Frederic de Coninck Letters Translation Project

Closing the lace-trading partnership between Frederic de Coninck in Holland
and his half-brother, Robert Oursel Jr., in London before Robert's
Voyage to Jamaica in February 1693, birth of Frederic's son Jean de Coninck


Schiedam, Holland
November 21, 1692

Mister Robert Oursel Jr.

I have the honor of your 2 letters of the 21 and 25th past. Our little nieces have been staying with us already for 15 days, for whom I have a lot of affection and tenderness. I admit that it hasn't been without difficulties that I took them in for reasons which I wrote you before. Besides that I find my large family load causing me some difficulty, but seeing that too much pension was being asked to have them placed in Rotterdam, this fact made me resolve to have them stay in my home. One asked f140 in pension for each one. This led me to shop around and find a woman who would do it for f120 each, but that too would not have been satisfactory. Therefore I took them in for f200 per year for both. I treat them like my own children and if God grants days to my wife, she will instruct them in all sorts of tasks. This will enable them to one day earn a living or at least make themselves useful.

As for their clothing, so far I've managed alright doing what I can, and I don't buy anything for them that isn't absolutely necessary. If God grants us peace and religion is restored in France, I would send them to my mother because my establishment in this country still isn't too solid. I may be obliged to look for income elsewhere which is why I protect what I have as much as possible. With regard to the bill for the cost of the lace which I ask of you, it would bring me much joy if I had the money. I wrote you that the purchase value amounts to about f1600. Mr. Camin managed to sell a portion and sent the remainder to you and Mr. Godefroy. The other lace has been sold for 20% profit. It was sold for 5 to f600 without loss, but as you know what remains is always less expensive and less well made. Thus there is the fear that there is a lot to lose. One plans nevertheless to do the best that one can, and if we're lucky our plans can realize a return of some f1000 or f1100.

This amount would be needed to pay for the children to stay in this country and to maintain them for some time. I will make an exact accounting of my expenditures and income and you too will render an accounting. That is all I can say regarding this item about your guardianship. I note that your father showed more consideration for you than he had for my plans. Apparently he wouldn't have liked it if I had accepted the lace.


It isn't difficult to see why he showed that preference for you, but I won't go into detail. I see that you have deferred and that you have drawn from him less than half of what belongs to the children. I don't doubt that you would give me a reasonable portion of what you have in your hands as it would be only fair. Besides, I don't understand what you said in your last letter, that you don't want to be bound, or 'have a knife put to your throat'. I don't understand that. I don't doubt that you have much affection for the children, but I'm persuaded that they will suffer being entirely penniless at least as long as you remain single. Please consider that you are carrying their money to a country far away. As the voyage is dangerous even without the perils of the sea, I fear it falling into the hands of enemies. Besides, you are mortal, therefore please, I say, reflect on what will become of the children if some misfortune should befall you.

I recently heard that you will be leaving things pertaining to them in the hands of Mr. de la Chambre who will benefit from it. But if you want to provide coverage, at least send me a document regarding your guardianship so that I am able to know who is guaranteeing the children - those to whom one has recourse should some misfortune happen to you.

Moreover, I have no interest in writing about this further. I protest only what I regard pertains to the children. That's why I ask you to take a firm grasp on what I have to say. If you cut off goodwill in all this, you take away the least appearance of pity. I swear as before God that if I don't accept the guardianship, your father would have to do it as he must for the children's sake. I was afraid of getting into an argument with him over this and didn't want to accept the responsibility without having their welfare made clear so there would be no dispute in the future. I am not a combattive person, but wish to persuade you again of the advantage of my sincerity, speaking frankly and without guile, while at the same time you should be the least likely to grumble.

I declare that I am ready to accept the guardianship according to the laws of England and give you a valid discharge if you and your father wish to hand over to me jurisdiction over all that generally pertains to the children. Just so you don't think I'm saying this in order to get my hands on their money, I consent that it be handed over in this country by a trusted intermediary. You see that I speak to you plainly and not with hard feelings. If you complain again it isn't my fault. You know to whom that applies.

