Frederic de Coninck Letters
Problems with selling Whale Oil and Lace; Death of brother Jean de Coninck;
Problems with the Guardianship of Two Orphans
Frederic de Coninck (1660-1722)
9 January 1690
Monsieur Jeremie Le Blanc [in Hamburg]
I indeed received your letter of last September 29. I admit that I was surprised in reading it for I rather expected that my lace would have been sold there long ago as I had hoped. I don't doubt, however, that you did your utmost to do that. Apparently anyone expecting too much would be disappointed. Anyway, it's time, sir, to bring an end to this matter for I see no effort to return them to me, an act that should please you and something I would have done if I were you. I asked you to sell them at the least possible loss and in the most assured way, the sooner the better, because over time the patrons will regard it as old-fashioned. I am persuaded that you would indeed do me this courtesy and render me services for which I would be most obliged.
I mentioned that a man named Jean Durand, a native of Rouen, left England to go and live at Hamburg. Please write me to say how he is getting along and see if there's any way he can repay the f12: which he owes me.
Apparently Mr. Joachin Peterssen is still in Spain. I don't know when I'll be paid by him either. I greet you warmly and wish you a good and happy year ahead. I am...
23 February 1690
Madame Caterine Crommelin [Frederic's mother in Le Havre, France.]
I would have had the honor of writing you at the beginning of last month to wish you a happy new year if I had not waited till now for an opportunity to write under cover of my sister in order to be thrifty in mailing out our letters. I pray God with all my heart that this year will be advantageous and abundant to you, not only in the things of this world but in a heavenly way as well which is the main thing. May God pour out on you and your family His grace most evidently so that you might succeed in all that you undertake, and that He keeps you in perfect health. I pray that He might accomplish my wishes not only for this year but for as long as he judges it proper for His glory and your well-being.
I don't doubt that you have received my letter of last 15 September. I would have thought that it would make some impression on your attitude. I must say that if you saw my situation, you would have given your strong approval. Furthermore, it happens at a time when I'm rather busy but still you complain. I admit this conduct causes me to sorrow. Permit me to say this is offensive to God, and also that you conceal matters for I know well that you sold the least cargo vessel and are threrefore in a better position than ever to let me hold 7 or 800 pounds [about $120,000 in today's purchasing power] which is the remainder owed to me. In doing this you are putting bread only into that side of the family.
I address myself to you because I believe that only you are able to render me justice. If you aren't the boss, then you should be and can be. I mentioned several other troublesome things that tarnish you but since I see that all that I've written in the past serves only to depress you, I will be satisfied to simply remind you once more of your promises. You always wrote me that I had nothing to fear and that I didn't have to take pains since the time would come when I would receive satisfaction. Well, the time has come for you to do this, therefore in God's name do it, and don't leave me to run the risk of being disadvantaged. Do it for the love of my family that is poor and on the verge of poverty. Your honor and conscience are to be engaged in this.
My little Frederic is doing well, thanks be to God. I hope someday I will have the satisfaction to see you give him your blessing and that he will be able to render you his very humble services. Tomorrow he will be 6 months old. I take the liberty to pray you to convey greetings to my sisters. I am annoyed that they are so entrenched where they are. I pray God that He takes special care of you. I am...
22 March 1690 - Received Letter #126 from Mother at Le Havre. Replied 8 May.Mother: 15 March 1690 - Le Havre
Received: 22 March
Replied: 8 May
My very dear son
I have received all your letters, the one of 17 September as well as the one of 23rd past. Thank you for all your good wishes. May God accomplish them according to his good pleasure. I believe that your sister [Catherine de Coninck] showed you a letter that I sent at the beginning of this year for all of you, and I pray God every day that He places his blessing on you and yours.
But my dear child, I see well that you yourself have some things against me and it shows in your attitude. This always grieves me and I pray God for the grace to justify each one in case it leads to fantasies as to why God did not make the vessel succeed. The ship was relatively new when it was taken in 3 years ago and since then it hasn't brought back a drop [of whale oil] while we had a lot of advance costs to equip it with a crew. Then we lost half of them because they didn't all return for the following voyage. As much insurance money was paid for it as for the biggest. Thus it had to be let go the following year because this trip was not a good one producing only about half as much oil which was sold at a cheap rate. The voyage 3 years ago flattened us, and last year without the help of friends the vessel would have been idle.
You see, the money for the big one at a rate of 50% amounts to prodigious interest plus the principal which forced us to sell off half for around 5500#, keeping a quarter in reserve. We haven't even received the money. On the contrary we owe a lot to the one we bought it from. Meanwhile Mr. Febure sold his quarter and even he was dismayed. The vessel is here while the [whale] oil remains unsold and the season is now past so we will have to wait a while longer. Believe me that you will have satisfaction. Hopefully the oil will be sold quickly. It's worth 60#. Mr. Oursel made the unfortunate purchase of part of the crew which cost 67#. He didn't know how things might go since, because of the war, all the ships would likely have been very expensive. Now he's about to die thinking about this transaction.
My dear son, you grieve me to the core. I wouldn't have done it otherwise because if I could find money reasonably or sell something, I would have done it but in these times nobody would lend us a sous. It's all a big misery. We are all ruined but according to you it all seems so simple. I say to you as before God, that the peasant doesn't pay either. One gets only 2 or 3 pistoles at a time from him. My heart goes out to others. I believe that I will be obliged at St. Michel to go and scrape up what I can. There is a farmer there who gives nothing and who has no animals. May God put an end to my misery. I know that your demands are just, but it's the point of the dagger that strikes me to the heart.
I don't know what to do for you. At Rouen a couple of months ago I came across Mr. Febure. I know only that he caused me great distress even up to the present time. Perhaps in him I can find a remedy. Also, after the sale of all the oil you will be satisfied. I wish it so and then all this noise will be over. You are always so direct and touch me so strongly. When I have this behind me, I won't have any more difficulties.
May God bless you in your vacation and that He might work to your contentment in settling the greatest deficiencies. I embrace you with all my heart. Your very affectionate mother...
27 March 1690
Monsieur Jeremie Le Blanc
I had the opportunity to write you on the 9th of January and haven't received any of your letters since that time. This one is only to...
pray that in case you didn't sell the remainder of my lace, to have you return them to me at the earliest opportunity via a friend or in some other secure manner. Only I pray that I don't run any risks and that you do it in a way that incurs the minimum expense on freight for the return. I would also like you to send me a tally of what you've sold minus what you've witheld for freight and commission, and to send me the net income in a secure letter ['bonne lettre'].
