On This Day: 8 February 1711

On this day in 1711, John Spottiswoode wrote to Captain Thomas Bowrey from Edinburgh. The letter appears to contain the resolution of a claim Bowrey had against a Mr Short for £10 owed him. Bowrey’s disagreement with John Short of Edinburgh is assumed to have a connection to the case of the Worcester, the ship seized in Leith Harbour almost seven years earlier, and Bowrey’s dissatisfaction with a bond given by Short two years previously but no more details are known. Spottiswoode wanted instructions for how to remit the money to Bowrey.

£10 in 1709 would be worth about £1,300 today – a not inconsiderable sum but, compared to Bowrey’s compensation claim for the Worcester amounting to almost £24,000 (worth about £3 million today), hardly Bowrey’s greatest concern.

Although Spottiswoode explains that he does not know where the £10 came from because it arrived whilst he was away in the country, his letter contains a little more information than we have had up until now. Spottiswoode had been told that Short was not employed by the Customs Office – a strange statement unless he had claimed that he was – and the Christmas salary had not been paid. The letter also mentions Short’s address being care of Justice Short so, perhaps, they were related.

Richard Carnac Temple explained that John Short of Custom House, Edinburgh had underwritten insurance on a (nonspecific) ship and claimed that he was related to Mr Justice Short of Clerkenwell Close near Newgate Prison. However, Temple also claimed that the debt was never recovered. Today’s letter contradicts this claim.

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