It isn't enough that you hand over to me only what you must, but also what comes from the other side [the inheritance money] because I can't make any charitable promises. At least your father is putting in my hand good promissory notes to pay on reasonable terms which he accepts via people he knows and trusts. Therefore see if you can carry that out. If you succeed in doing that, please let me know as soon as possible. And if you don't have the time to hand me an accounting, you can pass a proxy [power of Attorney] over to Mr. de la Chambre who can do it in your name. If you don't accept the offer that I'm making you, then please don't talk to me anymore about this matter.

Our little nieces are doing well. They embrace you. 'Catin' is so pretty and she babels incessantly. The other is not the same. She doesn't say anything. Please send over their necklaces unless you've already put them in their trunk. Many thanks for the knives that you sent me. Please let me or Mr. Camin know the name of the vendor where you bought them and where he lives. Mr. Camin wrote saying that you sent him an accounting. Therefore I see that you have settled with him completely. It remains for me to wish you a bon voyage and good results. I pray God with all my heart that He preserves you; keeps you from peril and fear; that He guides you to a safe harbour; that your grand schemes for getting established meet your expectations; and that you succeed to your complete contentment. Please do me the pleasure of writing...


to let me know how you like the country. Be assured that though there will be a great distance between us, I will never forget you ever, and you will always find in me a good brother ready to assist you in any way that I can. My wife embraces you and bids you well. I don't believe she has more than 15 days before delivering another baby. Please assure my uncle Crommelin of my reports and that I wish him similarly a good voyage. I embrace you with all my heart and finish...

[PS. I forgot to tell you that I believe Mr. Camin will pay interest on the money which remains here.]

Schiedam, Holland
December 8, 1692

Madame Caterine Crommelin [ - birth of Frederic's son Jean de Coninck]

My wife delivered on Tuesday evening a boy which I presented yesterday for baptism with Miss de Rochefort. He has been named Jean de Coninck. It will please you that he has this name, especially if you remember that my father liked it a lot. He is healthy and strong, and the mother also. So, my family is growing! God by his grace wishes to augment it. My children reverence Him and He gives me what is necessary for their righteous instruction.

Paul de Rapin, Seigneur de Thoyras

[This baby boy, Jean de Coninck, was born 2 December 1692 at Schiedam, died 1774 at The Hague. At the tender age of 14 he decided to go to Batavia so he wouldn't be a burden to his parents' large family. After difficult beginnings fortune favored Him. He returned home in 1733. On 1 October 1736 he married at The Hague, Suzanne Esther de Rapin-Thoyras, daughter of Paul de Rapin, Seigneur de Thoyras, the notable historian (above), and Marie Anne Testart. She was born 2 January 1710 at Wesel, Germany and died 20 October 1785 at The Hague.

Jean and Suzanne Esther de Rapin-Thoyras went on to have children, one of whom was a boy named Frederic de Coninck (1740-1811) who became the famous shipping magnate in Denmark. (See: - Also: - And:)]

At his death, Jean left 5 children of Suzanne Esther de Rapin:

  • Marie-Anne de Coninck (1738-1811) [married Philippe Muisson]
  • Frederick (1740-1811) [married Marie de Joncourt]
  • Henriette (1743-1807) [remained single]
  • Jean (1744-1807) [married 3 times to Theodore Scheliebeeck; Christine Reyersen; Johanne-Sophie Wleugel]
  • Cecile (1745-1819) [married Paulin-Philippe-Henri de Dompierre de Jonquieres]
  • I have taken in the children of my late brother. As long as they stay here I will take care of their education and my wife will teach them all manner of handicrafts. But since so many children causes us some difficulty, please don't think it wrong that I'm sending you the little nieces so that God will give us some peace. I see that brother Robert has received from his father a portion of the money which belongs to them. I am most astonished that their money is being taken by him to Jamaica. The thought scares me because if some misfortune should happen to him, the children will be reduced to misery. To prevent that from happening, I wrote him a long letter of which I hope to send you an extract. I told him that I am ready to accept the guardianship for the well-being of the children provided that he and his father judiciously hand over everything that pertains to them. I don't pretend to have any other motive in hand. I will put things in place for them. I don't know how he will respond, so now I'm waiting impatiently for news from him.