I regret the trouble this affair has caused you. I am obliged to do as much for you, so if I can be of any practical use to you, I am wholeheartedly at your service. Since I am entirely yours, please provide me some news regarding Jean Durand who I mentioned in my previous letter.
26 April 1690
[The old folks referenced in this letter may pertain to the father or relations of Judith Truffet, the first wife of Samuel Louis Crommelin by whom he had 4 sons. At this time Samuel Louis and Judith were living in Amsterdam. After her death he went to Lisburn, Ireland where he married Louise Adelaide de Belcastel. The 4 sons thus began an Irish branch of the family. The boys were:
1. Samuel Louis Crommelin who married Anne Gillot
2. Daniel Crommelin who married Marie Madeleine de la Cherois
3. Jacques Crommelin who married Esther Gillot
4. Jean Crommelin who married Esther Blaquiere
This Samuel Louis apparently had no children by his second wife, Louise Adelaide de Belcastel.]
Monsieur Samuel Louis Crommelin - [in Amsterdam]
I have the honor of having received your letter of the 22nd and am pleased to make inquiries regarding the chore that you have given me. Regarding this proposal I spoke to the directors of the house for our old people who said that all the places were currently occupied and that they had already been obliged to turn away several people who presented themselves for admission.
They have resolved to build and make other apartments available, but since this is not definite I fear that it could take a long time. All that I was able to do is bid them to advise me when a vacancy arises. Should this occur, I will give you notice immediately. For your relative and his sister they would charge about f3000. They would each have their own room. To their credit, I must say they would be well fed. There are no French folks there. Should the opportunity arise, I look forward to being of service to you. I am myself heartily employed, and my wife greets you very humbly and also my cousin, your wife. I am...
[Meanwhile on this day, May 8, Frederic's brother, Jean, was having his last will and testament notarized in London before embarking on a lace-buying trip to Brussels and then intending to visit his relations in Rotterdam and Schiedam, Holland on his way back to England.] Jean de Coninck's Will
8 May 1690
Madame Caterine Crommelin
Again I take the opportunity under cover of my sister to write you this letter to assure you of my very humble respects, and to say that I received the letter that it pleased you to write me on the 15th of March by which it seems you have given me some hope. But I don't think it got to the bottom of the following points, namely that I've seen nothing tangible for a long time; that you will leave me in the same situation; and that you will go on making the same promises in the future. Meanwhile time marches on. I admit that my patience faints and that my heart sinks. Only God can give me comfort!
If there had been any good inclinations toward me, one could have credited my account by allowing my sister Manon to come here. Thereby her father would have reimbursed me, but I was refused this. This makes me think that I don't have anything positive to look forward to. However, it is something that you recognize that my demands are just,
but this isn't enough. There's another thing that also must be recognized. I see that half the vessel has been sold. It would be my wish that the remainder also gets sold for in this time of war it would only take one unfortunate incident to lose everything. [At this time France was involved in a protracted war against an alliance consisting of England and Holland.]
My dear mother, although I'm extremely stressed since my business is worth absolutely nothing, and I face being ruined entirely, however, to show you that I acted well on my side, if I cannot be given satisfaction soon, I will just have to be patient once again provided that I'm sent in good faith by post my parchment as soon as this letter is received.
[The 'parchment' is perhaps a loan contract which shows what Robert Oursel Sr. owes Frederic for some investment before the Revocation in 1685. Perhaps this was money from Frederic's inheritance when his father, Francois de Coninck, died years earlier. In exchange for the loan contract, Frederic held a promissory note or I.O.U. from Robert Oursel Sr. on which he had been making infrequent payments.]
Only two things can console me and calm my spirit now and one is for you to send me what I ask for without delay. A stranger or barbarian wouldn't find fault with my just demands therefore I will await developments anxiously. I bid you urgently to grant me one of these two things without having me cite further reasons because that would only serve to again diminish my benefits.
Please give my regards to my brother, Francois, and suggest to him not to be so negligent in lending a hand in the 'Jardin' ['House du Jardin' - a small bed and breakfast house in Rouen owned by Catherine Crommelin with a few rental cottages] although it would be unfortunate if he came to stay at Rouen. He bears me no loss. One must admit that the boy has fallen into an insensitivity that I just can't comprehend. My wife greets you affectionately. Our little boy is doing fine and is quite cute. I embrace you wholeheartedly...
26 May 1690 - Received Letter #127 from Mother at Le Havre. Replied 17 August.Mother: 20 May 1690 - Le Havre
Received: 26 May
Replied: 17 August
My very dear son
I received yours with joy. I will be most distressed if in Holland the post for France gets forbidden because it's the only joy I have in the world. Sometimes when I get your news I am well at ease that you are all healthy and that my Frederic is a happy and nice little boy. May God bless him and may my daughter, his mother, be able to raise him in His reverence.
My dear son, I am terribly grieved in not being able to satisfy you by returning that which you requested. He [Robert Oursel Sr.] doesn't want to give it to me, and he says to send him back the promissory note which he gave and which you know about because I returned everything to you. You informed me of having received it. He retorted that when all the oil is sold then all will be finally settled. Rest assured that he is not lacking in good will. He only thunders that everything was finished several years ago but you dragged it out for such a long time that those who lived here then have since taken flight. Besides, there is no longer any means since we lost everything thereafter, and also it would be futile to try to squeeze blood out of a stone. I say truthfully before God, wait a little longer for the oil to be sold because the season for using it has passed, and if the small boats don't come here it will rise in value if it pleases God. My dear children and my dear Frederic, the pen falls from my hand with tears regarding your situation. It would be my wish that all the wrath of God would fall on me alone. I feel for you. May God pour out His blessings upon you as I too wait for my deliverance. I don't know how much still remains [to be paid on the promissory note]. [Apparently there was a dispute between Frederic and Robert Oursel Sr. as to how much was still owing on the promissory note.]
You yourself knew that you wouldn't be allowed to have what your sisters had already intimated. They just didn't want to say that it would have been a lost cause. They see the situation well. They are poor girls who never received anything from the household. A few years ago their father presented them with a bill for 240# which they paid him. It's true, since he would rather die than lose anything because of them. Sometimes Manon would ask him why. He replied 'Because I feed you.' So that's how it is, also because they are meek about all things. I haven't even given them a pair of shoes. They also work whenever they have a chance.
