Frederic de Coninck Letters
Translation Project

The (Austrian) Company of Ostend; Financial problems related to the tanneries;
Marie Camin's failing health; Tragic tale involving a Camin family; Making neck ties and bonnets

1723 Timeline

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  • [This letter was written in Schiedam, Holland on 18 September 1723 and received in Batavia on 22 April 1724 - thus it was underway 7 months.]

    18 September 1723

    I am quite sure, my very dear son, that the death of your dear father was felt quite acutely because he was a good and gentle father and his only concern was that he wasn't able to fully express the love that he had for his children. Bad fortune always pursued him so he left me in a sorry state, but he was convinced that God wouldn't forsake me and would provide the means to subsist. He died with great tranquility on that matter. As for you, he was sure that God would bless you because your conduct is proper and you undertake what is needful to get ahead in life.

    As for your brother, he upheld him in spirit wishing to speak to him and saying that it was preventing him from dying. However it wasn't to be because the illness was so short that your brother was able to arrive only a half hour after his death. This caused me much grief because the exhortations of a dying father would have left an impression on his spirit, and it may even have corrected certain faults that your dear father was aware of. One can also say that it was quite a moving experience judging from the impact on your sisters, but for him there was no animosity.

    I note, my dear son, that your friendship has fled from him. He has a lot of faults but his greatest is having too much ambition and wanting to fly before he has wings because it gives him enough flexibility to earn his living. He is also so naive that it caused him to lose through bankruptcy. Then these sordid actions caused him to lose hope that he will ever regain his fortune. Therefore he's never able to save anything. Apart from that, I think he would have done pretty well. He started off quite well but at present he has a lot of problems. May God by his grace grant him the means to earn his living.

    He told me that he wrote you on the matter of 100 ducatons for which he had sent you a sealed settlement. But what bothers him is that since you've been in the Indies, he has written you every year but you haven't written him once. I pray you, my dear son, to write him and exhort him to be careful with his money. I don't think he's a fool and I think this gesture would give him pleasure and that he would heed your advice. He planned, if the Company of Ostend stabilized, to take part, but the troubles are so large for the Hollanders who got involved that he no longer thinks about it. Also because he could obtain a good position with the help of our cousin Louis Francois de Coninck who is quite accommodating and who had promised to render him service.

    Two share certificates in the Company of Ostend dated 1723.
    Investors include Louis Francois de Coninck

    Click to enlarge: 1 / 2
    Image source:

    Company of Ostend

    Ostend Company, German Ostendische Kompanie, or Ostende-kompanie, trading company that operated from the Austrian Netherlands from 1722 to 1731. Founded by the Holy Roman emperor Charles VI, it represented an attempt to cash in on the riches being won by the Dutch and English East India companies and stemmed from Charles VI’s awareness of the importance of foreign trade and the recent acquisition (1714) by Austria of the port of Ostend.

    The initial charter was to run for 30 years, and trade was to be with the East and West Indies and with Africa. In return, the imperial treasury was to receive 3 to 6 percent of the profits. At first trade flourished, two settlements being founded in India while much smuggling into England occurred. The English and Dutch, however, feared trade rivalry; and their feelings were exacerbated by Spain’s support for the venture (1725), which introduced political elements.

    In 1727 Charles VI, aiming for international recognition of his daughter Maria Theresa’s eventual succession, suspended the company for seven years because of opposition from France, Russia, and Prussia as well as from Britain and the United Provinces.

    In 1731 the Treaty of Vienna dissolved the company in return for outright recognition of the Pragmatic Sanction (Maria Theresa’s right of succession). Nevertheless, unofficial trading activities continued until 1744, when the company’s servants lost their last Indian settlement.
    Source: - Encyclopedia Britannica

    The company, after nominally existing for a short time in this state of suspended animation, became extinct. The Austrian Netherlands were condemned to remain excluded from maritime commerce with the Indies until their union with Holland in 1815.

    One of the biggest investors in Oostend Company were Joannes Jacobus Moretus (1690-1757) from the publishing family Moretus) in Antwerp. Other major investors was Ferdinand Anthoin Baron de Veecquemans, also from Antwerp who held 100 shares and the family Proli in the same city. Other investors were Melchior Breton (Antwerp), probably Thomas Hall in London and other merchants in Antwerp.
    Reference: K.Degryse, in Spiegel Historiaal, 1973112.

    Artifacts related to the Company of Ostend are extremely rare because the museum of Ostend was destroyed during WWII.

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  • I received both your letters, but the last one I didn't get until more than three weeks after the vessels had arrived. This gave me great concern and if Mr. Bosset hadn't told my brother Meusnier that you were in good health, my anxiety would have been much greater. I just couldn't understand how you, who are always so regular in writing us, could allow a ship to leave without writing me, especially since you only wrote me briefly in the first letter and weren't even able to finish it. I love you, my dear child, so that a thousand imagined worries passed through my spirit, but I was all wrong, and your dear letter assured me of your good heart toward me for which I thank you and will treasure all the days of my life.

