading, bills parcel and invoice of goods amounting to £338:1:10 which hope will find right and prove pleasing. I think there is nothing omitted but the carpeting and patent sail cloth. The patentee had it not in his power to supply me and tells me he shan't be able these 3 months. It is considerably higher than the other and I am told rather inferior.

I have been to many of the manufacturing towns since mine by A. Stewart, amongst which the following were the most capital, Gloucester, Tewkesbury, Bromsgrove, Birmingham, Coventry and Woodstock; they all differ in the articles manufactured in them, but I never met with anything that fell so short of my expectations. Instead of finding large warehouses well stocked, it was quite the reverse and the business conducted as follows. The agents who reside in these towns employ the poor men and their families for ten or a dozen miles round them (they mostly collect together in small villages, which are generally on runs of water for the advantage of getting provision); they deliver them as much iron etc. as they can work up in a week which is returned on Saturday night when they are paid for their labour, which is hardly sufficient to find them milk and bread, much more meat. In all light work I find the women and children preferred, the men being more inactive and much addicted to drunkenness; the women are fond of it but rather more restrainable. The agents, as soon as they collect a load, send it immediately to their principal or correspondent in London, Bristol, etc. and draw at 20 days' sight for the amount which is generally discounted at the banks or passed as our bills with you does. They are weekly acquainted with the rise and fall of the price so that you can't get any allowance of them. I have engaged one at Birmingham to deliver me what quantity of nails we may want at Bristol from time to time as we shall think fit to order them. Ridgate, if you remember, asserted as much before I left the country [Maryland] and I assure you that I am convinced one may always do better in London.

35b. I have sent the 50 bundles paper. It is a bargain; I got it 1/6 per bundle lower than the price in general is. I prevailed on two young men to go out as you desired. Sprigs has travelled and seen something more than the other. They both are well recommended by people whom they have worked for, though Sprigs the strongest. I hope they will answer your wish and defeat Anthony [Stewart] of his scheme; I was obliged to pay Capt Richardson their passages and take their joint note which the captain has and will deliver to you. I have given them a letter to you. You will treat them as they may merit and above all things caution them from associating with the complainers.

There is a box directed for C. W. in Trunk No. 46 and another to J. Davidson which you will please to deliver. There is likewise a paper parcel of shoes in the captain's care which I could not get in time to pack with the rest. I am glad to hear of [Capt] Page's arrival and hope you had your goods first; I expected to have heard from you by the packet but as yet have not received any letter. I have sent the saddle irons for Nathan Waters; they were made in London which occasions the highness of the price.

36. (pp. 73-4) to the firm per Capt Mitchel 25 April 1772

I wrote you the 17th per Capt Richardson by whom I sent you goods as per invoice £538:1:10 which wish safe to hand. I now forward you invoice of some shoes amounting to £48:15:10 that I ordered when at Bristol, which wish may please. I likewise ordered the 20 boxes glass and the maker since writes me that he sent it alongside of the ship [Elizabeth] and it was returned him again by order of the merchants owners. It appears odd to me and I can't otherwise account for it, having asked and obtained their consents to put what I pleased on board, than the loss of the commission on them; should which be their reason, they are as paltry as that is. [Stephen] Bagg [Jr.] writes me his [shoes] was ordered back, but that he prevailed with the captain to take them in the cabin; I shall repeat the order for the glass by next opportunity to your place, and for the future should any of our country vessels be agoing that way, do acquaint me of it by them. The price of cheese was so high at Bristol that I durst not venture to order any.

A motion has been made in the House of Commons to bring in a bill to allow the importation of American wheat and flour when the price is at or under 42/ per quarter here, the importer of the American wheat paying a duty of 6d. per quarter on importation and drawing back the same on its being exported, should he choose to send it to another market. (fn. 2) It has afforded matter of debate, but nothing as yet is done in it, though it has been productive of lowering the price to 42/ per quarter, which will sufficiently prove that it's entirely owing to engrossing that occasions the scarcity complained of in this kingdom. The cries of the poor and indeed others of the high price of provisions in general begins to be an alarming circumstance in the nation, but our wise ministers are so busy in supporting governmental power that they have not as yet attended to the danger that threatens a subversion of which government. I am in daily expectations of hearing from you and receiving the scheme for the fall's cargo.