Your brother Francois is going to be the death of me. He said he's finished with the 'Jardin' [House du Jardin]. He is insensitive, heartless and without honour. He has no courage and doesn't apply himself to anything. He lives any way he can and goes to stay at Avril's house. If I had the means to coax him to go out and earn 200 ecus per year, I would be the best mother in the world. It's a great tragedy for him that I'm not able to do that. On him alone is spent more than I spend on my entire family. He whiles away the hours in the Jardin until he's stopped by Avril. I don't know how they get along. He doesn't have the wherewithal to rent or run a household. Evidently he shirks every responsibility. In order to not leave him founder completely he goes there to do some work which he will still do as long as I pay him. See the pain he causes me? What has become of the exhortation that I made formerly that he shouldn't spend so much money? He got that advice from me because he had a desk full of money, and he never lived sufficiently badly to reach the bottom of his bounty. [Evidently the 4 children (Catherine, Francois, Frederic and Jean) inherited a substantial amount of money when their father, Francois de Coninck, died.] You can imagine how much that would have lasted me! But I do what I can, and wonder enough about his values.
I mentioned Mr. Le Febure who came here not long ago. I said to him that if he wished I would go to Paris to obtain a place for him, but I received no reply. I faint under the affliction in which I find myself. O God, give us your peace and be merciful to your servant. Please give us deliverance so that each difficulty might be reduced in turn, and that I might be able to have the joy to see you in a state where you can live honestly. By God's grace, I will indeed be content with that.
Mr. Carron, brewer at Rouen, died 3 days ago. Several months ago there was a birth to the daughter of the late Jean Lam. I embrace you as well as my daughter, your wife, and kisses for your son from your sisters who greet him. I am your very affectionate mother...
The de Coninck Inheritance Money
Thus we have indications that the four de Coninck children inherited a sizeable fortune when their father, Francois, died at Rouen, France on 8 April 1662 after eight years of marriage to their mother, Catherine Crommelin. [Three years later, in November 1665 she married Robert Oursel Sr., her second husband, by whom she had 4 more children (ie. Robert Jr., Marie or 'Manon', Esther, Rachel).]
1. Catherine de Coninck was seven years old when her father died. She married Jean Camin in Rotterdam and probably received the least amount since inheritance money was usually settled on male heirs. [The husbands of females were expected to look after their future welfare.] If, in fact, Catherine brought little or no de Coninck inheritance money into her marriage with Camin, it could explain their subsequent refusal to take custody of Jean de Coninck's orphans since it would have involved personal sacrifice whereas a lot of inheritance money had been spread liberally amongst her 3 brothers.
2. Francois was five years old when his father died and was perhaps the one most affected by his death because he was at the most impressionable age. He stayed in France at Rouen after the Revocation where he led the life of a wastral and spendthrift - careless with the use of his bounty. Obviously he never had the love and guidance of a natural father while growing up in a large household. His step-father would naturally have favoured his own children in all respects and may have been envious of the legacy that had been left to the de Coninck children. He certainly coveted their money.
3. Frederic was two years old when his father died. He inherited a lot of money (an amount worth at least half the value of a merchant vessel) which he loaned via a 'parchment' to his step-father, Robert Oursel Sr., before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. All he had was a promissory note (I.O.U.) from Oursel and he was now desperate for money as he tried to establish himself as a tanner in a new country (Schiedam, Holland) while raising an ever-growing family of his own. Frederic had also been trading in lace, but now it was just a sideline that was being phased out as tanning increasingly became his primary occupation.
4. Jean wasn't even born yet when his father died in 1662. He was born 5 months later. He fled to London after the Revocation. Apparently much of his inheritance money remained in the hands of his step-father and guardian, Robert Oursel Sr. However he did use some of it to buy quantities of lace on which he hoped to turn a profit. Thus he was a lace trader, but not a very good one. His last will and testament, prepared in London on May 8, 1690 (before he travelled to Brussels and Rotterdam on a lace-buying trip) bequeathed his money and estate to his two little daughters, Catherine and Marthe, who would soon become orphans. Whether the orphans would actually get that money, however, would depend on Robert Oursel Sr. who, as the legal guardian of their late father, still held much of his/their inheritance money. Whether, in fact, he still had this money is questionable. It could be that much of it had already been invested into his own whaling enterprise that was failing.
Via the letters to his mother, Frederic was simply trying to keep the pressure on his stingy step-father by reminding them of the large inheritance that had passed from Frederic to Robert Oursel Sr. several years before. Soon we will see that Robert Oursel Sr. also misappropriated Jean de Coninck's inheritance money which was intended to go to Jean's two orphaned daughters. Perhaps he also tampered with the lazy Francois' inheritance money which is why Francois was involved in a lawsuit against his step-father to the end of his days. This would indicate that Robert Oursel Sr. seriously diminished all his step-sons with regards to the sizeable estate that was bequeathed to them by their natural father some 3 decades earlier. Sensitive to all the injustice that had been caused by her second husband, Catherine Crommelin was in such despair that it no doubt hastened her death in December 1694.
Having personally felt the sting of losing one's inheritance money, Frederic was all the more resolved to see justice done to his two orphaned nieces with regard to the loss of their inheritance. This explains the tenacity he displayed after 1693 in the pursuit of Daniel Crommelin in whose pockets a portion of the orphans' inheritance money eventually fell.
- [Conclusions by Miff Crommelin, Feb. 15, 2012]
22 June 1690
Monsieur Jeremie Le Blanc [in Hamburg]
You haven't given me any response although I've written you again on March 27 praying insistently that you return the remainder of my lace that isn't already sold. I therefore reiterate the same thing and bid you to send them back to me at the first opportunity in a way that you believe to be secure and sparing me as much freight expenses as possible.
At your convenience please remit the net income of what you sold. I bid you, monsieur, to give some thought to me and to rid me of this matter which only continues to drag out through long delays that may be prejudicial to me. If you had returned the said lace two months ago, it would already have been sold and accruing income. Therefore I await news from you. As you know, I am always...
