J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

Follow by Email


Friday, February 07, 2020

Mr. Shaw and Mr. Dumaresq

While Nathaniel Shaw, Jr., of New London, Connecticut, was speculating on the likelihood of war by buying gunpowder in the Caribbean in early 1775, as discussed here, he was still broadening his commercial network.

In particular, he made a new contact in Boston, a merchant of Huguenot descent named Philip Dumaresq (1737-1801). On 15 Mar 1775, Shaw wrote to Dumaresq:
A few days agoe our Mutual Friend Thomas Mumford shew me a Letter from you recomending to send a Vessell to Cohassett Rather then Salem with West India Goods for the Boston Markett.

I have by the bearer James Angell in the Schooner Thames Shipt a Cargo of Brown Sugars Consisting of Sixty seven hogsheads and two teirces, which Sell for my Accot. They Just now came in from Hispaniola, and I believe are of a good quality, we have not made any report at our Custom House and must leave the whole matter relative to the entry with you and paying the Duties, and would have you manage the matter so as to pay as little as possible for on that strong my buissiness with you with turn, and if I find you can do better or as well as any other Port, its very probably I shall send you Severall Cargoes during this Summer. . . .

Mr. Ferrebault who is on board the Schooner as a French Capt. has about one thousand wt. of Coffee which you will be so kind as to assist in Landing &c.
The next day Shaw sent a copy of that letter with another, talking about the possibility of future business. He concluded, “Let me hear from you the return of the post, with the price Current, Politiks &c.”

Capt. Angell returned on 9 April. Dumaresq wrote back that same day, indicating he had been too sick to go out for a while. Shaw replied on the 12th with a nudge to sell the sugar soon. “I shall want to pay about Six hundred pounds L[awful] Money ye. 1st. of next month and hope you’l be in Cash by that Time.”

Then the war broke out. But Shaw continued to manage this deal as if there wasn’t a battle front between him and his partner. On 18 September, Shaw told his contacts in Philadelphia: “I have Two Thousand pounds worth of Sugar their in Boston in Philip Dumaresque hands and I make no Doubt but I shall be able to git the Money Unlless Dumarisq Should prove Dishonest.”

Shaw’s outreach to Dumaresq is striking because Dumaresq was a known Loyalist. In May 1774 he signed the Boston merchants’ addresses to outgoing Gov. Thomas Hutchinson and incoming Gov. Thomas Gage. In June he signed the Loyalists’ protest against the Boston town meeting.

The Whigs responded with a broadside listing all of the “Addressers” and belittling them. That sheet called Dumaresq a “Factor,” or wholesaler, rather than a merchant. More important, the Patriots encouraged people to stop doing business with those men. John W. Tyler’s Smugglers and Patriots quotes Henry Bromfield at the end of October 1774: “The Country Traders carry abot. with them a printed List of the Names of the Addressers to Gov’r Hut’n & dare not buy a single piece of Goods of any of them.”

Nathaniel Shaw was a fervent Patriot. He was especially opposed to the Crown’s customs duties, and back in 1769 he’d even instigated a riot in Newport against the Customs service. From 1776 through the end of the war he would work as the naval agent in New London for both the state of Connecticut and the Continental Congress.

But Shaw evidently didn’t think a little thing like politics should get in the way of asking Philip Dumaresq to land his Haitian sugar at Cohasset and get him the best price for it.

No comments: