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BC Historical Books

The maritime history of Massachusetts 1783-1860. With illustrations Morison, Samuel Eliot, 1887-1976 1921

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Samuel Eliot Morison  oi—<-
(Cfoe Kitoewi&e $re?£ Cambribge
N. G. H., 1875-1907
T. C D., 1885-1918
Q. S. G., 1891-1918  PREFACE
Here is no catalogue of ships, reader, nor naval chronicle,
but a story of maritime enterprise; of the shipping, seaborne commerce, whaling, and fishing belonging to one
American commonwealth. I have chosen to catch the story
at half flood, when Massachusetts vessels first sought Far-
Eastern waters, and to stay with it only so long as wind
and sail would serve. For to one who has sailed a cUp-
per ship, even in fancy, all later modes of ocean carriage
must seem decadent.
Having written these pages for your enjoyment, I have
not burdened them with citations; but, having discovered
much sunken historical treasure, and taken of it but sparingly, I have added some sailing directions and soundings
thereto in a bibliography. Therein also, that this preface
may be short, I have thanked the many persons who have
aided me in the search. But I cannot close without particular acknowledgment to Captain Arthur H. Clark, author of | The Clipper Ship Era," for bearing with my
constant demands on his time, patience, and memory; and
to Dr. Octavius T. Howe, who placed freely at my disposal the results of many years* research on the Argonauts
of forty-nine.
S. E. Morison
Harvard University
February 1921
I. Coast and Sea
II. The Colonial Background
III. Revolution and Reconstruction
IV. Pioneers of the Pacific
V. The Northwest Fur Trade
VI. The Canton Market
VII. The Salem East Indies
VIII. Ships and Seamen
IX. Merchants and Mansions
X. The Sacred Codfish
XI. Newburyport and Nantucket
XII. Federalism and Neutral Trade
XIII. Embargo and War
XIV. The Passing of Salem
XV. The Hub of the Universe
XVI. Ships and Seamen in Southern Seas
XVII. China and the East Indies
XVIII. Mediterranean and Baltic
XIX. Cape Cod and Cape Ann
XX. The Whalers
XXL Oh! California
XXII. The Clipper Ship
XXIII. Conclusion
Appendix: Statistics
Donald McKay Frontispiece
From an engraving owned by Mr. Charles H. Taylor, Jr.
Letter-of-Marque Ship Bethel of Boston, 1748      20
From a contemporary painting in the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Paul Revere's Engraving of Boston in 1774        28
From the Royal American Magazine.
Samuel Shaw 42
From the portrait by John Johnston, owned by George
Shaw, Esq.
Captain Gray of the Columbia at Whampoa, 1792      46
Ship Columbia attacked by Indians at Juan de
Fuca Strait 46
This and the preceding are from the drawings by George
Davidson, who accompanied the Columbia on her second
voyage; owned by Dr. Edward L. Twombly.
Thomas Handasyd Perkins 50
From a portrait by Sully in the Boston Athenaeum.
Capture of a Nor'westman by Indians 56
The ship Boston. From the Frontispiece of "Jewitt's
Narrative," 1816.
The Hongs of Old Canton 64
From a painting in the Peabody Museum, Salem.
The Pagoda Anchorage, Whampoa 64
From a painting owned by the Historical Society of Old
Captain William Sturgis 70
From aphotograpn owned by Dr, William Sturgis Bigelow.
Captain John Suter 70
From a miniature owned by Rev. John W. Suter.
Sloop Union entering Boston Harbor after her
Voyage round the World 76
From a watercolor by Captain Boit in his Journal of the
Voyage, at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Salem Marine Society Certificate of Membership    82
Representing scenes in Salem Harbor, about 1790.
Captain Jacob Crowninshield and Captain Benjamin Carpenter 92
From portraits in the Peabody Museum.
Two Salem Ship Portraits by Antoine Roux of
Marseilles; the Francis and the America 100
In the Peabody Museum.
Nathaniel Bowditch 114
From an unfinished portrait by Gilbert Stuart, owned by
James H. Bowditch, Esq.
Charles Bulfinch 124
From a portrait by Mather Brown, 1786, in the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Marblehead Fireboard representing two * Heel-
Tapper ' Fishing Schooners coming to anchor
inside the Neck 138
Painted about 1800; in the Marblehead Historical Society.
A Topsadl Schooner of Marblehead in Foreign
Trade, 1796 138
From a watercolor of the schooner Raven in the Marblehead Historical Society.
A Waterfront Scene at Duxbury, about the
Year 1800 144
From a painting now in the Harrison Gray Otis house,
2 Lynde Street, Boston.
Nantucket Harbor in 1810 158
From an engraving in Dennie's Portfolio, 1814, after ja.
drawing by J. Samson.
Captain John Bailey, of Marblehead 172
From a portrait owned by Mrs. E. C. Doane.
Captain Elijah Cobb, of Brewster 172
From a portrait owned by Mrs. A. S. Cobb.
A Typical Neutral Trader 178
Schooner Lidia of Newburyport entering Marseilles, 1807.
From a painting by Cammillieri, owned by Mr. Charles
H. Taylor, Jr.
Ship Hercules of Salem entering Naples, 1809       188
From a painting in the Peabody Museum.
Ships of the Line! — No Shaving Mills 196
Federalist ballot for the election of 1814, in the Massachusetts Historical Society.
Privateer  Brig Grand Turk  saluting  Marseilles, 1815 202
From a painting by Antoine Roux in the Peabody Museum.
Joseph Peabody 214
From a portrait by Charles Osgood in the Peabody Museum.
dlxcove on the gold coast; brig herald of
Salem approaching 222
From a watercolor in the Peabody Museum.
Brig Mercury of  Boston entering Elsinore
Roads, 1825 232
From a painting owned by H. K. Devereux, Esq.
Packet Ship  Emerald of Boston, Philip Fox
Master 232
From a painting Owned by William O. Taylor, Esq.
A Group of Boston Merchants in 1854 240
From a photograph owned by Frederic Cunningham, Esq.
A Scene at the Nahant Regatta of i 845 246
From a painting in the Eastern Yacht Club.
Father Taylor 250
From a photograph owned by the Bostonian Society.
Deep-Sea Types of the Thirties 256
East-lndiaman Columbiana, built at Medford in 1837,
from a painting by Walters owned by Mr. Charles H.
Taylor, Jr. The Merrimac-built ship Dromo of Boston,
John Devereux master, off the port of Marseilles in 1836,
from a painting by Antoine Roux fils, owned by H. K.
Devereux, Esq.
Brig  Cleopatra's  Barge as  Royal Hawaiian
Yacht 262
From a drawing by Charles S. Stewart, reproduced in
his "Voyage to the Pacific Ocean.*'
Bill of Health of the Cleopatra's Barge 5 266
Owned by Rev. John W. Suter.
East-Indiamen   loading   Ice  at  Charlestown,
Massachusetts 284
From a 'photograph taken about 1870, owned by Joseph
Grafton Minot, Esq.
• • •
Barque Osmanli lying at Smyrna 292
From a painting by Raffael Corsini, 1851, owned by T. G.
Frothingham, Esq.
Brig Water Witch of Boston leaving the Mole
of Malaga, 1833 292
From a painting by Francesco Lengi, owned by Captain
Arthur H. Clark.
Provincetown in 1839 300
From the original woodcut block used in Barber's Historical Collections, lent by George F. Dow, Esq.
A Cape Cod Shipmaster and his Home 310
Captain Caleb Sprague, master of the clipper ship Gravina,
etc., and his cottage at Barnstable, from photographs
owned by F. W. Sprague, Esq.
New Bedford Whalers strike a Pod of Whales     318
From colored engraving by J. Hill, "A Shoal of Sperm
Whale off the Island of Hawaii, 1833" after a drawing by
Cornelius B. Hulsart, who was aboard one of the ships.
Owned by Allan Forbes, Esq.
From The Log of the Whaler Isabella of New
For July 21-23, 1831. Recorded by Joseph Taber, Jr.
Owned by George H. Tripp, Esq.
A Full-Bodied Ship and a Clipper Ship
Ship Mary Glover and Clipper Ship Wild Ranger. From
paintings formerly in the Williams Collection.
Packet-Ship Daniel Webster rescuing Passengers from the Ship Unicorn 332
From painting formerly in the Williams Collection.
The Best Chance yet for California! 336
Poster of a Forty-niner emigrant company, owned by the
Bostonian Society.
Clipper Ship Surprise in the English Channel    340
From a painting owned by Mrs. Philip K. Dumaresq.
Central and India Wharves in 1857 348
Photograph taken from Josiah Bradlee's Counting Room.
Negative owned by F. B. C. Bradlee, Esq.
Captain Philip Dumaresq 352
From a crayon portrait by Stagg, 1847; owned by Mrs.
George Wheatland.
Captain Josiah Perkins Cressy 352
Photograph taken during the Civil War; owned by S.
Brown, Esq.
Clipper Ship Sovereign of the Seas 360
From a painting formerly in the Williams Collection.
Clipper Ship Westward Ho! 360
From a painting. Negative owned by Captain Arthur H.
Clipper Ship Lightning 364
From a painting after the original plans by Charles Tor-
rey, Esq., and owned by him.
Clipper Ship James Baines 364
From a lithograph after a drawing by S. Walters; owned
by Captain Arthur H. Clark.
Boston Harbor in Clipper-Ship Days 368
From an engraving by C. Mottram; owned by Allan
Forbes, Esq.
Clipper Ship Flying Cloud 372
Photograph of a model after the original plans, made by
the H. E. Boucher Company, New York, under the direction of Captain Arthur H. Clark. Owned by Frederick
C. Fletcher, Esq.
The chart of Boston Harbor on the front end-paper is from
Captain Cyprian Southack's Survey of the Sea Coast from
New York to the I. Cape Breton, 1735. The other end-paper
charts, front and back, are from A New Edition Much Enlarged of the Second Part of the North American Pilot for New
England, by Robert Laurie and James Whittle, 1800.  THE maritime history of
1  MASSACHUSETTS Essex County includes Salem, Marblehead, Cape Ann,
Newburyport, and all the seacoast north of Boston and its
suburbs. Hingham and the South Shore (except Cohasset)
are in Plymouth County, which also includes a few towns
on Buzzard's Bay. Barnstable County is synonymous with
Cape Cod. Bristol County includes New Bedford, Fair-
haven, and the Taunton valley. Nantucket is a separate
county, and Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands
constitute the "County of Dukes County." It will be understood that the term "town," in this book, has no urban
connotation, being used in its New England sense of a territorial and political unit.
When three dimensions are given for a vessel, they are
length on deck, greatest breadth of beam, and depth of
hold. the maritime history
of Massachusetts!
Massachusetts has a history of many moods, every
one of which may be traced in the national character
of America. By chance, rather than design, this short
strip of uninviting coast-line became the seat of a
great experiment in colonization, self-government, and
religion. For a generation, Massachusetts shared with
her elder sister, Virginia, leadership in the American Revolution. For another generation, with her offspring Connecticut, she opposed a static social system
to the ferment of revolutionary France. With the world
peace of 1815 she quickened into new life, harnessed
her waterfalls to machine industry, bred statesmen,
seers, and poets, generated radical and revolutionary
thought. The Civil War rubbed smooth her rough
corners, sapped her vitality to preserve the Union and
build the Great West, and drew into the vacuum new
faiths and peoples.
Through every phase and period, save the last,
breathes a rugged faith and blows the east wind. For
two hundred years the Bible was the spiritual, the sea
the material sustenance of Massachusetts. The pulse
of her life-story, like the surf on her coast-line, beat
once with the nervous crash of storm-driven waves on MARITIME HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS
granite rock; but now with the soothing pour of
ground-swell on golden sands. Now and again a
greater wave rolls in with crested menace, but ends in
harmless curl of foam on shelving beach.
Massachusetts proper (for I do not speak of her
first-born, Maine, whose maritime history deserves a
special volume) has a coast-line of some seven hundred
and fifty miles, following the high-water mark. It
begins "three English miles to the northward" of a
"great river there commonly called Monomack river,
alias Merrimack river/' as King Charles I determined.
The Merrimac now means whirring spindles, sordid
tenements, and class struggles. But for two centuries
and more its tidal waters, flowing between towns that
bear the old-world names of Salisbury, Amesbury,
Haverhill, and Newbury, midwifed hundreds of noble
vessels; and Newburyport was the mart for a goodly
portion of interior New England.
From the river mouth to Cape Ann, the long sandy
finger of Plum Island protects a region sung by
Whittier, where
Broad meadows reached out seaward, the tidal creeks between,
And hills rolled wave-like inland, with oaks and walnuts green.
Here even the agriculture was maritime; not creaking
wains, but broad-beamed "gundalows" collected the
harvest of salt hay. Yet seagoing vessels could make
their way up to Rowley and Essex, and the white spires
of old Ipswich.
Once past the gleaming dunes of Castle Neck, and
across Squam River (which may lead us, if we will, to
Gloucester's back door), we are fairly on Cape Ann.
This rocky fist of Massachusetts, like the slender,
sandy arm of Cape Cod, has led whole generations of
boys afishing.   Hotels and villas and granite quarries COAST AND SEA
now crowd its shores, once white with drying codfish,
and more funnels than sails now break the horizon.
But on its seaward thrust you may still find spots
where, but for the wail of whistling buoy, and the twin
light towers of Thatcher's, nothing has changed since
the "spectral host, defying stroke of steel and aim of
gun," assaulted the Cape Ann garrison.
Cape Cod and Cape Ann are the two horns of
Massachusetts Bay; two giant limbs thrown seaward,
like the wings of a fish-weir, to guide sea-borne commerce into Boston's fruitful embrace. But Cape Ann
and its southern base (together called the North Shore
of Massachusetts) contains certain pockets, Gloucester and Salem and Marblehead, which for two centuries managed to cull from the choicest of the catch.
Neither imposing nor spectacular, this North Shore;
yet the massed and multi-colored rocks, with bits of
beach or shingle nestling between, have a subtle charm
that every summer attracts thousands of city-dwellers
from all parts of America. Factory chimneys and
yachting centers have now replaced the fishing villages; Italian gardens and palaces blot out even the
memory of the rugged seashore farms.
In the lap of Massachusetts Bay sprawls Boston;
long since outgrown the small rocky peninsula of her
birth, and ever in need of a new suit of clothes. Point
Shirley at the north, Hull at the south, and the rocky
barrier of the Brewsters, as tough as the Puritan elder
whose name they-bear, shield a gracious, island-dotted
bay, and a deep, landlocked inner harbor. The Blue
Hills of Milton, unchanged from the day they caught
the first white man's searching gaze, make a serene
background to the nervous, bustling activity of the
modern seaport.
With Nantasket Beach begins the South Shore,
ending at Plymouth in the armpit of Cape Cod. In
Cohasset the granite skeleton of Massachusetts protrudes for the last time, making a small fishing harbor behind a cluster of tide-swept rocks, from which
Minot's Light, flashing one-four-three, warns shipping.
Beyond we cross the southern boundary of the Massachusetts-Bay Colony, and enter the "Old Colony,"
as it is still called, of Plymouth Plantation. This
South Shore is a complete contrast to the North, even
in climate; a succession of barrier-beaches in flattish
curves, backed by salt marshes and wooded country
with gentle contours. There is another tiny harbor at
Scituate, between which township and Marshfield the
North River admits a thin stream of tidewater well
inland. Then come Salt-House or Duxbury Beach and
the Gurnet, Saquish and Long Beach, protecting Plymouth Bay from the Atlantic rollers. But Plymouth
Bay, a series of tortuous channels between shoals and
grassy flats, could not serve a great trading community. In compensation, Pilgrim grit and native white
oak made of its shores and the North River banks,
a great shipbuilding center.
Once past the wooded bluffs of Manomet, we are on
the biceps of "th' Cape," Cape Cod. East twenty-five
miles into the Atlantic, then north by west another
score, pushes this frail spit of sand, ending in a skinny
finger forever beckoning seaward the sons of Massachusetts. The Cape is unique, this side of Brittany.
It has been the greatest nursery of seamen in North
America, but its offspring have had to sail from other
ports than their own. Save for the great haven within
its finger-tip, the Cape has no harbor fit for larger than
fishing vessels; and Provincetown, in its ocean-walled
isolation, could never become a center of commerce.
The Bay side of Cape Cod is to-day the most un- COAST AND SEA
spoiled maritime section of the Massachusetts mainland. From the car-shops of Sagamore to the artist-
fishing colony at Provincetown, not one smoking factory chimney, and only a handful of summer palaces,
mar the simplicity of beach, dune, and marsh. Shingle-sided cottages of the ancient style, shell-white
or weather-rusted, line the sandy roads; slim spires
spindling up from a mass of foliage betray a village;
low pine-clad hills break the sky-line. As we proceed
northward, the Cape grows wilder and bleaker, up
to the wind-swept highlands of Truro, the topgallant
forecastle of Massachusetts.
At Chatham, on the "back side" of the Cape, we
reach once more the summer estates' "No Trespassing" signs, which hardly end before our circuit of the
Massachusetts coast is concluded at Westport. Nar-
ragansett Bay belongs to Rhode Island; but one of its
tidal tributaries, the Taunton River, has from time
immemorial sent herring, shad, and alewives up into
the heart of the Old Colony; and in times historic
floated down ships.
Detached from the mainland, annexed to Massachusetts only in 1691, since held by the slenderest of
political ties, is a diadem of island jewels — the Elizabeth Islands and Martha's Vineyard; Chappaquiddick
and Muskeget, Tuckernuck and Nantucket. Hardly
a spot on the New England coast lacks passionate
devotees; but the worshipers of Nantucket form a cult
of positive fanatics. Anchored on the edge of the Gulf
Stream, this bit of terminal moraine has a unique
climate, flora, landscape, and population. On her
south shore endlessly breaking, the southwest swells
impart their surge to the long grasses of Nantucket's
flower-starred moors. Under their lee nestles the one
unspoiled seaport town of New England; a town in
which every house built before 1840 — and few were
not — was sired out of the sea. For this island, peopled by Quaker exiles from Puritan persecution,
created that deep-sea whaling, whose peculiar blend of
enterprise, dare-deviltry, and ruthlessness forms one
of the most precious memories of our maritime past.
New Bedford, and the minor ports of Buzzard's Bay,
were but mainland colonies of Nantucket; although
in course of time, like the colonies of ancient Greece,
they surpassed their mother state.
. Yet for all this wealth of coast-line and abundance
of good harbors, maritime Massachusetts enjoyed no
natural advantage over other sections of the Atlantic
coast. Cape Breton and Newfoundland are nearer the
Grand Banks; hundred-harbored Maine offers better
anchorage. Chesapeake Bay is more deeply indented,
more richly supplied with agricultural wealth, more
centrally placed, and seldom obstructed by snow or
fog. No great river comparable to the St. Lawrence,
the Hudson, or the Delaware, tapping the wealth of
a mighty interior, makes a great trading city on the
Massachusetts coast inevitable. Boston has always
felt this handicap; her persistent place among the
greater American cities, in spite of it, is a miracle of
human enterprise. The back country, limited by a
political frontier in the north and a mountain barrier
in the Berkshires, produced no staple to compare
with those of the middle and southern colonies.
Boston is two hundred miles nearer northern Europe
than New York: but Nova Scotia is nearer still.
Boston Harbor freezes but once a generation: but
Massachusetts Bay in sailing-ship days was dangerous
water in dirty weather. Its irregular bottom gives the
lead-line no clue. When a northeast snowstorm obscured Boston Light, a mistake of a quarter-point
fetched up many a good ship on Cohasset rocks or
the Graves. Before the days of cheap chronometers,
when a slight mistake in longitude meant Nantucket
South Shoals, vessels from the West Indies, South
America, and the Orient dared approach Boston or
Salem only by the long detour of Vineyard Sound,
Nantucket Sound, and the back side of the Cape.
Returning East-Indiamen were sometimes detained
for weeks in Wood's Hole or Vineyard Haven, awaiting
a chance to weather Monomoy and Pollock Rip, whilst
fair wind and sheltered waters pled the advantages of
New York. The Pilgrims began to agitate for a Cape
Cod canal as soon as they discovered the head of
Buzzard's Bay; but it was not until 1916 that the
canal was built.
Nature seemed to doom Massachusetts to insignificance; to support perhaps a line of poor fishing stations and hardscrabble farms, half-starved between
the two hungry mouths of Hudson and St. Lawrence.
Man and a rugged faith have made her what she is.
With but a tithe of the bounty that Nature grants
more favored lands, the Puritan settlers made their
land the most fruitful not only in things of the spirit,
but in material wealth. Even Nature's apparent liabilities were turned into assets. The long-lying snow gave
cheap transport inland, the river rapids turned grist
and fulling mills, then textile factories; even granite and
ice became currency in Southern and Oriental trade.
The ocean knows no favorites. Her bounty is reserved for those who have the wit to learn her secrets,
the courage to bear her buffets, and the will to persist,
through good fortune and ill, in her rugged service.
The maritime history of Massachusetts, so far as
white men are concerned, began when some Basque or
Norman or "Portingale" unknown, blown off Grand
Banks by an easterly gale, found shelter under the lee
of Cape Cod or Cape Ann. Finding the Indians ready
to truck, and the adjacent waters teeming with fish,
he and his kind returned. By the time the Mayflower
sailed, one could find men in any fishing port from
Bristol to Bilbao who could tell the bearings of Cape
Ann from Cape Cod, and compare the holding-ground
in every harbor from Narragansett to Passamaquoddy.
When the Pilgrims were casting about for a permanent
settlement, the Mayflower's pilot recommended "a
good harbor on the other headland of the bay, almost
right over against Cape Cod ... in which he had been
once." They would have fared better had they taken
this seaman's advice.
Bartholomew Gosnold visited Cape Cod and the
Elizabeth Islands in 1602, and named them. De
Champlain, two years later, made a good harbor
chart of Gloucester ("le Beau Port"), fought with
natives at Nauset ("Mallebarre"), and looked in at
the site of Boston; but New France he preferred to
build along the mighty outlet of the Great Lakes.
The Onrust sailed around Cape Cod to Nahant, and
returned to Manhattan.
Captain John Smith, in 1614, was the first Englishman to examine the Massachusetts coast, and to give
it that name. Erecting his fish-flakes (wooden frames
for drying fish) on the Island of Monhegan, he sent
one shipload to England, and another to Spain, where
it fetched five Spanish dollars the quintal. The six
months' voyage cleared fifteen hundred pounds. In
the meantime he explored the coast, and told the
world about it in his "Description of New England,"
a sane, conservative exposition of the natural advantages of Massachusetts. For his pioneer work, sound
advice, and hearty support of the Pilgrim colony,
John Smith should rightly be regarded as the founder
of maritime Massachusetts. Yet in all our glut of
tercentenaries, this honest, valiant captain has been
forgotten. No monument or tablet commemorates his
services in the region of his choice.
Stirred by Captain Smith's writings, and still more
by his success, English fishermen began to crowd their
Celtic rivals from New England waters. Now, Smith
himself had urged his countrymen to save time and
"overhead" by basing the fisheries in New England,
and combining them with fur-trading and shipbuilding ; rather than sending out fresh crews and equipment
every summer. In 1623 the "Dorchester Adventurers," a group of West-County capitalists, endeavored to put his suggestion into practice. A crew of
men landed at the site of Stage Fort Park on Gloucester Harbor, built huts, flakes and a fishing stage,
commenced tillage, and drew plans for a fishing-
trading colony, with church, school, and shipyards.
The immediate experiment failed (though not before a
full fare had been sent to Spain); but the promoters
were reorganized as the "Governor and Company of
the Massachusetts-Bay," with a title to all land between the Merrimac and the Charles, from sea to sea.
In the meantime, the Plymouth Colony had arrived.
The Pilgrim fathers sailed with high hopes and a
burning faith, but with few preparations and no clear
idea of how to make a living on the Atlantic coast.
Intending to "finde some place aboute Hudsons
river for their habitation," the "deangerous shoulds
and roring breakers" about Monomoy forced the
Mayflower to "bear up againe for the Cape." Had the
sands of Cape Cod afforded a sustenance, they might
well have tarried at the site of Provincetown. But
the cleared Indian cornfields across the bay, vacant
through a providential pestilence, tempted them to the
spot named Plymouth on Captain Smith's map.
Save for the overwhelming need of saving precious
lives, this choice was unfortunate. Plymouth was
deeply embayed, devoid of a dry landing place or
anchorage for large vessels; and ill provided with back
country. The Pilgrims learned the secrets of fur-trading and fishing only after costly failures. They were
mercilessly exploited by English financiers. For two
generations they owned no great shipping. Reen-
forced by the Puritan emigration of a later decade,
they eventually spread out along Cape Cod, the South
Shore, and Buzzard's Bay. Their faith and courage
are beyond disparagement; but had Massachusetts
been peopled alone by the Pilgrim seed, it would long
have remained a mere slender line of cornfields,
trucking posts, and fishing stations.
In 1630, ten years after its settlement, the Plymouth
Colony contained but three hundred white people. At
that time the Colony of Massachusetts-Bay, founded
only at the end of 1628, had over two thousand inhabitants. Within thirteen years the numbers had
reached sixteen thousand, more than the rest of the
English colonies combined; and the• characteristic
maritime activities of Massachusetts — fishing, ship-
ping, and West India trading — were already commenced.
It was not the intention of the founders of Massachusetts-Bay to establish a predominantly maritime
community. The first and foremost object of Winthrop
and Dudley and Endecot and Saltonstall was to found
a church and commonwealth in which Calvinist Puritans might live and worship according to the Word
of God, as they conceived it. They aimed to found a
New England, purged of Old England's corruptions,
but preserving all her goodly heritage. They intended
the economic foundation of New England, as of Old
England and Virginia, to be large landed estates, tilled
by tenants and hired labor.
In this they failed. The New England town, based
on freehold and free labor, sprang up instead of the
Old English manor. And for only a decade was
agriculture the mainstay of Massachusetts. The
constant inflow of immigrants, requiring food and
bringing goods, enabled the first comers to profit by
corn-growing and cattle-raising. This could not continue. "For the present, we make a shift to live,"
wrote a pessimistic pioneer in 1637; "but hereafter,
when our numbers increase, and the fertility of the
soil doth decrease, if God discover not means to enrich
the land, what shall become of us I will not determine."
God performed no miracle on the New England soil.
He gave the sea. Stark necessity made seamen of
would-be planters. The crisis came in 1641, when civil
war in England cut short the flow of immigrants.
"All foreign commodities grew scarce," wrote Governor Winthrop, "and our own of no price. Corn would
buy nothing; a cow which cost last year £20 might now
be bought for 4 or £5 . . . These straits set our people
on work to provide fish, clapboards, plank, etc., . . .
and to look out to the West Indies for a trade . . ."
In these simple sentences, Winthrop explains how
maritime Massachusetts came to be. The gravelly,
boulder-strewn soil was back-breaking to clear, and
afforded small increase to unscientific farmers. No
staple of ready sale in England, like Virginia tobacco
or Canadian beaver, could be produced or readily
obtained. Forest, farms, and sea yielded lumber, beef,
and fish. But England was supplied with these from
the Baltic, and by her own farmers and fishermen. Unless a new market be found for them, Massachusetts
must stew in her own juice. It was found in the West
Indies — tropical islands which applied slave labor to
exotic staples like sugar-cane, but imported every necessity of life. More and more they became dependent
on New England for lumber, provisions, and dried
fish. More and more the New England ships and merchants who brought these necessities, controlled the
distribution of West-India products.
Massachusetts went to sea, then, not of choice, but
of necessity. Yet the transition was easy and natural*
"Farm us!" laughed the waters of the Bay in May-
time, to a weary yeoman, victim of the 'mocking
spring's perpetual loss.' "Here thou may'st reap
without sowing — yet not without God's blessing;
't was the Apostles' calling." And with sharp scorn
spake the waters to an axeman, hewing a path from
river landing to new allotment: "Hither thy road!
And of the oak thou wastest, make means to ride it!
Southward, dull clod, and barter the logs thou would'st
spend to warm thy silly body, for chinking doubloons,
as golden as the sunlight that bathes the Spanish
Materials and teachers for a maritime colony were
already at hand. The founders had been careful to
secure artisans, and tools for all useful trades, that
Massachusetts might not have the one-sided development of Virginia. Fishing had not ceased with the
failure of the Gloucester experiment. Dorchester, the
first community "that set upon the trade of fishing
in the bay," was little more than a transference to New
England soil of Dorset fishing interests. Scituate was
settled by a similar company. The rocky peninsula of
Marblehead, with its ample harbor, attracted fisher-
folk from Cornwall and the Channel Islands, who
cared neither for Lord Bishop nor Lord Brethren.
Their descendants retained a distinct dialect, and a
jealous exclusiveness for over two centuries. Marblehead obeyed or not the laws of the Great and General
Court, as suited her good pleasure; but as long as she
'made fish,' the Puritan magistrates did not interfere.
Literally true was the Marblehead fisherman's reproof
to an exhorting preacher: "Our ancestors came not
here for religion. Their main end was to catch fish!"
Equally true was Marblehead's protest against an
export tax in 1669. "Fish is the only great stapple
which the Country produceth for forraine parts and
is so benefitiall for making returns for what wee need."
The firm-fleshed codfish of northern waters is unsurpassed for salting and drying. Colonial Massachusetts
packed three grades. Dun fish, the best, was 'made'
by alternately burying and drying the larger-sized cod
until it mellowed sufficiently for the taste of Catholic Europe. Portugal and Spain, where Captain John
Smith sold his first fare, Southern France and the
^Western' and 'Wine' Islands, were the markets for
dun fish; and for barrel- and pipe-staves as well.
In exchange, Cadiz salt; Madeira and Canary wine;
Bilbao iron and pieces of eight; Malaga grapes and
Valencia oranges were carried to English and colonial
markets. When Charles II began tightening up colonial trade, Sir George Downing, of Harvard's first
graduating class, saw to it that this Mediterranean
traffic was allowed to continue. The middling grade
of dried codfish, easy to transport, to keep, and to
prepare, was a favorite winter food of colonial farmers. The lowest-grade dried fish, together with pickled
mackerel, bass, and alewives, was the principal medium in West-India trade. As John Smith predicted,
"Nothing is here to be had which fishing doth hinder,
but further us to obtain." Puritan Massachusetts derived her ideals from a sacred book; her wealth and
power from the sacred cod.
Shipping was the other key industry of the colony.
Fishing would have brought little wealth, had Massachusetts depended on outside interests for vessels —
as she must to-day for freight-cars. Distribution, not
production, brought the big returns in 1620 as in 1920.
Massachusetts shipbuilding began with the launching
in 1631 of Governor Winthrop's Blessing of the Bay,
on the same Mystic River that later gave birth to
the beautiful Medford-built East-Indiamen. By 1660
shipbuilding had become a leading industry in Newbury, Ipswich, Gloucester, Salem, and Boston. The
great Puritan emigration brought many shipwrights
and master builders, such as William Stephen, who
"prepared to go to Spayne, but was persuaded to New
England." A four-hundred-ton ship SeafortI was built
1 The method of computing tonnage in colonial times was probably
the same that prevailed in the United States from the Revolution to
1865. Tonnage meant a vessel's capacity in tons of forty cubic feet each,
estimated by the following formula (L ■« length on deck, B = greatest
breadth, D = depth of hold):
14 »
at Boston in 1648, but wrecked on the Spanish coast,
decoyed by false lights ashore:
Few Massachusetts-built vessels were so large as
this; four hundred tons meant a great ship as late as
1815. The colonial fleet for the most part consisted
of small single-decked sloops, the usual rig for coasters,
and lateen-rigged ketches, the favorite rig for fishermen, of twenty to thirty tons burthen, and thirty-five
to fifty feet long.1 Good oak timber and pine spars were
so plentiful that building large ships on order or speculation for the English market soon became a recognized
industry. Rope-walks were established, hempen sailcloth was made on hand looms, anchors and coarse ironwork were forged from bog ore, and wooden ' trunnels'
(tree nails) were used for fastening planking to frame.
The English Navigation Act of 1651, restraining
Colonial commerce to English and colonial vessels,
gave an increased impetus to New England shipbuilding; for the Dutch, with their base at New Amsterdam, had been serious competitors. In another
generation, vessels built and owned in New England
were doing the bulk of the carrying trade from Chesapeake Bay to England and southern Europe. "Many
a fair ship had her framing and finishing here," wrote
Edward Johnson about 1650, "besides lesser vessels,
barques and ketches; many a Master, beside common
Seamen, had their first learning in this Colony."
Half the breadth was generally used in lieu of depth after the War of
1812, and sometimes so used as early as 1789. William Stephen in 1661
contracted to build for Salem parties a two-decked ship, 91 x 23 x 9! at
£3.5 per ton. Her tonnage would be 190. The Mayflower's was 180
(according to Bradford), but she was probably somewhat shorter and
1 See the model of the ketch Sparrow-Hawk, which brought forty
passengers to Plymouth Colony in 1626, in the Peabody Museum,
Salem; and her very ribs, preserved for two centuries in Cape Cod sand,
now in the basement of Pilgrim Hall, Plymouth.
The shipmaster's calling has always been of high
repute in Massachusetts. Only the clergy, the magistracy, and the shipowning merchants, most of whom
were retired master mariners, enjoyed a higher social
standing in colonial days. The ship Trial of two hundred tons, one of the first vessels built at Boston, was
commanded by Mr. Thomas Coytmore, a gentleman
of good estate, "a right godly man, and an expert
seaman," says Governor Winthrop — who made his
fourth matrimonial venture with Captain Coytmore's
widow. The foremast hands were recruited in part
from English seaports, but mostly from the adventure-
loving youth of the colonies. When Captain John
Turner came back from tfoe West Indies in a fifteen-
ton pinnace, with so many pieces of eight that the
neighbors hissed "Piracy!"; when the Trial "by the
help of a diving tub," recovered gold and silver from a
sunken Spanish galleon; what ploughboy did not long
for a sea-change from grubbing stumps and splitting
staves? When gray November days succeeded the
splendor of Indian summer, the clang of wild geese
overhead summoned the spirit of youth to wealth and
"La-bas, ou les Antilles bleues
Se p&ment sous l'ardeur de l'astre occidental."
A sea voyage, moreover, was an easy escape from
the strict conventions and prying busybodies of New
England towns. Not even Cotton Mather could extend the long arm of Puritan elder into cabin and forecastle. " It is a matter of saddest complaint that there
should be no more Serious Piety in the Sea-faring
Tribe,1' states his "Sailours Companion and Counsellor." "Old Ambrose called the Sea, The School of
Vertue. It afflicts all the vertuous here, that the Mari-
ners of our Dayes do no more to make it so." His subsequent enumeration of seamen's vices suggests that
the clipper-ship crews could have taught little to these
sons of pious Puritan households. "No Sundays off
soundings" doubtless held good in the seventeenth
century as in the nineteenth.
Edward Randolph, an unfriendly but accurate English observer, describes Massachusetts in 1676 as a
thriving maritime colony. Thirty of her merchants
have fortunes of ten to twenty thousand pounds.
The colony feeds itself, and produces a surplus for
export to Virginia and the West Indies, as well as
" all things necessary for shipping and naval furniture."
Four hundred and thirty vessels between thirty and
two hundred and fifty, tons burthen "are built in and
belong to that jurisdiction." They traffic with the
West Indies, and with most parts of Europe, carrying
their own or other colonies' produce, distributing return ladings throughout continental colonies and West
Indies, "so that there is little left for the merchants
residing in England to import into any of the plantations." They pay no attention to the English laws
regulating trade. They have even sent ships to
'Scanderoon' (Alexandretta); to Guinea, the slave
mart; and to Madagascar, the pirate rendezvous.
Randolph's conclusion is significant. "It is the great
care of the merchants to keep their ships in constant
employ, which makes them trye all ports to force a
trade, whereby they abound with all sorts of commodities, and Boston may be esteemed the mart town of the
West Indus."
Colonial Massachusetts, then, was a chain of prosperous trading towns and fishing villages, separated
from the wilderness by a belt of farming communities.
The key industries were fishing and shipbuilding.
The secret of maritime success was that persistent
enterprise which led her merchant-shipowners to
"trye all ports" and to risk all freights.
Even farming Massachusetts clung to coast-line
or Connecticut River, a feeder of the Sound ports.
Worcester County was a wilderness until 1730. For
over a century after the Mayflower's voyage, few
Massachusetts farms were more than thirty miles
distant from tidewater, and all felt the ebb and flow of
sea-borne commerce. "If the merchant trade be not
kept on foot, they fear greatly their corne and cattel
will lye in their hands," writes Edward Johnson.
A Yankee farmer prospered only through foreign
markets for his industrial by-products, such as barreled beef and pork, hewn lumber and staves; bowls,
buckets, brooms, ox-bows, axe-helves, and the like,
whittled out by firelight in long winter evenings. The
influence of West-India trade and the fisheries penetrated the remotest frontier settlements of New England.
The half-century of peace and virtual independence,
which permitted this extraordinary development, was
followed by forty years of war, Indian massacres,
pestilence, witchcraft, and loss of liberty. In 1691 the
Massachusetts-Bay Colony was combined with Plymouth, the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, and the provinces of Maine and Sagadahoc,
under a royal charter as the "Province of Massachusetts-Bay." Imperial control was tightened, but
not enough to prevent another outburst of prosperity
after the Peace of Utrecht in 1713.
That date begins a general broadening-out in all
lines of marine activity/ In codfishing it marks an era,
both by the launching of the first schooner at Gloucester, and the British acquisition of Newfoundland and
Nova Scotia, with their convenient shores and teeming
waters. Admission to the French West Indies in 1717
extended our fish market, and increased our importations of molasses, until sixty-three Massachusetts
distilleries were running full time. New England rum
replaced beer and cider as the favorite American
beverage, and supplanted French brandy as medium
in the 'Guinea trade.' Slaving—popular tradition
and FaneuilI Hall to the contrary notwithstanding —
never became a leading interest of Massachusetts;
Boston and Salem as slaving ports were poor rivals to
Newport. But most Boston merchants owned slaves
as house servants, and bought and sold them like other
Massachusetts also traded with the mainland of
South America. At Surinam fish and lumber were exchanged for the products of the Dutch East Indies;
at Honduras logwood and mahogany were cut for the
London market. New England provisions even found
their way into Brazil by way of Madeira.
Shipbuilding increased so rapidly that in 1724 several master builders of London petitioned the Lords
of Trade "not to encourage ship building in New
England because workmen are drawn thither." Dux-
bury shipbuilding began in 1719, when Thomas Prince
built his first vessel of wild cherry wood; and the North
River became a serious competitor to the Merrimac.
In 1713, the merchants of Boston proposed "the
Erecting of a Light Hous and Lanthorn" at the
1 Properly pronounced Funnel," and so spelled on Peter's tombstone. But the last generation of schoolma'ms has taught us to call it
** Fan-you-well."
harbor entrance; and three years later Boston Light,
the first lighthouse in the new world, was completed.
"A great Gun to answer Ships in a Fog" was shortly
added to its equipment. Marine insurance began at
Boston a few years later. Offshore whaling was perhaps the most important development of the half-
century before the Revolution. Cape Cod taught Nantucket how to harpoon whales, but Nantucket went
her teacher one better when in 1715 Christopher
Hussey fitted out a vessel to pursue sperm whales, and
tow them ashore. A few years later, by erecting brick
try-works on shipboard, the Nantucket whalers were
able to extend their cruising radius to the coast of
Brazil and the Arctic Ocean.
Massachusetts enjoyed peace for three-quarters of
the period from 1713 to the Revolution. In war-time
her fishing fleet was dismantled, but the fishermen
found exciting employment on armed merchantmen
bearing letters of marque and reprisal. A typical
Massachusetts-built vessel of the larger class, subject
of our unique pre-Revolutionary ship portrait, was the
Bethel, owned by the Quincy family.1 Armed with
fourteen guns and carrying thirty-eight men, she
captured in 1748 by sheer Yankee bluff a Spanish
treasure ship of twenty-four guns and one hundred
and ten men, "worth the better part of an hundred
thousand pounds sterling." So congenial, in fact, did
our provincial seamen find privateering, that many
could not bear to give it up when peace was concluded.
In consequence, not a few were hanged in chains on
Bird Island or Nix's Mate, whereby every passing seaman might gain a moral lesson.
Boston increased in population from about seven
thousand in 1690 to about seventeen thousand in 1740.
1 The c in this name is pronounced like 2.
20 00
It was the largest town in the English colonies until
1755, when passed by Philadelphia, and "the principal
mart of trade in North America" for a much longer
period. "Boston Pier or the Long Wharf," built in
1710, extended King (now State) Street some two
thousand feet into deep water. Wealthy merchants
came from overseas to share the results of Puritan
thrift and energy. Thomas Amory, of London, after
visiting Lisbon, Amsterdam, Charleston, Philadelphia,
and New York, found Boston their superior in commercial activity, and settled there in 1720, •
A fresh tide of immigration was beginning to flow
into Massachusetts Bay, and a good part of it was non-
English. The Yankee race, in fact, had never been all
English. Were I asked to mention two Massachusetts
families who generation after generation sent their
sons to sea, I should name the Devereux and the
Delano, both of French origin. In Mr. Whitmore's
blue-book of Boston provincial society, about one-
third of the families are of non-English origin; principally French and Scots, like the Faneuils and Bow-
doins, Shaws and Cunninghams, but including Germans like Caspar Crowninshield and Dutchmen like
John Wendell. Irishmen like Patrick Tracy, of New-
buryport, and Captain James Magee, of Boston, rose
to eminence in maritime pursuits, and married into the
eld Puritan families. Thomas Bardin, a Welshman,
founded the Hanover forge where North River vessels
obtained their anchors and ironwork. Another Welshman taught Lynn to specialize in women's shoes,
which before the Revolution became an important
medium in the coasting trade.
Equally false are two contrasting notions: — the
one that New England was of 'pure Anglo-Saxon
stock' at the Revolution; the other that the Revo-
1 Hiiiiiit^^
nii»w-«tt mwfijwr »t#»
lution was an Irish movement. These are the pet
lapdogs of modern race snobbery. The seventeenth-
century stock completely absorbed its eighteenth-
century accretions, both English and non-English. To
outsiders, as late as 1824, the population of seaboard
Massachusetts seemed, and was, racially homogeneous as that of Brittany. But the race was not Anglo-
Saxon, or Irish. It was Yankee, a new Nordic amalgam
on an English Puritan base; already in 1750 as different in its character and its dialect from the English as
the Australians are to-day. A tough but nervous, tenacious but restless race; materially ambitious, yet prone
to introspection, and subject to waves of religious
emotion. Conservative in its ideas of property and
religion, yet (in the eighteenth century) radical in
business and government. A people with few social
graces, yet capable of deep friendships and abiding
loyalties; law-abiding yet individualistic, and impatient of restraint by government or regulation in
business; ever attempting to repress certain traits of
human nature, but finding an outlet in broad, crude
humor and deep-sea voyages. A race whose typical
member is eternally torn between a passion for righteousness and a desire to get on in the world. Religion
and climate, soil and sea, here brewed of mixed stock
a new people.
From 1740 to the Revolution, Boston declined
slightly in population — owing probably to frequent
epidemics, high taxes, and high cost of fuel:— but the
smaller seaports came up. A glance at the Georgian
mansions of Michael Dalton and Jonathan Jackson
at Newburyport; of John Heard at Ipswich; of Winthrop Sargent at Gloucester; of George Cabot at
Beverly; of Richard Derby and Nathaniel Ropes at
Salem; of Jeremiah Lee and 'King' Hooper at Mar-
blehead, and the latter's country seat in Danvers, will
convince the most skeptical that wealth and good
taste came out of the sea, into these little towns; mere
villages they would be called to-day. Marblehead in
1744 had ninety vessels in active service, two hundred
acres covered with fish-flakes, and an annual catch
worth £34,000 sterling. In 1765, with just under five
thousand inhabitants it was the sixth town in the thirteen colonies; behind Newport, but ahead of Salem,
Baltimore, and Albany.
Why was maritime Massachusetts so prominent in
the American Revolution? Because she was so democratic! answers the bright scholar. Here is another
fallacy I would puncture in passing. American democracy was not born in the cabin of the Mayflower or
in Boston town meeting, but on the farming, fighting
frontier of all the colonies, New England included.
Seaboard Massachusetts has never known such a thing
as a social democracy; and in seaboard Massachusetts,
as elsewhere, inequalities of wealth have made political
democracy a sham. Few town meetings have been
held near tidewater where the voice of shipowner,
merchant, or master mariner did not carry more
weight than that of fisherman, counting-room clerk, or
common seaman. Society in seaboard New England
was carefully stratified, and the Revolution brought
little change save in personnel. The 'quality' dressed
differently from the poor and middle classes, lived in
finer houses, expected and received deference, and
! ran' their communities because they controlled the
working capital of ships and goods. The only difference from old-world society lay in the facility in
passing from one class to another.
Marblehead has always had a reputation for democracy, especially after the departure of  'King'
■«»»** I
Hooper. But Bentley, apropos the death of Colonel
Glover in 1805, remarked, "The leading men had
power nowhere else known in N. England." Visiting
Andover, the same keen observer noted the young
people assembling to dance, "in classes according to
their ages, not with any regard to their condition, as
in the Seaport Towns." Manchester, a poor fishing
village, voted as the Boston merchant who handled its
catch dictated. Even in Cape Cod, there was a great
gulf between squire and fisherman. "Was Cape Cod
democratic?" I asked an aged gentleman from Barnstable, who had gone west before the Civil War.
"Why, yes; it was n't like Boston — everybody spoke
to everybody else." — "But was it democratic like
Wisconsin?" — "No! by no means!"
The sea is no wet-nurse to democracy. Authority
and privilege are her twin foster-children. Instant and
unquestioning obedience to the master is the rule of the
sea; and your typical sea-captain would make it the
rule of the land if he could.
Since the merchants ruled society and politics in
Massachusetts almost from the beginning to 1825,
when they were forced to divide with the manufacturers, it were well to be sure we know what a merchant was. Down to the Civil War, the word was understood as Dr. Johnson defines it: "one who trafficks
to remote countries." A merchant was no mere shopkeeper, or commission dealer. He bought and sold,
at home and abroad, on his own account, and handled
^private adventures' on the side. He owned or chartered the vessels that carried his goods. Specialization came only within a generation of i860. The
provincial merchants owned not only merchant ships,
but fishing craft, whalers and coasters, sent their vessels to the other continental colonies, England, the
Mediterranean, the West Indies, and the Spanish
main for all sorts of commodities; sold their return
ladings at wholesale, and at retail from their own
shops; speculated in wild lands, did a private banking
business, and underwrote insurance policies. Many of
them were wealthy, for the time. Thomas Boylston,
the richest man in Provincial Massachusetts, was supposed to be worth about $400,000 just before the
Revolution; and Colonel Elisha Doane, who maintained a country estate and a perpetually sandbound
coach at Wellfleet on the Cape, was a good second.
These colonial merchants lived well, with a spacious
brick mansion in Boston and a country seat at Milton
Hill, Cambridge, or as far afield as Harvard and Hop-
kinton, where great house parties were given. They
were fond of feasts and pageants, of driving out to
country inns for a dinner and dance, of trout-fishing,
and pleasure cruises to the Maine coast. They carried swords, and drew them if not granted proper deference by inferiors. Their wives and daughters wore the
latest London fashions, and were painted by Smibert,
Blackburn, and Copley. Their sons went to sea on a
parental ship, or, if they cared not for business, to
Harvard College. Nor was this 'codfish aristocracy*
ashamed of the source of all these blessings. The
proudest names in the province appear in "Boston
Gazette" or "Post-Boy" offering for sale everything
from fish-lines to broadcloth. The Honorable Benjamin Pickman placed a half-model of a codfish on every
front stair-end in his new Salem mansion.
The backbone of maritime Massachusetts, however,
was its middle class; the captains and mates of vessels,
the master builders and shipwrights, the ropemakers,
sailmakers, and skilled mechanics of many different
trades, without whom the merchants were nothing.
#      ■ 25 f"
m** "«yj "*«inw[''       . - ~ -- # .«yr'1* gg ■% MARITIME HISTORY OF MASSACHUSETTS
Benjamin Franklin was a typical product of this class,
the son of an English-born tallow-chandler, and a
Folger of Nantucket. As the broad humor of that
island puts it, "Ben's keel was laid in Nantucket, but
the old lady went to Boston to launch him." His
first childish invention was a cob-wharf in the Boston
millpond marsh, as a fishing station for minnows; his
first imprints were broadside ballads on Blackbeard,
and the shipwreck of Captain Worthilake, which he
hawked about the crooked streets. In all his varied
career the New England salt never worked out of
Franklin's blood. One remembers the Gulf-Stream
chart, which he persuaded a Nantucket cousin to
sketch, in the vain hope of dissuading British shipmasters from bucking that ocean river. His "Maritime Suggestions" contain some practical hints that
were later followed up by shipbuilders. It was this
Yankee middle class of the water-front, keen, ambitious, inventive, courageous, that produced the great
merchants and shipmasters of later generations; that
gave maritime Massachusetts its characteristic flavor. CHAPTER III
A doggerel tory poet made no bad analysis of the
Patriot party in the northern colonies, as a coalition
of 'John Presbyter,' 'Will Democrack,' and 'Nathan
Smuggle' :
John answer'd, Thou art proud,
Brittania, mad and rich,
Will d d her, with his Crowd,
And call'd her, 'Tyrant .'
While Nathan his Effusions bray'd
And veaw'd She ruin'd all his Trade.
Boston became the headquarters of the American
Revolution largely because the policy of George III
threatened her maritime interests. "Massachusetts-
Bay is the most prejudicial plantation to this kingdom," wrote Sir Josiah Child. Instead of trading only
with the mother country, and producing some staple
which she could monopolize, Massachusetts would
spite the Acts of Trade and Navigation, would "trye
all ports," would trade with England's rivals, and
drive English ships from colonial commerce.
Of course she had to do all this in order to live and
prosper; and every penny won from free trade (as she
called it) or smuggling (as the English called it) was
spent in England. Until 1760, Englishmen saw the
point and let well enough alone; but the ministers of
George III believed it their duty to enforce the statutes, and make Massachusetts a colony in fact as in
name. Not only their policy, but their method of exe-
«U i.r
cuting it was objectionable. Loyalty was chilled, and
a fighting spirit aroused, by incidents such as this:
On Friday last a Coaster belonging to Scituate was passing one
of the Ships of War in this harbour, when they dous'd their mainsail,
but it not being quite to the satisfaction of the commanding officer
of the Ship, they sent their boat on board and upon the Officer's
stepping upon the Sloop's deck he immediately drew a cutlass with
which he struck the master of the Coaster on the cheek, which cut a
gash near three inches long, after which he damn'd him for not
showing more respect to the King's Ship and then cut the halliards
of the mainsail and let the sail run down upon deck.1
The American Revolution in eastern Massachusetts was financed and in part led by wealthy merchants like John Hancock, Josiah Quincy, James
Bowdoin, Richard Derby, and El bridge Gerry.2 When
the crisis came in 1775, a minority of the merchants,
alarmed at mob violence, preferred law and order to
liberty and property; but the majority risked the one
to secure the other — and obtained both. They may,
too, have been moved by the same high ideals which,
spread broadcast by the voice and pen of Adams and
Otis, Hawley and Warren, set interior Massachusetts
ablaze. But their interests as well were at stake. If
American trade were regulated by corrupt incompetents three thousand miles away, Massachusetts
might as well retire from the sea.
In consequence, the Revolution in eastern Massachusetts, radical in appearance, was conservative in
character. The war closed with little change in the
social system of provincial days, although the change
in personnel was great. Maritime interests were still
supreme. The Constitution of 1780 was a lawyers*
and merchants' constitution, directed toward some-
1 Boston Gazette and Country Journal, Sept. 25, 1769.
* The G in this name is hard.
28 I
thing like quarterdeck efficiency in government, and
the protection of property against democratic pirates.
The maritime history of Massachusetts during the
War of Independence would make a book in itself;
it has already lent color to many books. We must pass
by the marine Lexington in Machias Bay, the state
navy fitted out in 1775, the British attacks on Gloucester, Portland, and New Bedford. Just a word, however, on privateering. Her success in this legalized
piracy was probably the greatest contribution of seaboard Massachusetts to the common cause. Six hundred and twenty-six letters of marque were issued to
Massachusetts vessels by the Continental Congress,
and some thousand more by the General Court. Privateers were of little use in naval operations, as the disastrous Penobscot expedition proved; but they were
of very greatest service in preying on the enemy's
commerce, intercepting his communications with
America, carrying terror and destruction into the very
chops of the Channel, and supplying the patriot army
with munitions, stores and clothing at Johnny Bull's
From an economic and social viewpoint, privateering employed the fishermen, and all those who depended on shipping; taught daring seamanship, and
strengthened our maritime aptitude and tradition.
Privateers required speed; and the Massachusetts
builders, observing, it is said, the scientifically designed vessels of our French allies, did away with high
quarterdecks, eased water-lines, and substituted a
nearly U-shaped cross-section for the barrel-shaped
bottom and unseemly tumble-home of the old-style
ships. Commerce continued with the West Indies,
France, and Spain in letter-of-marque ships, armed
merchantmen with a license to take prizes on the side.
m        29
The letter-of-marque ship General Pickering of Salem,
Captain Jonathan Haraden, fourteen guns and forty-
five men, but heavily laden with sugar, beat the British privateer Achilles of three times her size and armament off Bilbao, in one of the most gallant sea-fights
of the Revolution. On the back side of Cape Cod,
whalemen with swivel-armed boats kept watch on
Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds, the sea-lane to the
British base in New York. With an impudent daring
that astounded the enemy, they swooped down on his
vessels when becalmed, or cut them out of Tarpaulin
Cove and Holmes Hole at night-time. On Salem, in
particular, the Revolution wrought an entire change in
commercial spirit. Before the war Salem was mainly
a fishing port. Privateering gave her seamen a broader
horizon, and her merchants a splendid ambition.
In the earlier years of the war, large profits were
made from privateering by every one connected with
it. A favorite speculation for merchants was to buy,
in advance of his cruise, half a privateersman's share
of his forthcoming prizes. But in the last year or two
of the war the British tightened their blockade, captured a large part of our fleet, and drove the rest into
port. The insurance rate from Beverly to Hayti and
back was forty per cent in 1780. The Derbys of Salem
are said to have been the only privateering firm to retain a favorable balance, when peace was concluded.
But it was a great war while it lasted!
Then came the worst economic depression Massachusetts has ever known. The double readjustment
from a war to a peace basis, and from a colonial to an
independent basis, caused hardship throughout the
colonies. It worked havoc with the delicate adjustment of fishing, seafaring, and shipbuilding by which
Massachusetts was accustomed to gain her living. By
1786, the exports of Virginia had more than regained
their pre-Revolutionary figures. At the same date the
exports of Massachusetts were only one-fourth of what
they had been twelve years earlier.
The fisheries had to be reconstructed from the beginning. Owing to the diplomacy of John Adams,
Massachusetts codfishermen retained access to their
old grounds; but they lacked vessels, gear, arid capital.
It is generally assumed that our fishing fleet had been
transformed into privateers, and needed only reconversion to go out and catch cod. But the fishing
schooner of that period was a slow, unwieldy craft, of
little use in privateering. Such of them as had been
converted, for the most part were captured; the rest,
high and dry for seven years, needed expensive repairs.
The whaling fleet of Nantucket and Dartmouth§ had
been wiped out. Only four or five remained out of two
hundred sail; the rest had been lost, burned, or captured.
Independence deprived the Massachusetts cod-
fisheries of their greatest market, the British West
Indies; and the whale-fisheries of their only foreign
market, England. Johnny Bull naturally slammed
his colonial doors in Jonathan's face; would receive his
ships on no terms, nor even his salt provisions and codfish in British vessels. He intended to build up his own
fisheries and lumber trade. France and Spain excluded
recent allies from their colonial preserves. The Dutch,
Danish, and Swedish islands remained; not important
markets, but good centers for smuggling. But until
the new ropes were learned, the returns to New England fishermen were meager indeed. After four years
of peace, about four-fifths of the Grand Banks fleet
1 Dartmouth until  1787 included  New Bedford, Fairhaven, and
was in commission; but the men were not earning
enough to see their families through the winter. By
1789, only one-third of the whaling tonnage of 1773
had been restored.1
The coasting trade was under a similar handicap, for
Massachusetts had been accustomed to pay for her imports of tobacco and Southern produce largely with
West India goods. Almost the only thing that could
be done was to send small sloops and fishing vessels
to peddle out local produce along the shores of Chesapeake Bay, Albemarle Sound, Pamlico Sound, and
Cape Fear River, for corn, tobacco, and naval stores.
For example, three fishing schooners cleared from
Beverly for Maryland and North Carolina during the
first two weeks of December, 1787. The Swallow\ forty-
five tons, takes bricks, butter, fish, rum, potatoes, and
"6 Tons of English Hay here produced." The Wood-
bridge, Seward Lee master, takes "5 hhd. salt, 12 q.
dry fish, 5 hhd. molasses, 4 bbl. Mackerell, 6 doz.
buckets, 9 Setts wooden measures, 3 half-pecks, 11
buckets with covers, 6 hhd. & 6 bbl. N.E. Rum, 8
boxes chocolate, 3 doz. common cheeses, 2 cases
Earthen ware, 1 doz. axes, 36 bbl. potatoes, 1 doz.
setts Sugar Boxes "; and " all the above are the Growth
and Manufacture of this state." With such typical
cargoes of "Yankee notions," pathetic in their homely
variety, the smaller seaports of Massachusetts were
wooing the prosperity which had already returned to
the South.
And what of the slave trade? A dark subject, indeed;
one which I have endeavored in vain to illuminate.
The "Guinea trade" had never been an important
line of commerce in Massachusetts. It was forbidden,
under heavy penalties, by an act of the General Court
1 See table in Appendix.
in 1788. Yet it did not entirely cease. Felt, in his
"Annals of Salem," prints the instructions of an owner
to a slaver which left that port in 1785. Dr. Bentley,
who had a keen scent for this nefarious traffic, notes in
his diary the names of at least eight Salem shipmasters
who engaged in it, at one time or another, between
1788 and 1802. A mutiny in the middle passage disposed of one; another was killed by a negro in revenge;
one, "of a most worthy family," died at Havana, another cut his own throat. Only one seems to have been
arrested, and he was released for lack of evidence; although an extant log of one of his voyages, from Salem
to the Guinea coast and the West Indies, bears witness
to his guilt. Salem had a regular trade with the West
African coast, rum and fish for gold dust, palm oil, and
ivory; and it would be surprising if an occasional shipmaster did not yield to the temptation to load ' black
ivory' as well.
The statistics of slave imports at Charleston, between 1804 and 1808, disclosed by Senator Smith, of
South Carolina, in the latter year, state that seventy
of the entering vessels belonged to Great Britain, sixty-
one to Charleston itself, fifty-nine to Rhode Island,
only one to Boston, and none to any other Massachusetts port. But this does not include the West-Indian
slave trade; and an interesting insurance policy, dated
June 13, 1803, suggests how it could be carried on without breaking either the laws of Massachusetts or of
the United States. One of the most eminent and famous firms of China merchants, acting as agents for
one Robert Cuming, of St. Croix (Danish West Indies),
insures for $33,000 at ten per cent, his ship Hope and
cargo from the coast of Africa to Havana, under Danish
colors. "The assurers are liable for loss by insurrection,
but not by natural mortality. Each slave is valued at
two hundred dollars." This policy is underwritten by
seven of the most respectable Boston merchants, and
negotiated by an eighth.
William Lloyd Garrison exposed a domestic slave-
trader of Newburyport in 1829, one who took slaves as
freight from Baltimore to New Orleans. Even later the
New Bedford whaling masters occasionally engaged
in the African trade. Only a thorough examination of
bur court records, and of the archives of such foreign
seaports as Havana, would reveal a measure of the full
truth. Yet I believe the statement warranted that the
slave trade, as prosecuted from Massachusetts or by
Massachusetts capital after the Revolution, was occasional and furtive, rather than a recognized underground traffic. Certainly it played no prominent part
in the commercial prosperity of the community; and
the assertion, often disproved but as often repeated,
that Massachusetts was "the nursing mother of the
horrors of the middle passage," is without any foundation in fact.
Shipbuilding came to a standstill shortly after the
Revolution. With no British market for our bottoms,
and British colonial ports closed to the American
flag; with French, Austrians, Germans, Dutch, and
Swedes competing for our carrying trade, and no government capable of granting protection; the shipping
supremacy of Massachusetts seemed forever ended.
According to an official report of the French consul at
Boston, about one hundred and twenty-five vessels
had been launched annually in Massachusetts before the war. In 1784, only forty-five vessels left the
ways; and twelve of them, built for the French East-
India service, were so poorly constructed that no more
outside orders came. Between 1785 and 1787, only
fifteen to twenty were built annually. A goodly fleet of
merchantmen, and several new privateers like the
Astrea and Grand Turk, constructed during the last
year or two of the war, were on hand; but there was
little employment for them. Instead of sending her
fleet to all Europe, as optimists predicted, Massachusetts found her own harbors thronged with foreign
flags, and her wharves heaped high with foreign goods.
Between May and December, 1783, twenty-eight
French vessels, and almost the same number of English
merchantmen, brought cargoes, worth almost half a
million dollars, into Boston Harbor alone. Consisting
largely of luxuries, they were nevertheless snapped up
(on credit, of course) by the merchants of this war-
stricken town of ten thousand inhabitants. Peace
brought a riot of luxury such as Massachusetts never,
saw again until 1919. The war debt was enormous, the
need of production imperative; but privateering, speculation, and the continental currency had so undermined Yankee thrift and energy that many persons
thought the character of the race had completely
changed. Travelers commented on the vulgar display
of the profiteers, and the reckless spending of farmers
and mechanics. We hear of artisans buying silk
stockings, and 'jeunes paysannes' coming into Boston market, wearing 'chapeaux Montgolfiers.'
Worst of all, civil conflict was impending. For some
years before the Revolution, central and western
Massachusetts had been increasing rapidly in population, and acquiring class consciousness. The farmer no
longer blessed the merchant, but cursed him as an
exploiter. All classes and sections had allied to resist
British imperialism; but the war brought about much
friction. Mutual accusations of profiteering and slacking were frequent. Berkshire County refused obedience to the Boston government until 1780; and few
debts or taxes were paid in western Massachusetts for
seven years.
By 1783 the farmers had acquired a higher standard
of living, and a heavy burden of debts. European
creditors began to press Boston merchants; who turned
to their country storekeeper debtors, who began to
distrain on the farmers, who then called upon government to establish a moratorium for debts, and to issue
cheap money. But maritime Massachusetts controlled
the government, by the simple device of apportioning
the state senate according to taxable wealth. Every
effort of the representatives to relieve the farmers
died in the upper house.
The merchants even shifted the burden of taxation
to those who could least bear it. Forty per cent of the
state expenses were raised by poll-taxes, which fell
equally on rich and poor, merchant prince and plough-
boy. The customs duties were low, and largely evaded;
Samuel Breck tells in his "Recollections" how the best
people would smuggle in a good proportion of each
cargo, as if the customs were still the King's.
Owing to the dislocation of the West-India trade
and the departure of the French and British armies,
there was no longer a market for the farming and
domestic produce of central New England. Prices
and common labor fell to almost nothing. At this
crisis, the state government began to distrain on tax
delinquents, and the merchants on their debtors. The
courts became clogged with suits. Farms which had
been in one family for generations, were sold under the
hammer at a fraction of their real value, to pay debts
contracted at inflated prices, or a few years' overdue
taxes. The situation became intolerable to men who
had fought for liberty.
In the summer of 1786 the storm broke. The up-
country yeomanry, under the leadership of Revolutionary officers like Daniel Shays, began breaking up
sessions of the courts, in the hope of a respite from
confiscations until the next state election. Government ordered them to disperse, and preached "frugality, industry and self-denial." The yeomanry
persisted, and the tide of lawlessness rolled nearer
Boston. Governor Bowdoin proclaimed the rebel
leaders outlaws. They then resolved to be outlaws indeed, and attacked the Springfield arsenal in search of
better weapons than pitchforks and Queen's arms.
One ' whiff of grapeshot' dispersed the ragged battalions to the bleak hills of western Massachusetts. Loyal
militia and gentlemen volunteers from the seaboard,
advancing through the deep snow of a hard winter,
broke up the remaining bands, early in 1787. It .was
a victory of property over democracy; of maritime
Massachusetts over farming Massachusetts.
Notwithstanding these civil disorders, some brave
efforts were made both by the Commonwealth and by
private individuals, in the years near 1786, to make
the state more self-sufficient. The Massachusetts
Bank, first in the state, was chartered in 1784. A
small manufacturing boom set in about the same
time. The "Boston Glass House" was established by
a group of local capitalists in 1786, and received a state
monopoly for manufacturing window-glass. The Cabot
family established the Beverly Cotton Manufactory
in 1787. Most of these experiments closed their doors
in a few years' time. But the Charles River Bridge
from Boston to Charlestown, opened on the eleventh
anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill, was a financial
success, and encouraged the building of several other
toll-bridges that greatly increased the facilities of the
seaport towns.
1     - 37 f "   '
In the meantime, commerce was slowly reviving.
Yankee skippers f were learning to outwit both Bar-
bary corsairs and West India regulations. Orders in
Council changed neither the Jamaican appetite for
dried codfish, nor the Yankee thirst for Jamaica rum.
A Massachusetts vessel putting into a British port
"in distress" was likely to obtain an official permit to
land its cargo and relieve the "starving population."
France, thanks to Jefferson's diplomacy, gradually reopened her insular possessions; and Spain permitted direct trade with Havana, Trinidad, and New Orleans.
St. Eustatius, St. Bartholomew, and the Virgin Islands
became entrepdts for illicit traffic. Much New England
lumber and whale oil found its way to the West India
and English markets by acquiring a " British " character
in Nova Scotia. Despite the English disposition to
"cramp us in the Cod-Fishery," as Stephen Higgin-
son put it, and the bounties paid by France to her
pGcheurs d'Islande, the West Indies took a greater proportion of our dried codfish in 1790 than in 1775. But
the total exports were still far below those of the pre-
Revolutionary era.
By 1787 the West-India trade was in a measure restored. Beverly, for instance, imported about 3100
gallons of foreign rum, 7000 gallons of "other foreign
distilled spirits," 400 pounds of cocoa, 3500 pounds of
sugar, and 50,000 pounds of leaf tobacco, between
April 1 and July 1, 1787. The benefits of a reopened
market for farm produce and wooden ware, percolating
into the interior, did more to salve the wounds of
Shays's Rebellion than all the measures passed by the
Great and General Court.
1 This term is correctly used only for the masters of fishing vessels,
coasters, and small craft such as traded with the West Indies. A docu-!-
ment of 1775 in the Beverly Historical Society speaks of "the chuner
Mary thomas Rusel Skiper & oner.''
But the general commercial situation in Massachusetts was still most unsatisfactory. Every state, under
the Confederation, had its own customs duties and
tonnage laws. When Massachusetts attempted to discriminate against British vessels, her neighbors received them with open arms; and British goods reached
Boston from other ports by coasting sloops. Not even
the coasting trade was confined to the American flag;
and the port dues were constantly changed. More
commercial treaties were needed with foreign powers.
Federal bounties were needed to revive fishing. Shays's
Rebellion, fortunately, sent such a thrill of horror
through the states, that conservative forces drew together to create a more perfect union.
In the struggle of 1788 over the ratification of the
Federal Constitution, Massachusetts was a pivotal
state. The voters returned an anti-Federalist majority
to her ratifying convention. By various methods,
enough votes were changed to obtain ratification. A
meeting of four hundred Boston mechanics (following,
it is said, a promise by local merchants to order three
new vessels upon ratification) drew up strong Federalist
resolutions, which turned the wavering Samuel Adams.
Governor Hancock was reached by methods less
direct. Boston hospitality had its influence. "I most
Tel you I was never Treated with So must politeness
in my life as I was afterwards by the Treadesmen of
Boston merchants & every other Gentlemen," wrote a
backwoods member. Finally the Convention ratified,
by a majority of 19 out of 355 votes. The sectional
alignment was significant. The coast and island counties of Massachusetts proper cast 102 votes in favor,
and only 19 against, ratification. The inland countiesl
1 Including Middlesex and Bristol, the bulk of whose population was
agricultural at this period.
cast 60 in favor, 128 against. For the third time in
ten years, maritime Massachusetts won over farming
M assachusetts.
On her proper element, maritime Massachusetts
was already winning a cleaner fight: — victory over
lethargy and despair; victory over powers who would
cramp her restless energy, doom her ships to decay,
and her seamen to emigrate. Some subtle instinct, or
maybe thwarted desire of Elizabethan ancestors who,
seeking in vain the Northwest Passage, founded an
empire on the barrier, was pulling the ships of Massachusetts east by west, into seas where no Yankee had
ever ventured. Off the roaring breakers of Cape Horn,
in the vast spaces of the Pacific, on savage coasts
and islands, and in the teeming marts of the Far East,
the intrepid shipmasters and adventurous youth of
New England were reclaiming their salt sea heritage. CHAPTER IV
Maritime commerce was the breath of life for Massachusetts. When commerce languished, the commonwealth fell sick. When commerce revived even a little,
the hot passions of Shays's Rebellion cooled just
enough to permit a ratification of the Federal Constitution. Prosperity, not only of the seaport towns,
but of the agricultural interior, depended as of old
upon the success of seafaring Massachusetts. Without
prosperity, emigration would follow, and slow decay,
and death. The codfishermen must exact tribute from
the Banks; the whalers must pursue their 'gigantic
game' around the Horn, the merchants and trading
vessels must recover their grip on the home market and
the handling of Southern exports; must find substitutes
for the protected trade of colonial days; must elude
the Spanish guarda costas along the circumference of
South America; must compete with English, Scots, and
Dutchmen in the Baltic and the Indies; and must
seek out new, virgin markets and sources of supply in
the Pacific. All this had to be done, that Massachusetts retain her position among the brighter stars of the
American constellation. The doing of it determined her
political orientation; transformed a revolutionary community, the most fecund source of political thought in
the western world, into a conservative commonwealth,
the spearhead of the aggressively reactionary Federalist party.
" From 1790 to 1820, there was not a book, a speech,
a conversation, or a thought in the State," wrote
Emerson. Speaking relatively and broadly, he was
right. The Yankee mind, engrossed in the struggle for
existence, neglected things spiritual and intellectual
during this Federalist period of its history; and the
French Revolution made thought suspicious to a commercial community. Yet thought there was, even
though the Sage of Concord might not call it by that
name; the thought that opens up new channels of trade,
sets new enterprises on foot, and erects a political
system to consolidate them. By such thought, no less
than the other, the grist of history is ground.
Every seaport of Massachusetts proper from New-
buryport to Edgartown was quickening into new
activity in 1789; none more so than the capital. The
Boston of massacre and tea-party, of Sam Adams and
Jim Otis, of uproarious mobs and radical meetings,
was in transition to that quiet, prosperous, orderly
Federalist Boston, the Boston of East-India merchants
and Federalist statesmen; of Thomas Handasyd Perkins, Charles Bulfinch, and Harrison Gray Otis.
In appearance, the Boston of 1790 was unchanged
since 1750. Charles Bulfinch had returned from Europe, but his native town had barely taken up the slack
of the turbulent era; some accumulation of wealth was
needed to employ his architectural talents. The eighteen thousand inhabitants were not crowded on their
peninsula of seven hundred and eighty acres — about
nine-tenths the area of Central Park, New York. As
one approached it by the Charles River Bridge in 1790,
Boston seemed "almost to stand in the water, at least
to be surrounded by it, and the shipping, with the
houses, trees, and churches, have a charming effect."
Beacon Hill, a three-peaked grassy slope, still innocent
of the gilded dome, dominated the town.   From its
base a maze of narrow streets paved with beach stones,
wound their way seaward among ancient dwellings;
dividing around Copp's and Fort Hills to meet again
by the water's edge. One of them, to be sure, led to
"landward to the west," but at spring tides even that,
too, went "downward to the sea." Buildings crowded
out to the very capsills of the wharves, which poked
boldly into deep water. The uniform mass of slate and
mossy shingle roofs, pointed, hipped, and gambreled,
was broken by a few graceful church spires, serene
elders of the masts that huddled about the wharves.