24 July 1690
Monsieur Jeremie Le Blanc [in Hamburg]
Now there are 3 or 4 letters that I've written you on the subject of returning my lace. So far you haven't given me any response. I would be happier if you did. I can't believe that it's simply because you've forgotten me after all the kindness that you've displayed in the past. Therefore I don't know what to think of this affair. It's been nearly 9 months since you informed me that you were able to sell only a portion, and that you were afraid of imposing by having the remainder sent back to me. I replied bidding you to sell what you could and to return what remained at the first opportunity in a manner which you judge to be most secure, and to remit the net revenue of that which you did sell. If you sold everything I can't understand why you haven't replied. If, on the other hand, you still have some lace, then I don't know why you haven't returned anything since I've
told you many times to do so. You even shared the same sentiments and further delay is proving largely prejudicial to me. I admit, monsieur, that if my said lace were in other hands than yours, I would be most uneasy. I don't doubt, however, that not getting any response from you, and your not dealing with this affair promptly in one way or another will put an end to our relationship. Therefore I bid you in friendship, mindful that this affair is of great consequence, that you give me some consideration. If some misfortune should happen to these goods, I would be greatly incovenienced by it. This is why I pray that you take such careful precautions. When it comes to returning the favour, you will find in me a sincere friend, and one who is swift to execute your instructions. I also asked you to give me some news regarding one Jean Durand who shamefully carried away pounds30-40 from me. I don't know if he's still in your neighbourhood and what he's doing there. I am unreservedly yours...
10 August, 1690
Francois Leguat Expedition
Frederic's cousin, Jean Testart, began his voyage of adventure to the East Indies (Rodrigues/Mauritius) on this date when Francois Leguat and his nine companions left Amsterdam as passengers aboard the frigate "Swallow". Their plan was to establish a colony of Huguenots on the island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean which was then uninhabited.
Rotterdam in 1690Meanwhile, on a business trip to Brussels and Rotterdam, Frederic's brother, Jean de Coninck, was on his way back to the home of Jean Camin and Catherine de Coninck (his sister and brother-in-law) where he was staying. It was late and there was no light, and being in unfamiliar territory, he stumbled into a canal and drowned thus leaving two daughters, Catherine age 5, and Marthe age 4, as orphans.
17 August 1690
Madame Caterine Crommelin
I would not have missed writing you eight days ago under cover of my sister if I had been able to, but I was so overwhelmed that it was impossible for me to do it. The sad death of my poor brother affected me so much that I only had time for consoling myself. This blow was all the more rough on me because I had gone to Rotterdam with my wife and little Frederic intending to say farewell to him one more time before his departure which was to take place the same day. No doubt you are aware that this unfortunate accident occurred as he was returning from a dinner with one of his former neighbors. In the darkness of night he couldn't see anything so he fell into a canal at a place where he apparently thought he would encounter a bridge that would take him over to the other side. This spot is known to have been a place fatal to others who suffered the same misfortune. So ends a brother whom I liked a lot, and one who loved me no less.
My dear mother, I don't doubt that this new tragedy will cause you more great distress, especially a mother so good as you who tenderly loves all her children. I admit this blow is exceedingly difficult to bear, but after a while when you've had a chance to consider that God has ordained it for reasons that are hidden from us, it remains for us even now to love his wise providence. Thus after we have resigned ourselves to the tragedy and spent some time in grief and tears, it is necessary to console oneself again. Therefore take consolation, my dear mother, knowing that you have other children who would endure irreparable loss if they would come to lose you as well. This thought must strongly engage and preserve you, and have you return, we pray, to await when it pleases God to give us better days.
Mr. Camin wrote last week and tomorrow I will write my brother Robert so that he will take care of my two little nieces, and also have the benefit of the advice of friends to collect what he can of the effects of my late brother. On our side we will do whatever we can. He had bought a quantity of lace at Brussels which is now at the home of Mr. Camin. I will do whatever I can. One of my regrets is that I can't do a lot being somewhat powerless.
We will need your advice as much for the preservation of the children as for the rest.
I have received in due time your letter of 20 May to which I didn't reply since it would have been necessary for me to repeat my previous arguments which hadn't changed. With regard to all the promises that were made to me, I have given up since I would only despair again of any benefit. I wasn't able to prevent seeing with great surprise that Mr. Oursel dares once again to request another receipt when he has already seized my parchment. It is necessary that he understands that I have lost enthusiasm. I have been trapped. Henceforth I will be on my guard. It is to insult and mock me. Nevertheless to show him that I do not want to give him the least grounds for complaint, I willingly offer to put in hand a third of what he asks. To show that he responds in good faith, which I also request, is to have him prove it, without wavering or losing time, by simply sending me what he wishes along with my parchment. I will make the exchange upon this receipt. I will learn with impatience what he will do. Only then will I know what will happen and whether he spent the year fishing. May God watch over you and protect you from any misfortune. I am with profound respect...
Rotterdam canal, perhaps similar to the one that took the life of Jean de Coninck.
The flour mill in the background may be what a 'boure aux grains' looked like.
18 August 1690
Monsieur Robert Oursel Jr. [Frederic's half-brother in London.]
I don't doubt that the sad news that you will have received of the death of our brother has shaken you. Personally I'm so overwhelmed that I don't think I'll ever recover. I saw him shortly before he was carried away into a better world. I had gone to Rotterdam the day of the accident with the intention of saying goodbye to him one more time. Alas, what a cruel farewell! It is one that humbles us and reminds us that we know not the day or the hour when God will recall us to Himself.
Perhaps you already know how this unfortunate accident occurred. He was returning from a dinner with Mr. Portergaal, his former neighbor. In the oppressive darkness of night he fell into the canal near the grainary ['boure aux grains', perhaps flour mill] at a place where I'm told that others had suffered the same misfortune. So that's how the life of our poor brother ended who, I dare say, deserved a much better demise having been a perfectly honest man, one for whom I had the greatest affection. But it isn't for us to grumble.
We rendered him his last needs by having him buried at the French Church. But this is not enough because it is necessary now to think about our little nieces. I would have written you on this subject last week. I knew only that Mr. Camin assumed responsibility thus I add my prayers to theirs to take special care. To do this you will need the advice of our relatives and friends who I believe will not refuse you their assistance in a situation such as this. I don't doubt that you've done everything possible to collect the effects of our said brother. In that we we are of the same mind, after which a final resolution must be made.
