Letters: 1655

Pages 119-137

The Letters of John Paige, London Merchant, 1648-58. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1984.

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95. to William Clerke
3 Feb. 1655
… I gave you notice had freighted Mr Chalk [the Mary] for you, who was to be ready the first of this month. But one of our wrangling owners made some unjust exceptions to our agreement which caused a demur upon our proceedings as to the making ready of our ship. But considering the present times, I thought it rather prudence to condescend to that which was none of our bargain than to contend and spend time. So have now once more agreed for her and hope she may be ready within 10 days, where you may expect Mr Goldsmith's goods for what he owes you and likewise all according to the memory sent me, except Hampshire kersies and corn which cannot be bought at your limited price. So that you may do well to make provision against the ship's arrival. You writ me to insure £500 upon her out and home, which I shall see performed for your account. But by all your letters I cannot find you have gone through for the parcel of West India goods in Santa Cruz, which, if omitted, have done ill as times now govern in that I doubt others will carry it from you. Mr Chalk will not carry the orders for the Newfoundland fish in that no man will sell till past Our Lady Day, 25 March, next.

Now in regard we are like to quarrel with the Spaniards speedily, I suppose your design will be over. So that by the very first conveyance I desire to know what you will have done as to the fish business and how you will dispose of Mr Chalk's ship, that I may order your business in the best manner I can in these uncertain times. If you can get up 50 pipes of the best sort of Santa Cruz malvasias, it will be better to send them than leave your estate there to be seized, as I am confident it will come to that very suddenly, here being no longer than yesterday letters of marque granted against the Spaniard for £20,000 and, besides that, an absolute peace concluded between our Lord Protector and the French ambassador here. And the Genoese ambassador which is here desires our protection against the Spaniard. Here are now 10 merchantmen laden with provisions and 5 men-of-war which go as convoys. They are to follow Gen. Penn for the West Indies, so that as you are my very good friend and I a well-wisher to your affairs, on sight hereof secure what you can. Per Mr Chalk shall be more larger. The owners have bound me the ship shall not go for Guinea, Barbados or the West Indies. …

96. to William Clerke
8 March 1655
a. I have now received yours of 11 and 14 Feb. per Mr Cowse, unto which shall give full answer. Only in the first place, I shall give you an account how about 1 Feb., according to your earnest desire, I freighted a ship for your account to be ready to depart from Gravesend 15 ditto, which was Mr Chalk [the Mary]. But after a week's time, when I thought the ship was near ready, depending upon her and no other, there wanted not an unjust partner that objected against the agreement who drew one another or 2 to side with him and declared positively the ship should not go to sea. Which unhappy business hath caused such a demur to the design as it hath lost above a month's time. The chief thing objected against was that whereas I had freighted the ship for 10 months certain and at the determination of said time I was to pay 8 months' freight, and if in case the ship should miscarry within aforesaid time, no freight to be due. Now I took the advice of a civilian in the Admiralty Court who told me my agreement was firm, but then it would be 3 months ere I could bring it to a trial. So considering the remedy to be worse than the disease, I thought fit rather to condescend to that which was none of our agreement than to spend time and hinder your intended design. So now I am bound to pay 4 months' freight after 6 months' service, and so accordingly for a longer time, as by the charter-party will appear, to which refer you, desiring you to see all things therein complied withal on your part. I have had a great deal of trouble about her with the owners. With some I shall scarce have any dealings as long as I live again. And had I not secured this ship, I know not in all the Thames where to have furnished myself with one so fit for your turn.

Mr Brampton [the Matthew] is now newly arrived from Malaga, being 3 months from thence sprung a leak at sea and was forced to bear up for Lisbon. That vessel hath seen the best of her days, being now ancient. Mr Brampton hath sold her and is now resolved to build a new frigate of 200 ts. 96b. I have written you a few hasty lines of 6 current, chiefly imports the covert of the charter-party, which you may demand of the master. I have laden aboard this ship, the Mary frigate, William Chalk master, a parcel of goods for your account, according to the memory you sent me, importing £529 ls 1d, which I hope upon their receipt will be to your liking. As for wheat, I send none in that cannot procure any on your limited price. Hampshire kersies, there's none made of late. My fatherin-law wrote me 4 months since for 50 pieces, but I cannot get them, only half a score I have had by me ever since Nov. last. And as for your wrought paragons you writ for, no Norwich man knows any such stuff, neither could Mr Standish tell what you meant thereby. (fn. 1) There's 5 pieces of Welsh plains more than you writ for and a small parcel of statute-lace which was merely to fill up the trunk of stockings, no. 6, the key of which I delivered Mr Chalk, which you may please to demand of him. I here remit you an invoice of said goods and a bill of lading, as also a certificate for all your goods aboard, as well mine as your cousin Charles Goldsmith's, who would fain have had the £100 you ordered him from me, which I proffered him several times provided he did but show me you were so much indebted unto him, which was but reason. But he refused it several times, and at last upon better consideration he accepted of my reasonable proposition; and upon view of the account I found but £88 9s 6d due unto him, which I immediately paid him, for which sum have made your account debit. I understand he is bound away suddenly for the East Indies. I am glad you have a full return, though long first, he was troubled that I should be made acquainted with his non-compliance, and for doing you a friendly office I have gone near to insure his ill-will. I have according to your order paid Mr Ralph Standish £50 for your account, for which have made you debit.

96c. I have in my former letters per my cousin [Richard] Chappell, Mr Mourton and others given you ample advice of the affairs between us and Spain, to which crave reference. Only I must needs acquaint you how daily affairs do represent themselves in a far worse manner than formerly, and undoubtedly there will not pass many months ere there be a general embargo in all the King of Spain's dominions upon poor English merchants' estates. To tell you my author, it's not proper, but I write it with the more confidence in that I have it from the second or third man now in England, I mean for government, which I thought fit to hint to you. Moreover you may take notice here are now 6 ships freighted to carry soldiers, ammunition and provisions to Gen. Penn's fleet, to touch at Barbados and from thence for the Bay of Mexico. The news you had from Cadiz how Gen. Blake had destroyed the French fleet is mere flames. We have notice he is now coming for Cadiz, it's thought to intercept the galeones that are expected and likewise those bound out. They write from Seville, Cadiz, Madrid and Bilbao that since the Spaniards have heard of Penn's departure for the Indies they will not pay any of their debts, saying there will come a time speedily to balance them. I wish you may find the Islanders to be of another mind.

