Letters: 1657

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

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'Letters: 1657', in The Letters of John Paige, London Merchant, 1648-58, (London, 1984) pp. 142-149. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/london-record-soc/vol21/pp142-149 [accessed 24 April 2024]


119. to William Clerke at Antwerp
6 Feb. 1657
I received yours, 28 past, from Gravesend, being very glad to hear the business succeeded so well that you had no interruption, considering the many pretenders against you. The news was upon the Exchange the next day. It seems there was a person at Gravesend that knew you who came up that tide and reported saw you embark upon the Flushing pink, which was told Mr Bradick who immediately told all that knew you. Who, with James Cowse pretends you owe them 16,000 Rs, who seem to be vexed at your going away and affect their pretence. They brought a sergeant to make an attachment in my hands for goods and monies of yours, but your release did soon cool their courage. Whereupon seeing that, they desisted. So that it was well you did it, otherwise I should have had many more of the same nature.

According to your desire, your brother [George] and I went to your cousin Francis Clarke's and delivered your letter to him which did not so much satisfy him as other reasons we gave him. Give him his due, I find him a very fair, conditionable person. We told him, as understood by you, that conceived little or no balance due to him, which made him break out into some passion. And in conclusion he proposed that would refer all the whole business to your brother and myself, so that we fear there may be more than you were pleased to discover to us. To which end he hath now given us a copy of all such goods as sent you, with their costs, as also of what received in returns. So that against post you will have a more particular relation of this business. Pray in your next omit not to write Mr Richard Lant and above all Mrs Leigh, and if you think convenient, the widow [of Stephen] Slaney or Mr Robert Lant. Ten days being past, the great wonder of your sudden departure is almost buried.

As to what you writ about what communicated at your departure, I gave you then my answer that if you please to send me over that paper which promised would, I shall comply with my promise in giving a final determination thereunto with all expedition, which is my earnest desire and request you fail not thereof, whereby each man may distinguish his own. However, for what you shall have occasion to defray your journey charges all along and something to defray your charges of what you go to pretend, I shall be ready to disburse. (fn. 1) And as I have been so, I shall desire a continuance of love and friendship between us. And when you have tried all your friends, none hath nor shall be more affectionate and real to you than I. What passeth in your affairs I should be very glad to hear of its good success. And thus with mine and my father-in-law's kind respects to you, commit you to God. …

120. to William Clerke at Antwerp
13 Feb. 1657
I have yours from Middelburg and 13 current from Antwerp, being glad to hear of your safe being in those parts. In my last, writ you at large so shall be brief at present, only to acquaint you that have of late spoken with Mr [Richard] Lant, your master that was, who does seem to condole your condition in regard of the weakness of your body to travel, expressing much of affection towards you. And as to Mr Francis Clarke, your brother and I have perused over his invoices and demands which he now sends you. We could wish you to give us an estimate a little more or less what they might there produce, also what the returns you sent him come to, and what debts remain for his account, that so, if possible, it might be adjusted. For neither he nor Mr Lant does not require at your hands, for ought I can see, a perfect or exact account considering your books and papers are taken away [by the Canarian officials].

Thanks be to God, our ship Posthorse from the Canaries, in company with Mr Casby, is now arrived in the river, who bring us a strange relation that you and the rest of our nation were turned away merely by the importunity and bribing of them which you accounted your friends. For which they gave the [Capt.] General [of the Canaries], etc. 3,500 pieces of eight. The junta was Don Balthazar [de Vergara Grimon], Don Cristobal [de Alvarado Bracamonte], Don Jeronimo, Don Melchor, Don Benito [Venia y Vergara], Nicolas Alvares, Pedro Fernandez, Pedro Flaniel and others. So that you may see which way the game goes. If you could get licence to return there, it would be of more importance by far than your books.

There's arrived a ship or galleon at Santa Cruz [de Tenerife] which came last from Puerto Rico and brings for the King and particulars 1,000,000 pieces of eight and 12,000 hides, some sugar and ginger. The plate is landed in Santa Cruz castle.

As for the £110 you writ of, shall be remitted the next post. Had I been well, should have been this. I am sorry Mr [Baldwin] Matthew's friend did disappoint you, but it's no fault of mine. …

121. to William Clerke at Antwerp
20 Feb. 1657
In regard I received none from you this post, shall be brief, these being only to acquaint you how per this post I have remitted a bill of exchange unto Mr John Shaw [Paige's correspondent at Antwerp] for your account for £110 sterling, to be paid at Amsterdam, being could get no good bill for Antwerp.