37. (pp. 74-5) to the firm per packet 6 May 1772

I wrote you the 25 April per Capt Mitchel and enclosed you an invoice of some shoes shipped from Bristol per the Elizabeth, Capt Simon Brofett, amounting to £48:15:10 which hope will arrive safe and please. I have been in daily expectations of hearing from you for this long time and now grown quite anxious, being very desirous of having the next fall's scheme that I may have time to execute it as it ought to be. We have had for this ten or fifteen days the wind easterly, which prevents the ships from getting up Channel so that there is no arrivals from the westward. And it has alarmed the sober part not a little, as the price of every commodity continues to rise and, unless we have a change of weather for moist warm and that soon, it is feared the poor will still suffer more as vegetables and all kind of herbage is very scarce and high. The parliament still continues to sit though their deliberations will not redound to their honour in the annals of futurity. Mr [Charles] Carroll [barrister] and his lady proposes to take their departure on the latter end of this month, both being most heartily tired of England. I hear today that he has a slight touch of the gout.

July begins to draw very near and I am not prepared for its reception. For God's sake, don't fail to enable me to face it; if you do, we are undone. I long to have your opinions on the probability of success in our scheme; it's rather cruel that you have said nothing to me on that head as yet. Therefore hope you will in your next, if you have not done it in any to me now expected. And if you are of opinion that it will not answer our purpose, fix on some merchant here to guarantee us to our creditors and order me home. On the other hand, if you are satisfied it will do, let us push it with all our mutual strength and I think that quantities sold for a moderate profit will conduce as much or more to our interest than anything, for if we meant to purchase for cash I find we can't support it. We must have a great part on credit and for the residue the discount is more advantageous than money purchases. I hope to hear of your having got the goods per Page in your next and that they pleased. I shall write you again in a few days by Capt Richardson who is to sail by the 18th inst. for Patuxent. I am not yet recovered and am but so so.

38. (p. 77) to the firm per Capt Richardson 18 May 1772

I wrote you the 6th inst. per the packet to which I beg leave to refer you to. The wind shifted to the south two days ago which brought me a letter from Mr William Hammond of 15 March in which he informs me of Page's arrival. It gives me hopes that you were the first that had goods. I can't conceive the reason that I have not heard from you. I pray God that nothing may have happened that has been the cause of it. I begin to grow very uneasy about the fall's scheme as it is high time I had it. I am apprehensive from what I am told that you have an over quantity of goods now by you and therefore will want few others than woollen goods next fall. I doubt we have made our push in the very wrong time and begin to wish we may support ourselves through it this and the next year; if we can do which, I have no manner of doubt but we shall have the greatest part of the business afterwards to ourselves. I have sent Mrs Green some magazines and papers.

39a. (pp. 78-9) to the firm per packet 4 June 1772

I wrote you the 18th ult. per Richardson, since which I am favoured with yours of the 20 March, covering 10 first bills amounting to £417, which are all good and duly placed to the credit of Wallace, Davidson & Johnson, and a scheme for the next fall's cargo. I have been very tightly employed ever since it came to hand and have got all the orders made out and delivered to the tradesmen and have limited them to be ready by the 15th inst. I could wish for more time but Barnes & Ridgate has a ship that will sail about the 15th by whom I want to send them, the more so as Molleson, Hobson, etc. has large orders preparing to be in readiness against the arrival of their ships, whom they propose to dispatch as quick as possible after their arrival for your place.

I have attended to the complaints [against suppliers] and am uneasy that you have cause, but I doubt it will be impossible to remove everyone. I have so far determined not to try Harvey again, for his [linen] goods ought to have been at least 5 per cent lower than Barclays as there was that difference in time. You complain of Nash & Co. [also linendrapers]. I doubt you have not attended to the drawbacks. However, I shall answer your letter fully soon; therefore will only observe that if my taste (as you call it) is equally condemned by the ladies, the profits will not make restitution to me for the unhappiness. You tell me, unless I exert myself in the purchase and choice of this cargo, it will determine you whether or not you shall pursue the old plan or adopt a new one. I can say in justice to myself that I have not been wanting in doing the utmost in my power to effect the original intention and should it so turn out as not to answer your wishes, you will let me know your determination as quick as you can that I may make some provision for my future support.

