Frederic de Coninck Letters
Translation Project

Some fatherly advice to son, Jean, in Batavia; trading in tea, cornelians, varnish and cravattes;
France's economy in tatters; Peace treaty between Spain and the Quadruple Alliance; Dubious beginnings of a stock exchange;
Illness amongst family members; Death of Jacob Crommelin; Declining value of tea

1720 Timeline

[It must be remembered that a letter sent from Europe to Batavia (Djakarta, Indonesia - Dutch East Indies) would take from 7 to 11 months to arrive depending on weather and the need to make repairs while a ship was enroute. Therefore a reply to a letter could take well over a year and sometimes up to two years.]

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  • Mr. Jean-George Bosset
    Horlogiemaker in de Heerenstraat bij
    't Staathuis, om te behandigen aan Mr.
    Jean de Coninck
    tot Batavia
    par de 'Catharina'
    [To Jean-George Bosset, watchmaker on Heerenstraat next to the Town Hall,
    to be handed over to Mr. Jean de Coninck in Batavia. Via the 'Catharina']

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  • Schiedam
    19 October 1720

    When the time approaches, my very dear son, that we hope to receive your letters, our anticipation redoubles. Our expectation was fully satisfied since we have received those that you wrote to us via the first ship; by the second; and by the last one which Mr. Hogerwerf handed over to us. Your letters give us immense pleasure. I re-read them often, always with such affection and tenderness that I can't withold my tears which often happens because you have not left my spirit. You are always present. We are delighted with your freedom and your establishment which gives us great joy, but of course this pleasure and joy comes at a high cost because perhaps I'll never see you again! I tell you, my dear son, who is my crown, sad thoughts fly from my spirit but they no longer trouble me. Yes, I will see you again, God willing. May He make it possible by his grace to your good mother and me. That is what we pray for each day.

    Adversity serves to build up a man in his spirit and character when one has a reverential fear of God and piety. This is what I noticed in you, both by the reports of several people whom you have known, and by your letters in which I notice a great deal of common sense and caution. May God therefore increase this in you, and strengthen you in his fear and in his love. With this He will bless your work and the fruit of your labour. You see a beginning in this because you have more work than you can handle!

    Since you have your own home, it's difficult while being single to maintain your household and your profession at the same time. Thus I heartily approve of your plan to get married, persuaded as I am that you do nothing lightly and without giving it a lot of thought. It's one of those commitments that one regrets too late when one is busy, yet something on which hangs your every happiness or woe. However I consider you prudent and wise. On this prospect I am persuaded that you will choose a person from an honorable family in which you can find support; one who is of good character and whose life is virtuous. Good care should be taken in a country such as the one where you are now. Choose one who is a good housewife, and whose mood corresponds with yours. Above all, one who is pious because without that you won't attract the blessings of God. Choose a woman such as this who is honest and reasonable rather than one who is wealthy - one who saddles you with a lot of expenses, and whose moods aren't compatible with yours. May God guide you in your choice so that it might succeed according to your desire.

    We received what you sent us this year, namely 4, 6 by the first vessels and as many by the latter ones. Cretier died enroute. This news was conveyed to me by Consul who is a true and honest man and one whom you could entrust with things that are most important. I quickly wrote to Driel who went by de Bommel but not being content with that, and fearing that things might drag out longer, which would trouble us, I dispatched your brother who went there by postal coach, and from there to Horn. His trip was successful and everyone arrived well. This cost extra fare because the weather was bad, so he had to go there in stages.

    These good people, de Driel, arrived here - two men and a woman. Everything went amicably. Abraham du Long gave us some trouble despite being a good boy. Because he had been an orphan, the Directors of Orphans took possession of all his belongings. It took some time and a few bribes to get it back. It cost some canes which were found to be of little value and seemingly worthless. It seems that it's not a sin to plunder those who come from the Indies and to hold everyone at ransom. I can't express to you how much it saddens me.

    With respect to the second shipment, we thought that all was lost because usually everything gets delivered almost as soon as the ships arrive. I dispatched your brother who left two or three days after receiving your last letter, but everything had been delivered. However he had the good fortune to find two 'altorn'(?). He then hurried over to Amsterdam where after some research

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  • he uncovered the third. For the one that came to Amsterdam, I believed absolutely that it was lost, but only a few days later it was found. It was sick, and perhaps except for that it would never have been seen again. If these people had any good intentions, why don't they send a letter of notice by the post office? I'm resolved to sell in the future whatever you send me without resorting to the Ministry of Persons, as long as it's possible for me. I'll outline my reasons on the vessels that leave at Christmas. Take note that you'll find your accounting then because you run as much risk in sending as in receiving, which worries me. We have trouble finding people who are trustworthy on the return trip. Maybe if I stay a while at Amsterdam, I'll be able to find someone reliable. At least I'm thankful for this. That letter will leave on the ships at Christmas. Again, I doubt that it will depart without me being extremely anxious over it. I'll also include as much remittance as I possibly can.