The enclosed is from Mrs Leigh who, I suppose, will be upon the old strain, never contented. I told her she had no reason to have anything back again in regard her son [Thomas] had cost you much money and gained sufficient experience, so the loss was yours more than theirs. Upon which she seemed to be discontented with me. So, I pray, order your brother [George] to talk with her for I shall not, having but ill-will for what I have done hitherto. …

122. to William Clerke at Antwerp
13 March 1657
I have yours 7 current with an enclosed for Mrs Leigh which I shall deliver, wishing you had remitted her unto your brother Mr George Clerke. But since it's your pleasure to remit it unto me, I shall to the best of my capacity make good your lines written her, although you have left out one of the main arguments in your favour, which is that he [Thomas Leigh] hath of late made a voyage for the Canaries without any order of yours, as if he had been no man's servant but at his own disposal, and, by the experience which gained being your servant, by the investment of £350 here got clear £250. Which in some manner they may thank you, either for his education, or at leastwise for your permission therein, which I shall hint unto them, seeing you have omitted it.

I am sorry my letter with the bill of exchange did not come according to course. What might be the reason I know not. Sure I am there was nothing wanting in me. But I admire, seeing you carried Mr Jollife's credit, that you could want for such a sum whereby to prejudice your affairs. But it seems that proved like Baldwin Matthew's credit, otherwise you could not have wanted.

I would wish you not to rely too much on courtiers' promises for too much modesty with them never takes. You had best go yourself where the person is and not to delay it. What you pretend is obtained by several English as I am informed, so that it's common [knowledge] your namesake Leonard [Clerke] is now in Flanders about it, who writes confidently is to go for the Canaries with much freedom, which I desire you not to take notice as came from me. (fn. 2)

Mr Francis Clarke and your brother with myself met days past when we made some kind of entrance into the business. The next time I hope shall go further. You calculate the 800 kts Campeachy wood [at] 28,000 Rs when as he presents your own invoice where you make it to be 22,000 odd Rs. As to this particular, shall be more larger after our next meeting. In the interim I cannot but let you know that by what hitherto I find Mr Francis Clarke to be a very civil, reasonable person.

Pray in your next let me know how you find yourself as to health in those parts. My father-in-law thanks you for your care in his commission and desires to be kindly remembered to you. …

123. to William Clerke at Antwerp
3 April 1657
I have yours 1 and 7 current, having perused the contents. I take notice what you writ touching your affairs with Mr Francis Clarke which I communicated unto your brother [George]. Likewise he did the same with me with another letter which you wrote him. And having consulted together, we met this afternoon with Mr Francis Clarke with whom we had a very large discourse. To give you the particulars would be too tedious. Your brother made him a proffer of £400 which he very much slighted as a thing at high matters. By what I can perceive £1,000 will scarce content him. I gather he hath taken too much counsel of some of your back Canary friends whose counsel in the end I told him would prove pernicious to him. I was with him at the tavern an hour after your brother parted from us, where I endeavoured to convince him of his large pretence and found him a little better pacified at last. So that I believe it may beget another meeting, desiring him to consider well of the business and to waive all passions. I should be hearty glad that we might beget a true understanding between you both, that so all differences may be ended, although I would not have you purchase your peace at too dear a rate, of which you may rest confident I shall have as tender a regard of your interest as though you were present yourself.

Per this post from Genoa they writ there's a ship of London arrived there from Barbados laden with sugars who 140 leagues off the Canary Islands met with 12 great ships steering for the Islands, which they say were Spanish ships. So it's supposed they are the flota, which for my part I cannot believe to be true. Said ship afterwards met with Gen. Blake's fleet and acquainted them of what had passed, so that a short time will produce the truth of this business. (fn. 3)

Mr Body's business is ended with Mr Hart, who is now awarded to pay Mr Body £2,040 sterling. If you intend to come for [Middelburg in] Zeeland to go with the convoy [for Bilbao], pray carry it privately and make no sh[ow] there. …

124. to William Clerke at Antwerp
17 April 1657
I have yours of 11 current, being glad to hear you have all your dispatches for Madrid. God grant you no worse success there than have had at Flanders.

As to Mr Francis Clarke's business, I refer the relation to your brother's [George's] letter, who hath promised me to give you advice at full. We have by his desire met him again, but our labours reap no success, so shall forbear to advise you any more about it.

This day is come an express from the Downs which brings news that 2 of our frigates have brought in a Spanish prize which came from the West Indies, Cartagena, being about 300 ts, 20 guns, laden with hides, indigo, tobacco and some silver, supposed to be worth £50,000 sterling. She met with 5 of our frigates off the Groyne. The news of the galeones at the Canaries is looked upon as nothing. (fn. 4)

I am now labouring about your account. I shall not be quiet till see an end of it. Mr [Robert] Turner hath promised me will do his part, which, if he do not, shall be no impediment to you though it will make my task harder. [Cf. 66c.]