He bought a quantity of lace at Brussels which now rests at the home of Mr. Camin [Jean Camin, husband of his sister, Catherine de Coninck where Jean de Coninck had been staying during his business trip.] It seems to me that he also...
heard him say that he had some effects at Hamburg in the hands of Mr. Le Blanc, one whom he complained a lot about. I'm not surprised. The aforementioned Mr. Le Blanc is a man who I believe doesn't have much integrity. For nearly three years he's had a carton of my lace on which I've had no satisfaction. He's never written me even though I've written him letter after letter. On the other hand, our late brother was a man of order. You will know by his books in what state his affairs were in.
My wife greets you affectionately. As for me, if I can render you any service, I am at your disposal as one who is with all my heart...
Waalsekerk or 'French Church', Rotterdam, 1690. (Picture Source:)
Reburials from the Walloon Church (Picture Source:)
Pastors during this period.
21 August 1690
Monsieur Jeremie le Blanc - [at Hamburg]
I am greatly surprised that far from expediting what I asked you to do, you choose not to reply to any of my letters. I don't know, nor can I even imagine what has come over you to behave this way - against people's rights; against all manner of integrity, and the rules of commerce. It seems to me that after so many repeated instructions, you would have rendered me justice by now. Furthermore, I've told you several times that this delay is proving greatly prejudicial to me. In fact if I had received the remainder of my lace I would have sold them a long time ago. You are not unaware that this merchandise is subject to changes in fashion and that over time it will be worth nothing.
There are times when I think that you have sold everything and that perhaps you aren't in any hurry to let me know. However, if that's the case, please enlighten me immediately about that by giving me a reply which I will await with great impatience. Recall your integrity, monsieur, and be reminded of all the promises you made me, and the friendship which you showed on several occasions. I wish to believe that it was effective and sincere and it still gives me hope that you will expedite this affair as soon as possible. I know it may not be of great consequence to you, but it's not the same with me. I told you before this is something which concerns me that you should be occupied with in taking special care. I swear that if you had given me the least chore, I would have expedited it in a manner which would have been satisfactory or at least I would have done my best. Anyway, monsieur, if I get no response from you in 15 days, please do not be offended if I write to a friend to have him take my interests off your hands and to take care of them.
You may have learned about the unfortunate accident that happened to my brother a few days ago. He came from England to this country on a tour to see some friends. He had the misfortune to fall into a canal in Rotterdam while returning from a dinner with one of his friends, and was drowned. It seems to me that he mentioned that some of his goods were in your hands - something I was told recently. For the time being, please take care of them. I am...
1 September 1690
Monsieur Pierre Godefroy Jr. - [Frederic's tanning-business associate in Amsterdam.]
I have received your kind letter of the 31st past. I don't know how...
to thank you for the kindness that you have shown me in the past regarding my personal interests. In the last letter I wrote to monsieur Le Blanc I emphatically pressed him to give me satisfaction and advised him that if he didn't give me a response soon that I would be obliged to write a friend in Hamburg unless he gave me reason to do otherwise. I sent my letter via monsieur Gassen who promised to write on my behalf. However, despite all that, I still haven't received any response, and it appears that I won't be getting one. He wrote me from London sympathizing with the said Le Blanc and finally your letter opened my eyes. Now I see that he's a man who does poorly in his affairs. This is why, monsieur, since you don't mind doing something out of friendship, I request that you don't bother removing anything just yet until I've been able to assess the situation to my entire satisfaction. In other words, I'll try once more using softer words.
I strongly believe that he sold my lace a long time ago. It amounts to about f500: according to the bill I sent him. As I know that your advice is good, I will follow whatever you judge appropriate in this matter. I confess that if I were able to do it your way, you would do me a great pleasure and I would be most obliged. You wish me to place confidence in you so that I don't end up in a state of loss having had misfortune from all directions since some friendships without substance have caused me to lose plenty. There is a proverb that says that 'benevolence well imparted begins with good faith'. By this I mean that if you can retrieve this from the hands of the aforementioned Mr. Le Blanc, you would perhaps later on, by some means, also do something about my late brother Jean de Coninck who was also owed about f600:. But that would be asking too much of you at one time and stretch your indulgence.
The 4 bills you sent me are fine. I heartily agree that you must send me the ones from our butchers, those who have tied us in knots up to the present time. By them I will see if there is some way I can do something. Thankfully you took the trouble, but I'm a bit confused by them.
At your convenience please buy us some part of Lot #4 or #26 if there's nothing else to do.
I note that thieves have struck our shed and taken 2 or 3 dozen of our small hides. Thank goodness the loss wasn't any bigger. Please see to it that this misfortune can't happen again. If the aforementioned place isn't too secure, preparations should be made to take the merchandise somewhere else.
With regard to the leathers for Messieurs Mauillees, please have them stretched and dried as soon as possible, otherwise there is the fear that they no longer can be. Also be careful that they aren't put under the hot sun or they will become bleached and some will become brittle. It will do them good to be pulled and stretched. Since you know several of these men, the chamaiseurs, it isn't as though one of them can't give you some additional advice and offer a few recommendations if necessary. Tomorrow I'll send you an invoice for them.
With best regards and also from my wife, I am wholeheartedly...
4 September, 1690
Francois Leguat Expedition
Frederic's cousin, Jean Testart, aboard the frigate "Swallow" leaves Texel in Holland in a convoy of 24 sail, English and Dutch, bound for the Indian Ocean.
8 September 1690
Monsieur Tobie Amsincq - [at Amsterdam]
Monsieur Godefroy wrote me saying that he had spoken to you about a matter which I have with Mr. Le Blanc of Hamburg, and that you had the kindness to...
promise him to forward my letters under your cover and to recommend me to Mr. Herman Wetken, your relative. I'm writing you this letter to thank you and to let you know that I'm very much obliged. The said Jeremie Le Blanc is a man whose business manner is unjust and inexcuseable since he hasn't written me for a year and provided no reason why. I would be very happy if I can render you any service if you could get to the bottom of this. As a person who is entirely and wholeheartedly at your service...
8 September 1690
Monsieur Herman Wetken - [at Hamburg]
As Mr. Tobie Amsincq, who I had the honour of addressing at Amsterdam, told me that he was sending over several documents to you, I enclose my request that a carton of lace from Mr. Jeremie Le Blanc be returned to me via yourself, wishing that you might do me this courtesy. May I also request receipt from the said Mr. Le Blanc of money he owes me from whatever lace was sold and have you give him the enclosed invoice to cover the cost of the shipment.