I have endeavoured all what possible I can to dispose of some vidueño wines here for your account but cannot effect it by no means. Your orders came too late by above 3 months, and every man hath the same from their friends. Some have proffered to load off wines at £33 per pipe since Mr Cowse's arrival, who brings advice that vidueños are to be had for a song.

Mr Humphrey Wilkings of Rouen gives me advice this post how hath sold your sylvester grain at 52 livres per lb. Only one seron, no. 8, proves to be very much damnified, for which is fain to abate 20 livres per lb upon that seron. It's a very mean price. The campechena is not sold. I think to return it hither again. I have now sold 2 chests at 7s 6d, so there remain 2 chests in cellar, one of which is very much damnified. Mr Standish told me it was let fall in the sea embarking at Santa Cruz [de Tenerife]. Mr Standish sold his 2 chests of campechena at 6s and 6s 8d per lb.

96d. Now whereas you desire me to send per this ship [the Mary] a credit for 2,000 kts of Newfoundland fish, you may take notice the price of ditto commodity is never broken till Easter Monday, so that I cannot buy any till that time. And to send you a credit, it's uncertain, for in case fish should be scarce, then every ship will first deliver what they catch to their sacks, and so your ship may return empty. Now I hope you may so order your business as that this ship may return home in time enough to proceed for Newfoundland from hence. In such case, for brevity of dispatch, you may order her to unload at Dover so as she be there by the fine of June. It's time enough, for no man will oblige himself by covenant to deliver a kt of fish in the land before 25 Aug. at soonest, so that I shall not adventure positively to buy any fish till the ship return or at leastwise I hear from you. But this I will do: get a credit from my cousin John Paige of Plymouth under hand and seal, or 2, and send them for Newfoundland, there to meet the ship, in case I hear not from you in the interim, which I hope I shall. Besides, I fear when you receive my letters by Richard Chappell you will alter your fish design for Bilbao, for as things now govern, no man will engage upon any such design. I know not how you will approve of my acting herein. Let the success be what it will, I am sure my intentions are very cordial as to your interests. But these uncertain times put all men at a distraction in their affairs.

I shall, according to your order, insure £500 out and home upon this ship for your account in hopes she will come home. If do, I pray spare my father-in-law a little tonnage if he need it. And whereas you were pleased to give me order to permit my father-in-law to have 10,000 pipestaves in your ship, I find they take up much bulk, insomuch cannot carry but 15,000 of your own. Instead of that favour, I have put aboard this ship 30 odd small packs, I may say half-bales, for him, which is goods I bought ever since Nov. last and lying upon my hand here and proper for no other place but the Canaries. I have adventured to send it per this ship in hopes to sell it for ready money and so to have the proceeds in ditto ship returned, when not, to send the goods home again. For it's a madness to land any except you are certain of a speedy disposal. Don Cristóbal de Alvarado [Bracamonte] hath 5 small bales, for which you are to receive 80 Rs plata.

96e. I take notice of the parcel of sugar you bought. It's none of the best commodities here. I am sorry the Caracas vessel was not permitted. Tobacco, if good and new, is worth at present 7s per lb; hides, 10d per lb; Campeachy wood, £25 per t; campechena, 7s; sylvester, 3s 4d; cochineal, 28s; indigo, 5s. Wines a very drug here. Here I send you a coranto from Rouen, to which refer you.

Not else at present. Being doubtful the wind will come fair and Mr Standish left behind, makes me abbreviate, referring you in many things to his relating, who is able to give you an account thereof.…
[P.S.] I have not time to write my father-in-law at present. In case the ship should depart without his letters, pray impart unto him your advice, wherein I shall be much obliged.

97. to William Clerke
20 March 1655
… [Y]esterday here came letters from Bilbao of 10 current where the factors in general write their correspondents here to forbear sending any more goods in that the natives begin to deny payment of their debts and threaten them besides, upon which the merchants now trading there have sent an express to the Isle of Wight to stop a ship which they have bound there laden with above 500 bales of goods.

I fear a short time now will produce a sad alteration in that yesterday here came letters from Barbados of Gen. Penn's arrival there with his whole fleet, who was to carry from the Caribbee Islands 12,000 men, besides 7,000 soldiers he carried from hence. (fn. 2) It's conceived is bound for Veracruz or Portobello. Therefore look about yourself and prevent what in you lieth.

I would wish you to send home Mr Chalk [the Mary] though let out part of him. However, in prosecution of your former order, I shall not fail to send credits to Newfoundland to meet the ship there, though I think you would scarce proceed upon that design, especially for Bilbao, except you have a mind to lose all. Now in case Chalk come home [from Tenerife] and that you have no further employment for him, then in such case you may give me order to dispose of him here, which I make no question but shall do without a farthing loss to you. All which I thought fit to signify unto you that so accordingly you may proceed upon your business as reason shall best guide you. I have insured upon the Mary frigate from hence to the Canaries £500 for your account at 3 per cent. I shall hereafter do the like sum homeward upon her for your account as you order me.…

98. to William Clerke
4 April 1655
Per this ship I shall send you a credit for 2,000 kts of Newfoundland fish, under the hand and seal of my cousin Mr John Paige of Plymouth, which I hope will come in due time to go by Mr Chalk [the Mary]. When not, you may take notice I shall send another directly from hence to be left in Newfoundland against his arrival, of the same tenor, which will be sufficient were it for 10,000 kts. But if Mr Chalk proceed that voyage, you must order him some other where, for at Bilbao I fear all will be naught ere that time.

Here enclosed goes a letter for your cook from his wife, unto whom I have paid £5 for last quarter by the direction of Mr Charles Goldsmith, so I shall desire your approbation thereunto else I shall pay no more. The other pray deliver Mr John Campion in his own hand, it being from a good friend of mine. …

99. to William Clerke
14 April 1655
a. My last to you was of 20 March per Mr Phillip Hyatt, since which have not heard from you, which makes me the briefer at present. I have advice Mr Chalk [the Mary] went out of Falmouth in good company 28 past, so I hope may be safe arrived with you ere this. Upon which ship I loaded you a small parcel of goods according to memory sent me except the corn and Hampshire kersies, as also there went the goods you expected from your cousin Goldsmith who is now gone for Surat in East India under one Mr King who hath formerly lived in those parts.

