Letters: 1656

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

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'Letters: 1656', in The Letters of John Paige, London Merchant, 1648-58, (London, 1984) pp. 137-142. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-record-soc/vol21/pp137-142 [accessed 22 April 2024]


112. to William Clerke
1 Jan. 1656
I have written you at large per this ship [the Mary], to which crave reference. These are chiefly to confirm my former advice how this day the Spanish merchants have been with our Lord Protector again about the price of wines but cannot any ways find relief, so that they are absolutely put at £26 per pipe, which is, as we gave them to understand, of greater prejudice and loss to the poor merchants than the embargo in Spain. But all will not avail, but we must suffer. (fn. 1) God give us patience to undergo so great a loss.

So that except it be to get in some debts that are owing you, I would advise you as a friend to load as few wines as you can and to buy most part West India goods, as chiefly Caracas and Havana hides and Campeachy wood. And if the Caracas tobacco be new, to buy some of it, but if old, meddle not with it upon no terms. But what you do must be presently upon receipt hereof, for that from hence and by via of Holland, etc., there are at least 6 ships bound for that Island, which at their first freighting were merely intended to load wines; but now upon this unhappy business of the putting prices, all have contradicted their orders not to meddle in any, if can get West India goods. So that if you can buy a good parcel, though more than you can well compass or intend to load, yet upon their arrival you cannot want to sell the over-plus upon what terms you please. I look upon hides as there will be 40 per cent cleared by them as now worth in Rouen.

I trust in God your codfish will come to a good occasion. …
[P.S.] Mr Throckmorton and Mr Cocke in 2 great ships are now in the Downs ready to depart, so that in all probability they cannot be 2 days' sail astern this ship, which may serve per advice. I very much fear that Dunkirk and Ostend men-of-war will disturb Mr C[halk, the Mary] in the road [of Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife]; therefore it behoves your speedy dispatch of him from thence.

113. to William Clerke
20 Jan. 1656
These are chiefly per covert to the enclosed bill of lading for 5,760 pipestaves, great tale, which were the 6,000 that were aboard Mr [Matthew] Smith [the Prosperous], so that either him, the lighterman, or the master of this ship, the Irish Merchant, Robert Hunter, have the 240 wanting. And of whom to demand them I know not. I am in hopes they are all aboard this ship, which may easily be seen for she carries none but this parcel. The bill of lading says you are to pay freight according to charter-party, which signifies nothing, they going upon Don Alonso de Molina's tonnage and consigned to his brother, Don Francisco de Molina, unto whom I have given order they may be delivered you. I had sent your goods in this ship but that I sold it [i.e. the goods] unto Mr Arnold Beak and company before your advice came, who sent it for Holland in a ship they have going for the Canaries, which now gives over their design. So yesterday they proffered me the goods again for the money it cost them. …
[P.S.] You are to pay no freight for the pipestaves. This letter is for their delivery.

114. to William Clerke
24 Jan. 1656
…[T]he Mary frigate … departed from Plymouth with a fair wind some 16 days since, which hath continued ever since so that I trust in God she may be safe with you ere this time, of the which I should be right glad to hear thereof in regard I have advice she went alone. I have made insurance upon her outwards for your account for £800 at 3½ per cent and do purpose, God willing, to make the like homewards for a greater sum for your account. I am very much condemned by my friends and those that wish me well in sending the ship in this manner without your positive order, in regard you gave me in your former letter a hint to act nothing for the future without your order. But I am more confident in you than it seems you have had of me; and I hope however things succeed you will account it as an acceptable piece of service done you, for had I not done it all the fish would have perished, it not being worth here 18 Rs per kt merchantable fish, which would not have produced anything considerable.

Mr Chalk [Capt. of the Mary] like a knave hath passed bills of exchange upon me to pay the men's wages, which I would satisfy provided the owners would make allowance for his coming from Santona and lying at Plymouth. But if must have a suit in law, I had rather might be for all than part. You cannot imagine what a deal of trouble I have daily about it. Never did man meet with such a pack of malicious owners as I have of this ship.

Since my last the Spanish merchants have been with our Lord Protector several times, and I think through mere importunity we shall have Michaelmas next allotted us for to sell our wines as we can, and after that time the assize to take place [Cf. 112, 115], which will not much avail us, the vintners having many old wines upon their hands at present and combined together to bring us down.

