Some Thoughts Upon the East India Company’s Sending out Teas to America

Index: Tea Leaves - A Collection of East India Co. Letters, 1773 

Submitted to the consideration of Henry Crabb Boulton, Esq., Chairman of the East India Company.

The usual exports to America, consisting of callicoes, muslins, and other produce of India, (tea excepted,) have been seldom less than £600,000 pr an., as such the consequence of that trade, and the interest of the merchants concerned therein, ought to be well considered before this measure of sending out teas to America should be adopted, lest it might defeat the one and prejudice the other.

The merchants are much alarmed at this step of the Company, fearing it will prevent, in a great degree, the remittances from their correspondents by so much or near it as the sales of the teas amount to; for it is beyond a doubt, that the people in America, if they admit the teas, (which I much doubt,) will be tempted to purchase them with the very money arising from the sales of muslins, callicoes, Persians, &c., bought of the Company instead of sending it to the merchants in England, and thereby tend to encrease the distress which is already too severely felt, for want of remittances. And I should not be surprized at the merchants forming a resolution similar to that of the dealers, viz., not to purchase anything from a Company who are interfering so essentially with their trade, and striking at the root of their interests. I am of opinion, if a proper application was made to the ministry, aided by a petition from the American merchants, it might produce a relaxation of that disagreeable and fatal duty of 3d. pr lb., and in case of success I could almost promise that in the course of six months there would be exported not less than one million of pounds of tea, and further, that the usual annual export would be upon an average four millions of pounds of teas. This mode would relieve the Company from its present load, and place the correspondence and connection in its usual and natural channel. But admitting that the ministry would not comply with such a request, is it not too hasty a resolution before answers are come from America if they will receive the teas through the channel of the merchants, and particularly when they see the drawback is encreased from 14 to 24 pr cent. ad valorem, and thereby they are enabled to introduce that article cheaper from hence than from Holland.

It is well known to every gentleman conversant in trade, that on account of some disagreeable Acts of Parliament passed here, the people of America formed a resolution, which was too generally adhered to, not to import any goods from hence. This resolution continued for two years. However, the merchants of New York, (who are men of understanding and liberal principles,) foreseeing the fatal consequences that attend England & the Provinces by a continuance of dis-union with the mother-country, summoned a meeting of the principal inhabitants of the town, and then came to a compromise with the people, that in case they would agree to admit all other goods, they promised not to import any teas from England, under very severe penalties, until the Act imposing a duty of 3d. pr lb. was repealed, and the several captains of ships in the trade were enjoined upon pain of forfeiting the good esteem of the inhabitants to comply therewith. The like resolutions were agreed to in Philadelphia & South Carolina.

There is another difficulty which occurs to me in this business, and that is, there is not so much specie in the country as would pay for the quantity said is intended to be exported. The Company should be very cautious who they appointed to receive the produce of the sales, for should the contractor for money have that power, who are the general drawers of bills, it would enable them to make a monopoly of the ready specie, and to make exchange advance 25 pr ct., to the loss of the remitter.

Thus have I stated the principal objections to the measure, and in compliance with my promise, I shall give you my opinion relative to its introduction, & the proper modes of sale, admitting the Company persevere in their resolutions of exporting the teas on their own account.

A ship should be hired by the Company, capable of carrying the quantity they intend to export, and at so much pr month. She should call in the first place at Boston, and there land 300 chests, under the care of one of the Company's own clerks; from thence to New York, and there land 300 chests, in the like manner as at Boston; from thence to Philadelphia, and there land 300 chests, as before, and from thence to Carolina, and there land 100 chests, under the care of the clerk of the Company, all of which may be performed in the course of three months from her sailing from hence, until her arrival at her last destined port, provided the people in the different Provinces don't disturb the voyage upon the arrival of the teas. Public notice should be given in the papers of each Province at least one month preceding the sale, and the following valuation prices affixed for the buyers to bid upon, subject to the allowances, as limited in your own sales: Boston, @ 2s., lawful money, pr lb.; New York, 2s. 9d., currency; Philadelphia, 2s. 3d., currency; Charles Town, South Carolina, 10s. pr lb., currency. These prices are for Boheas. The several clerks of the Company can with ease correspond with each other, as there is a constant and regular communication by post, so that if there should be an over quantity at one place, and a deficiency at another, it may be supplied. The clerks should have directions to pay the proceeds of the sales to some eminent merchant at each Province, who should be a person well acquainted with the article, and one who has great weight with the other merchants and people, both as to esteem, rank and property; this merchant to remit the money by good bills of exchange, which he must guarantee, and a security given here for such a trust.