The said Mr. Amsincq requests this favor, and I would be most obliged to you. I would be most pleased to be able to render you any services in return, bidding you urgently to deal with this matter, as one who is with great respect...
[Apparently this letter wasn't sent, but superseded by the one following. Perhaps he received a letter from Mr. Godefroy with some new information the same day...]
8 September 1690
Monsieur Herman Wetken
Pardon me, monsieur, if I take the liberty of requesting a favor from you with regard to a matter which I have with Mr. Le Blanc concerning a carton of my lace which he's had for a long time. I've been fruitlessly writing him for a year to get some news from him.
Mr. Godefroy who sympathized with my claim referred me to Mr. Amsincq at Amsterdam who found occasion to write him and said something about me that was not to his liking, but at least it finally produced a letter from him in which he says he transacted business in a rather peculiar way, having sold the said box of lace for about 180 marks. He doesn't say when it was sold but only that he wouldn't receive the money until October. Furthermore that if anyone promised to reimburse him but didn't pay directly [ie. on credit], he would advance them, and that I should be at ease with the man because he isn't well.
I implore you, monsieur, very humbly that you might wish to bring some order to this matter by taking advantage of his offer to be helpful. Ask him again for the box of lace and the net monies that he should be able to provide. Remain firm until he provides satisfaction. Keep the said money in your hands while you extract a tally from him so that one can know who his debtors are [ie. those who bought lace on credit]. I would add to my request that it be done as soon as possible because if it is done sooner, I still hope to be able to put a halt to some of the goods that he has. This apparently was the worry contained in the letter from Mr. Godefroy which caused him to respond to me. He also notes in the letter that what I wanted to give you is perhaps a packet of nuisance for Mr. Ansincq. Hopefully you won't see it as other than a friendly favor if you were to take the goods without causing a fuss.
I begged Mr. Amsincq in my letter, and hence you as well, to excuse my liberty. I enclose the attached letter that can be shown to the said Le Blanc along with an invoice for the remainder of the lace which he still has in his possession.
I greet you very humbly and am with all my heart...
8 September 1690
Monsieur Jeremie le Blanc - [at Hamburg]
I am in receipt of your letter of the 22nd past. I'm surprised to find criticism of my action.
It's true that you don't mind selling my box of lace quickly in order to turn a profit but when one begins to serve his friends, not even a hint of willingness is shown to respond to a single letter that I've written you.
This being the case, I am content to have the lace returned to me. I don't doubt that my request is quite agreeable to you. That's why, knowing Mr. Amsincq and Mr. Wetken to whom you send various marchandise, I ask that you turn over to him the said carton and that he give you an invoice following a tally, and that he also picks up the net revenue since this is also desired. I've asked him to stay until he is satisfied.
Mr. Amsincq will write him and I will also. At the same time please give him a list of the names of those who owe you money which is due to be paid at the end of October. Other than that, please excuse the trouble that I've caused you, believing that I am...
5 October 1690 - Received Letter #128 from Mother at Le Havre. Replied 12 October.Mother: 16 September 1690 - Le Havre
Received: 5 October
Replied: 12 October
My dear son and daughter
The death of your poor brother Jean upset me so much that I wasn't able to write in response to the letter you wrote together. Alas, how this blow surprised me. O my God how you repeatedly chastise me, but O Eternel, do not punish me in your wrath. You know how much my children mean to me and how they are the most precious joy in the world to me, and that I deserve better than their death, and to see them depart before me! I am left but to languish. I know that when God calls us and gives us the grace to die in our bed, little by little, we are able to gradually submit to the will of God. But when death comes suddenly as it did to your dear brother, I cannot find consolation. O my dear children, what a farewell you came to give him - a last farewell for ever! This dear son wrote me on the 3rd of last month. He informed me that he had been to see you at your home and that he admired to see my dear grandson, Frederic, and how advanced he is for his age, and the joy that it pleases God to give you.
My dear son, I pray that you inform Mr. Camin regarding the two little orphans. I have written Mr. Mettayer to see if he wants to take them in as boarders, and I pray him to inform me how much he wants for the two. [Perhaps the children were left in the care of Mr. Mettayer in London when Jean de Coninck went on his business trip to Brussels and Holland.] I don't think my 'father' Tetard would want them. [Pierre Testart - father of Daniel's wife, Anne Testart - who was married to Anne Baullier, his 3rd wife.] They would be well with her [Anne Baullier] also and I am obliged for the sake of charity to have them taken to her place until friends have made other arrangements. Having them near you, the girls will be quite happy because you know well, dear daughter, what it's like to live without a father or mother. The good Lord will be their all.
As for what you suggested, you can think that I don't have it [the money from the sale of their least cargo vessel]. However, this is not through misuse of it. Before imagining I did wrong, I have to ask you to see what is left of it beginning with the sale of the small vessel. It had to be done otherwise the volume of [whale] oil would not increase. Up till now the little vessel had been operating at a loss. I assure you, my son, that it is with extreme regret that I cannot do what I wish to do, God be my judge, and if you were in my place you would have a better understanding of the times, affairs and situation than you have.
Your mother was at the cottage [at Rouen] some days ago to overcome my anxiety. I was with him [Robert Oursel Sr.] and 'Manon' for 6 days to regain my composure and also to seek support and solace with regard to my sorrow.
I am gravely worried that your brother [Francois de Coninck]... [illegible] ...to God, my dear son and daughter. I embrace you with all my heart. Your brother sends his greetings and also your sisters who ask that you continue your cordial contact, and that God may bless and keep you. Greetings also to our friends. I am your very affectionate mother.
8 October 1690
Monsieur Herman Wetken - [at Hamburg]
I received with honour your letter of 2nd September. I am most obliged for the favor you did me in willingly dealing with my situation. Since then I received a letter from Mr. Le Blanc who told me that he turned over the carton of lace to you along with a note for f120:5 which he says is the net revenue from what had been sold, regarding which he also said that he made an accounting for you.
I would be pleased, monsieur, if you would send it to me along with the rest of my lace via postal coach from Amsterdam or via anyone whom you judge to be secure while possibly employing lower freight costs. Monies should be adjusted to cover this and also a commission for your involvement. Also please advise what you consider fair to give to Mr. Amsincq. I wish to thank you again for the trouble this matter has caused you and I repeat humbly my offer to provide you with any services, wishing you to believe that I am respectful with all my heart...