    I wrote with integrity to my brother Francois appealing to him for immediate justice regarding the money received from Duijnkerke, but I haven't received any response. I see no advantage in writing him again; it will be time wasted. I see clearly that this person was born only to give sorrow to the whole family. However, please see that he learns about the arrival of our new baby.

    I duly received your two letters of 30 August and 22 November. We greet you affectionately, bidding you to remember us. God willing we may soon be able to have the satisfaction of embracing you ourselves and showing you how much I am...

    Schiedam, Holland
    19 December, 1692

    Monsieur Robert Oursel Jr

    I received on Tuesday your letter of November 22. I believed that you would respond clearly and without being evasive regarding my proposition which I made to you - that I was ready to accept the administration of the well-being of our nieces. But far from clarity, you counter with mountains of difficulties and procedures that scare me.

    You gave me no hint by your previous letters. The truth is that you don't believe that I will undertake the proposition that I made to you and that you find more comfort in not relinquishing the guardianship especially since you have now received from your father a portion of the money that belongs to the children. Now you hope to receive the remainder in due time. I told you already this is not negotiating liberally one with another. In fact, it's what the proverb calls 'striking a rock with two blows'. It is equity that must be sought now, and at the same time it seems to satisfy you somehow. But now let's talk about business. If I did not...


    speak sooner regarding assuming the guardianship, you know the reasons why. I mentioned it in my previous letters, and if I did not speak of it until only a short time ago, it's because I didn't know earlier what your intentions were. You are about to carry the money of the orphans into a far-away country, namely Jamaica. Now tell me that you will be less mortal in this country than you are in England, and that you will be amongst more of your friends and acquaintances. That isn't so. You don't have to go further than Spain to get murdered. Then all our correspondence generally gets lost, and our friends never learn under what circumstances certain things were done and their consequences. Then who will go so far in order to render a proper accounting? Besides, you can easily perish in leaving or returning, or be seized by enemies.

    In short, I make you again the same offer as before which is that I'm ready to accept the administration as per the conditions I gave previously. If you don't want that, then I wash my hands of what can occur. On my faith and honour, I declare that I have only the well-being of the children in mind in this affair because your voyage scares me. Because I don't want to see the children's money put in jeopardy, I wish you would hand it over to the Bank of Amsterdam or Rotterdam, or some other place which is secure, where it can earn some reasonable interest.

    With regard to what you said about the terms of the accounting, you say not to fear. But I say that it horrifies me. I know this having strictly examined it. God give me the grace to forget the inhumane manner in which I have been treated. Furthermore, I'm astonished that you have struck this chord. I didn't consult you on this scheme because I already told you the plans of things which didn't please you, and which wouldn't be able to draw you. Let's live in peace, please, in the return of our mutual accounts. Between honest gentlemen such as ourselves we must be careful about the quibbling that appears on one or two pieces of paper signed by our hand because of its effect in this affair. It can't have any benefit between brothers, and can only stir things up royally.

    As a guarantee, I will give you a valid discharge passed before a notary. It seems to me that I can't give you a better one so that, as you say, I won't be able to lay claim to the money. Our relatives will, however, be able to engage it through your father. You will also be able to do so with his involvement in negotiating the obligations you have in hand. This would be acceptable by your credit and repayment in reasonable time.