As for the people, "Commerce occupies all their
thought," writes Brissot de Warville in 1788, "turns
all their heads, and absorbs all their speculations.
Thus you find few estimable works, and few authors."
But "let us not blame the Bostonians; they think of
the useful before procuring themselves the agreeable.
They have no brilliant monuments; but they have
neat and commodious houses, superb bridges, and excellent ships." To Timothy Dwight, of New Haven,
the Bostonians seemed "distinguished by a lively
imagination.... Their enterprises are sudden, bold,
and sometimes rash. A general spirit of adventure
prevails here."
One bright summer afternoon in 1790 saw the close
of a great adventure. On August 9, Boston town heard
a salute of thirteen guns down-harbor. The ship
Columbia, Captain Robert Gray, with the first American ensign to girdle the globe snapping at her peak*
was greeting the Castle after an absence of three years.
Coming to anchor in the inner harbor, she fired another
federal salute of thirteen guns, which a "great concourse of citizens assembled on the various wharfs returned with three huzzas and a hearty welcome." A
rumor ran through the narrow streets that a native of
1 I        43    '
"Owyhee" — a Sandwich-Islander — was on board;
and before the day was out, curious Boston was gratified with a sight of him, marching after Captain
Gray to call on Governor Hancock. Clad in a feather
cloak of golden suns set in flaming scarlet, that came
halfway down his brown legs; crested with a gorgeous
feather helmet shaped like a Greek warrior's, this
young Hawaiian moved up State Street like a living
The Columbia had logged 41,899 miles since her departure from Boston on September 30, 1787. Her
voyage was not remarkable as a feat of navigation;
Magellan and Drake had done the trick centuries before, under far more hazardous conditions. It was the
practical results that counted. The Columbia's first
voyage began the Northwest fur trade, which enabled
the merchant adventurers of Boston to tap the vast
reservoir of wealth in China.
The history of this discovery goes back to the close of
hostilities, and reveals a thread of optimism and energy
running through years of depression. In December,
1783, the little fifty-five-ton sloop Harriet, of Hingham,
Captain Hallet, sailed from Boston with a cargo of
ginseng for China. Putting in at the Cape of Good
Hope, she met with some British East-Indiamen who,
alarmed at this portent of Yankee competition, bought
her cargo for double its weight in Hyson tea. Captain
Hallet made a good bargain, but lost the honor of
hoisting the first American ensign in Canton, to a New
York ship, the Empress of China.
Although the capital and the initiative were of
New York, the direction of this voyage was entrusted
'l44 II
to the supercargo I of the Empress, Major Samuel
Shaw, of Boston, one of the few sons of New England
mercantile families who had served through the entire
war. The Empress of China arrived at Macao on
August 22,, 1784, six months out from New York; and
despite Shaw's inexperience brought home a cargo that
proved America need pay no further tribute for teas
or silks to the Dutch or British. Major Shaw's report
to the government was published, stimulating others to
repeat the experiment; and he freely gave of his experience to all who asked. After receiving the purely
honorary title of American consul at Canton, he returned thither in 1786, on the ship Hope of New York,
James Magee master, to establish the first American
commercial house in China. He was also one of the
first in the East-India trade. A short residence in
Bombay so affected his liver, that he died on a homeward voyage in 1794, in his fortieth year. Of Samuel
Shaw it was said by that rugged shipmaster of Dux-
bury, Amasa Delano, that "he was a man of fine talents and considerable cultivation; he placed so high
a value upon sentiments of honor that some of his
friends thought it was carried to excess. He was candid, just and generous, faithful in his friendships, an
agreeable companion, and manly in all his intercourse."
Shortly after her arrival at Canton, the Hope was
joined by the Grand Turk, of Salem, Captain Ebenezer
West, the first Massachusetts vessel to visit the Far
\ II
1 A supercargo was the representative on shipboard of owners and
consigners. He took no part in»navigation, but handled the business side
of the voyage. A captain often acted as supercargo, especially when a
relative of the owners; in such cases he generally carried a clerk to keep
the books. Promotion of a supercargo to the command of a vessel was
called "coming in through the cabin window*'; promotion of a foremast
hand, "coming in through the hawse-hole."
45 w
S* *' I  '    t  I   1
^ **••  J?       East. Her return to Salem on May 22, 1787, brought
fabulous profits to her owner, whetted the appetite of
every Massachusetts merchant, and (what was equally
important) fixed their good wives' ambition on a chest
of Hyson, a China silk gown, and a set of Canton china.
Although America was outstripping every other
nation in China trade, save Britain, she could not long
compete with Britain without a suitable ^medium.
The Canton market accepted little but specie and
eastern products. British merchants could import
the spoil of India and the Moluccas — opium and
mummie and sharks' fins and edible birds' nests. Yet
Britain paid for the major part of her teas and silks in
silver. Massachusetts, on the morrow of Shays's
Rebellion, could not afford to do this. Ginseng could
be procured and sold only in limited quantities. Unless
some new product were found to tickle the palate or
suit the fancy of the finicky mandarins, the Grand
Turk's voyage were a flash in the pan. To find something salable in Canton, was the riddle of the China
trade. Boston and Salem solved it.
The ship Columbia was fitted out by a group of
Boston merchants who believed the solution of the
problem lay in the furs of the Northwest Coast. Captain Cook's third voyage, the account of which was
published in 1784, and John Ledyard's report of the
Russian fur trade in Bering Sea, gave them the hint.
Possibly they had also learned from Samuel Shaw that
a few Anglo-Indian traders, whom Captain Gray later
met on the Coast, had already sold Alaskan sea-otter at
Canton. |1|
Although privately financed, with fourteen shares of
$3500 each,1 the voyage was conceived in the public
1 The shareholders were Joseph Barrell, Samuel Brown, and Captain
Crowell Hatch, prominent Boston merchants; Charles Bulfinch the
spirit of the old merchant adventurers. A medal was
struck to distribute among the natives. An expert
furrier, a surgeon, and (luckily for us) an artist were
taken. John Kendrick, of Wareham, commanded
both the expedition, and the ship Columbia, eighty-
three feet long, two hundred twelve tons burthen,
built at Hobart's Landing olrthe North- Riverr Scitu-
^aterirui^g^. Robert Gray, born of Plymouth stock in
Tiverton, Rhode Island, and a former officer in the
Continental navy, was master of the ninety-ton sloop
Lady Washington, which accompanied the Columbia as
tender. Both vessels made an unusually long passage,
and encountered heavy westerly gales off Cape Horn,
which they were the first North American vessels to
pass. On April I, 1788, in latitude 570 57' south, they
parted company. Gray reached the coast of "New
Albion" eleven months out of Boston, and was joined
by the Columbia at Nootka Sound, the fur-trading
center on Vancouver Island. It was too late to do any
trading that season, so both vessels were anchored in a
sheltered cove, while the crew lived ashore in log huti)
and built a small boat* In the summer of 1789, before a
full cargo of skins had been obtained, provisions began
to run low. Captain Kendrick therefore remained behind, but sent Gray in the Columbia to Canton, where
he exchanged his cargo of peltry for tea, and returned
to Boston around the world.
The Columbia's first voyage, like most pioneering
enterprises, was not a financial success. Fourteen
American vessels preceded her to Canton, and most of
them reached home before her. Four of them, belonging to Elias Hasket Derby, of Salem, had approached
the China market from a different angle and with
architect, John Derby, son of E. H. Derby, of Salem, and J. M. Pintard,
a merchant of New York.
greater success. The ship Astrea, Captain James
Magee,1 carried a miscellaneous cargo, which had
taken almost a year to assemble. The barques Light
Horse and Atlantic exchanged provisions at Mauritius
(He de France) for bills which at Bombay, Calcutta,
and Surat bought a good assortment for Canton; the
brig Three Sisters, Captain Benjamin Webb, disposed
of a mixed cargo at Batavia, where she was chartered
by a Dutch merchant to carry Java products to Canton.
She and the Atlantic were there sold, and the entire
proceeds invested in silks, chinaware, and three-
quarters of a million pounds of tea, which were loaded
on the two larger vessels.
Elias Hasket Derby, ignorant even of the arrival of
his vessels at Canton, was beginning to feel a bit nervous toward the end of May, 1790, when a brig arrived
with news of them. On June 1, the Astrea was sighted
in Salem Bay. But Mr. Derby's troubles were not yet
over. On June 15, the Light Horse appeared; but for
lack of wind was forced to anchor off Marblehead. In
the night an easterly gale sprang up. The vessel was
too close inshore to make sail and claw off. Early in
the morning her crew felt that sickening sensation
of dragging anchors. Astern, nearer, nearer came the
granite rocks of Marblehead, where the ragged population perched like buzzards, not displeased at the prospect of rich wreckage at Salem's expense. "King
Darby" hurried over in his post-chaise to watch half
his fortune inching toward disaster on his very doorstep. Finally, with but a few yards to spare between
rudder and rocks, the anchors bit, and saved the Light
1 Captain James Magee (1750-1801), described as "aconvivial, noble-
hearted Irishman," during the Revolution commanded the man-of-war
brig General Arnold, which was wrecked in Plymouth Bay. He married Margaret Elliot, sister of Mrs. Thomas Handasyd Perkins, and
lived in the old Governor Shirley mansion at Roxbury.
48 f
Horse until a shift of wind brought her to the haven
where she would be.
Two months later, Captain Gray entered Boston
with a damaged cargo to find Captain Magee advertising China goods in the Boston papers. But the
Columbia had opened a channel to fortune that her
rivals were quick to follow.
As supercargo of the Astrea, Mr. Derby had chosen
Captain Magee's young brother-in-law, Thomas Hand-
asyd Perkins. The Boston | Herald of Freedom | for
January 6, 1789, announced that all persons "wishing
to adventure" aboard the Astrea "may be assured of
Mr. Perkins' assertions for their interest." Those who
accepted were not disappointed; and the pedigrees of
many Boston fortunes can be traced to that China
voyage and its consequences. Young Perkins inherited
an aptitude for the fur trade from his grandfather,
Thomas Handasyd Peck, the leading fur exporter of
the province; and he had learned the mercantile business at his mother's knee. The widow Perkins, one of
those remarkable New England women of the Revolutionary period, carried on her husband's business
with such success that letters used to be received from
abroad addressed to "Elizabeth Perkins, Esq." |No
wonder that, with such forbears, Thomas Handasyd
Perkins became the first of Boston merchants, both in
fortune and in public spirit.
On returning to Boston in 1790, young Perkins
bought the little seventy-ton brigantine Hope, and
sent her under Captain Gray's former mate, Joseph
Ingraham, to the Northwest Coast. In a single summer
she collected fourteen hundred sea-otter skins. The
Columbia started on her second voyage in September,
1790, and the brigantine Hancock, one hundred fifty*
seven tons, Samuel Crowell master, two months later.
Lieutenant Thomas Lamb and his brother James,
merchants, joined Captain Magee in building at Boston, the ship Margaret, one hundred fifty tons, which
sailed under the latter's command on December 24,
1791, "bound on a voyage of observation and enterprise to the North-Western Coast of this Continent."
Others quickly followed.
By 1792 the trade route Boston-Northwest Coast-
Canton-Boston was fairly established. Not only the
merchantmen of Massachusetts, but the whalers (of
whom more anon), balked of their accustomed traffic
by European exclusiveness, were swarming around the
Horn in search of new markets and sources of supply.
It was on May 12, 1792, that Captain Gray (according
to the seyjejn^een^yearipjd fifth mate of the Columbia,
John Boit, Jr.) "saw an appearance of a spacious
harbour abreast the Ship, haul'd our wind for it,
observ'd two sand bars making off, with a passage
between them to a fine river. Out pinnace and sent
her in ahead and followed with the Ship under short
sail, carried in from 1/2 three to 7 fm. and when over the
bar had 10 fm. water, quite fresh. The River extended
to the NE. as far as eye cou'd reach, and water fit to
drink as far down as the Bars, at the entrance. We
directed our course up this noble River in search of a
Village. The beach was lin'd with Natives, who ran
along shore following the Ship. Soon after, above 20
Canoes came off, and brought a good lot of Furs, and
Salmon, which last they sold two for a board Nail.
The furs we likewise bought cheap, for Copper and
Cloth. They appear'd to view the Ship with the greatest astonishment and no doubt we was the first civilized people that they ever saw. At length we arriv'd
opposite to a large village, situate on the North side of
the River, about 5 leagues from the entrance.... Capt.
50 •
Gray named this river Columbia's and the North entrance Cape Hancock, and the South Point, Adams.
This River in my opinion, wou'd be a fine place for to
set up a Factory.... The river abounds with excellent
On her first voyage, the Columbia had solved the
riddle of the China trade. On her second, empire followed in the wake.
Before the Columbia returned again, another rash
enterprise of Boston merchants, an attempt to enter
the Canton market through imitation of the British
East India Company, had failed. The ship Massachusetts, of almost eight hundred tons burthen, the largest
vessel constructed to that date in an American shipyard, was built at Quincy in 1789 for Samuel Shaw
and other Boston merchants. Her model and dimensions were taken from a British East-Indiaman, and
her equipment and roster, with midshipmen and captain's servants, imitated the Honourable Company so
far as Yankee economy permitted. Under the command of Captain Job Prince, the Massachusetts sailed
from Boston on March 28, 1790. She carried a general cargo, which her owners expected to exchange at
Batavia for goods suitable for Canton. But the Dutch
authorities (as one might have foreseen) refused a
permit. When the Massachusetts arrived at Canton
with an unsalable cargo, after a long and tempestuous
voyage, Samuel Shaw gladly seized an opportunity
to sell her for $65,000 to the Danish East India
Company. This experience prejudiced American shipowners against vessels larger than five hundred tons,
and determined the merchants of Boston to concentrate on the Northwest fur trade.
"The habits and ordinary pursuits of the New Eng-
landers qualified them in a peculiar manner for carrying on this trade," wrote one of them, "and the em-
barrassed state of Europe gave them ... almost a
monopoly of the most lucrative part of it." Salem
merchants preferred the Cape of Good Hope route,
over which they attained their first success; Englishmen, Philadelphians; and New Yorkers soon dropped
out; and by J^QJ, out of sixteen ships on "The Coast" I
(as Boston called it thisearly) all but two were Bos- I
tonian. The masters and mates, and at first the crews,
were for the most part Bostonian, and the vessels of
Boston registry. So it is no wonder that the Chinook
jargon, the pidgin English of the Coast, names United
States citizens "Boston men" as distinguished from
" Kintshautsh (King George) men."