All wines from Garachico and Rambla prove very bad this year. Orotava very good, only a great many mixed with vidueños which makes them foul. As for West India goods, I have writ you the needful in my former. Only Campeachy wood rises, worth at present £35 per t. Mr [Matthew] Smith [the Prosperous] will not abate one farthing of this freight as per charter-party, so now are in law. No hopes of peace. …

115. to William Clerke
21 Feb. 1656
… I hope long ere this time you have dispatched Mr Chalk, upon which ship [the Mary] I have insured £1,300 for your account at 4 per cent and resolve to insure more if possible, there being abundance of Dunkirk men-of-war abroad with commissions against English, and all the Brest men-of-war are now entertained at San Sebastian where they have brought in Mr Jop. (fn. 2)

Wines, except very rare, are very drugs. Our Lord Protector declares that as soon as the Spaniard prohibits our manufactory he will do the like here by all kind of Spanish goods. But that will not advantage at all the wine merchants for that after 1 Dec. next no wines shall be sold for [more than] £26 per pipe.

Gen. Blake is now at Portsmouth ready with 60 sail men-of-war and fire ships to lie upon the coast of Spain. He carries many soldiers so 'tis thought he will land somewhere. If once they draw blood on each side, I fear your person there will not be secure. I long much to hear from you. …

116. to William Clerke
14 March 1656
These chiefly serve per covert to the enclosed from Mr Richard Baker where he sends you the best dispatches that he hath now at this present in England and withal hath given order to Mr Breton [at Madrid] long since, to my knowledge, to send you such papers as you shall need, which I doubt not but go per Don Balthazar de [Vergara] Grimon who, I suppose, may be in Tenerife long ere this.

I have received yours per Mr Owen and Mr Standish, which shall answer tomorrow per this bearer, Don Alonso de Molina, who is a very honest young man. I am hearty glad to hear of Mr Chalk's [the Mary's] arrival at Orotava, and the more in that he comes to so seasonable occasion with the fish. And I question not but you will act your part. As to his dispatch home, I have now insured £1,600 upon him for your account home at 4 per cent. …

[P.S.] I sent you 6,000 pipestaves in the Irish Merchant consigned in forma to Don Francisco de Molina y Lugo. Hides worth 10d per lb; logwood, £35 per t; wines a drug. This bearer, Don Alonso de Molina, is witness unto Mr Baker's papers, if anything be doubted.

117. to William Clerke
15 March 1656
Yesterday I writ you a few hasty lines which I here enclose, where goes a packet from Mr Richard Baker to you, who remits you copies of several papers attested by a notary public. I have been very earnest with him to send the originals, this being a good ship. And in time of war I question where a notary's fee will be valued; I'm sure it's not here from Spain. But by no means I cannot persuade him to it. All my hopes is that Don Balthazar de [Vergara] Grimón's arrival will clear you with such papers as Mr Breton will send [from Madrid]. Had you writ me of this business in time, I should have solicited Mr Baker here and Mr Breton with letters as that you need not have been imprisoned, which does much impair your credit here as well as your great hindrance there. Many that are ignorant and know not the original conceive you are in for your own debts, which some of your back friends here are subject to possess people so.

By a letter which I received from my father-in-law, I perceive Mr Chalk [the Mary] was arrived at Orotava with his lading of fish, which seems comes to a very good and seasonable occasion, at which I much rejoice at as if it did wholly appertain to myself as being instrumental to my good friend's happy success. For you well know I did it upon my own head, having not a tittle of any such order from you. Now you may please to take notice that I have insured for your account homewards on the Mary frigate £1,600 at 4 per cent; if possible, shall get some more done. I hope you will load her with West India goods home. For wines, they are a very drug at present; except very rare, you will lose a great deal of money by them. I should be hearty glad to hear of your coming home in Chalk, which I doubt neither you nor my father-in-law will not be so good as your words in that.

Here is aflying news that the galeones should be arrived at Cadiz, but I find no ground for it, so look upon it as a flame. If they should not arrive, Campeachy wood will be worth here at least £35 per t all this summer, but if otherwise it will be lower in price. Hides are still a great commodity in Rouen. As yet there's 4 chests of your Campeche grain [campechena] unsold and your wines and sarsaparilla in Chalk.

