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Miscellanies: Eighteenth-Century London Jewish Shipowners

Maurice Woolf

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Eighteenth-century London Jewish Shipowners MAURICE WOOLF In 1937 the Jewish Historical Society of England published in its Miscellanies (Vol. Ill, p. 103) a short monograph by the late Mr. Wilfred Samuel entitled 'Anglo-Jewish Ships' Names'. In it, Mr. Samuel named three Jewish owned vessels, called attention to the long lists of ships with Old Testament names to be found among the Calendars of State Papers, and expressed the hope of one day discovering further Jewish shipowners. It is from the Letters of Marque that we are now able to add to Wilfred Samuel's earlier research. The Letters of Marque1 declarations, preserved in the Public Record Office,2 list, among other details, the names of the shipowners at the time of a particular voyage. Between the years 1693 and 1798 thirty-nine of the owners named were Jews. Merchants as Shipowners Before we examine these it is well to take a look at the structure of English shipping as it then was. Shipowning in the seventeenth and eight? eenth centuries was not, as it was later to become, a specialised calling occupying the owner's time and capital to the exclusion of all else. It was in fact the part-time occupation of merchants and others whose investments were widespread and it formed merely one of a diversity of interests. As Professor Ralph Davis informs us,3 'Most shipowners were merchants, most merchants were at some time shipowners'. The attractions of shipowning as an invest? ment were, at that period, many. First, ownership was not a difficult attainment. Shares in a vessel were normally divided into 8, 16, 32, and, occasionally, 64 equal parts, with any one owner taking up one or more of these fractional holdings. Most vessels thereby became the property of a consortium or syndicate, whose number varied from ship to ship (and indeed from voyage to voyage) but which, by mid-eighteenth century, had become greatly reduced, by then there being rarely more than twelve owners to any one ship. The actual management of the vessel and its cargo would not be the owner's personal concern but would rest in the hands of the master and of the ship's husband. 'Network of Backscratching' Shipowning offered the merchant an oppor? tunity to exploit any influence he might have in the form of connections with his factors and agents abroad and indeed with his fellow merchants in England. His aim would be to offer freight facilities on sturdy, well-managed vessels and his enterprise would doubtless be greatly helped by the fact that, as Professor Davis reminds us, 'the mercantile community was bound together in a network of back scratching'. The distribution of ownership over several vessels, as, for example, in the cases of Aaron Franks and the Salvador family, was primarily to spread the risks?risks of storm, piracy, fire, or desertion of crews. Other hazards were those of unscrupulous management and the fraudulent sale of parts. For example, in 1668 a certain John Stowe had bought a vessel called the 'Joseph and Benjamin'. He sold eight sixteenths to George and Domingo Francia and then calmly proceeded to dispose of a further twenty-one sixteenths 1 to various un? suspecting victims.4 1 A Letter of Marque (or Mark) was a licence to fit out and operate an armed vessel or privateer with the object of capturing enemy merchant shipping. The holder of a Letter of Marque was entitled by international law to commit, against vessels of hostile nations, acts which would other? wise have been condemned as piracy. They were abolished among European nations by the Congress of Paris in 1856. (See Appendix I.) 2 High Court of Admiralty 26. 3 The Rise of the English Shipping Industry in the 17th and 18th Centuries (Macmillan, 1962). 4 P.R.O. H.G.A. 15/9; also quoted by R. Davis, op. cit. 198</page><page sequence="2">Eighteenth-century London Jewish Shipowners 199 Forty-three of the ninety-four vessels here listed were on hire to the East India Company and in their case it has been possible to give, with one exception, their ports of destination.5 The thirty-nine Jewish merchant houses in the list are, for the most part, well known to students of Anglo-Jewish history. A few of them, e.g., Abraham and Jacob Franco, Simon Francia, and Jacob Mendes da Costa, were sole owners of vessels, presumably carrying their own freight. Rowland Gideon's Hester was, as suggested by Wilfred Samuel, named after his wife and, as will be noted, Hananel Mendes da Costa had one ship named the Hananel. The eighteenth-century Jewish merchant by far the most deeply involved in shipowning was Aaron Franks, who, in the 20 years 1739-1759, bought holdings in twenty-four vessels. Shipping was, to Franks, a major interest, especially within the aegis of the East India Company. In 1751 he and Francis Salvador as owners of ships in the service of the Company were among the 31 signatories to an agreement to limit tonnage.6 The appended letter7 (Appendix II) from Franks to Thomas Hall, an important London ship? owner, is further evidence of Franks's day-to day shipping interests and shows him to possess a breezy style. The Mrs. Roach referred to by Franks was the wife of Major John Roach, one time Commanding Officer and later a member of Council in Madras.8 Conflicts over Clive As will be seen from the other letter here appended,9 Aaron Franks took sides with Lawrence Sulivan in the latter's feud with Clive; Franks's Sephardic counterpart, Joseph Salvador, on the other hand, was one of Clive's most loyal supporters.10 Jewish interests in eighteenth-century ship? ping certainly extended to insurance. Cover, especially in war-time, was very high, sometimes as much as 15%, and in 1735 one Jewish broker, Moses Paiba, was pleased to be able to obtain for Thomas Hall cover at 14% and he wrote, somewhat quaintly, to Hall, T have gott you severall topping gentlemen out of the way that does not write but now and then?