Great care should be had to regulate the sale by the consumption of each Province, and not to be held at the same time, but to follow each other by the distance of a fortnight, so that in case there should be more buyers at one Province than the quantity will furnish, they may have an opportunity of writing or going to the next sale at another Province.

I fear there may be an opposition made by some of the Provinces upon a surmise that Government is aiding in this plan, and mean to establish principle and right of taxation, for the purpose of a revenue, which at present is very obnoxious, as such great care should be had not to employ either paymaster, collector, or any other gentleman under the immediate service of the Crown, to receive the money.

Garlick Hill, 1st July, 1773.


In compliance with your desire, we have reflected on the business & expence which will attend the sale of and remitting for such teas as the East India Company may ship to North America, and considering that none but gentlemen of known property, integrity and of experience in trade can, with propriety and safety to the Company, be employed therein, we humbly conceive that five pr cent. commission, and one pr cent. for truckage, warehouse rent, brokerage, and other incidental charges, making in the whole six pr cent. on the gross sales, is as little as the business can be transacted for. And we further beg leave to suggest that no person ought to be employed who will not give security to the Company, in London, for faithfully following such instructions, as they may from time to time receive from them, for remitting to the Company all monies which they may receive on account of teas sold, first deducting the above six pr cent., together with such freight and duties as they may have paid on account thereof, and interest thereon, till reimbursed, such remittances to be made in bills of exchange, within two months after receiving the money, which bills, to be drawn upon their security in London, payable sixty days after sight, or in specie, at the Company's risk and expence; if in bills of exchange, the security to be obliged to accept and pay them. Should the Company determine to ship teas on their own account and risk to North America, we presume to recommend to their service, Benjamin Faneuil, Junr., Esqr., & Joshua Winslow, Esqr.,[31] of Boston, jointly, to transact their business, for whom we are ready to give security to the amount of ten thousand pounds for their performance of the before mentioned conditions, and in like manner a security of two thousand pounds for John Butler, Esqr., of Halifax, in Nova Scotia, who we also beg leave to recommend to the Company's service. We are, with great respect, gentlemen,

Your obe't, hume serv'ts,

Watson & Rashleigh.

To the Hon'ble the Committee
  of Warehouse, &c., &c., &c.


London, July 2, 1773.


If it should be agreeable to you to consign to the house of Richard Clarke & Sons, of Boston, New England, this summer or fall, I would beg leave to propose to you, that I will find security to the amount of two or three hundred chests, that in eight months after the sale of them in America, the accounts shall be forwarded you, and the money for the net proceedings paid to your order within that time, you allowing our house five pr cent. commission on the sales, and one pr cent. for storage & other charges, the freight and American duty to be chargeable on the teas besides, & we to be free from the risk of fire or any other accident that may occur before the delivery of the tea.

I am, with the greatest respect, gentlemen,

Your most obed't, hum. ser't,

Jonathan Clarke.

To the Hon'ble Directors, &c., &c.

London, July 5, 1773.


The terms which I had the honor to converse with you upon, relative to the sale of teas in America, I take leave to recapitulate as necessary, to understand each other, viz.: You expect that the houses here who recommend their friends abroad, and are in consequence appointed as your factors to dispose of that article, should stipulate that it be sold agreeable to such orders as you may think proper to give for that purpose, and that the factors pay the cartage, warehouse rent, brokerage, and other charges incidental to the sale, and remit the net proceeds in two months from the last, prompt, in good bills of exchange or bullion, for the whole of which service they are to retain a commission of 6 pr cent. on the gross sales, the Company to be at the risk and expence of shipping the tea out, to pay duty and entry abroad, and to be also at the risk and expence of sending bullion home, which terms I do agree to in behalf of those which I shall recommend, whose names are at the foot. And as it seems prudent to guard against accident by death, as well as that the Company be secured against the neglect & misconduct of its servants in this business, I do hereby, for myself and my house, here guarantee the safety of the houses named as above, for the execution of this business, and also that such bills of exchange, as they shall remit on the above account, shall be good.

The agents in this business hope to be indulged with giving their ships in the trade the freight of the tea out, in preference to others.

I am, with the highest respect, sirs,

Your most obed't & most hum. serv't,

William Kelly.

To the Hon'ble the Comtee of Warehouses, &c., &c., &c.

For New York:

Messrs. Abraham Lott & Co.[32]
Messrs. Hugh & Alexr Wallace.

Mr. Lott has been a merchant of reputation there about 18 years, and Public Treasurer of the Province about 7 years. The latter is a house of long standing and of great credit, and is well known to many gentlemen here, particularly Messrs. Bourdieu & Chollet.