I have received yours per Mr Standish as likewise per Mr Owen, to which have not time to answer at present. In case you should remain there till vintage, as I hope you will not, then, and in such case, pray let me hear from you per all vias, and what West Indiamen arrive there and what they bring, and what expected. I verily believe there will great many come there in regard they know our fleet will lie off Cadiz so it will be dangerous for them to proceed there. So that in such occasion there may be good done. For wines, there's no thoughts of any next year except they may be bought for 20 Ds per pipe. We have till 1 Dec. next to sell our old wines, I mean of this year, which cannot be done though had given us 6 months longer. So that after that time we must not exceed £26 per pipe for the best, as per the enclosed order appears more at large. So that for my part I am sure shall suffer deep by those I have, they not proving so well as I could wish, having yet 150 pipes unsold. …

118. to William Clerke at Plymouth
27 Dec. 1656
In the first place, I congratulate your welcome home, being joyful to hear of your arrival at Plymouth, from whence I received your welcome lines of 23 current with another from my father-in-law, which is more good news than I have been accustomed to receive this many years. The Lord make me truly thankful for it.

I perceive you received my letters by the vintage ships where I advised you what passed between me and Mr F[rancis] C[larke]. Whereupon I perceive you are partly resolved to go for Holland until you have better settled your affairs. But seeing you are pleased to make use of my weak judgement, I shall in brief impart what I conceive most convenient, although by yours I cannot very well perceive how business stands. But be it how it will, it's my opinion on receipt hereof you take post and come for London where you may be as private as you please, no place like unto it. And then you may the better communicate your business to your friends and transport your person from hence where you think fit better than from any place. But if the wind should continue easterly and that you remain at Plymouth when all the rest of the merchants come up, it may breed a jealousy in some here and so trouble you there. Now in case you are resolved to pass the other side and not come hither, it's my opinion you go for Flanders, for if you go for Holland you will be as subject to be molested as if you came here. I have acquainted your brother Mr George Clerke of your arrival, from [whom] the enclosed goes. He is of my opinion that you come up post and that you send us notice by a porter where you are. I live in Bishopsgate Street. However, I shall write you 2 lines for Dover to lie at Mr Michael de Haze's house. Both to him and my cousin Mr John Paige [of Plymouth] I have written to furnish you with what money you have occasion of.

Mr Chalk's business is now upon arbitration, and the last day of our bonds is 30 instant. I would fain renew them for a longer time, as have done twice already, but they will not yield to it. You writ me Chalk [the Mary] was to have gone to the Palma to take in 30 ts of goods upon freight when he was in trouble about the silver. [Cf. 103, 104.] If you have any such letters from thence, pray send them me up or an affidavit by oath from yourself how it was so, else it will go against you. Thus you might send up the next post without any delay. I shall not enlarge for present, being suppose shall have you here. …
[P.S.] Here is no news as yet of George Webber and that fleet's arrival [from the Canaries]. God grant they be well.


  • 1. In Dec. and Jan., 1655–6, Paige twice joined other merchants to petition Cromwell concerning wine prisage. The first petition, receipted by the Council of State on 5 Dec. 1655, asked the Protector to suspend execution upon a declaration of 4 May 1655 reviving Henrician statutory powers to set wine prices (P.R.O., State Papers 18/102/7; C.S.P.D., 1655, 151). The second petition, calendared among the Thurloe papers at 7 Jan. 1656, asked that the limit of £26 per pipe for Spanish wines be suspended 'until midsummer 12 months' (State Papers of John Thurloe, ed. T. Birch (1742), iv, 396–7). Cf. 114, 117.
  • 2. Cf. 111b. Cromwell claimed that Jop's ship, the Endeavour, was taken to the East Indies by French privateers who captured her off Tenerife and disembarked 14 of her crew in Guinea. And by his letter of 26 Sept. 1656 to Louis XIV, he sought restitution of the ship and damages on behalf of Richard Baker and his partners. Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, ed. W. C. Abbott (Cambridge, Mass., 1937–47), iv, 294, 828.