12 October 1690
Madame Caterine Crommelin
I have the honour of your letter of 16 September. This comes only a little later than when I received it. I agree that when God calls us to faith, it must be to us a great consolation when He allows us to approach death on our bed, as you well assert. Then one detaches from life little by little and submits readily to the will of God. One can't say how He allows it to happen otherwise we would worry about it. In any case, my dear mother, I see that you aren't at all comforted regarding what has extremely afflicted us all. Give a little thought to us as well. Give some thought to the two little orphans who now need you and your protection. These considerations must occupy you and they will relieve you by calming your spirit. Do that then, in God's name.
Except for what he had in France, my late brother left little in the way of possessions behind. It is still scattered on one side or the other including his furnishings. I don't know what he did in a year or two and I doubt strongly that he was able, or desired, to diminish his belongings as I did. What surprises me is that I noticed that he didn't appear to take any great pains for the future. He was quite secluded and acted like a man who was quite at ease which extremely surprised me when I discovered the state of his assets after his death. If he didn't lose in his trading, he must have had a lot of expenses because I know he had taken a large bounty with him over to England although this was because he naturally had to think about his children. [This 'bounty' was likely a portion of his inheritance money.]
Apparently he vaguely mentioned that you told him that it was to be sent to you which I couldn't believe. I believe you to be too good a Christian for that. This would be to mock God and to lose the children that do it. If God allows the truth to be proclaimed in France, we should see it...
in these days for I believe that only those who are charged with it will honor it.
I won't mention what state the guardianship is in. It's too long a story. Besides, I believe you have already been informed. I will say only that we wrote last week to Mr. Camin, and I to brother Robert, that the most expedient way would be that he takes charge of this affair, which is to say that he will properly lend only his name with regard to the debts. When the girls have returned we will put their legacy into an interest-earning situation here for their future provision or, if in England, in the secure hands of cousin Jean de la Chambre if he chooses to look after the childrens' needs. If there isn't any way to settle them inexpensively in the country where they are, they will have to be sent to this country. Although I'm already overloaded, I'm poor, my domicile is still somewhat uncertain and I consider myself declining day by day, nevertheless if no better place can be found, I said that I would take them in my home for a while and for only a modest boarding fee. I would like to do better but it isn't in my power. I even hope that you might wish to contribute something. I would like to say that you have an interest in what is owed to them in remembrance, and also to maintain them in their education which could not take place otherwise. That's all I can say about this matter.
I am well pleased to see some inclinations that give me satisfaction. They seem so extraordinary that I will only be able to believe it when I see it. I am to be returned the balance owing without me even asking for it, something done without mystery. In short, I will say that he [Robert Oursel Sr.] is to return the sum of f658:15 up to the present following our agreement. I don't believe that one can find anything wrong with that since it is just and fair. You can imagine that I'll be waiting impatiently for the end of this affair which has given me much grief. I beg you in the name of God that this can be done soon.
I am quite obliged to my brother [Francois] for his remembrance. I believed that he had quite forgotten. Please convey to him my best regards. If he takes my advice he would take up arms. That would be more honorable than to stay at home doing nothing. If I were in his place, I would have done it a long time ago. There are plenty of others who have joined the army and they are all from good families.
I greet also my three sisters, especially my sister Manon. I would like to thank her for her consoling letter. I have enclosed a banknote for my sister asking that you give it to her so that she might be informed about an honest man who is believed to be on the galleys which are presently at Rouen. There has been no news from him since he was condemned. He was a sailor by profession. His wife and son are here and would like him to have some money for his relief. Monsieur Jean Godefroy should be able to find out if he's located on the said galleys and his condition. Please write him about it so he can gather some news about him, and please let me know soon.
You didn't mention what became of this vessel; whether you still had 4 out fishing, and whether they returned well loaded. This is something that I would like to know because we are always most interested in what touches you. My wife greets you very humbly. Our little one is still quite handsome. He can now walk by himself and his teeth are beginning to show. I embrace you, praying with all my heart that God may keep you. I am...
24 October 1690 - Received Letter #129 from Mother at Le Havre.
Mother: 18 October 1690 - Le Havre
Received: 24 October
I just received, my very dear son, yours of the 12 current to which I will respond by this brief note because I don't have much time. I will have to write more later.
It's true that the death of your poor brother Jean affected me strongly and that it is still continually before my eyes. I pray, however, that God gave him mercy. I pray God to give me patience and enable me to resign myself to his sacred will without murmuring. I assure you, my dear son, that the good Lord has tested me in the crucible in every way possible.
What appears to be of most concern to you since the 12 days I spent at Rouen is the problem of selling the oil, but it will be done having contracted with a good party here for a more advantageous sale to Sardinia. Not enough was offered for it at Rouen and in future there will be lower overhead because this party will advance the money to pay for part of the crew. This is necessary in order to raise a little confidence that the boats won't be idle here this year. We hope we won't lose as much on the part of the boats as unfortunately we did on the purchase [of the small vessel]. Hopefully if all goes well and if it pleases God, he will have things under control. I've had enough tears over this matter but merciful God, the situation was desperate, and if it pleases God I will soon be able to relieve my dear child.
I am well pleased that my daughter, your wife, is willing to take on the poor orphans for a boarding fee. May God bless you for your charity. I think it would be better to go over and collect them because I fear they aren't big enough to simply send them over. Assuredly something will be done for them. You will have them until it pleases God to restore liberty here. It's true that I wish to have them because I see that nobody else has a place for them. Furthermore things are getting better, and those who chose to stay will not be lost if it pleases God. May God give me the grace to someday embrace you my dear son and my dear daughter. God bless my little Frederic. All your sisters greet you. I am very affectionately yours...
25 November 1690
Monsieur Tobie Amsincq - [at Amsterdam]
Again I take the liberty to write you, thanking you very humbly for your kindness in referring me to Mr. Wetken with regard to the problem I had with monsieur Le Blanc. I am most obliged to you for all that but in the meantime the least I can do is express my gratitude in this letter and await the opporunity to do so verbally. Monsieur, your uncle, was able to act on my behalf in a most obliging manner.