I do very much long to hear where you are resolved to send Mr Chalk for Newfoundland. If he goes directly from the Islands, will arrive there as soon as the ships which went to catch the fish, for the Newfoundland men went away with the same wind that carried Mr Chalk out of the Channel. As yet I cannot hear of any fish bought, but it's like to be very low in that few or no buyers appear as in other years. Men being afraid of wars with Spain will not adventure upon such a perishing commodity in such uncertain times. I believe it will be sold for 20 Rs per kt, which is very cheap. Now to prevent the worst, I have procured 3 credits of one tenor from my cousin John Paige of Plymouth to furnish Mr Chalk with 2,000 kts of fish, which is sufficient were it for 10,000 kts. One of which I here send you. The other 2 I shall send per the first ships that are bound for Newfoundland. Now if I receive any answers of my letters written you by my cousin Richard Chappell how you are fully resolved to send Mr Chalk for Newfoundland, notwithstanding the danger with Spain, then, and in such case, I'll immediately buy the fish here, provided I hear from you between this and 20 June next, which I hope shall. When not, I shall conclude Mr Chalk comes not home. Nevertheless I shall insure according to your order £500 homeward, not knowing what interest you may have in her. I have insured £500 in ditto ship upon your goods from hence to the Canaries at 3 per cent, which may serve per advice.

99b. As to the affairs between us and Spain, I cannot write you more than have formerly done, only every day produces things plainer as to a breach. Here are several merchantmen freighted to carry provisions and ammunition to Gen. Penn, whose charter-parties I have seen contracted by the States, to say for Barbados at 50s per t, if for Santo Domingo, £4 per t, and if for the Bay of Mexico at £6 per t. In all probability in the month of June we may hear what place they assaulted, upon which undoubtedly you may expect an embargo.

The frigate which touched at Gran Canaria and could not be admitted by that villainous Judge [of the Indies] is now arrived at Cadiz. She brings 1,800 chests of true Varinas tobacco. Here are 13 chests come home in a small Orange vessel which I saw and tasted. It proves excellent. They are sold at 7s per lb; hides, 10d per lb; logwood, £25 per t; cochineal, 25s per lb; campechena, 7s [per lb]; sylvester, 3s 4d per lb; indigo, if good, 4s 6d per lb; ginger, 26s per cwt; Havana sugars, £4 per cwt at most.

I do very much desire to hear from you how you intend to order your business. Though a plentiful vintage may much tempt you, yet I would not have you to soothe yourself with vain hopes as to think you will see another vintage go over your heads with peace. Days past there was an embargo in most parts of France upon all English goods and ships, but now all is over. Though it was in Rouen, yet my correspondent's [Humphrey Wilkings'] care was such as neither your sylvester nor campechena was meddled withal. However, I have given him order to dispose of your campechena grain, which I doubt will not yield £5, far less than it's worth here.

Undoubtedly if you land your goods out of Chalk [the Mary] and do not speedily convert them into ready money, you will lose them all. I cannot sell a pipe of wine for your account, there being so many [wines] bound for Barbados and the fleet and New England that I doubt they will never see half their principal at the end of 2 or 3 years' time. Rather than I would go upon such indirect designs, I should even run the hazard to have them embargoed by the Spaniards. …

100. to William Clerke
10 May 1655
a. … The pipestaves which I bought for you and my father-in-law, being 25,000, whereof you have 15,000 of them in Chalk [the Mary], when I came to adjust the account with the yard-keeper of whom I bought them, by his master's order, whereas I absolutely made a plain bargain between him and me as I then advised you at £11 per m, the villain now affirms, and offers to swear it, that he sold them me at £11 10s per m, whose oath will condemn me, as being a person of no interest in them, though it be as false as God is true, which does not a little trouble me that we should be so cheated and know not how or which way to remedy ourselves by our laws here.

Mr Abraham Lee of San Lucar is now come home, who, as they write me, had not parted from those parts but that necessity drove him away from thence. And truly it appears to be so here, in that I think hath scarce money to put himself into English clothes. Yesterday I took an occasion to signify unto him what I thought needful as to the injuries done you about the protesting your bills, who acknowledged he had done you more wrong than it was possible ever to make you restitution. To be brief, I demanded satisfaction, or at leastwise good security; when not, in plain English, I must enter an action against him as being your order. To which he answered with many protestations and vows that no man should have satisfaction before you, pretending a great sum due to him at Barbados, which I scarce believe as liable, for there's little credit to be given to persons that have once lost their credit and reputation. Now if I should put him in prison, I have no articulation against him nor papers, as the bills protested, nor any of his letters. So that undoubtedly he will nonsuit me if I put not in a declaration against him the first term. Besides, if I could do all what might be desired as to the proof, really I see little probability of recovery, so that I shall expect your further order until I meddle with him, except I can discover that he hath anything or that he be refractory in denying you a bond or the like. Of this, more in my next. In the interim, I desire your advice and papers as to this business.

100b. I intend now to send away a second credit for Newfoundland for the buying of Mr Chalk's [the Mary's] fish where I believe you will have it very cheap, under 20 Rs per kt. However, if I hear not from you by the fine of this month, I shall insure £500 on him from Tenerife to London according to your former order, which as yet you never contradicted it.

Here's now come the Marques de Lede, Governor of Dunkirk, at Dover as extraordinary ambassador from the King of Spain unto our Lord Protector, they say merely to give him the compliments of his government. If for peace, I doubt comes too late. Gen. Penn was setting sail with 35 sail of ships from Barbados 28 March, it's said bound for Havana first. He carries from the Caribbee Islands 8,000 planters besides 6,000 soldiers from hence [See 97]. And now here are 8 gallant men-ofwar going to him with some soldiers for a second supply, so that you may see our Protector is resolved to carry on his design vigorously, as indeed he does most what he takes in hand. Here is letters from Madrid where they write the dispatch ship is arrived at Cadiz 17 April and left the galeones and flota within 80 leagues of aforesaid port, which is good news. I could wish you at Tenerife had 2 or 3 of their ships there whereby you might be able to make home something in these dangerous times. Indigo not worth 3s 10d per lb; cochineal, 22s per lb; hides, 9½d per lb; Campeachy wood, £22 per t.