    You suggested convening a general assembly of relatives who are in this country, but to do that would be an endless task and one that would serve no useful purpose. Therefore please reflect on what I have asked you. See if you wish to agree with it, but I believe that you have taken a stand that nothing can be advantageous to you. I think what you want to say is to leave things to the courts. I wish with all my heart that the law would be advantageous to one or the other.

    It's good that God has men who, if you cannot make the children's money work, you lend it to them at reasonable interest. In a word, I don't doubt that you can put it to good use. I am happy that you have put your affairs in good order. I bid you to take all precautions and to risk nothing. You would do me great pleasure if you would send me a document regarding your guardianship so that I might know who has responsibilities with respect to recourse should anything go wrong. Authorize whomever you please. Meanwhile I will protect our nieces at my home as much as I can. I am already loaded with a large number of children which are creating a lot of difficulties for us. If peace comes, I will send them to my mother, or better, if a little while later fortune favors you and reunification takes place in England, there may be a different ending. It would be just if the Lord gives them to you since you happen to be their tutor. I don't doubt that the virtue of amity exists between you and your plans for them, and the affection which you carry for them in particular. You will not overlook the possibility of having them well situated and well provided for.


    I saw Mr. Camin yesterday. He told me that he had written you and that he would write you again today on the subject of the accounts on which you have some questions. I urged him to reconcile with you. He promised to do that. With regard to the things you asked about, it seems that you will have to be content with what I have already said on the subject.

    I am sending you a bad bill which isn't just. It will only serve to complicate matters. You are not unaware that I have responsibility regarding justice in this affair and that I cannot simply do as I please. If you weren't my brother, I wouldn't have worried when you sent me no lace, but in this situation I must regard the welfare of the children. Besides, one cannot become unfettered from those in this country. Immediately when everything is sold I will present a request to the magistrates of Rotterdam and you will also render an accounting by and by. It seems to me that what I say to you is reasonable and that you will be satisfied.

    I have sent for a valise of defunct business in which I found some letters from Fr. Grossart in which the latest is dated in the year 1689 with some litigation. Another defunct letter deals with a transaction that had been protested. I didn't see any other papers than that. I would like it if you would follow up on these because I can't do anything with them from here. Permit me to say that since little appears difficult to you in your letters, your style is confusing and difficult to follow in certain places, thus making difficulties for all. This leads me to conclude that you have no real plan regarding the relegation of your administration. Since you want to appear as though you have things under control, and for the sake of putting our minds at ease, please send me immediately a document of your said administration in some form so that one is able know who will provide guarantees. It is something that you cannot refuse in good faith and in good conscience. Thus I certainly hope that you will give us this satisfaction before your departure. This is what I earnestly bid you to do. If you had come earlier, we wouldn't be having problems now, and we would have straightened out several things amiably. But this was not to be. I would also have taken you to be the Godfather of my child which my wife delivered 2 months ago. He is a boy named Jean. I continue to wish you a speedy and happy voyage and finish...

    Schiedam, Holland
    December 29, 1692

    Madame Caterine Crommelin

    As this year will be over before this letter reaches you, we will be into another one. Thus I believe that I cannot have the joy of embracing you, and showing my affection. However, at least I can write, and that is what I will do today. I pray God from the bottom of my heart that He wills to bring about all the prayers which I have for you; that He will please you and confer good health, and render the new year happier than the present one. May He give you all manner of consolation necessary for the state you now find yourself in. I pray also that He will bless and bring about success in all your enterprises. Above all, that it pleases Him to soon give us a welcome peace so that we will have the joy and satisfaction to see you again. I wish also a bon jour and the best for my sisters. Please extend my best wishes to them. I always have a constant amitie for them and I will never forget them.