39b. I am pleased at your contract with Harris & Ball [shipbuilders] for the ship. I had rather get her freighted home [i.e. chartered to others] if we can and if the price of shipping keeps up we shall make considerably by her. I hope you have entered into articles; if not, do it immediately. Whenever you order the rigging [for this ship], give me all the time you possibly can.

You say that the quantity of goods per Page exceeded your expectations. What will you say on the arrival of Nicholson and Richardson, besides the quantity now coming? I assure you it makes me tremble for fear of the remittances, and, for the future, I must decline taking discounts [on early payments of debts] and apply the money as I receive it to the discharge of the old balances. Indeed I am afraid of July. I have £1,100 to pay then and not one shilling more than sufficient to ship this cargo. I must, if I am so unlucky as not to receive any bills, discount ours as the Scotch do theirs to raise the money necessary to pay our debts.

Present my compliments to J. D[avidson] and tell him I have his of the 25 March enclosing 3 first bills and 3 second amounting to £115:12:3 which are all good but Rigg's which is noted though that will be paid for the honour of the endorser by Hanbury. I have not yet received his of the 22nd March. Pray tell me what of my letters you have received by referring to the dates for the future. You have not done it and I am doubtful there is some missing. It is now near eleven o'clock at night; the mail closes at 12 o'clock and I have this letter to copy. Otherwise I would say a great deal more....

40. (pp. 80-1) to John Davidson per Capt Thos. How 22 June 1772

I have before me your two letters of the 22 and 25 March; the latter I received 22nd May and the former 12 June. The bills they bore me are all good and passed to your credit. I now forward you enclosed bills parcels and invoice amounting to £39:6:9 of the goods you ordered and hope they will please. . . .

I am glad that you had got removed to the new store before Page's arrival; it saved you a great deal of trouble. You say that sales were slow; it's slow comfort to me, but I hope for better, imagining it was owing to the badness of the winter. I am pleased that the dockhouse [row of shops facing the dock] is so generally liked, but I am not at all pleased at its saddling on me ... the necessity of borrowing money to rear it thus high. I hope this summer's collection will close my outstanding debts; you'll be pleased to transmit me a list of what remains, likewise my private account with the company that I may form some judgment of my affairs. I did owe Capt [George] Cook £250; the £100 in T. J[ohnson's] hands was intended to pay part of it, though it appeared regularly to his credit in my books and the list of balance left behind me.

We never used to talk of trying Frederick Town. I have often thought of it since here and am of opinion that it would be well worth our trying. It appears to me that it would serve us in extending our acquaintance in the inland villages by which means the shopkeepers would know where to apply for supplies from the recommendation of our assistant in Frederick Town and would not go to Philadelphia and Baltimore for their goods, and indeed it would not be amiss to have patent [sample] cards and that the one presiding in Frederick Town showed the shopkeepers there and go from town to town occasionally with his patents. It's my opinion if he was clever it would answer our purpose and to back that opinion I could wish a trial. You'll think on it and let me have your sentiments.

41a. (pp. 82-6) to the firm per Capt Thos. How 22 June 1772

My last was 4th inst. per the packet, acknowledging receipt of yours 20th March, since which I am favoured with yours 25th April and 3 May, covering 15 first bills amounting to £783:4:1¾ which are all good and duly placed to Wallace, Davidson & Johnson's credit. I now forward you enclosed bills parcels, bills lading and invoice of the fall cargo amounting to £7,830:9:7 which is charged to Wallace, Davidson & Johnson. From your complaints of the dullness of the sales I apprehend we have too large a quantity in this and the last cargo and it puzzles me to devise how you'll make remittances and wish it may not equally puzzle you to find bills. However, I could not do otherwise than send them. There still remains some shoes, spotted flannels, a clock and some other odd trifles which will come in Maynard.