If Mr Millington be in that city, pray present my service to him and acquaint him of the news of the Spanish ship. …

125. to William Clerke at Madrid
8 July 1657
a. I have received your welcome lines of 16 June, being glad at last you are got to your journey's end. Since your departure from Zeeland, I have not writ you, not knowing how or to whom to address your letters in Madrid, neither have you now given me any directions, at which I admire, which makes me write with fear. However, having received one from you, cannot omit to answer it.

Here hath arrived of late 4 ships from Tenerife which came away since the burning of the flota. For West India goods they have not bought a real's worth. The [West] Indians hold that which is left at such excessive rates that no man durst meddle with it, saying we must pay for that which is burnt. They ask 66 Rs per hide; 8 Rs per lb for indigo; 120 Ds per ruff [?rove] for cochineal. For logwood, that little which came is burnt in the ships, so that there's no meddling with them. For here those very commodities are low, as hides 8½d per lb; indigo a very drug, not worth 4s per lb, besides great custom and charges on it; cochineal, 28s per lb; campechena, 8s per lb; logwood, £80 per t; Varinas tobacco, if right sort, 6s per lb. I have notice there's 1,000 chests arrived at Santa Cruz [de Tenerife] of a right sort in a ship called the Rosario which came from Cartagena, which came in there 3 days after the flota was burnt. If a parcel of that could be bought at a real per lb, would turn to account.

They advise me from the Canaries how that English and French goods is not scarce worth the first cost, that the vineyards for malvasía are like to be scarce this year, so they expect higher prices than last year. And to help all, the Parliament of England have made an act that after 15 Aug. no Spanish wines shall be sold for above 9d per pint. (fn. 5) And to help all, they have laid 3 general impositions on them more than formerly which is Argier duty, 2s per pipe, and a new custom of 15s per pipe, and excise over and above the former 30s per pipe. (fn. 6) All which being well considered, I think to all judicious, knowing men in the trade I take it to be a prohibition. But there will not want some madmen or fools that will be doing, though they burn their fingers. Much good may it do them.

125b. We are not engaged for one pipe, neither will we charge at for vintage. And if you have engaged for any, if by any means you can, break off the contract, for assuredly you will come to lose above 30 per cent of your principal although they prove good. If bad, lose all. There's no commodity that I would meddle withal except logwood, campechena grain, or Varinas tobacco. Thus, I have given you the best advice I can whereby you may the better govern yourself. Besides all this, our friends at Tenerife, Don B. and Juan de O., write us positively they will not receive a pack of goods nor meddle in the dispatch of any ship for future. So it's high time for any to give over when the natives forewarn. There's several others write the same to their correspondents here. Since their loss at Santa Cruz they are so enraged that they have embargoed 3 English ships and given one Thomas Yardley, whom you know, the rack in a most sad manner, which makes me tremble to think of trading there. You write me the island of Santa Catalina is taken by the English. There's now a ship arrived from Jamaica in the Downs which brings no such news, so that I doubt where it may be so.

Mr Baldwin Matthews [at Middelburg] hath drawn on me mere £58 6d which he furnished you withal. I have 3 weeks since remitted Mr John Shaw [at Antwerp] £150 more for your account which, with the abovesaid, makes above £200 which he writ me was accepted. I would have remitted it sooner, it had been all on to me, but I considered it with your brother [George] it was not convenient until we did hear of your arrival at Bilbao, not knowing but you might allot the said money to be paid Mr Francis Clarke, seeing you gave us no answer about it before you took shipping at Zeeland. But I find you were straitened with time, as per Mr Millington's relation. However, [Mr] Francis Clarke now begins to murmur, complaining that you and I have drawn him into an inconveniency in regard that he hath [not] his half money nor his obligation for the other moiety, which pray send per first, else he will have just cause to complain of you as you have of me about the account, though in the end you will find it's [to] my prejudice.

Since your departure God Almighty hath been pleased to lay a great affliction upon me in that hath been pleased to take away my son Gowen the 24th last month, which hath caused no small grief in our family to lose such a jewel as he, which hath made me unfit for my business above these 7 weeks. So that I must crave your patience in not complying with my promise. And now I have my other child [John] very ill. God knows what will become of him. I know the backwarder I have been in the business makes [you], Mr Clerke, think of great matter, but in the conclusion you shall have no cause to complain.