    I had the honor to write you on the 8th of last month. I hope that my letter arrived alright. I have again written my brother Robert since then, and I did all that I was able to do in dissuading him from carrying all the goods of my little nieces to Jamaica. But unfortunately it didn't amount to anything. I can well see that he and his father are in collusion together. As for me, I declare that it is being done against my wishes and contentment. If the children come to ruin, I will have nothing to apologize for before God. The boy has too high an opinion of himself. He cuts and slices in his letters like a man who's 90 years old. All this poorly suits a young man of his...


    age. Besides that he only wants to argue. May God's will be to allow him to succeed in his plans and that one cannot reproach him some day for having ruined the little orphans. I close with prayers that God may confer not only a good year upon him and that he might have many more besides, but also that Providence might judge him appropriately. I embrace you and finish...

    Schiedam, Holland
    December 30, 1692

    Monsieur Robert Oursel Jr.

    I received your letter of the 13/27 current. Allow me to say for the last time that you have not responded justly to my proposition regarding my readiness to accept the guardianship. I wrote you in my previous letters clearly enough that one can readily see the reasons for the offer I made you earlier. Besides, I said that if you had left the monies of the orphans in the hands of Mr. de la Chambre to earn some interest, as I had hoped, I wouldn't have said anything to you.

    Since I knew you were taking their money far away on a risky journey, this is what made me speak up. It doesn't mean anything to say that I must be prepared for whatever eventuality might happen because firstly, I can't imagine that afterward you might someday leave an advantageous place on the other side of the world. And secondly, I made you my offer in enough time for you to render an accounting to which you respond by making all kinds of new difficulties which you hadn't even brought up previously. From all this it isn't hard to see where your resistance is coming from. In your enterprise you've done nothing without conferring with someone else. You know whom I'm referring to... [i.e., Robert's father, Robert Oursel Sr.]. Furthermore, even if your letters of administration are in Latin, that's no reason for not sending me a copy. Once again I wish to make clear that I don't want to speak about this matter further.

    Now the subject at hand is to have you properly send a certificate, which is hereby attached, to Mr. Godefroy who wrote me regarding lace. You see that he has become terribly lost. I admit the invoice which I sent you for Mr. Godefroy is hastily made up, but it shouldn't be a hindrance since the sale should go through based on the stamp. There's about f.30 to lose on this purchase, so let us know what you want done, and express your sentiments before your departure. It's certain that if you do not dispossess yourself of what remains of our stock all at once, it will still be lying around unsold 10 years from now.

    Mr. Camin wrote me saying that you were in agreement regarding your accounts. I don't really know what it is. I also don't know how much will be around to pay for the children's upkeep. I fear not as much as I told you earlier, especially since there is much to lose on the lace. All I can say is that I will hold an exact accounting of what I expect to pay versus my expected income. Therefore I ask for nothing better than good intelligence from you. If I had spoken to you about the affairs I had with your father, you would have taken issue with them and attacked me even more in your letters. Since I saw them continuing, I believed that I had to defend myself. I can well assure you that if you hadn't mentioned what was to come in the future, I wouldn't have said a single word about it because I know very well that you aren't the cause of all this upheaval. And it's only with regret and sadness that I ponder things.

    Since we're entering into a new year, I pray God that He will keep you healthy and happy so that all might go as you desire. May He bless and keep you. In short, may your enterprise succeed, not only for the new year but also for many more years to come. My wife wishes you the same. She's doing well enough although she's very tired because our little boy is currently suffering from a bad bout of colic [stomach pain]. I salute you and close. Incidentally, I've just been told that Mr. Neela wrote saying that you won't be leaving until February.

    Robert Oursel Sr., the second husband of Catherine Crommelin, had homes at Le Havre and Rouen, France.
    He was a wholesale merchant of fish and whale products, and a ship-owner.
    At the end of the 16th century, Le Havre was a very busy port, involved in whaling and trade with Peru, Brazil and the West Indies. Several Protestants were active in commerce, who left after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV in 1685. England bombarded Le Havre in 1694 and 1696. Source: Le Havre was a port of considerable importance as early as 1572, and despatched vessels to the whale and cod-fishing at Spitsbergen and Newfoundland.