    It pleases God that I'm able to say this because you said that if God were to recall you before me then lots of your stuff would have to be sold. Alas, my very dear son, this is something I can't say. Personally I have nothing - not even any furniture worth mentioning. That's why I accept your offer to provide my necessities. But I don't want to inconvenience you over this. Every year you have always sent me something. I pray that you continue to do so only if your means allow. Your gift is most welcome because the money I made [from the jobs of making bonnets and cravattes] helps me to live without worries about the income from the tannery being sufficient to feed your sisters and me.

    You know the state that I'm in because I believe you advised me to continue the tannery with the help of our cousins Crommelin (Jean) and Torin (Isaac) who loaned me f4000 interest-free for 2 years. As for the sum that came due to the widow Godefroy, they willingly paid off f6000 against the assets of the tannery should it ever be sold, and saying that it shouldn't worry me or the children if loans to anyone were still owing, and if God hadn't blessed me in some way to pay off what I had also promised them. They said to do what I could because we owe them a lot. They have acted toward me very graciously, not wanting anyone to know this, nor that it was given with respect to the memory of your father. They insisted that the other debts be paid in full such as those of the tannery and other things. There is only a sum to my uncle Duchemin [Pierre Duchemin, second husband of Esther Crommelin] who provided a guarantee for us in the amount of f2000, for which he will soon want 6-700 florins, and to the widow

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  • Godefroy, around f2700. I can't praise you enough, my dear son, for your sentiments in wishing to make satisfaction. This is an indication of your good conscience and the honor you have in not wanting anyone to criticise the memory of so honest a man as your dear father who assuredly cannot be reproached for anything.

    The tannery is behind only in a mortgage that has lasted for three years, and in vain we hoped to cover this expense with the leather that we had on hand. This pushed up the interest greatly so that over the years it inflated from 14, 16, to 1700 florins, the greatest sum being owed to Madam Godefroy. That's why this became their priority in paying off the f6000.

    As for the f2700 that is still owing [to uncle Duchemin], since God put it in on your heart to satisfy those to whom money is owing, you may, if God blesses you, let them know that you will make satisfaction upon your return if God gives you the grace to return to Europe. I haven't said anything to them about this except for the love and promise that you made to take care of me. Your oldest sister must go and see my uncle Duchemin. She'll give him your sentiments because for the amount that he is due, since it was to help your father and that he never would have benefited a sol from it if you had been in a position to pay it, I would be quite happy if the sum were not so big so that you would be able to pay it off in a year or two by sending over some strong-boxes for that. I won't recommend anything. Do what you are able and find appropriate.

    My brother Meusnier told me that you gave him some instructions regarding your belongings that he has. He said he would give me anything I asked for if I needed it. Indeed, this points out even more the goodness of your nature. No, my dear child, I won't abuse your goodwill which I will always treasure. Thank God I don't really need anything as I have told you. I continue the tannery. I have a good worker who is in the family and who knows the business well. Before dying your father recommended him, saying that if I were to continue the tannery, he would serve me conscientiously and according to his wisdom. He made your sisters sort out the leather skins, take over the books and correspondence, and the younger one makes business trips. Besides that she works on your embroidery jobs and other small jobs in order to maintain herself. So you see, my dear child, we are doing our best to earn our

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  • living, and I hope that with God's blessing we will be able to earn more and that in a year's time the hardship will diminish. We didn't make enough to pay the butchers this year. Because their profit was so small they could only treat it as a loan.

    With regard to what you say that if your security possibly gets accepted for three thousand guilders, that you will give all the necessary assurances to Madam Godefroy, but the said lady has no more interest in the tannery and no longer wishes to do more than what has already been done. But the inventory of our tanneries is estimated at three thousand florins and if it becomes necessary to pay this sum to Madam Godefroy, we proposed that they leave the money in the tanneries and that we pay them 4 percent interest. But they didn't accept this proposition. Mr. de Larry, our dear pastor, had promised us this sum but God took him home four months ago. He left his widow with four children and us with the difficulty of dealing with this amount.

    We must propose to Messieurs Crommelin and Torin to have us get this money and if our tanneries aren't sufficient for that, we then appeal to you for the security you mentioned. Perhaps the widow Godefroy and company would accept your security for the three thousand florins because as I said they are no longer interested in the tannery. They had some because of the revenue from interest. Madam Godefroy was always careful to use the leather skins to pay the butchers under the name of Messieurs Crommelin and Torin and did this without commission or profit, but only out of friendship.