The most successful vessels in the Northwest fur
trade were small, well-built brigs and ships of one
hundred to two hundred and fifty tons burthen (say
sixty-five to ninety feet long), constructed in the shipyards from the Kennebec to Scituate. Larger vessels
were too difficult to work through the intricacies of the
Northwest Coast. They were heavily manned, in case
of an Indian attack; and copper-bottomed by Paul
Revere's newly invented process, to prevent accumulating barnacles and weeds in tropic waters. The Win-
ships' Albatross, which neglected this precaution, took
almost six months to round Cape Horn, and found her
speed reduced to two knots an hour. Clearing from
Boston in the autumn, in order to pass the high latitudes during the Antarctic summer, they generally
arrived on the Coast by spring.
"The passage around Cape Horn from the Eastward I positively assert," wrote Captain Porter, of the
frigate Essex, "is the most dangerous, most difficult,
and attended with more hardships, than that of the
same distance in any other part of the world." A
passage in which many a great ship has met her death;
in which the head winds and enormous seas put small
vessels at a great disadvantage. Yet, so far as I have
learned, not one of these Boston Nor'westmen failed
to round the Horn in safety.
To obtain fresh provisions and prevent scurvy, the
Nor'west traders broke their voyage at least twice;
at the Cape Verde Islands, the Falklands, sometimes
Galapagos for a giant tortoise, and invariably Hawaii.
For these were leisurely days in seafaring, when a
homeward-bound vessel would stand by for hours while
the crew of an outward-bounder wrote letters home.
Captain Ingraham on his passage out in the Hope, in
1791, discovered and named the Washington group of
the Marquesas Islands, whose women (so he informed
the jealous officers of the Columbia) were "as much
handsomer than the natives of the Sandwich Islands
as the women of Boston are handsomer than a Guinea
After the soft embrace of South Sea Islands, the
savage grandeur of the Northwest Coast threw a chill
on first-comers. Behind rocks and shingle beaches, on
which the long Pacific rollers broke and roared incessantly, spruce and fir-clad mountains rose into
the clouds, which distilled the sea-borne moisture in
almost daily showers. The jagged and picturesque
coast-line—a Maine on magnificent scale—offered
countless harbors; but behind every beach on the
outer margin was a mass of dank undergrowth,
impenetrable even for the natives, whose dugout
canoes served for hunting and fishing, transport and
On making his landfall, a Boston Nor'westman came
to anchor off the nearest Indian village, bartered so
long as he could do business, and then moved on to one
after another of the myriad bays and coves until his
'.'    iS '        54 f       11 THE NORTHWEST FUR TRADE
hold was full of valuable furs. It was a difficult and
hazardous trade, requiring expert discrimination in
making up a cargo, the highest skill in navigation, and
unceasing vigilance in all dealings with the Indians.
The Northwest Indians were dangerous customers.
Captain Kendrick, on parting with Gray during their
pioneer voyage, wrote him, "treet the Natives with
Respect where Ever you go. Cultivate frindship with
them as much as possibel and take Nothing from them
But what you pay them for according to a fair agreement, and not suffer your peopel to affront them or
treet them 111." Gray obeyed, although he found
the Indians already treacherous and aggressive; the
result, he believed, of English outrages. The Boston
men, both from interest and humanity, endeavored by
just and tactful dealings to win the natives' confidence.
But their work was hampered by irresponsible fly-by-
nights who would pirate a cargo of skins, and never
In the early days, scarcely a voyage passed without
a battle. Captain Kendrick lost a son, and was once
driven from his own vessel by an Indian Amazon and ,
her braves.  The Columbia lost her second mate, and   ^° ^^f^ **-
several members of her crew at "Murderers' Harbor." //«Pf «uu* JU-Jr *-
In 1803, the natives near Nootka Sound attacked ■*-***•> «~> e^r*~c*~>:
the Amorys' ship Boston, Captain John Salter, and
slaughtered all the ship's company but two; one of
whom, John Jewitt, lived to write a narrative that
thrilled generations of schoolboys. Given a firm master and stout crew, the Nor'west trading vessels could
take care of themselves.   Beside swivel-guns on the
bulwarks, they were armed with six to twenty cannon,
kept well shotted with grape, langrage or canister;
and provided with boarding nettings, muskets, pistols,
cutlasses and boarding pikes. The quarterdecks were
loopholed for musket fire, the hatches were veritable
'pill-boxes.' When a flotilla of dugouts surrounded
the vessel, only a few natives were permitted on board'
at one time, and men armed with blunderbusses were
sent into the cross-trees, lest the waiting customers
lose patience.
Even peaceably inclined, the natives were hard to
please. "They do not seem to covet usefull things,"
writes Captain Gray's clerk, " but anything that looks
pleasing to the eye, or what they call riches.'3 They
rated a fellow-Indian socially by his superfluous
blankets, by copper tea-kettles that were never used,
and by bunches of old keys worn like a necklace and
kept bright by constant rubbing. When rebuked by
Captain Sturgis for this wasteful display, an Indian
chief anticipated Veblen by adverting to the Boston
fashion of placing brass balls on iron fences, to tarnish
every night and be polished by the housemaid every
The Indians evidently had more discrimination than
generally acknowledged, for on her first voyage the
Columbia carried large numbers of snuff-bottles, rat-
traps, Jews'-harps, and pocket mirrors, which (except
for the last) were a dead loss. Her second cargo, in
1790, is typical of the Northwest fur trade as long as it
lasted. From Herman Brimmer were bought 143
sheets of copper, many pieces of blue, red, and green
'duffills' and scarlet coating. Solomon Cotton sold
the Columbia's owners 4261 quarter-pound 'chissells';
Asa Hammond, 150 pairs shoes at 75 cents; Benjamin
Greene, Jr., blue duffle trousers at 92 cents, pea
jackets, Flushing great coats, watch-coats and 'fearnoughts';1 Samuel Parkman, 6 gross 'gimblets,' and
1 A stout woolen cloth, used for outside clothing at sea. The chisels
were merely short strips of iron.   Duffles, also a coarse woolen, had been
56 -(I
12 gross buttons; Baker & Brewer, striped duffle
blanketing; Samuel Fales, 14 M 2od. nails; and the
United States government, 100 old muskets and
blunderbusses.1 Very few of these articles were manufactured in Massachusetts, and sometimes a Nor'west-
man would make up a cargo in England before starting
for the Coast. New England rum, that ancient medium   ~>fj>
fnr savacrp harrpr   is rnriniislv ahspnr from thp NV*rth- J*
for savage barter, is curiously absent from the Northwest fur trade.   Molasses and ship-biscuit were used;
instead of liquor to treat the natives.
The principal fur sought by Boston traders was that
of the sea-otter, of which the mandarins had never
been able to obtain enough from Russian hunters.
Next to a beautiful woman and a lovely infant, said
Captain Sturgis, a prime sea-otter skin two feet by
five, with its short, glossy jet-black fur, was the finest
natural object in the world. Its price varied considerably. Captain Gray's mate obtained two hundred
skins at Queen Charlotte's Island for two hundred
trade chisels (mere bits of strap iron); but at Nootka
Sound the price was ten chisels apiece, or six inches
square of sheet copper.   Most vessels took a metal-
used by New Englanders in the beaver trade since the seventeenth
1 Most Boston business firms who do not figure in the invoices are
found among those supplying the outfit. John Derby, part owner, furnished 4 cannon and 8 swivels (probably from one of his father's former
privateers), and Captain D. Hathorn (great-uncle of Nathaniel Hawthorne) freighted them from Salem. S. & S. Salisbury furnished twine and
lead pencils; John Joy, one medicine chest; Thomas Amory Jr. & Co.,
14 bbls. pitch and turpentine; J. & T. Lamb, 6 anchors; Josiah Bradlee,
horn 'lantherns,' tin kettles and a coffee pot; Samuel Whitwell, a
blacksmith's bellows; J. Lovering & Sons, 27 lb. tallow; Elisha Sigourney,
71 lb. grape shot; J. L. & B. Austin, cordage; Jonathan Winship, 135
bbls. beef; Mungo Mackay, 3 hds. N.E. rum; Lewis Hoyt, 2 hds. W.I.
rum and 3 kegs essence of spruce; Wm. Boardman Jr., 3 ironbound
casks; Robt. & Jos. Davis 20 bbls. cider, 6 of cranberries, 2 of barberries
and 10 pigs.  (Columbia MSS., 59.)
worker to make tools and weapons to order. Captain
Ingraham's armorer made iron collars and bracelets,
which became all the rage on the Coast and brought
three otter skins each. Captain Sturgis, observing
that the Indians used ermine pelts for currency,
procured five thousand of them at the Leipzig fair for
thirty cents apiece. On his next voyage he purchased
one morning five hundred and sixty sea-otter skins,
worth fifty dollars apiece in Canton, at the rate of five
ermines, or a dollar and a half, each. But he so inflated the currency that it soon lost value! Later, noting that war-captives were a recognized form of wealth
among the Indians, some Boston traders began buying
them from tribes which were long on slaves, and selling
them to tribes which were short. This form of speculation in foreign exchange was sternly reproved by
George Lyman, and forbidden to his vessels and shipmasters.
The first white men to attempt a permanent establishment in the Oregon country were the Winship
brothers of Brighton — Abiel, the Boston merchant,
Captain Jonathan, Jr., and Captain Nathan, who commanded the family ship Albatross. On June 4, 1810,
she sailed forty miles up the Columbia River and
anchored off an oak grove, where her crew broke
ground for a vegetable garden, and started work on a
log house. But the Chinook Indians, the fur middlemen of Oregon, would brook no competition. Having
no warships or marines to back them up, the Winships
were forced to evacuate. It was a sad disappointment.
Jonathan Winship, Jr., whose hobby was horticulture,
1 'hoped to have planted a Garden of Eden on the
shores of the Pacific, and made that wilderness to
blossom like the rose." Others fulfilled his dream,
bringing slips from the very rose-garden of Brighton
where Captain Jonathan spent the long tranquil years
of retirement he had earned so well.1
Unless exceedingly lucky, vessels remained eighteen
months to two years on the Coast, before proceeding
to Canton, and it was commonly three years before
Long Wharf saw them again. Small brigs and sloops
were sent out, or built on the Coast, to continue the
collection of furs during the absence of the larger vessel.
The Sandwich Islands proved an ideal spot to refresh a scorbutic crew, and even to complete the cargo.
Captain Kendrick (who plied between Canton and the ^ *
Coast in the Lady Washington until his death in 1794)
discovered sandalwood, an article much in demand
at Canton, growing wild on the Island of Kauai. A
vigorous trade with the native chiefs in this fragrant
commodity was started by Boston fur-traders in "the
Islands"; leading to more Hawaiian visits to New
England, to the missionary effort of 1820, and eventually to annexation.
Another variation to the standard China voyage
was contraband fur-trading along the coast of Spanish
California. According to H. H. Bancroft, the first
American vessel to anchor in California waters was
the ship Otter of Boston, one hundred and sixty-eight
tons, Ebenezer Dorr, Jr., master, which put in at
Monterey for provisions in 1796. All trade and intercourse between Boston men and Californians was contraband; but both seized every opportunity to flout
the Laws of the Indies.
1 "Solid Men of Boston" (MS.), 70. Jonathan, Jr., founded the beef-
slaughtering business at Brighton in 1775, and supplied the American
army and French fleet during the Revolution. Charles Winship, another
brother in this remarkable family, died at Valparaiso about 1800, when
in command of the brigantine Betsy, bound for the Northwest Coast.
A second Captain Charles Winship, son of a fifth brother, died at Valparaiso in 1819 or 1820 when in command of a sealing voyage.
Boston vessels generally carried a Carta de Amistad
from "Don Juan Stoughton, Consul de S.M.C. para
los Estados Unidos de New Hampshire, Massachusetts," etc. This was to be used if forced to put into
one of His Catholic Majesty's ports "par mal Tiempo
o otre acontecimiento imprevisto" — which exigency
was pretty sure to occur when the land breeze smelt
sea-otterish. Richard J. Cleveland, of Salem, owner
and master of the brig Lelia Byrd, tried to make off
with some pelts under the very nose of Commandant
Don Manuel Rodriguez, who retaliated in the bloodless "Battle of San Diego" on March 21, 1803. But
untoward incidents were rare. At his next port, San
Quintin, the Lel^Byrd's people got on beautifully with
a group of mission fathers who came down to trade and
gossip. They spent two merry weeks together on this
lonely shore, dining alternately in tent and cabin,
inaugurating a half-century of close and friendly relations between Puritan and Padre on the California
coast. Nothing like a common interest in smuggling to
smooth religious differences!
Captain Joseph O'Cain, of Boston, in a ship of
two hundred and eighty tons named after himself and
built on North River for the Winships, inaugurated a
new system of otter-hunting in 1804. Putting in at
New Archangel (Sitka), he persuaded Baranov, the
genial Russian factor, to lend him a hundred and fifty
Aleut Indians, on shares. These expert otter-hunters,
putting out from the ship in their skin canoes, like
Gloucester fishermen in dories, obtained eleven hundred sea-otter pelts for Captain O'Cain in his first
California cruise. Kills were made under the very walls
of the San Francisco presidio. Three years later,
O'Cain chartered his ship Eclipse of Boston to the
Russian-American  Company,   traded  their  furs  at
Canton, visited Nagasaki and Petropavlovsk, lost the
vessel on the Aleutian Islands, built another out of the
wreck, and returned to trade once more.1 California
sea-otter and fur-seal hunting, combined with contraband mission trade, was pursued with much success
for about ten years, when the Russians declined
further aid to their competitors.
Another class of Pacific fur-traders were the "seal-
skinners." About 1783, the ship States, owned by a
Boston woman,2 was fitted out for a voyage to the
Falklands in search of fur-seal and sea-elephant oil.
Some of the sealskins obtained were carried on a
venture to China, and the result encouraged others to
follow. Although sealskins brought but a dollar or two
at Canton, such quantities (even a hundred thousand on a single voyage) could be obtained merely by
landing on a beach and clubbing the helpless animals,
that vessels were especially fitted out to go in search
of them, and the smaller Nor'westmen occasionally
picked up a few thousand on their way to the Coast.
Connecticut was more conspicuous in this trade than
Massachusetts; but several vessels were commanded
by Nantucketers, and others were owned there and in
Boston or Salem. As in whaling, the men were generally shipped on shares, and often cheated out of
them. Masafuero, in the Juan Fernandez group, was
the center for seal-killing; but other islands off the
Chilian coast, St. Paul and Amsterdam Islands in the
1 One would like to know more of this Captain O'Cain. He was an
Irishman whose parents lived in Boston, and first visited the Coast in
1795 on an English vessel, whose master, at his request, left him at
Santa Barbara. He managed to return to Boston in time to be married
there in 1799.