What passeth in those parts pray let us hear from you. Mr Benjamin Barron, I suppose you will find him those parts. Beware of him for he is a knave and hath cheated me in Mr Mourton's [the Agreement's] lading of pilchards in an unreasonable manner; is gone and never leaves me an account nor sends me satisfaction and owes my man £60 for goods sold 12 months since and never remits him a penny nor affords him nor me a line what intends to do, only gave out at Bayona was gone for England. …

126. to William Clerke at Madrid
8 Sept. 1657
I have yours 8 and 15 past where I find you still complaining of your unhappiness in that cannot receive a line from your friends, at which I admire that mine of 8 July was not come to hand when your last letter was writ. It went under covert Mr Whitt of that city. And as for other letters, I fear they may be intercepted because they go immediately directed to you, which in mine and most men's opinion that know that place apprehend a danger. As for the £200 you so much complain of is not come to hand, I do admire at it, seeing I remitted Mr John Shaw [at Antwerp] 19 June £150 sterling with order to remit it you with expedition, which was 20 days before I received any letter from you of your being in Madrid. The other 50 odd pounds I paid Mr Baldwin Matthews [at Middelburg] for the value paid you in those parts. Your news of the island of Santa Catalina proves contrary, as per late advice from Jamaica.

In my former I gave you notice how Spanish wines were put at 9d per pint and 45s per pipe new custom and excise put on them. At which rate they are now sold at to the half undoing of the poor vintner and no good to the merchant, which very thing hath utterly undone the wine trade. From the [Canary] Islands they writ 15 Aug. how the tithes are auctioned at the highest rates as ever was known, and yet like to be but an ordinary vintage, insomuch they expect higher rates than last year. Much good may it do them. We have charged 50 ts this year to load wines if reasonable, but if bad, not a pipe ordered. In such case to put aboard the proceeds in cochineal.

In our small vessel I have permitted your brother [George] to send some small things for Juan Goncalis. Here have of late days arrived in Holland 6 ships laden with rich goods from the Canaries, which came the back side of Ireland, and daily more expected, insomuch there will remain but little West India goods in the Islands. And now they begin to fall very much.

In your formers you were pleased to advise might have 50,000 pieces of eight delivered in the Islands to pay in those parts [i.e. Spain] 4 months after with 20 per cent premium [for Castilian money in terms of Canarian]. To my knowledge, from Seville and Cadiz they writ this post, 12 past, how they deliver money there to be paid in the Islands at 20 days' sight for 10 per cent premium, which is a great difference.

They writ from Santa Cruz [de Tenerife] there arrived 3 San Malo ships with permission [i.e. licences], which brought 1,500 bales linens, etc., not knowing of the flota's burning, which hath made such a glut that the Islands need no more of that commodity this many years. One of which ships is now arrived back to San Malo worth 500,000 pieces of eight, as per advice. So you may see which way the horse is curried.

There will not go so many ships to the vintage as usual. Mr Stephens is going in a ship of 150 ts, not to abode. George Webber is now gone with Mr Bennett, formerly of Seville, in a frigate of 30 guns and pinnace with £15,000 cargazon for to trade in the West Indies, at Portobello and Cartagena, who have Spaniards aboard. I wish him good success, but it's much feared. There's many Spanish and Canary merchants in the design. We refused it. …

[P.S.] If any news, pray advise us and which way you intend to steer your course. Your friend Mr George Clerke seems to be angry. Pray afford him 2 lines per first opportunity.


  • 1. Clerke intended to apply to Spanish officals for licences which would have allowed him to resume his trade at the Canaries.
  • 2. Clerke was seeking licences which would have allowed him to resume his trade at the Canaries. And, as is suggested at the end of this letter, Paynter hoped to obtain, through Clerke's good offices, the same permission.
  • 3. Captain David Young of the Catherine interrupted his voyage from Barbados to Genoa on 19 February to tell Blake, his old commander, that 12 galleons were steering for the Canaries (J. R. Powell, Robert Blake, General at Sea (New York, 1972), 296).
  • 4. Three days after this letter was dated Blake's fleet burned the galleons at Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
  • 5. 'An Act for limiting and settling the price of wines', 9 June 1657 (Firth and Rait, ii, 1057).
  • 6. 'An Act for the continuing and establishing the subsidy of Tunnage and Poundage', 26 June 1657, continued the Argier duty and raised customs on Spanish wines from 30s to 45s per pipe (£4 10s per t). 'An additional Act for the better improvement and advancing the receipts of the excise and the new impost', passed the same day, raised the excise on Spanish wines from 60s to 90s per pipe (£9 per t) (Ibid., 1123, 1186).