I didn't write to his benefit which only served to increase the postage on letters that I owe him and for which he didn't even want to be reimbursed. Please, sir, when you write him please convey my compliments and mention that I am his very humble servant. Know for certain that if you have anything to action, I would make it a priority to render you service with pleasure. I greet you warmly and am...
18 December 1690
Monsieur Jeremie le Blanc - [at Hamburg]
I have duly received the letter that you wrote me on September 16 with discount of f128:51 on monsieur Gaussen which you say is the net revenue of what you sold, and I also received my lace although quite soiled. I am obliged for the trouble this matter caused you and thank you.
You gave me hope that you might also settle the accounts of my late brother. Please, monsieur, I earnestly wish you to give some thought to this and send me a tally of what is sold and what remains unsold. Please advise at the same time whether you have any plans for the remainder so that I might know how to proceed. I will be pleased to await your response. I pray God that you are fully recovered from the pneumonia that you had on the lungs, and am heartily...
2 December 1690
Refusal of the custody of the two orphans by Jean Camin
Click to enlarge.
Today the 2nd of December 1690 appearing before me, Mr. Jean van Lodenstein, notary public, etc., Mr. Jean Camin, merchant of this city, known to me, who, having seen a copy of the last testament of the late Mr. Jean de Coninck, his brother-in-law, merchant living in London, made and signed by him at London on 8 May 1690 in which testament he bids the said monsieur present to take care of his children and wishes him to be their guardian, which the said Monsieur by signing this act absolutely refuses.
Considering that they live here in Rotterdam, it is impossible for them to be able to care for the children living at London, and that furthermore the laws of this country exclude the guardianship of persons domiciled at London, therefore this guardianship request cannot be fulfilled and said Monsieur requested me to act on this, which I cannot refuse him.
Thus made at Rotterdam in the presence of Nicolas and Gerard vander Ploug, witnesses to this request.
J. van Lodenstein, Notary Public, 1690
G. vander Plough
N. vander Ploug
The Municipal Archive of Rotterdam
Hofdijk 651, 3032 CG Rotterdam
[Since the Camin family effectively abandoned the orphans by refusing to take custody of them, the next logical guardian would be the late Jean de Coninck's half-brother, Robert Oursel Jr., who lived in London where the orphans were.]
19 December 1690
Monsieur Robert Oursel Jr. - [at London]
I was pleased to receive your letter of 25 November to which I would have replied earlier had I not made a trip to Leiden of some days which I was obliged to do. I heartily approve the reasons that you put forward for not accepting the guardianship of the children of our late brother. They match my own sentiments. It would have been good if you were well established and had an assured home. Besides, there is a clause in the will that excludes all others than those named within it.
On the other hand, I can't blame Mr. Camin for not wanting to make this commitment because the estates on both sides are in France, paternal and maternal. You know that one could apply as a foster party, something that everyone dreads, although the guidelines for these matters would be quite clear. Consultation was taken up here at the Hague on this subject but we encountered great difficulties. To circumvent this I found a way that hadn't been heard of before but one which I think can be pursued by one who invoked an act involving a close relative, including my mother, in which one obtains unanimously the welfare of the said children and their education. It would mean bringing together those who have the most income and putting together a trust fund in their name and placing it in secure hands. I believe this would be the quickest way, however, you can't be impatient. As God is my witness, I have a real worry that this affair could drag out for a long time. If everyone were in agreement with me, it could be more than three months before this would be over, but I can't grab people by the throat. I'll press forward as much as possible, meanwhile continue looking after the children until we can find a definite place for them.
I'm told that the better part of his furnishings were sold which returned a reasonable enough sum of money. I don't know if the jewels and silverware were included. I beg you to not spend it on useless things and to be as frugal as possible because I know that money goes rather quickly in England. Besides, if they are treated justly, these children will have assets to sustain them for some time, and it must serve as a fund for them in the present time.
When our late brother was here he was somewhat guarded about his affairs although I didn't hide anything from him and spoke to him quite candidly. Being quite busy he appeared to be a man who would have had at least f20,000 in cash which didn't surprise me a bit when I discovered the state of his affairs. I don't know how he could have done it in only one or two years if he didn't get some help besides because I strongly doubt that he was able to downsize as I did. Please gather together all his debts which you can find and let me know the number of times he wrote what goods he had in the hands of Le Blanc, and how much that amounts to. I've written the said Le Blanc and asked him to send me a tally of what was returned and what remains...
to be sold and what measures he plans to take. I believe there are gloves and embroidered ties, gold and money.
Please also enquire of Mr. Guilpin if it's true that he has costs amounting to f3: slated to be held in this country for the son of mademoiselle Cartout. The said lady is presently at Rotterdam and has a desperate need for money so she urgently asks for it again. If it's true, then this Mr. Guilpin could pay her son f28 at Rotterdam thus satisfying the said mademoiselle Cartout, and then he could pay us the difference.
I forgot to mention that our late brother in his will etablished Mr. Camin as the guardian and trustee which means that he must fill out all the guardianship forms. There is an office that was consulted and found to be quite difficult for those cases involving France because when you tell me that one runs no risks following English laws, the children when they come of age may not pay you, and thus they can ruin you because they will be following the laws of France. But while this clause isn't in our favour, I would say just between you and me that I don't think Mr. Camin really wanted to assume the guardianship anyway. I would reiterate that I myself am true in all my efforts to finish this matter. What I find extraordinary is that my mother who was keen at first, has left us in a quagmire in the meantime. I don't even know if she's in a mood to participate in the act that I mentioned earlier. In truth it makes me shriek and I can't understand anything about her conduct. Meanwhile she craves having true religion re-established in France. It would be easiest to simply send her the children. [Apparently Frederic wasn't aware yet that Jean Camin had already notarized a refusal to become the guardian of the two orphans...]
I don't know what you mean when you say that you could leave at the end of February. It would hurt them what you wrote about some voyage. Ree and Ghee are still the same and equally loyal. These men work at a trade that will not decline, and their profits are shared. As for me I derive my benefits close to the earth. The tannery is a nasty profession. I could only go lower by quitting it altogether, and then I would soon have nothing without a special blessing from heaven which I implore with all my heart.
My wife greets you affectionately. We have a little boy who is very sweet and we have another one underway. If you see my uncle Daniel, please give him my regards. I think about him often. I close by wishing you all sorts of contentment and satisfaction, and am yours...