I never was so hurried in all my life as I have been in executing of this order, for your letter of the 28 March never reached me till 25 May and then I had the orders to make out and deliver which takes a great deal of time and writing. Indeed, from running first from one and then to another in looking out goods, hurrying the tradesmen and getting them shipped has sweated me completely. It is certainly not so well done as it would have been had I have had more time; therefore must not nor do I rest satisfied you'll not complain. I have got them carried at 2 per cent [freight], which will save us from £35 to £40, which I think an object I merit your thanks for, especially as it is in the first ship to your place. Capt Maynard and Capt Greig will sail about the 10 or 15 [July]. There will be goods by them for your place though I hope ours will be the first and at any rate time enough for your Provincial Court. My great reason for hurrying them away as I have was to avoid such ascurrying as we had last fall.

41b. I have not sent all the sugar as you'll observe. I have two reasons why I did not; one was the wanting of cash, the other was a probability of fall in the price. You shall have more as soon as I am in one and a fall in the other. The tea is purchased at the India House and all of it's I think good. Though the Congo is very fine, it's somewhat higher than before, owing to a rise in price; it's charged at long price; you'll have 6½ per cent discount and the drawback. You say that part of the woollens per Williamson were still on hand. I am sorry for it and recommend you'll sell them for anything rather than keep them. They or anything else will only hurt you by exposing of them to the view of the people.

And whilst I am speaking on this subject, let me inform you that I am determined to fix with the most capital houses and persevere in a continuance with them. I find it extremely requisite from our not being able to pay as we go and they are the only people who will use you tolerably after all and not serve one like Smith did. I have struck in with Mauduit & Co. [warehousemen] who undoubtedly is the first house in that way [woollens]. I have likewise returned to Barclays, who is undoubtedly the first house in their business [linens]; they will not open an account with anyone in our trade but Hanbury. They have 2 or 3 ships that runs from Philadelphia and New York which they load with goods, likewise ship large quantities to the West Indies which is all they do. You say it's odd they can afford to put up I[rish] linen on as good terms as Harvey. They have it on better terms than Harvey can get. They [Barclays] keep their factors at the Irish markets and purchase whenever there is bargains with money and the other [Harvey] only sells them on commission. Barclay had the prints from 25 printers for me to choose this cargo out of. I doubt there is too many high priced ones amongst them; otherwise hope they will please. Indeed I and they have taken all the care possibly to please in his bill, though I don't, I confess, like so many fine goods; it proves our people are getting mad. You'll take notice that you can get no drawbacks from him [Barclay] as we had from Nash & Co., whom I doubt you have not made a fair trial of, for it's beyond a doubt they are good linen-drapers and not printers as you suspect. They employ at least 20 or 30 printers. In consequence of the complaint against the silks, I have returned to Crosier [John Crozier]. I don't think him so cheap as Spendloves [Francis Spenlove]. My reason for leaving [George] Jennings [wholesale glover] was he'd not allow me more than 2½ per cent discount or 6 months' credit. I still don't like it but soon found it to our interest to return to him again; all the lace sent is from him and the most of it run from France. The trunks are all here except some few I could not see after.

41c. You recommend to me to get our ironware and cutlery from Birmingham. It's impossible to do it; I have not the money and I must pay in a month at farthest. Besides, you cannot get the assortment we want if we would give 25 per cent more than here. The nails comes lower but you must pay [ready] money for them or they will lay on [a surcharge] and then only give you 6 months' credit. You shan't have any reason to complain again of Bristol. I am done with it and Mr Williams too. I have tried one Smith [but] I don't know much of him. [John] Knight [& Co.] is the first shoe warehouse in London.

I observe what you say about the sales of goods in Baltimore and, while those prices are going, I think it prudent in you not to meddle amongst them. You seem fearful of the opposition made us by our [Annapolis] neighbours and doubtful we must give way. I know that we are better supplied in the first place and in the second I know our goods are better and better bought and again I have thoughts they [Annapolis competitors] will soon decline in persevering in a losing scheme. Indeed the man whom you most dread from his advertising has not the spirit to push, had he the capital. You alarm me in yours 25 April when you tell me they were selling at 75 per cent advance [including exchange] on the cost in Baltimore, but nothing like when you say in yours of 3rd May that Harwood & Brice [of Annapolis] sold at cost and charges. For God's sake, what will become of us? I dread the thoughts of it and agree with you that the sales of goods is in a critical situation, as is the sellers.