    I sold your canes like your mother told you, and also the varnish but I haven't received the money for the varnish. I went to Delft to show your cornelians to Mr. Verbrugge. He was sick when I was there, so I only saw him for a moment. He offered me f4 for the big cornelians. He didn't think much of the smaller ones. Not having heard any news from him for some time, I wrote him to conclude the deal. One of his men replied saying that he was still sick and he advised me to have patience until his boss felt better which he would inform me about. Mr. Verbrugge told me that I would have to send him pieces of cornelian large enough to make signet stamps on three faces. This would sell well. I proposed to him to correspond with you with regards to what you wrote me, but he would like to make half as much profit in his selling price as what it cost him. I'll try to get a report and then you can do what you think is best. I wrote on this subject to Mr. Plastrier, advising him at the same time that I was doing this on the recommendation of my cousin Crommelin whose wife is his first cousin. I inquired also if he would like to buy other things of which you sent me a report, but he didn't bother to reply.

    Mr. l'Anglois died. I'll write to Mr Massei. I hope that he'll reply. This will be for the vessels at Christmas. I sent your reports to Mr. Regnier. He's a queer fellow. I wrote him several times without eliciting from him the slightest response. This man is trouble. Bad fortune depresses the heart and one's courage. I wrote to Madam Godefroy to find out what's new about him. She told me he had accepted your orders and that he was working to make the purchases. She mentioned that he's annoyed because you sent him tea in return when he was expecting cornelians. I also gave him an order to buy small diamonds. All this will be for Christmas.

    I have here the garment with the silk top and bottom that you asked your brother to buy. I'm not happy about the color, that's why I bought another garment with a pair of bottoms of decent silk. Enclosed are trim buttons worked in silver with a braid for the slotted holes. The buttons are very nice. Now I'd like to thank you for the tea that you send us. This habit of gift-giving will help you get you married if you aren't already by the time you receive this letter!

    I made inquiries into how to ship your stuff in case I don't find an opportunity in Amsterdam. A bosun who has to leave from Rotterdam at Christmas boldly requested 300 ducatons for his trunk which indeed is large. He said that he could find some others for f150. This is a lot more than the f40 to f60 that you mentioned. I'll try to get the best deal that I can.

    The Company of Ostend [the Austrian Netherlands' rival of the Dutch East Indies Company, VOC. It's only port was Ostend.] imposes a great hardship. It transports tea, porcelain, and a lot of other stuff for 50 per pound. You'll have to send things that are uncommon and which you believe can only be sent by a fleet. If the gold of your varnish had been a bit brighter and more vivid, I believe it would have a lot of demand. Your brother-in-law paid f40 to Gautois to carry stuff in his trunk. Twice he paid me f60:6 and I wrote to Mr. Regnier to take the money home to pay for what he purchased. In this way we get along very gently.

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  • At Easter I sent you by way of the vessel Valkenbos of the House of Rotterdam, in a box covered with a waxed sail cloth, 253 ducatons that one named Wouter Boon, first surgeon, was to bring to you. He didn't want to give me a receipt, but he's a man who has his family in Rotterdam and one whom Mr. Lufnen gave me assurance as to his trustworthiness. This Mr. Lufnen is a doctor who receives all the ships' surgeons who pass through Rotterdam for the Indies. I could make use of this opportunity at the last moment. He's married to a mademoiselle Amsincq. I think it would be nice to give him some small gift. The 253 ducatons are for your account alone while the rest of the commodities in the trunks are for de Jardin and de Croes.

    The young Burri, otherwise known as 'Quinche', after having been some time at Paris where I think he left his eldest brother, has returned to Amsterdam where he goes on living as before. I heard he got some money in Paris but I don't know if it's true. He says he's coming to see me - something that doesn't excite me after his infidelity toward your sister. At first I was saddened by this but now I'm somewhat consoled after seeing what you say about it.

    The affairs in France are still in a very bad state. Everyone there is ruined having little or no money amongst the people. There is, however, a lot of fiat currency that one is obliged to accept as money which is causing a profound misery because all the real money is in the coffers of the king.

    In the end, your cousin Manon Camin [Marie, third child of Jean Camin and Catherine de Coninck, born 29 September 1682 at Rouen/Quevilly] married Mr. Pallot after 20 years of flirtations. They were married in England at the Jourdine. Their marriage was a secret for several months. They made it public about two months ago. They have been at Rotterdam for a while where it's believed they'll probably settle down. Madam Pallot has two house maids. It is said that her husband is earning well with the Company of the South Sea in London. They were in much need of it. I haven't had the opportunity to see them yet. This company, as well as that of Paris, has since suffered a downturn. There are people who have earned well and a very large number who are ruined. It is believed that the parlement will work to restore its affairs.