I am now about your account, only want one from Mr [Robert] Turner [Paige's former landlord and bookkeeper], whom by fair means cannot get any from him. It hath so troubled me that I have not answered your expectations in that particular, or that you should write so often for it, that of late I have even pined away with mere vexation. Now that you may not fail of it speedily and that I may not omit to make you good everything sent and remitted me, I desire you to send me a charge of all which you needed not to have done had Mr Turner perfected with me. …

101. to William Clerke
25 May 1655
Since the writing of my [last] letter, here is come a contradiction of the galeones' coming this season, as I question not but you have heard of the same per Mr Hussy who, as I understand, is bound from Cadiz to the Islands. All sorts of West India goods do rise very much at present upon the said news: hides, 10d per lb; Campeachy wood, £26 per t; cochineal, 30s per lb; campechena, 7s; sylvester, 3s 6d; indigo low, being great quantities come from East India, 4s per lb; Varinas tobacco, if new, 6s per lb; ginger and sugar very low.

I have sent per Giles Paynter another credit for 2,000 kts codfish to deliver unto Mr Chalk [the Mary] at Newfoundland, as being a trusty friend. You need not fear it will be far more to your advantage than if I had bought the fish here. …

102. to Gowen Paynter and William Clerke
31 May 1655
These are chiefly to give you notice how yesterday Mr Chalk [the Mary] is safely arrived at Dover and how I intend, according to Mr. Clerke's order, to dispatch him away for Newfoundland within this 8 days, to load fish and so for Bilbao. I have likewise news of Mr Mourton's [the Agreement's] arrival at Dublin where there's no market for his wines, so I have ordered him to come for London. I have not time at present to write you particularly, but if this ship be windbound in the Downs any longer, I shall next post. …

103. to William Clerke
1 June 1655
I have yours per Mr Mourton [the Agreement] and Mr William Chalk in the Mary frigate who, thanks be to God, is safe arrived in Dover 3 days since, where I have given my correspondent, Mr Michael de Haze, order to unload all such goods as you have aboard, which I hope will be speedily done. Only for want of invoice I know not how to give direction for an entry of your sugars, you not mentioning the quality of them, how many whites and muscovados, which will put us to some trouble. According to your order I have given Mr Chalk direction to make ready his ship whereby to be ready 10 current to proceed for Newfoundland. I am at present upon buying his fish and hope to get it at 20 Rs per kt, which is 15 per cent cheaper than other years. In all things I shall promote your interest as if it were really mine own, of which rest confident. Your sugars come to a low market, and I am informed by a man of judgement that your sarsaparilla is of a wild sort. If so, it will yield little. Three days hence I purpose to make a journey for Dover when I shall carry with me his [Chalk's] dispatches for Newfoundland. As yet no sacks are gone out of England, so I hope Mr Chalk will be gone one of the first. Mr Chalk sent me your order to have it priced, out of which I observe some necessary things for my better government. As to your affairs, your not sending me a particular memory of what goods and money are aboard does put me to a nonplus. As yet the master hath sent me none. I have given Mr Chalk order to deliver no money chest, trunk, nor box until I come down, for I doubt there's more money than you writ of and it's no reason the ship should be other men's carrier for nothing.

I hear the Governor [and Capt. General of the Canaries, Don Alonso Davila y Guzman] hath sent for you prisoner. I doubt it will be a troublesome business to you. Though you are no ways faulty, yet it must needs cost you money. I am vexed that Mr Chalk should so carry himself like a fool, being an ancient commander and knowing the dangers of such things. (fn. 3) Your bill of £120 I have accepted to Mr John Thomas, which shall be duly paid at the time.

Our fleet went from Barbados 30 March consisting in all 70 sail. We expect to hear of their success about the middle of next month, at which time I doubt you will see sad alterations.

Mr Chalk did arrive here before I expected him. The same day I heard of his arrival I caused a policy to be made upon him for you. But by good chance there was nothing underwritten, so you have so much money saved. Yet I must confess I do not deserve thanks for it, but rather to be chided in not doing it sooner. …

104. to William Clerke
Dover, 8 June 1655
I have written you already per this conveyance, to which crave reference. I formerly gave order to my correspondent here, Mr Michael de Haze to unload your goods out of Mr Chalk [the Mary] and send them me for London, which is this day completed. I came yesterday to this post merely to give Mr Chalk his dispatches for the Newfoundland, which I have now done with an additional order to yours in that the other I find not to be so full as the present occasion requires, times being dangerous. I have bought [of George Kennicot and company] for your account 1,500 kts of fish to be delivered at Newfoundland 10 Aug. 1655 at 19 Rs per kt. The rest I have given Mr Chalk credit to buy at price current of the country, which I verily believe will be very reasonable in regard of the probability of a war with Spain. All men are fearful to deal in the commodity, which makes it low at present, as you may well perceive at the price I have bought at, which is above 15 per cent cheaper than any year since I came to England.

I have ordered Mr Chalk to go for Santona first and there to give notice of his arrival, and to know how squares [i.e. the game] go from some of our nation before undertaking to go over the bar of Bilbao. For though you are assured your fish may be free though a war, yet I must tell you as an owner that we know in such case our ship will be lost, so in prudence we hold it fit to prevent the worst.

I have perused your order to Mr Chalk, which utterly denies that he did anything without your order and admires you would offer to put pen to paper to write any such thing when as you sent part of Mr Rawdon's things aboard in your bark, which is his answer. [Cf. 103, 118.] …
[P.S.] If you will have anything insured on Chalk from Newfoundland to Bilbao, advise me. And likewise it would be necessary you writ me 2 lines which way Mr Chalk shall go in case of war, as I doubt it will be. Your wines aboard Chalk prove miserable trash, and your sarsaparilla is of a wild sort so will yield little, which may serve per advice.

105. to William Clerke
14 June 1655
… I have bought [of George Kennicot and company] 1,500 kts of Newfoundland fish for your account at 19 Rs per kt to be delivered Mr Chalk [the Mary] 10 Aug., which is the soonest of most men's. What he shall want more to fill up his ship I have given him a credit of my cousin John Paige of Plymouth for 2,000 kts in case the ship which I have bought abovesaid fish of should miscarry. According to your desire I rid post down to Dover last week to give Mr Chalk his dispatches for Newfoundland, with an additional order to yours, which I did accomplish and left him ready to depart with the first opportunity of wind and weather that should present. But being contrary, is now gone into the Downs where will have good company out Channel. He will be one of the first sacks out of England if please God send a speedy fair wind.