    All that you sent us has been well received. My brother Meusnier is writing you and he'll let you know about everything. As for me, I have received the two crates that you had addressed to your dear father, and according to the instructions I sent everything to my brother Meusnier who dealt with it as per your instructions - everything except that which was marked "F.P." since this was for Mr. Pigou. I asked Camin to have it forwarded according to instructions from Mr. Pigou to whom was sent your letter. Ardemburg gave him the canes which I also sent. I don't doubt that all will be sold alright.

    Thank you, my dear son, for the excellent tea that you sent me. Since there was too much for our needs we sold a portion of it for f5:10. That of the previous year

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  • we sold for f8. There is still more to sell. Since I think you gave me only a portion of this shipment, I'll send you in ducatons the portion that I believe belongs to you. I also thank you for the beautiful piece of damask linen that you sent me. As I took the resolution to wear mourning clothes for the rest of my life, I gave it up for sale. I don't know yet if it's sold. I sent it to messieurs Crommelin.

    I still have about 100 ducatons that belong to you. That's all that remains. As for what's missing, I don't know what's become of it. I can swear to you before God that all of the money that your father in dying told me belonged to you I placed together where you would be able to get at it, and it wouldn't be mixed up. I made it accessible to you as well as all the proceeds of the effects that were sold since you were sent the accounting. I still paid Mr. Reignier f131:9 for a gold enamelled box. Ardemberg still owes me his obligation. As soon as I get it I'll send the amount to my brother Meusnier to forward it to you. One thing that your father recommended is that I don't associate myself with anyone except your brother-in-law. This is one thing I also won't do.

    I don't know if I mentioned that Camin was to go to Stetin, city of the Prussian king, but his trip was interrupted. He remains at Rotterdam. Mr. Pigou prevented him from going there and he promised to render him service. His [Camin's] wife gave birth at the beginning of the month of May to a daughter. Since they were in the process of moving, it took them about 4 or 5 days to transport everything to the other house. The little one died. They still have 4 boys and the poor woman's health is quite frail. Mademoiselle Pallot [whose maiden name was also Marie Camin] gave birth to two more boys who are also dead. So this makes three times that she had twins.

    Since I wrote you last, my health has strengthened quite a bit, thank God. I never thought I'd be able to do anything but, thank God, I'm doing alright now and your sisters are well also. They'll have to write you to thank you for your thoughtful gift. Your last letter brought tears of joy to my eyes because it informed me that you are doing quite well in your affairs. By your previous one I saw that you weren't happy and I reflected how, despite all your trouble and fatigue, you weren't getting ahead and were in despair. But thank God, things are better now. May God by his infinite riches spread his blessings on you and your labours and troubles, and bless you abundantly so that I might still have the joy to see you again. This is what I still hope for. I'm now 64 years old and not in robust health, and there are

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  • still several years in which you could live in Europe at your ease. Then your business could become so considerable that you might even have trouble leaving it. Anyway, may God's will be done. We must submit ourselves to what the great God has determined.

    The tragedy of Quinche bothers me. He didn't know about the death of his father and mother.

    Your spirit is now at rest, my dear son, because you know that the draft you drew on your father has been paid. As soon as I got the effects, I handed them over to the gentlemen of the widow Godefroy and du Long who obtained their sale and thereby were paid having received more than what was needed as you will have noticed by the accounting, and I have their receipt.

    What you sent this year, and the f13,000 that they told me you had drawn on them, was also well paid, the merchandise having amounted to more than f14,000. They told me that all the stuff had sold well and that you would be quite happy. I hope that it will be the same with what my brother Meusnier sold that was meant for Mr. Masse. You'll have to write him. I don't know if you sent anything to the said Mr. Masse. I think he may be regretting not having accepted your offer. However, you would do well not to involve yourself in a partnership. Better that you make half less in your profits; at least it would be yours.

    You also know that the plates were sold. You'll be able to settle with Mr. Bosset on that. Is he still thinking about returning to Europe? We were told that Mr. Augier had made a loss on them. Is he in Batavia and is he staying with you? We were told that a man named Baker who knows how to evaluate diamonds was with you. Are you associated with him? I was told that he is an honest gentleman. He has a wife in Amsterdam. It would be wise that you always remain cautious when you do anything with anyone.

    I'm thinking about all that you said about the widow de Rochefort. Doesn't she have anyone to escort her around? What became of her sister? Is she married or in domestic service? My cousin de Rochefort, her mother-in-law, is coming to see me this week to congratulate me on the good news that I've received from you. She has to write to her kin. The poor woman is quite feeble and lives in a place full of invalids where she has two rooms without a maid. When I was sick I always thought of her because if I didn't have your sisters and no servants, my God, what would I have done? I give praise to God continually and at the same time I

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  • think about this poor person, devoid of relief and not much to live on. Also by comparison my situation seems tame and worthy of praise to God. How much more reason to praise God now that I have a son like you who has made me such a fine promise! I have never doubted in the providence of God towards me, and I have always had the expectation that he would meet all my needs. Now I know in what manner he accomplishes this end. Thus I pray with all my heart that he guards your health and blesses you more and more, and that the blessings which he promises to those children who honor their father and mother flow abundantly upon you, and that he gives you a long and happy life so as to be a comfort in my old age.