    [V-b Marie Camin is geboren op 29 september 1682 om 02:00 in Rouen / Quevilly, dochter van Jean Camin (zie IV-b) en Catharina de Coninck. Zij is gedoopt op 4 oktober 1682 in Rouen / Quevilly. Marie is overleden, 70 jaar oud. Zij is begraven op 19 oktober 1752 in Den Haag. Marie begon een relatie met Jean Palot. Jean is geboren in Bordeau, zoon van Jean Palot. Jean is overleden vr 18 april 1744. Kinderen van Marie en Jean: 1 Frederick Palot, geboren op 10 mei 1723 in Rotterdam. Van de geboorte is aangifte gedaan. Hij is gedoopt op 14 mei 1723 in Rotterdam. 2 Jean Palot, geboren op 10 mei 1723 in Rotterdam. Van de geboorte is aangifte gedaan. Hij is gedoopt op 14 mei 1723 in Rotterdam.]

    Peace has been concluded between Spain and the allies. [In 1718 a Quadruple Alliance was formed by the Holy Roman Emperor, France, England, and Holland against Spain when Spain seized Sicily and raised the specter of a new European war. In 1720 the Quadruple Alliance made peace with Spain.] Sicily will remain with the emperor while the duke of Savoy will get Sardinia in exchange. A congress at Cambrai will be convened to work out the details and another will take place at Brunswick for those in the north in case the [ruler] wishes it because he's a confederate who doesn't blow his nose at a scheme which he's advised to set up in most cities in this country, specifically amongst the so-called trading companies. Schiedam is also involved.

    What's proposed is a capital of 5 to twenty million florins for each city that gets divided into shares of 1, 2 or f3000. These shares are called 'actions'. One can only sign up for 10 or 12 'actions' or more, but first one has to pay the directors a certain percentage. Lately the shares are being sold for up to 10 or 12 percent, more or less. It's a trading scheme in which a few lose and the others win. Amsterdam is opposed to this scheme and discourages this trade which is nothing but a game in which many people will get trapped. I applied here for 5 actions, but I don't know yet what will come of it. Our directors still aren't ready. If they hurry, I'll be able to scrounge something because I'm afraid people will get fed up with this kind of commerce which is a scheme that can't last and which, for example, has already forced innumerable people in London and Paris into ruin. It's a fad that will last only a short time but one that has gripped the minds of men. In a word, it's not worth anything and our sad status remains the same - a trade firmly populated by bad tradesmen who produce a lot of horrible leather for which one pays hardly anything.

    Your brother [Francois] is now living at the Hague where he is a merchant. It would be nice if he did more to look after your mother who you write that you may be speaking to before too long! I'm glad that Freekje arrived well. The ticket that he signed was read out to him. He signed with understanding. Let me know when I have to address my letters and packets to you directly, and also your address. When you send me anything, try as much as possible to send it via the Houses of Delft or Rotterdam because I always find some things go missing when it travels by others. This happens in the lots, or when some things get witheld which are always the most beautiful, leaving me to receive nothing but rubbish. Expect to find your accounting there.

    Please convey my best regards to Mr. Bosset. I'm delighted that you have in your company such an honest man. I thank him very much for his present. I believe that your mother will send him some cravattes. I hope to send all that's owing to you at Christmas less any commissions. It isn't my fault that I don't do so now. I have written and rewritten regarding this, but don't get any reply. Farewell, my very dear son. May God keep you and bless you. I am your affectionate father, Frederic de Coninck.

    PS - Your sisters will write you at Christmas.

    From Marie Camin to daughter, Marie [Manon], in Rotterdam.

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  • Schiedam
    24 November 1720

    I learned, my dear daughter, with sorrow from your father about your illness, and I've been waiting anxiously today to hear some news. But now I'm sorry to hear that you're not feeling any better. Nevertheless I hope that it pleases God that the [medicine] you've taken will take effect so that you'll obtain relief and that the remedy [vosanitif] can heal you, God willing, by his grace.