Your sugars, wine and sarsaparilla are now come into the river in 2 small barks which brought it up from Dover. All which comes to a very bad market. The sugars are generally coarse and moist, and the wines miserable trash, and your sarsaparilla of a wild sort, as I am informed. So that I fear all will lie upon my hands unsold this long time. And from Newfoundland I must expect £1,000 in bills of exchange upon me for the fish and £400 for freight of 6 months. And your campechena in Rouen unsold, so that I shall find myself short in cash. Nevertheless, God sending me health, all things shall be complied withal. Only I would desire you to draw no more money upon me for the reasons abovesaid.

It would be necessary you write Lazaro de Ormacho [at Bilbao] and me 2 lines which way Mr Chalk shall proceed with his fish in case we should have a war before he arrives at Santona, which in all probability we shall. In such case you know the ship cannot go in over the bar of Bilbao with safety. Therefore it concerns you to give timely notice about it. I writ you a few hasty lines from Dover of 8 current per Mr Crispe to this purpose, unto which crave reference.

Our new Spanish ambassador extraordinary, the Marques de Lede, is to go home for Flanders next week without doing anything with our Lord Protector, all which tells us that we shall have a sudden change. I can now speak it of a certain how our fleet are gone first for Santo Domingo and from thence proceed for some part of the Main. I believe both the King of Spain and we here shall have notice of their success ere next month pass over our heads.

Methinks you at the Canaries are very confident of getting off next vintage fruits, else you would not act as you do, which I fear you will be much frustrated of your expectations. Advise me where you will have anything insured upon Chalk's cargo of fish. If it should so fall out that you abide there in peace till vintage, seeing you are resolved to load home Chalk with wines, let them be very excellent else you had better knock out their heads, for I think here are bad wines enough for this 3 years already. Never stand for 2 or 3 ducats in a pipe nor a little extraordinary order of payment. The market here will pay for all if prove good, which may serve per advice.

All sorts of West India goods are dear at present: hides, 10d per lb; logwood, £30 per t; cochineal, 30s [per lb]; campechena, 7s [per lb]; sylvester, 3s [per lb]; indigo, 4s 6d [per lb]; Varinas tobacco, if new and right, 5s 6d per lb; ginger, 3s per lb. …

106. to William Clerke
7 Aug. 1655
a. My last unto you was per Mr William Cowse who went from Falmouth about 5 weeks since, in whose company Mr Chalk [the Mary] went out the Channel, with whom was above a month windbound in the Downs, yet he [Chalk] went away with the fleet of sacks bound for Newfoundland, and I hope he will get there in a very seasonable time to take in his fish. They are bound to deliver it 10 instant, and undoubtedly he is there ere this time, so that his coming home will not any way hinder your fish design.

I have now made sale of your white sugars which find to be 60 chests, I say 62 chests, at £4 8s per cwt, I paying the excise which is 5 per cent, to be paid for them at 3 months' time, which I look upon as no bad sale considering the quality of them. They were very damp, miserable ware. I believe you will say the same. For want of an invoice I was very much pushed for their tares, so we are agreed to allow the same as Mr Nicholas Warren did give upon Mr John Webber's parcel, which I conceive were of the same sugars. Now there remained 52 chests of your parcel which prove to be muscovados, which are no vendible commodity here, Barbados sugars worth but 37s per cwt. Upon which I resolved to send them for Amsterdam where, I thank God, they are safe arrived, as per advice from thence this very post. I have ordered my correspondent, Mr John Schanternell, to make sale of them if can make out but 56s per cwt sterling money, considering the exchange. For here is now arrived above 1,000 ts of sugars from Barbados, and many whites, and here is daily more expected. It's a thing scarce to be credited that little island loaded off above 10,000 ts per annum which cloys most parts of Europe. As for your sarsaparilla, it's of a wild sort. I believe I shall never make so much off it as to pay freight, custom and charges.

I have now paid your bill of exchange for £120. Pray draw no more at present for I shall have bills on me for your account for Chalk's cargo of fish and freight to the value of £1,500 or thereabouts, which I must get money in a readiness to pay in Oct. next. As yet not any of campechena at Rouen sold, neither does it advance in price 5 livres per lb. I have received an account of the sylvester [sold at Rouen] which does by no means please me. The custom and charges are extravagant. No more there if I may have my way. I shall now give him [Humphrey Wilkings at Rouen] order to sell the campechena grain whereby I may have monies in a readiness against the Newfoundland bills come. In all things I shall promote your interest as if it were really my own.

106b. I wish when Mr Chalk comes to Bilbao he find no embargo there. But I ordered him to stay at Santona before he venture off the bar. I have perused your orders to the master but do not find any proviso in case troubles at Bilbao that cannot have pratique, or embargoes, to what other place he shall proceed unto, which had been a very necessary clause. Gen. Blake lies now off Cape Santa Maria with his fleet, supposed waiting for the galeones, which, do molest them, undoubtedly an embargo will suddenly follow. The fear of which hath caused no less than 30 factors to come away from Cadiz, San Lucar and Seville, who are now arrived here and at Plymouth, with whom I have had some discourse, demanding the reasons of their coming away, who give for answer that if Gen. Blake meet the galeones and take but one of them, common people's rage are such as that their lives will run a great hazard. If they come this year, either they are safe in Spain or taken by our fleet ere this time, so a short time will discover what passeth as to that grand danger.

Our fleet under the command of Gen. Penn landed their forces near Santo Domingo 13 May, who unexpectedly were shamefully repulsed by an inconsiderable number of the Spaniards, so were forced to retreat aboard ship. And from thence they went to a little island 80 leagues to leeward called Jamaica which they have taken and are there. So I fear our hopeful design will not be crowned with that victory as most men expected.

Here are freighted many ships for the vintage, so you may do well to provide your parcel in time, for I can tell you peradventure more than you know there. Assuredly you will have a great crowd when the vintage ships arrive there. I wish Mr Chalk's design may prove successful to you. But in my weak judgement, to deal in a perishing commodity in an uncertain time as this is, there cannot be much ground for it. Besides, though you have never so quick dispatch at Bilbao, yet you cannot have her [the Mary] there to load home the first wines. And at the best of markets, though you sell for 50 Rs vellon per kt, yet you shall scarce see your money, considering the freight of the ship, as you have her per month.

