On This Day: 3 February 1702

On this day in 1702, Thomas Bowrey wrote to Robert Callant, the supercargo of the Worcester on behalf of the ship’s owners and freighters. Bowrey and the others had been concerned about Callant’s casual attitude up until he joined the ship. I have written previously how he did not do so until the ship reached Deal. It seems that they were now happier with him. Bowrey was at last pleased with the ship’s progress to the Downs.

Bowrey, however, showed little trust in the senior personnel of the Worcester, often writing the same to each separately. In this letter he checked on what Madder had done. His frustration with the captain, Thomas Green, is understandable. He was a reluctant correspondent, happy to let his chief mate, John Madder, and supercargo write instead. Bowrey was also extremely concerned to hide the plans from the ship from competitors. As I have said before, he issued orders that were not to be opened until they were well on their way and devised a code to be used in correspondence. The details of this code was included in today’s letter.

All this was to backfire later. The secrecy was presented as proof of the illegal intent of the voyage. In addition, Bowrey’s lack of trust may have soured the atmosphere on board. The crew turned against Madder, presenting him in their later evidence as a cruel bully but there is some evidence that this was malicious fiction.

Despite all Bowrey’s concerns he still requested Callant to collect words from Delagoa before continuing with orders for the goods to be purchased on the voyage. Bowrey was an unusual man in his ability to worry about such a variety of details. His management techniques were simply dreadful. It was probably impossible for others to understand what his priorities were from the deluge of orders given to them. On this voyage, what was the priority: the goods purchased, the whaling, the collection of information, or the commercial secrecy?

 

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