    The reflections that you make, my dear daughter, on life are quite true. That is, we must detach ourselves from the world and not love it because it is quite a valley of sadness and grief, and we must render unto God what he deserves when he tries us through afflictions. It's a sign that we are counted amongst the number of His children that He chastens us for our good, and also to make us happy by guiding us to our profit in encouraging us to do his will. What we must do is pray that no more evils befall us than what we can endure, and also that He might grant us relief in proportion to our suffering. I can assure you by experience, my dear daughter, that since I reached this understanding, I have passed through many states of affliction, but God always showed and gave me a sense of his help. Truly, I've enjoyed good health. Only now, as I approach old age, do I feel unwell. This makes me worry about growing old and

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  • sick but since God has always taken care of me and never abandoned me in the past, we gather strength to cope with future trials. My dear daughter, you must have the same hope because the greatest sadness that you can ever have is the malady in which you are separated from God and that He's always far away from you, but still you lack for nothing. May God do you the grace to help you endure your present affliction with patience. Please write me this week to let me know how you're doing. It will give me much pleasure. Your sister will write you tomorrow when sending the books and other things that you asked for. The package was too big to give to Mathieu.

    Thank God my worst pains are over but I still have a lot of trouble walking which prevents me from going to church in the afternoon. I believe that it's sciatica or rheumatism. It causes back pain and radiates along the left side down as far as the calf of the foot but I'm much better now, thank God. I also have a cold but that's nothing unusual for me. I'm accustomed to that.

    My cousin Crommelin wrote me requesting that I send her 12 more cravattes. I really regret that I can't satisfy the said cousin. We only have Babet and Catin still working, and the latter hasn't done anything this week. I had hoped that she would make more this week. We

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  • still need 30 cravattes but we are managing. Also, I don't know what you have delivered and what you still have. The four cravattes that we still have to make will be sent to the Indies as soon as possible. With regards to that, you can also do a little work. I'm sending you 2 of the bills that are made up for them. Also there are only the hems still to be done. The other two I'm having made up at the Hague.

    We have immense joy in hearing of the restoration to health of my uncle [Jacob Crommelin in Rotterdam]. May God continue to restore him completely. It's important that those who look after him don't let him get cold or fatigued, and that he obeys the same orders that he had formerly given to your own father which did him a lot of good. I send him my regards. Please convey my best wishes for his conservation. Also please give my regards to my aunt [Elisabeth Testart] and to all the family. Your father and sister do the same. I embrace you, my dear daughter, and wish you good health. Please write and tell us how you and my uncle are doing. Your affectionate mother, Marie Camin

    PS - I thought I'd write my (female) cousin Crommelin but the [courier] left so quickly that I didn't have enough time. It will have to go tomorrow with your package.

    1721 Timeline

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  • To Abraham Camin on the Hooftweg for Mrs. de Coninck at Rotterdam

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  • Schiedam
    12 August 1721

    Your first letter of yesterday morning, my dear wife, greatly disturbed me until the evening when I received your second one. God willing that our daughter gets better and better. You didn't tell me if it's my uncle who hired the caretaker. I hope that she'll be good for him and for you as well.

    Apparently Catin isn't quite ready for her term, if that's what it was, and she's doing better. I think it might be best for you to return in case Miss Godefroy arrives today, because what would you like me to do alone with her? I'll probably be sure to spend a good hour in a boat. If she's here I'd ask you to return, but if she isn't, then I'd send you the muslin. You might bring along some games of spades since I don't have one here.

    I'm surprised that you didn't mention whether you received my letter which I gave the day before yesterday to Matthew who left early. I told him that you would bring relief. No news from van Leeuwe, but plenty from Frans who sends you a pair of bottoms that you can use to trim dresses, and a 'gold louis' for tea that he'd like you to send him, similar to what you gave him before.

    Please convey my respects to my cousin Crommelin [likely Jacob, son of Jacob Crommelin and Elisabeth Testart, who married Esther Torin, daughter of Jean Torin and Esther Crommelin] regarding the illness of his father. May God restore his health and also that of our little one. Good Lord, what distress and sorrow!. God deliver us from all this by his grace. Your affectionate husband, Frederic de Coninck

    12 August 1721 - Death of Jacob Crommelin at Rotterdam.

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  • Schiedam
    1 October 1721

    We're sending you, my dear wife, the three cravattes that you asked for. Tell us for whom they are, and how much he must sell them for. I don't doubt that he won't get bored, and we also.

    Madam du Long informed me that she won't be able to advise me regarding the tea. There is concern that its value could decline further given the large quantity that exists now. Madam Fouquez has purchased less and instead of our price of 30f, a little less at 23. Beyond that, she doesn't want to advise me further. Tell me, therefore, what I should do because if our people don't get a discount, they'll holler like ogres. Tell me what I should write on Saturday and spare me the trouble.

    Madam du Long mentioned that she has a good opportunity for sending letters to the Indies. I'll write on Saturday to Jean and Mr. Bosset. Has our nephew Camin written to England for our orders? If I had them quickly, I would give them to the son of his flax merchant to carry over. Please see that nothing delays us from filling our trunks. Madam du Long asked if we have any pretty cravattes, one extra large like those of Mr. Braun. It's for Mr. Bourlier. We'll write him on Saturday.