Here are letters via Dunkirk of 4 July where several men write of Mr Campion's death and likewise how wickedly poor Mr [John] Chickley and Robert Smith were butchered by those villains. God grant you and the rest get safe away from them. It hath not been my happiness to receive a line from you nor my father-in-law per ditto via, at which I admire at. Capt. Russell is come from the East Indies [on the Katherine]. Hath made us a good voyage. I have [heard] we shall clear £100 per each 1/16. I have freighted him for the vintage. I hope if Chalk come there in time, you and my father-in-law will come home in the Katherine frigate. This vessel [the Agreement, Capt. Mourton] I send my father-in-law, being our own, with a few pilchards which cost near 11s per m—a shame to write of such a thing. …
[P.S.] If you will have anything insured on the Mary frigate from the Canaries to London, advise me.

107. to William Clerke
13 Sept. 1655
I have written you at large per Mr Mourton [the Agreement] and Capt. Gravis Russell [the Katherine], to which crave reference. In my last gave you notice how with much difficulty and entreaty, as Mr Humphrey Isham can inform you, I had the promise of 25 ts in this ship Prosperous whereof Christopher [recte Matthew] Smith is master; but when came to seal charter-party, I could obtain but 20 ts, which they are obliged to take in. Which tonnage I charge upon you for your own proper account, and accordingly I desire you to see it complied withal. There wants 30 ts to make up the 50 which you advised for, which I make no question but you will have enough there were it for a greater quantity and upon reasonabler terms than I am to give for this, which is £4 15s per t.

I have laden aboard ditto ship for your account 6,000 of pipestaves, excellent good as ever I saw. I had entered 6 ends of goods upon her for your account and sent them for Gravesend after the ship, but Mr [Humphrey] Isham [a mariner on Smith's Prosperous], contrary to his promise, went away half a day before they came down, so are returned me again. And here at present I know of no ship bound that way, which troubles me that after I have taken a great deal of pains, having but 14 days to dye and make them ready, and most of that time was rainy weather so that I could not get the goods dry. There's 2 bales Welsh cottons, one bale Welsh plains, 2 bales bays, and the calicoes; ozenbrigs nor Hampshire kersies not to be got upon so short warning.

Here is news from Newfoundland of 30 July where they write the ships have made very bad voyages and fish at 23 Rs per kt. By what I gather Mr Chalk [the Mary] is arrived there. They writ from Bilbao this post abundance of Basques arrived with fish there. You may do well to provide Chalk's lading of wines in time.

[P.S.] Here is arrived Capt. Crispe but not a line from you.

108. to William Clerke
28 Sept. 1655
a.… [I] have written you per Mr Christopher [recte Matthew] Smith master of the ship Prosperous, which ship is gone out of the Downs about 10 days since, notwithstanding the freighters gave him notice of the embargoes which were laid upon all Englishmen's estates in Bilbao and San Sebastian 10 current and conceived to be all over the King of Spain's dominions. So that he and all the rest which were at that time in the Isle of Wight, about 16 sail bound for the Canaries, which had likewise notice thereof, do even deserve to have no freight, it being one of the most wilfullest acts that ever was committed by men to go away in that manner against sense or reason when they were sufficiently forewarned of the embargo and how impossible it was for any man to comply with their tonnage in such dangerous times.

I have received a letter from Mr Chalk [the Mary] of 9 Aug., from Newfoundland, which was the very day he arrived there, where he writes me had notice of the ship which he was to receive 1,500 kts fish of by contract, which seems was 50 leagues from him, where he intended to ply with the first wind, not losing any time. Neither if he had arrived sooner could have been sooner dispatched in that the fish generally was then scarce ready to be delivered. He writes me the ships have made, most of them, bad voyages and fish worth there 23 to 24 Rs per kt, a thing very unexpected. I did once think it would have been bought in the land under 18 Rs in regard there went but few sacks this year. I conceive he may be near Bilbao by this time.

I conceive he will stop at Santona before he goes in over the bar and know how squares [i.e. the game] go. I wish you may have given such ample orders there to your correspondent as that there may be a right understanding in the business. I cannot find by those orders which you gave Mr Chalk that in case of war you make any proviso where else to go, which I could wish you had inserted something to that purpose. For if he go in over the bar, the ship will be lost; and if he stay at Santona, I question where they will admit him pratique as to land his fish there. Besides, that will be a dangerous place to ride for San Sebastian men-ofwar, as most men say it, know the place. God direct them for the best. Really it troubles me as much as if were my own interest. If I hear that Mr Chalk delivers the fish at Bilbao or thereabouts unto your order and proceeds for the Canaries to you, then according to your order I shall get insured £1,000 on him homewards for your account, which I fear will be at high rates as times now govern, for undoubtedly there will be a great many men-of-war out from Dunkirk, Ostend, and San Sebastian, besides Brest. So that if you take my counsel, it will not be amiss to insure more, in regard there will be a good sum due for freight which must be paid though she miscarry, as per the charter-party you may see, every 6 months.

But I cannot imagine how you can have pratique to unload her fish nor load wines except you have more than ordinary favour; which, if you chance to obtain and load him with wines, they will come to an extraordinary occasion here, for since the news of the embargo wines are risen £5 per pipe. I have 120 pipes at present upon my hands which I hope to make a very considerable advance on them according to their quality. Though yours in Chalk were miserable trash, yet I hope to advance you £50 upon that small parcel.

108b. I have paid your Spanish bills [of exchange], £100 and £90 unto Mr Fernando Body, and £50 unto Mr [John] Thomas. I wonder you would draw so on me knowing I am next month to pay above £1,100 for Chalk's [the Mary's] fish and about £400 for his 6 months' freight, when as I have not received a penny to this day of all the goods he brought home, besides the goods which I bought for you to go in [Capt. Matthew] Smith [the Prosperous] which lie now upon my hands for your account. So that I shall be in disburse for you, which, in regard you are my old friend, I cannot stand for small matters. I have spoken with Mr [Abraham] Lee who is not worth the clothes on his back. If possible, I'll get his bond for your debt and advise you what passeth.