\n 5 India Office Library. Marine Records L/ MAR/A. 6 British Museum. Parliamentary Papers B.S. ref. 7, pp. 294-295. f P.R.O. G103/30 Letter 18. (See Appendix II.) 8 See Conrad Gill, Merchants and Mariners of the 18th Century (Edward Arnold, London, 1961). 9 From the papers of the 3rd Earl of Bute, a copy of which was kindly given me by Miss Catherine Armet, archivist to the Earl of Bute. (See Appendix III.) 10 Maurice Woolf, 'Joseph Salvador 1716-1786', Trans .JHSE, Vol. XXI. 11 P.R.O. C.103 130 and quoted by C. Gill, op. cit. APPENDIX I Specimen Letter of Marque or Reprisal from the Declaration of War against France (P.R.O. H.G.A. 26 vol. IV, f.38) 3rd April 1744 appeared personally Captain Daniel Goatby and produced a warrant from the Right Honourable the Lords Comm.rs' for Executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain and Ireland for the Granting of a Commission or Letter of Marque to him the said Captain Daniel Goatby and in pursuance of his Majesty's Instructions to Privateers made the following Declaration to wit That his ship is called the Diamond Gaily and is of the Burthen of about Three hundred Tons That he the Declarant goeth Commander of her that she carried Twenty six Guns Eighty men Four hundred small arms One hundred Cut? lasses Twenty ffour Rounds of Great Shot and about One Ton weight of Small Shot That the said ship is Victualled for Twelve Months has three Suits of Sails ffive Anchors ffive Cables and about Two Ton weight of spare cordage.</page><page sequence="3">200 Maurice Woolf That Edward Smith goes Lieutenant Christ? opher Tatwell Gunner Thomas Wilson Boat? swain William Wallace Carpenter Charles Maddox Cook and Robert Farlington Surgeon of the said Ship and that Mefsrs. Abraham and Jacob Franco of the City of London Merchants are the owners and setters out of the sd. Ship. Dan Goatby On the same day This declaration was made before me H. Penrin. APPENDIX II C103/130 From Aaron Franks to Thos. Hall Letter 18 London 4th December 1735. Sir, Mr. Eaton tells me he wrote you by last post that Mrs. Roach has b?kt us Since which I have endeavoured all I can to find her out but to no purpose. As Captain Mang has taken his leave of the Court yesterday I thought fit to ask him to return me the money you paid him for her passage. As he carries the Black Boy and says he has been at some charges he has returned me but fifty pounds. The Major will swear but who can help us. I was yesterday in the courtroom where you and myself have been sadly caught out, for being Nickt by Mrs. Roach when they say it was our business to nick her. My service to Captain Gowry: I know of old he is a brisk lad: I wish he had nickt her for us. I am Yr most aft &amp; humble serv. Aaron Franks. APPENDIX III Copy of a letter in the 3rd Earl of Bute's papers Sir, I was this morning with Lord Talbot to talk with him on an affair, which he desired me to communicate immediately to you?it is this? Last night Mr Aaron Franks, a very honest man tho' a Jew, and one who has a very great interest in the E. India Company was with me last night, and told me, that there was like to be a great dispute about choosing a Chairman at the next Election, that he himself was very inclinable to serve Mr Sulivan, provided that he knew it would be agreeable to Lord Bute. By what Lord Talbot sayd to me I understand that Lord Bute does not care to interfere in the affair, but if you empower me to say to Mr Franks that his exerting himself for Mr Sulivan will not be disagreeable to Lord Bute, I will see Mr Franks this night, and answer for his doing so. I should be glad to hear from you soon, for I find there is to to [sic] meeting on this business Wednesday next. I am Sir with great truth and regard Your most obedient humble Servant Lisle Street Francis Ayscough. Feb. 28 1763. (Endorsed 'Dr Ayscough5.)</page><page sequence="4">Eighteenth-century London Jewish Shipowners 201 O ?. ? % v bo ^ ? ?g cd? ? &gt; &lt;u^ &lt; ?'S cd C&gt;43 o -? S a a s cd gas ^ 2L * C 3 ^ ? ?? ss S PHH^&lt;/i 818 o o o o O ^| O O C o m &lt;n ?&lt;h &gt; ^ o c fa ? cd &lt;U "? - S .s c o. G o O C43 . cgp^p^ p 42 o 43 -&gt;w ? bo i 'S ff ce cd &gt;. &gt;^ o 2 ^ -? O 43 w j O ^^434243^^rh^S?A&gt; bC c u o fj c cd ? r~ g c 5 t?i cd ? c -w ^ O 42 ^ S &lt;U ? ..h^ O O Oh n . O &lt;? dfl] O cd O 3 9 o &gt;: 43 o &lt;-? 43 43 O 5 03 cd tu 5 " cn &lt; p^ cd cd Si 5-i ph 42 On o g o CO b?^ w-? cd ? ? ? c" cd Oh cd ja^a s s ? 2 y 43 42 _j O U43 o U ?? cd 5-? o._ &lt;u cd a H 45 O cd cd cd ?p^fe 42*3 5 S 0 ? 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