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A Letter from Thomas Hancock

The Charming Lydia was a brig, or brigantine, a sailing ship owned by Thomas Hancock of Boston. A prominent merchant, Hancock controlled a fleet of cargo ships. He supplied the Newfoundland fishing fleet with rum and molasses and exported codfish, whale oil, potash, and lumber. He was the uncle of John Hancock, who later became a leader of the American Revolution in Massachusetts.

In the following letter, Thomas Hancock instructs Simon Gross, the ship's captain, as to the best procedure for disposing of his cargo...

Boston, Dec. 20, 1743
Captain Simon Gross,

You have command of the Charming Lydia brigantine, in all respects fit for the sea. Take the first wind and weather for sailing and proceed to the West Indies.

You have liberty to go to any of the English islands and, if you think it safe, to any of the French islands. But I advise you to go directly to St. Eustatius [a small island east of Puerto Rico] and confer with Mr. Godet, after which you will be able to form a better judgment about where to make a voyage.

After delivering your cargo, pick up a load of molasses, shipping any excess on the best terms you can get or bring it in indigo. Your share will be one-eighth of the cargo now loaded aboard and one-eighth of the proceeds from the sale of the cargo you obtain.

Make all possible dispatch so that you arrive early for landing. Make sure that your casks are good and well stowed. Bring some fruit for the officers if there is any to be had. Be prudent and saving of expenses.

If you can get good freight for Holland or England you may take it, or if you have the opportunity to sell the ship and its cargo, you have my consent. You have the freedom in every respect to act as you think best for my interest. But if you plan to return here, a load of molasses would be the best cargo to bring.

Write me at every opportunity. May the Good Lord protect you and our interests from all dangers and enemies and help you to act for the best in all things. I wish you a good voyage and am your owner.