For Boston:

John Erving, Junr.[33]
Henry Lloyd.[34]

Both men of fortune and established characters as merchants.

For Philadelphia:

Messrs. Francis Tilghman.
Messrs. Reese Meredith & Son.

Both houses of great credit & established reputation.

P.S.—Mr. Kelly, on consideration, thinks that one month from the last prompt, will be too short a time for limiting the remittances to be made, and therefore has taken the liberty to put down two.

London, 6 July, 1773.


Mr. Kelly will give the Committee my proposals for doing the Company's business in Virginia, and if they require further knowledge of me, Messrs. Harris & Co., and Mr. John Blackburn, will give them it. I am, sir,

Your hum. serv't,

Benj. Harrison.

Mr. Wm. Settle, Clerk,
  to the Committee of Warehouses.


Hon'ble Gentlemen:

Pursuant to your request, I beg leave to lay before you the proposal of my friend, Henry White, Esqr., of New York, for the sale of what teas you may think proper to commit to his charge, and in justice to my friend, I think it my duty to declare that there is no gentleman more capable of transacting this business, seeing from his long experience in that branch, that his consequence as a merchant of fortune he will be capable of advancing the interest of the Company in the sale thereof, as well as silencing any prejudices that may arise from the mode of its introduction, viz.:

That the money arising from the sale of such teas shall be paid into the hands of your treasurer in three months immediately following the receit thereof, first deducting 6 pr cent. in lieu of all charges consequent to their landing, save the duty of 3d. pr lb. and freight, and I hereby engage to join myself with one or two more gentlemen of fortune in a bond for the faithful performance of the above covenant.

I am, with all due respect, hon'ble gentlemen,

Your most obedient, &c., &c., &c., &c.,

John Blackburn.

Scots Yard,
  Tuesday, 6 July, 1773.

N.B.—The firm of Mr. White's house is the Hon'ble Henry White, Esqr., at New York.

To the Hon'ble Directors, &c., &c., &c.



Your letter of the 30th ultimo, addressed to the chairman of the East India Compy, having been read in a Committee of Warehouses, they desire you will please to meet them at this house tomorrow, at twelve of the clock at noon, relative to the exportation of tea to America.

I am, sir,

Your most ob. serv't,

Wm. Settle.

East India House,
  7th July, 1773.

Samuel Wharton, Esqr.


To the Worshipful Committee of Warehouses for the Hon'ble the East India Company.

The Petition of Walter Mansell,[35] of the City of London, Merchant, respectfully sheweth:

That your petitioner, having received certain information of the Hon'ble East India Company's intention to export large quantities of teas to His Majesty's American Colonies, your petitioner therefore humbly begs leave to acquaint this Committee, that he and his partner, Thos. Corbett, now resident there have long carried on considerable business as merchants, in Charles Town, South Carolina, where your petitioner has been resident himself for near 20 yrs and flatters himself that he is well acquainted with the trade of that and the neighbouring Provinces. That your petitioner has at a very considerable expence erected and built large and commodious brick warehouses, for the reception of all kind of merchandize, in Charles Town, and has a ship of his own, of the burthen of two hundred tons, constantly employed in the Carolina trade only; that your petitioner humbly hopes and doubts not, but that this Hon'ble Comtee will upon the strictest enquiry into his character and circumstances, being possessed of houses and lands, in Charles Town, of upwards of £500 sterling pr an., and from his American connections find him not unworthy of their countenance and favor.

Your petitioner therefore humbly presumes to offer his services to this Hon'ble Commtee to transact as their agent any business relative to the exportation to and sale of their teas in South Carolina, or elsewhere in the Colonies of America, as they shall think fitting to commit to his care and management.

Walter Mansell.


Hon'ble Sirs:

We take the liberty of recommending Messrs. Willing, Morris & Co.,[36] of Philadelphia, to be your agents there for any quantity of tea you may please to consign them for sale, and which they will dispose of in the best manner they can for the benefit of the Comy on the following terms:

The tea to be sold at two months prompt, to be paid for on delivery, and the money to be paid at the exchange, which shall be current at that time, into the Company's treasury within three months after it is received from Philadelphia. Willing, Morris & Co. to be allowed 5 pr cent. for commission, and 1 pr cent. for warehouse room and all other charges, except freight & duty.

Messrs. Peter & John Berthon are ready to become joint securities with us for Messrs. Willing, Morris & Co.

We are, very respectfully,

Your honors most obedt humble servants,

Roberts, Baynes & Roberts.