I have received a memory of what freight you expect from Mr Chalk last voyage, which comes far short of what you writ at Mr Chalk's arrival there. Pray get a paper under his hand what goods he received and then I'll make him allow for it. When he arrived, I knew not what he brought so I was fain to take his word in regard had no particular from you.

As to your skin of sylvester at Rouen which should be damnified, I have in my possession at present a certificate by a public notary which certifies the same which I writ you and the abatement. And for my part, I have that confidence in my correspondent there [Humphrey Wilkings] that the thing is real. And for the chest of campechena which fell in the sea at Santa Cruz [de Tenerife], you need not wonder at its being damnified, for Mr Standish saw it in my warehouse and did once cast a lot for it in regard he had 2 chests in the parcel; but it fell to you for to have it, and he said before we cast lots it was not reason that same chest should be put upon him, being damnified. So that he might have satisfied you of that doubt if he had been pleased, seeing you so much question my information. I wonder he did not blush when he writ the letter which you dictated. I have not time to write him 2 lines at present about it, but he must acknowledge his error else I shall scarce be in charity with him. My carriage to him here deserved no such acting, neither do I value any man's malice a rush in that way. With comfort I may say it, to you nor no man else I never writ a lie as to the sale nor quality of their goods. Neither would I have Mr Clerke nor no friend else to make use of me an hour longer than he shall find me derivate [sic] from the truth or act those things which becomes not an honest man.

Other things there are in your letter of 5 July which I should answer, but time will not give me leave at present, this ship being in the Downs before ever I knew of her going. So crave your excuse and in my next shall give full answer thereunto. …

109. to William Clerke
9 Oct. 1655
These are chiefly to give you notice how I have written you at large per Mr Owen who goes over in this ship. Which letter I sent into the Downs with another for my father-in-law which I have notice was delivered, and accordingly you may be pleased to demand it of him. I knew not of this ship's going till she was past Gravesend.

Here are several ships come from Malaga without any lading. And Mr Chamlett and 2 ships more, which went from hence for Bilbao laden with pack-goods about a month since, are now returned back again with their lading they carried out, with much difficulty in that the Spaniards used many tricks to betray them. So I know not what Mr Chalk [the Mary] will do when he arrives there. I hope you have given larger orders than those you sent home by him. …

110. to William Clerke
14 Dec. 1655
a. I have not written you a long time for want of conveyance, neither have I heard from you since the unhappy [Spanish] embargo, understanding you were then in Gran Canaria. I wish your absence from home at that time tend not to your prejudice. I am now to give you notice how about a month since Mr Chalk [the Mary] arrived into the harbour of Plymouth with his lading of fish, having been 4 days in Santona road where he put his son ashore to give notice unto Lazaro de Ormacho how his father was there waiting his order, though at that time there was an embargo. But his son not returning, being kept prisoner for some days, he came away with 6 ships more. And since, his son that was left ashore is now come home in a Fleming, with whom I have had some discourse, who told me that he was with said Lazaro de Ormacho and delivered him a letter from his father, and said Ormacho answered nothing but patience, never so much as endeavouring to get the fish ashore. Nor did he make any reckoning of the business, very much slighting it. So that I know not what to do in the business. The ship lies upon charge and the fish decaying, and I have no order where to send her. And if had, I know not of any market within or without the Straits. Never was there such loss upon codfish designs as this year. Notwithstanding a war, at Cadiz it's sold at 27 Rs plata per kt, and here fish is not worth 18 Rs per kt. Neither will the owners abate me a farthing of the freight, so I expect they will sue me in the Admiralty Court. I thank God all the business that I have in the world does not trouble me so much as this. Neither do I know which way to act. If should send her for the Canaries, I doubt she will not be admitted pratique, being the commodity will discover she is an English ship.

Here is arrived Mr Charles Saunders empty, per whom I was in hopes to have heard from you. Seeing Mr Chalk was not arrived there [at Tenerife] at his coming away, you might well imagine that he had some impediment in his dispatch at Bilbao. Your too much confidence of Lazaro de Ormacho will tend much to your damage. It was ever my counsel to you for to desist meddling in a perishing commodity, especially in uncertain times. But what will it avail now to hint these passages? It will rather add affliction to affliction. So I shall forbear insisting on this particular.

110b. The last week our Lord Protector ordered that a price should be put on all wines, which we expect will come out next week at 8d per pint of Canary and 4d French wine. The noise of which hath made wines fall 50 per cent here, so that the poor merchant is ruined abroad and at home. I hope the next ships will bring me some lines of yours that I may know how to dispose of Mr Chalk. Hides, 10d per lb; cochineal, 26s per lb; campechena 7s [per lb]; sylvester, 3s 4d [per lb]; indigo a drug, 4s per lb; Campeachy wood, £35 per t; good new Varinas tobacco, 8s per lb.

We have now 40 sail of gallant men-of-war going to lie off the Spanish coast to wait the galeones' coming. Gen. Blake goes Commander-inChief. No hopes of any composure. Our peace with France proclaimed last week in great pomp, so I fear the Spaniard will down apace. There go 10 sail men-of-war to Jamaica to join with the rest there already, and it's conceived we shall land some forces in Flanders this summer, being in confederacy with the French.

Amongst all the ships at the Canaries I cannot hear what the Prosperous, Mr Smith, doth. I hope you will not let it come home dead freight, being so small a quantity of tonnage. I am informed my very good friend Mr George Jennings is arrived in Santa Cruz [de Tenerife] from Havana with a large parcel of hides. If it be your chance to see him, pray present my kind respects unto him and that I much rejoice at his good success and safe arrival. If I hear not from you per next ship, I shall resolve to send you Mr Chalk with his fish, not knowing where else to send him. Therefore, you may do well to make some kind of provision. West India goods will be in better esteem than wines by far …