41d. You tell me you were alarmed on the arrival of [Capt] Carcaud who brought you a letter from Molleson informing you of my illness and his readiness to take charge of our affairs here for which you are thankful to him. He is one of the last men in the world whom I would trust and depend on it, should that happen and I retain any sense, I shall not put them in his hands. I have not heard anything yet from our friend Potts [of Barbados]. I expect it daily and hope that you have made provision for it. I have made [Robert] Goslin[g] send out all his jewellery on the terms you desired. I had rather you'd sell them for cost and charges than return them as it will hurt us, for, I observe, by making him interested we are well served. Edward F[armer] Taylor [brazier] has sent out some plated candlesticks on the same terms: you'll make trial of them. I have not sent you any nails by this opportunity; the price still keeps up here and I have no money to purchase them at Birmingham, nor yet an opportunity of sending them if I had, though I have an eye towards them and shall send them in the course of the fall. I have made all the inquiry possible about the machine to slice turnips and can't as yet get one. I will continue to persevere and should I be lucky enough, depend on my forwarding of it. I could readily get one made here but it would cost me 8 guineas which is a sum more than treble what [Arthur] Young says it should be. Indeed I can't better convince you than sending the enclosed paragraph of a letter received from the country in consequence of my inquiries.

On the whole, I have done my utmost endeavours, considering the time I have had to ship so large a quantity, to remove all those grievous complaints and to give you that preference in choice and quality you so ardently wish. On the contrary, should I still be so unlucky as not to remove them, I had as lief decline doing business as to be pierced with a perpetual repetition of them.... I do expect this will be handed you by Mr [Christopher] Richmond; you lie under obligations to him for his friendly assistance during my illness and beg you will treat him well on that account.

41e. The breaking of Fordyce & Co. bankers has stagnated business; every man seems afraid of each other; there has already a number stopped and a continuance of them daily. Where it will end, the Lord only knows. It is strongly suspected the Carron Company [Scottish ironworks] must give way, and there is doubts about the Scotch [Ayr] Bank. They say Lord North has ordered the Bank of England to discount their bills or they would have stopped some days past. There is no one as yet stopped who is immediately concerned to our country except Bogle, Bogle & Scott [Glasgow house in London] and a Carolina house and I don't know whether or not they won't go on again. Distress seems pictured in each countenance on Change and no credit given to any house who is capital in business, so that I may say with justice such small people as we, seems now the greatest. I would have you take care of the supplies [of money remitted] to keep us on this respectful footing. I would wish you'd say nothing of this as coming from me; it may only lead me into scrapes. I am just returned from Change, where it's current that the Glasgow banks is stopped. The banks and merchants continue to stop here daily. What will be the consequence God knows, but such a conflagration there never has been in the memory of man. It's suspected all your Scotch factors' bills will go back; therefore you can't use too much caution whom you buy of.

You will observe that the hatband crape is shipped at the long price. There is some books that is not sent; they are out of print and by that means come very high. I should be glad you would inform me from time to time how the ship goes on; indeed I have so little confidence on the builders that I am afraid to offer her to anyone for fear of disappointing them. Ridgate would flatly purchase her there; I am against it. If we can by any means get her home, we should make £5 or 600 provided the price of shipping keeps up. I have wrote you a very long letter, enough to tire your patience to read it, though cannot conclude it without recommending to you an exertion in collection, for I assure you we shall want it. I shall write you again in a few days....


  • 1. By 7 Geo. III c. 46s. 7 no drawback was allowed on exports to America of chinaware imported by the East India Company; this was repealed by 10 Geo. III c. 17 s. 2. By 7 Geo. III c. 56 s. 2 full drawback was allowed on all tea exported to America for five years ending in July 1772. By 'per cent' Johnson meant per 100 lb.
  • 2. This is garbled, perhaps by clerk's copying. The bill actually provided that when wheat prices reached or exceeded 48s., not 42s., the duty should drop to 6d. House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century, ed. Sheila Lambert (Wilmington, Del., 1975) xxii, 419-25.