King's Arms Yard, July 8th, 1773.

To the Hon'ble the Comtee &c., &c.


London, 8 July, 1773.

To the Hon'ble Committee of Warehouses.


We beg leave to recommend Messrs. James & Drinker, of Philadelphia, to be one of your agents at the disposal of teas, which you may think proper to send to Philadelphia, undertaking that they shall dispose of such teas in no other manner than as you direct, on condition of your allowing them 5 pr cent. for commission, for selling and making remittance, and 1 pr cent. for truckage, warehouse rent or any charge whatever; should any teas get damaged on board of ships, any expence arising on them to be allowed by the Company. We do also engage, that in two months after the prompt day, remittance in bills or specie, shall be made to the Company, provided the teas are cleared, the specie to be at the risk of the Company, they paying the charges attending it. We further agree, that in case any bills are protested, we will pay the Company the amount of them in two months after they become due. And we are willing to enter into bond for the performance of the agreements, provided the Directors think proper to allow the teas to be sent to any other port, if the Pensilvanians refuse to admit the duty to be paid, or to consume them in that country, in the latter case, our bond to be void.

We are, &c., &c.,

Pigou & Booth.

We beg leave to solicit the }
freight to Pensilvania.



Having been informed that the Directors of the East India Company propose shipping teas to some of the American Colonies, to be there sold by agents on the Company's account, and as I apprehend South Carolina may be fixed upon as one of them, I beg leave to propose Mr. Roger Smith, of South Carolina, for whose solidity I am willing to become responsible.

If the intended plan takes effect, and you do give me the honor to admit of my application, I shall be ready to attend you on the business whenever you may be pleased to give me notice thereof. I have the honor to be, gentlemen,

Your most obdt h'ble servt

John Nutt.

New Broad Street Buildings,
  14th July, 1773.

To the chairman and deputy chairman
  of the Hon'ble East India Company.



We beg leave to tender you the services of Mr. Samuel Chollet, merchant, in Charlestown, South Carolina, and Messrs. Hugh and Alexander Wallace,[37] merchants, in New York, for the sale of such teas as you may think proper to send there, being persons in every respect well qualified to dispose of them to the best advantage.

We are willing to enter into such covenants as may be required for the security of the consignments & the remittances of the sales, on the same terms as are to be granted to other houses on the Continent of America, provided we are allowed a proper consideration for such guarantee.

We have the honor to be, sirs,

Your most obedt hble. servts.

Bourdieu & Chollet.

Lime Street, July 15, 1773.


London, 15th July, 1773.


Hearing that you are going to appoint agents in America for the sale of your teas, permit us to propose our partner, Mr. Daniel Stephenson, of Blandensburgh, Maryland, as one (should you adopt this measure,) and we flatter ourselves, that from his long residence & connexions in Virginia & Maryland, in business, that he will be thought an eligible person, & for his responsibility, we are ready to give the security of our house, should he be appointed on the same terms as the other gentlemen. We apprehend his present situation is well calculated for this measure, being at a proper distance between New York & James River, & near the centre of the Maryland business.

We are, respectfully, gentmn your most odbt servants,

Gale, Fearon & Co.

To the Committee of Warehouses.



Upon considering the exportation of teas by the Company, having no direction or power from our correspondents at Boston or New York, to make terms, we decline offering any recommendation in the present state of the affair, at the same time think our thanks are due to you, for your readiness in attending to any propositions we might make. We are, respectfully,

Your most obt servts

Davison & Newman.

Fenchurch Street, July 15, 1773.

Edwd Wheeler, Esqr deputy chairman.



The Committee of Warehouses of the East India Company desire you will meet them at this house, on Thursday next, at twelve o'clock at noon, relative to the exportation of tea to America. I am, sir,

Your most obdt servt

Wm. Settle.

East India House, 17th July, 1773.

To Brook Watson,
Jonathan Clarke,
Frede'k Pigou, Junr.,
Gilbert Barkley,
George Browne,
Roberts, Baynes & Roberts,
Mr. Berthon,
William Kelly,
Greenwood & Higginson,
Samuel Wharton,
Jno. Blackburn,
Benjn. Harrison,
Walter Mansell,
John Nutt,
Davison & Newman,
Bordieu & Chollett,
Gale, Fearon & Co.



In consequence of my conversation this day, with the gentlemen of the Committee of Warehouses, relative to the rate of exchange from Boston, I beg leave to confirm the offer I made, of abiding by the standard exchange of £133 6s. 8d. currency for £100 sterling, upon an allowance of 2½ pr cent., with the proviso of the intended exportation being made by way of experiment, that is not exceeding 500 chests to Boston, before the success thereof is known.