    A great tragedy has struck our family and my sister Camin involving death. You know well your cousin Camin, the captain who lived in England. He was married twice and had by his first wife a son and a daughter. This bride of the second marriage was most happy. She was almost 19 years old but didn't quite reach it. The dear boy loved his mother but also wanted to be at the wedding. After the wedding Camin arrived alright at Gouree in the evening and boarded a boat with his daughter and new wife. The next morning nothing more was seen of the vessel. He perished along with his wife and daughter who was 8 years old. Fortunately he didn't have with him his son who stayed home because he was studying. Could any greater affliction happen at a port? Not a soul on the vessel was saved. All perished. After 15 days nothing was found but a small suitcase that belonged to them. Their sad fate was established by letters that were found inside. So, we have all suffered great affliction. Should God give you the grace to return to Europe, may he preserve you from such misfortune. When I think about it, I tremble.

    We sent you something via one named Duyf on a ship whose name I don't know, but it's via the Chambre de Rotterdam. This Duyf is the first surgeon and he has 241 ducatons. Mr. Reignier has sent you on December 24, 1722 the box of enamelled gold for which we paid f131:9. It's coming by a man named Alexandre du Bose, second surgeon for the Chamber d'Enckheusen.

    Chambre de Rotterdam and Chambre de Enkhuizen

    I don't think I've forgotten to mention anything, dear son, thus I'll close my letter by embracing you and continuing in my best wishes for you, praying that God might continue his most precious blessings, spiritual and temporal, and that he

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  • gives you good health. I'm waiting for the tea ship with impatience. God willing there'll be good news from you. Farewell, my dear son. I am your dear and loving mother, Marie Camin

    PS - We were careful to make the cravattes as per your request but it takes three times more muslin for the bonnets and double cuffs. You'll have to tell me what to do. Finally, since I've written this letter, your sister Ester returned from Rotterdam and learned there that Mr. Pigou had received all that you sent him.

    [Received April 22, 1724]

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  • Schiedam
    28 November 1723

    Your oldest sister, my very dear son, wrote you from Rotterdam on the 15th of this month via Mr. Willem Ardemberg to whom she gave a box of 200 ducatons that my brother Meusnier sent us to give to the said Ardemberg. He has a packet that Mr. van Bulder requested that you convey to his sister-in-law at Batavia. The packet is addressed to him because otherwise Ardemberg wouldn't carry it. He also carries the barrel of tools that he sent us recently and for which we paid him f30 which he uses to pay down his obligation as my brother Meusnier instructed him to.

    Cravatte - Neck Cloth

    "Neckcloth" by Charlie Huang at English Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

    He's also carrying 18 cravattes with this letter. There are two others that were a bit more troublesome for us but we'll send them with the muslin bonnets at the first opportunity. That will be my commission. You can believe me that I don't want any money from you. But since you tell me that this is a job, I'll simply deduct some money that I still had to remit to you.

    I thought that I would be able to send you this via these vessels but it was impossible for me. This will have to come with the muslin bonnets. I say 'bonnets' because there was enough muslin available that we found it appropriate to make two in the two styles that are worn today, one fancy and the other modern. So if it's for a young person, she can choose the current fashion. We will make them mostly in the latter style.

    Mr. Reignier has sent with the barrel of tools a crate that the said Ardenberg will write you about. Also the tea ship hasn't arrived yet which gives me great concern because I wait impatiently for news from you.

    Your sister told you that my health isn't very good. There are long spells in which I live my life languidly. Sorrows are certainly the cause and this is what I offer to God because after the generous offer that you made me I must not be anxious, knowing that providence will furnish the means to find consolation. This is also my hope but since my illness has gone on for a long time, I look to you for relief from depression which may still come through the joy and satisfaction of seeing you again. With regard to that, however, I must place myself under the will of God if he continues to provide you the means to further your career and if only your return wouldn't be from so far away as I imagine it to be. Meanwhile be persuaded, my dear son, that I pray regularly for your protection and health, praying to the great God to bestow his most precious blessings, spiritual and temporal, and to give you his love and awe.

    I commend your sisters to you in order that you will be a good brother to them. I embrace you, my dear son, and I will be all my life your dear and loving mother, Marie Camin

    9 cravattes embroidered @ 35.
    8 Ditto labour @ 22.
    1 Similar made of lace @ 40.
    Total: 531

    Muslin Bonnet - Picture Source: Ladies' Emporium