111. to William Clerke
29 Dec. 1655
a. … Three days since I received yours of 9 present per your servant Thomas Leigh, where I expected to have received from you an ample order for the disposing of your fish aboard Mr Chalk's ship [the Mary] or to what place should send it, which in reason you might have done. Considering that you had no news of him at the writing of your letter, you might very well conjecture all was not well at Bilbao. But your overmuch confidence of Lazaro de Ormacho did, I fear, drown your reason else surely you would have fallen in better account of the business than you did. But opening your letter and finding nothing what in reason I expected, I found myself in a worse condition than before, wishing that I had never had a hand in the business, being like to prove so unfortunate. And perusing of your letters, I find, per Mr Chamlett and others, you forewarn me not to act anything but what you shall order me, which was a sufficient caveat for me to sit still till had your order. But considering how the ship lies upon charge and her lading a perishing commodity and how highly it did import you to have this ship at the Canaries as affairs now govern, I have resolved with myself to run the hazard of receiving from you another check by acting contrary to your order and to send her unto you with her lading of fish, which is 1,710 kts as per bill of lading will appear, though no man besides myself would do it. And for the better carrying on the design, I have sent down your servant Thomas Leigh post to Plymouth to go upon her, who hath received from me several instructions whereby at his arrival at Orotava he order things in a right way, a copy of which you may please to order him to send you ashore. I have made a passport for the ship in a very ample manner with a seal and firm, calling the ship the St Peter of Monnikendam, whereof is skipper Peter van Bruge, burthen 60 lasts, consigned to Sr Diego Pereyra, the Customer, for the accounts of Srs Don Luis Pereyra and Don Rodrigo Gomez Dias of Antwerp, which I know to be Diego Pereyra's correspondents and great friends. I have ordered the Dutch master to declare he brings but 5 or 600 kts of fish and that it was brought into Monnikendam as prize. Said Diego Pereyra hath a formal letter and bill of lading for 1,700 kts for account of abovesaid of Antwerp which the skipper is to carry ashore at his first arrival with the passport. So I have done my part. Pray God give good success thereunto, and hereafter you may not be so strict in your orders to such as you know and have had experience of, as you have had of me. I hope the fish will come to a very good occasion, there having none gone this year. But you must give order that it be carefully landed else they will spoil, it having been so long aboard. I wonder the ship could take in no more at Newfoundland, but I fear the master and company have too large a proportion, of which you may take notice thereof and advise me.

111b. You days past sent me a memory of all such goods and monies as were laden aboard Mr Chalk [the Mary] last voyage, which is more than I received freight for here. Therefore you may do well to adjust there with him and send it me under his hand, else he will deny it here. I have ordered my cousin John Paige to get 4 Flemings at Plymouth to go in the ship, which are to row the boat ashore at their first arrival. So I hope for a small composition you will have her admitted; after which is done, my earnest desire unto you is that you will immediately, without the loss of any time, unload the ship and likewise endeavour her speedy dispatch for the several reasons which I shall give you. First, you may take notice that there are from several places, to my knowledge, 4 ships bound that way which in all probability may arrive there within a week of this ship. Secondly, Mr Breton advises me from Madrid of 2 current how there's a new General going for the Canaries, which may be there as soon as this comes to hand, who is a rigorous man and a great enemy to our nation. (fn. 4) And thirdly, Gen. Blake is now ready with his fleet bound for the coast of Spain whence undoubtedly he will do acts of hostility, upon which the Spaniards will put to public sale all the embargoed goods and take stricter courses with you. All which things considered, it more than ordinarily concerns you not to lose an hour's time; and if possible can get a chapman, sell your codfish, though under the assize.

Now as in my former, so I confirm it again, our Lord Protector had ordered no Spanish wines shall be sold for above £26 per pipe or butt and French wines, £20 per t. So that in regard there are 2 West Indiamen arrived there and hides so great a commodity here and in Rouen, 40 per cent higher as per the coranto I here send you which came this day to my hands, you will do well to load as many of ditto commodity as you can, and, on the other side, as few wines as can. And if it should so fall out that you load not all the ship, pray let my father-in-law have the refusal of it. I shall make some insurance outwards upon this ship and likewise homewards for your account. Campeachy wood, £30 per t. In regard of our fleet's lying upon the coast of Spain, I believe you will have store of West Indiamen at the Islands, but the first goods that arrive here will come to the only market.

I have furnished your servant Thomas Leigh with about £20 for your account per clothes, postage and provisions, which he may give you an account thereof. The owners of this ship and I am like to have a suit in law about Mr Chalk's coming away from Santona, except some honest men end it by way of reference [i.e. arbitration], [which] I think better than going to law. During Mr Chalk's being with you, have a care what you do. You may write Thomas Leigh what you will have done for he and the owners are upon the ketch with me and have been all along. You be confident I shall not see your interest any way left for want of diligence. What you may write Chalk is that you are much damnified by his coming from Santoña and that you will not pay for his lying at Plymouth.

All the ships that loaded this vintage are arrived, God be praised, though none come into the river. Only [the Endeavour], Mr [William] Jop, was taken by 4 men-of-war 30 leagues off Tenerife, supposed to be Frenchmen bound for the East Indies which went out of Nantes 2 months since, before the peace was made.

The enclosed for my father-in-law pray deliver with your own hand. No person else hath any letters in the ship. If, with the effects you have in the Island and the proceeds of this ship's fish, you could load 2,000 hides, you would make a brave business, which I hope you will be able to accomplish very well.

Mrs Leigh was yesterday at my house, who made a very great complaint unto me of you concerning the money you received of Mr [John] Turner for her account and would fain have me to have paid her £50 or £100 for your account. I told her had no order, but that would not serve till I told her you had no effects in my hands. Pray per this ship give her order of payment, for I have partly engaged my word you shall do it. Thus, with my kind respects to yourself, hoping to see you here speedily, I commit you to God. …

[P.S.] I shall not send Capt. Russell [the Katherine] nor any other ship from hence. Therefore you may expect no tonnage, neither do I know how shall send your goods or pipestaves at present.


  • 1. In the 1640s John Turner at Tenerife had imported red Turkey paragons which he described as a 'new stuff' much used in Tenerife to make riding jackets (C. 110/151, J. Turner to R. Wilson, Sr and M. Bradgate, 25 Feb. 1646).
  • 2. Penn had about 7,000 regulars, but raised only about 1,200 additional troops in the Lesser Antilles (The Narrative of General Venables, ed. C. H. Firth (Camden Society, new series, 60, 1900), xxviii, 122).
  • 3. Clerke had been imprisoned at Tenerife apparently because Spanish officials had discovered that Capt. Chalk was loading silver for London. Cf. 118.
  • 4. Breton's report was ill founded. Don Alonso Dávila y Guzmán had become the Capt. General in 1650 and served until 1659 (Viera y Clavijo, op. cit., ii, 786).