I am, gentlemen,

Your h'ble serv't,

Wm. Palmer.

Devonshire Square, 22 July, 1773.

To the Hon'ble the Court of Directors, &c.



It is so perfectly contrary to all mercantile usage, to fix a certain rate of exchange for commission business, that we must beg leave to decline making any further proposals for your intended consignments to New York and Carolina, because the revolutions in all exchanges cannot be foreseen. We have known the New York exchange at 168 & 190, at present it is 177½, the par between Philadelphia and New York is, as 160 at the former, to 170-2/3 at the latter.

If you should hereafter adopt the regular and usual mercantile form—of receiving your remittances at the current exchange of the place at the time of remitting, we shall be obliged to you for your consignments to Messrs. Hugh and Alexander Wallace, of New York, and Samuel Chollett, of Charlestown, South Carolina, for whom we will become security for the usual commission of guarantee of 2½ pr cent.

We are, sirs,

Your most obdt h'ble servts

Bourdieu & Chollet.

Lime Street, July 23rd 1773.



The Committee of Warehouses of the East India Company desire you will meet them at this house tomorrow morning, at eleven o'clock, relative to the exportation of tea to America.

I am, sir,

Your most obdt servant,

Wm. Settle.

East India House, 29th July, 1773.

To Walter Mansell,
William Palmer,
Brook Watson,
Jonathan Clarke,
John Blackburn,
Frederick Pigou, Junr.,
William Kelly,
Samuel Wharton,
Gilbert Barkley,
George Browne.



I am directed by the Commtee to acquaint you that the Court of Directors of the E.I.C. have agreed to ship for Boston three hundred chests of tea, and consign to your correspondents an equal proportion thereof, of which please to inform them.

Shall be obliged to you to acquaint me the firm of your correspondents at Boston. I am, sir,

Your most hum. servt

Wm. Settle.

East India House, 4th Augt 1773.

To Jonathan Clarke, }     John Blackburn, }
  Wm. Palmer, Esqrs. Boston.   Wm. Kelly, Esqrs. New York.
  Brooke Watson,     Fred'k Pigou, Junr.
  Geo. Browne, }
  Gilbert Barkly,
  Fred'k Pigou, Esqrs. Philadelphia.
  Sam'l Wharton,



At foot you have the firm of our correspondents at Boston, which we gave into the Comtee of Warehouses for partaking of the India Comy's Tea consignments, and for whom we are ready to give security.

Benjm Faneuil, Junr, } Esqrs of Boston, jointly.
Joshua Winslow, late of Nova Scotia,
Security—Brook Watson, Robt Rashleigh,
  Watson & Rashleigh.

London, 4th Augt 1773.
  Mr. Wm. Settle.

Security offered for Mr. Gilbert Barkly,—Wm. Ross, Esqr.—No. 24 Austin Fryars.


Securities offered for Walter Mansell,—Henry Laurens, Fludyer Street, Carolina Merchants; William Barrett, Old Palace Yard.



The firm of the house I have recommended to the Court of Directors for New York, is Pigou & Booth, and at Philadelphia, Messrs. James & Drinker, as agents for the disposal of teas. I am, sir,

Your most hum. sert

Fred'k Pigou, Junr

Mark Lane, 4 Augt

Mr. Wm. Settle.



I was favored with your letter of yesterday, last night after ten o'clock, acquainting me that the Court of Directors of the E.I.C. had agreed to ship for Philadelphia six hundred chests of tea, and consign to my correspondents an equal proportion thereof, you will be pleased to inform the Directors that I gave notice to my brothers, Thomas & Isaac Wharton, (the persons whom I recommended,) by the last night's New York mail, of the resolution of the Court of Directors to ship the above quantity of teas to Philadelphia. I am, sir,

Your most hum. serv't,

Sam'l Wharton.

Argyle Street, Augt 5, 1773.

Mr. Wm. Settle.


Mr. Browne's compliments to Mr. Settle, and begs leave to inform him that the address of the house at Philadelphia, whom he recommends for an agent for the sale of tea, is Jonathan Browne, merchant, at Philadelphia.

Augst 5, 1773.



Last evening I had the pleasure to receive yours of yesterday, mentioning the resolution of the Court of Directors of the Hon'ble East India Company relative to the exportation of tea to New York, and desiring me to acquaint you with the firm of my correspondent there, which is Abraham Lott & Co. I am, sir,

Yours, &c.,

William Kelly.

Crescent, 5th Augt 1773.

Mr. Wm. Settle.