8 * Lady ' or ' Madam * Haley, as she was called in Boston, was a sister
of the famous Jack Wilkes: for second husband, she married Patrick
Jeffery, a Boston merchant.
Indian Ocean, South Georgia, the Farralones and
Santa Catalina off California, were visited before 1810.
Gangs of sealers would be left on some lonely island
in the South Pacific, while the vessel smuggled goods
into Callao, Concepcion, Valparaiso, and smaller places
like Coquimbo and Pisco. Amasa Delano, of Duxbury
(private, U.S.A., at fourteen, privateersman at sixteen,
master shipbuilder at twenty-one, second mate of the
ship Massachusetts), with his brother built the sealers
Perseverance and Pilgrim, and sailed as far as Tasmania, where they matched rascalities and exchanged
brutalities with one of the British convict colonies.
It was a Boston sealskinne^ the Dorrs' Otter, which
rescued from Botany Bay Thomas Muir, one of the
victims of Pitt's Sedition Act. Eighty years later,
New Bedford whalers were extending the same courtesy to exiled Fenians.
The first commercial relations between the United
States and the west coast of South America, were
established by sealers, Nor'westmen, and whalers
putting in "under stress of weather" to obtain provisions, and indulge in the favorite Yankee pastime of
swapping. To a certain extent they imported ideas;
Richard J. Cleveland made a point of spreading
republican propaganda at Valparaiso. The manner of
their reception depended on the official mood. Bernard
Magee in the ship Jefferson had only to present his
ship's papers, signed by Washington^ to receive the
^freedom of Valparaiso from Governor-General Don
Ambrosio O'Higgins. Others were not so fortunate,
and many a poor sailor, forced against his will into
smuggling, spent in consequence a term of years in a
South American calaboose.
Whaling was another industry of maritime Massachusetts that renewed its strength in the Pacific. But
we must postpone our whaling voyage lest we lose sight
of the Canton market, the golden lodestone for every
otter-skin, sealskin, or sandalwood log collected on
Northwest Coast, California, or Pacific Islands. jl CHAPTER VI
The Northwest trade, the Hawaiian trade, and the fur-
seal fisheries were only a means to an end: the procuring of Chinese teas and textiles, to sell again at
home and abroad. China was the only market for sea-
otter, and Canton the only Chinese port where foreigners were allowed to exchange it.
Major Shaw's description of the Canton trade in
1784 would fit any year to 1840. After a voyage of
several weeks from Hawaii, a Yankee trader passed between Luzon and Formosa, made Lintin Island, ran a
gantlet of piratical junks, paused at the old Portuguese
factory of Macao, and sailed up-river past the Bogue
forts to Whampoa, the anchorage for all foreign merchantmen. There the Hoppo came aboard to receive
gifts for wife, mother, and self, and measure the ship
for her 'cumshaw-duty.' Thence her cargo was lightered in chop-boats twelve miles upstream to Canton,
landed at Jackass Point, and stored in a factory or
hong hired from one of the twelve Chinese security
merchants, who had a monopoly of foreign trade, and
acted as commercial godfathers to the Fan-Kwae, or
foreign devils.
To Yankee seamen, fresh from the savage wilderness
of the Northwest, how marvelous, bewildering was old
Canton! Against a background of terraced hongs with
their great go-downs or warehouses, which screened
the forbidden City of Rams from foreign devils' gaze,
flowed the river, bearing a city of boats the like of
which he had never dreamed. Moored to the shore
were flower-boats, their upper works cunningly carved
into the shape of flowers and birds, and strange sounds
issuing from their painted windows. Mandarin boats
decorated with gay silk pennants, and propelled by
double banks of oars, moved up and down in stately
cadence. Great tea-deckers, with brightly lacquered
topsides and square sail of brown matting, brought
the Souchong, Young Hyson, and Bohea from up-
river. In and out darted thousands of little sampans,
housing entire families who plied their humble trades
afloat. Provision dealers cried their wares from boats
heaped high with colorful and deadly produce. Barbers' skiffs announced their coming by the twanging
of tweezers, emblem of their skippers' painful profession. Twilight brought the boat people to their moorings, a bamboo pole thrust in oozy bottom, and paper
lanterns diffused a soft light over the river. For color
and exotic flavor there was no trade like the old China
trade, no port like Canton.
Boston traders, in contrast to the arrogant officials
of Honourable John, were welcomed by the Chinese;
and on their part acquired an esteem for the Chinese
character that has endured to this day. Russell Sturgis,
who traveled and resided in many lands, said that he
never knew better gentlemen than the Hong merchants.
Houqua's name was a household word in Boston merchants' families. They never tired of describing old
Houqua tearing up the $72,000 promissory note of a
homesick Bostonian, with the remark, " You and I olo
flen; you belong honest man only no got chance... .
Just now have setlee counter, alia finishee; you go, you
please." But trade did not always go on in this princely
manner. The Chinese were able to instruct even
Bostgnians in the pleasant art of smuggling.  There
was much clandestine trade in otter-skins from Yankee
ships in Macao Roads, or the near-by Dirty Butter
Bay; good training for opium-running at a later period.
The strange laws and customs of the Chinese led to
the creation of Boston mercantile agencies at Canton
in order to ease the way for American traders. Major
Shaw established the first, Shaw & Randall, on his
return to Canton as American consul in 1786. The
Columbians cargo was handled by him, and a commission of seven and one-half per cent charged on the return lading. Competition later reduced this to two and
one-half per cent, of which one was returned to the supercargo. The most famous house of our period was
Perkins & Co., a branch of J. &T. H. Perkins, of Boston. Established in 1803, the illness of the chief put
this concern under the charge of his sixteen-year-old
clerk, John Perkins Cushing. The young man's letters
were so precocious that his uncles made him permanent
head man, and took him into partnership. Except for
two brief visits home, Cushing remained at Canton
thirty years, and became the most wealthy and highly
respected foreign merchant in China.
What with the commissions, duties, presents, and
graft that must be yielded at every step to hoppo,
comprador, or linguist, the cost of doing business at
Canton was very heavy. The Columbia's first lading,
of one thousand and fifty sea-otter skins, sold for
$21,404.71; but after fees, expenses, and repairs were
deducted, only $11,241.51 remained to invest in a
homeward cargo. Even after the ropes were learned, it
was a clever captain who expended less than six thousand dollars at Canton. Yet the American demand for
tea, nankeens, crapes, and silks increased so fast, and
Boston merchant-shipowners proved so efficient in the
cheap handling and distribution of China goods to all
parts of the world, that the trade grew by leaps and
bounds. The value of imports at Canton on American
vessels rose to over five million dollars in 1805-06; of
this over one million was accounted for by 17,445 sea-
otter, 140,297 seal, and 34,460 beaver-skins, and 1600
piculs of sandalwood. Most of the remainder was specie brought directly from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. The same year American vessels exported
almost ten million pounds of tea from Canton. It
was a constant marvel to Europeans, who conducted
the China trade in great ships owned by chartered
monopolies, how the Americans managed to survive
these heavy charges with their small, individually
owned vessels. Yet the American, and particularly
the Boston way of China trading was the more economical. Free competition, and elimination of pomp and
circumstance, more than made up for the small craft's
disadvantage in 'overhead.'
When the winter season brought favoring winds,
the ships quickly completed their lading, obtained the
Grand Chop that passed them down-river, and caught
the northeast monsoon down the China Sea. Off the
coast of Borneo began several hundred miles of dangerous waters: shoals, reefs, and fantastic islands, baffling
winds and treacherous currents, among which one had
the feeling that Conrad describes, of being constantly
watched. Let a vessel but touch on submerged reef,
and hundreds of Malay proas come swarming to take
her life's blood. Through Gaspar Passage or Banka
Straits the vessel reached a welcome stretch of open
water, and before long the sight of Java Head. A
stop for fresh provisions was made off the village of
Anjer, where Java "rose from level groves of shore
palms to lofty blue peaks terraced with rice and red-
massed kina plantations, with shining streams and
green kananga flowers and tamarinds, and the land
breeze, fragrant with clove buds and cinnamon, came
off to the ship like a vaporous dusk." f There, the ship
was quickly surrounded by a swarm of canoes plied
by naked Malays, and laden with cocoanuts, oranges,
mangoes and mangosteen; with Java sparrows, parrots, monkeys, green turtles, and Malacca-joint canes.
From this enchanted spot the ship threaded the
Sunda Straits, full of dangerous rocks that rose out of
seventy-fathom depths, toward which the currents irresistibly drew becalmed vessels. "Thank God we are
clear of Sunda Straits," confided a Boston shipmaster
to his sea journal on November 19, 1801. "'T is surprising to see the joy depicted on every one's countenance at getting clear of these horrid straits. Many
of the sailors who had never been off duty was now
obliged to take to their beds. Many a time they had
to support themselves on a Gun while doing their
duty. Still they would not give out till we got clear.
Such men as these deserve my best regards."
Once a vessel was clear of the straits, a quartering
southeast wind stretched her across the Indian Ocean
to Madagascar and the Cape of Good Hope. Simon's
Town was frequently visited for a little smuggling.
Then, after a last call at St. Helena, the China trader
squared away for Cape Cod.
"There are better ships nowadays, but no better
seamen," wrote an aged Boston merchant in i860; and
his words still hold good. Of these gallant Nor'west-
men, who thought no more of rounding the Horn than
their descendants do of rounding Cape Cod, Captain
1 Hergesheimer, Java Head.
' Bill * Sturgis was one of the best. A tough, beetly-
browed son of a Cape Cod shipmaster, he left Boston
for the Coast in 1798 as sixte^-yearj:ojLgliQxe^ast hand
on the ship Eliza, belonging to 1\H. Perkins, his
young but welBtKy relative. He returned to Boston
five years later as master of the Lambs' ship Caroline,
and of the fur trade. On his third voyage, in command
of Theodore Lyman's new ship Atahualpa with $300,-
000 in specie on board, he beat off an attack of sixteen
pirate junks in Macao Roads. Returning, he formed
with John Bryant, of Boston, the firm of Bryant &
Sturgis, which after the War of 1812 revived the Northwest fur trade, and opened the hide traffic with California.
William Sturgis became one of the wealthiest merchants of Boston, and lived to hear the news of Gettysburg; but no one dared call him a merchant prince.
Owing perhaps to the caricature of leisure-class display
he had seen among the Northwest Indians, Captain
Sturgis refused to surround himself with paintings,
bric-a-brac, and useless furniture. Throughout the
worst period of interior decoration, his simple mansion
on Church Green remained as neat and bare as a ship's
cabin. When he occupied a Boston seat in the Great
and General Court, one of the professional orators of
that body got off a long Greek quotation. Captain
Bill replied in one of the Indian dialects of the Northwest Coast, which, he explained, was much more to the
point, and probably as well understood by his colleagues, as that of the honorable and learned gentleman. Public-spirited without self-advertisement, writing and lecturing with salty emphasis on the Oregon
country, an honored member of learned societies, yet
proud that he came in through the hawse-hole; William Sturgis was the finest type of Boston merchant
created by these far-flung adventures of Federalist
Another famous Nor'westman, who had neither the
background nor the connections of William Sturgis,
was Captain John Suter. Born of Scots parents near
Norfolk, Virginia, in 1781, left a penniless orphan at
the age of eight, he made his way to Boston on a
schooner. The child was befriended by a Boston pilot,
who taught him to hand, reef and steer, to read his
Bible, and to live straight. At seventeen he began his
deep-sea voyages. The next two years brought adventures enough to have dampened any one's ardor
for seafaring; privateering against France, capture, and
a Brest dungeon; a West-India voyage, impressment
into a British frigate, an attack of smallpox, and one of
' yellow jack.' Yet no sooner was the boy back in Boston than he shipped as foremast hand on the ship Alert
outward bound to the Northwest Coast and Canton.
Without education, family, or anything but his own
merits to recommend him, John Suter did so well on his
first Northwest voyage that on his second, in 1804,
he sailed as mate and "assistant trader" on the ship
Pearl. On her return, he was promoted to master and
supercargo, and made a most successful voyage to the
Coast and Canton. The value of ship, outfit, and cargo,
judging from statistics of other voyages, could not
have exceeded forty thousand dollars.1 In spite of
some unpleasantness with the Indians — who once had
to be cleared from the Pearl's decks by cross-fire from
the loopholes — Captain Suter collected enough furs
1 The cargoes of twelve vessels which cleared from Boston for the
Northwest Coast between 1797 and 1800 were invoiced between $7500
and $19,700. {Solid Men of Boston, 76.) The Caroline in 1803 asked only
$14,000 and obtained but $13,000 insurance for ship, cargo, and outfit.
The rate was seventeen per cent, covering risk "against the Natives and
as well on shore as on board."
70 w
and sandalwood to pay all expenses at Canton, and
lay out $156,743.21 in goods. His return cargo is so
typical of that trade and period, that I give it in detail,
from the Captain's own manuscript memoranda, with
the prices realized at auction sale in Boston.
Sales of Ship Pearl's Cargo at Boston, 1810
50 blue and white dining sets, 172 pieces each . $ 2 290.00
480 tea sets, 49 pieces each  2 704.80
30 boxes enameled cups and sauces, 50 dozen each 1 360.00
100 boxes Superior Souchong tea  795«&7
100 chests Souchong  3 834.66
235            Hyson  13290.65
160     "     Hyson Skin  5 577.40
400           other teas  13 668.48
200 chests Cassia of 2208 "matts" each  8 585.52
170 000 pieces 'Nankins' 1  118 850.00
14 000    I   (280 bales) blue do.  24 195.00
5 000    I   (50     "   ) yellow do  6 800.00
2 000   "   (50     "    ) white do  2 580.00
24 bottles oil of Cassia  466.65
92 cases silks (black 'sinchaws,' black 'sattins,'
white and blue striped do. dark brown plains,
bottle-green and black striped 'sattins for
Gentlemens ware' , 56 344.61
And sundries, bring the total to 261 343.18
Expenses of sale, including auctioneer's commission,
wharfage, truckage, "advertising in Centinil and
Gazette, 5.50," "advertising and crying of sales, 30^1,"
"liquors, 5.88"       2 129.06
Captain Suter's 'primage,' 5% on balance     12 960.70
Balance to owners 246 253.42
On this were paid customs duties, within 12 months...   39 602.95
Net profit on voyage 206 650.47
Having proved himself both a keen trader and an
able master, Captain Suter was offered by George
Lyman a 'primage' of ten per cent, with the usual
\ privilege' and salary, to succeed Captain Sturgis on
the Atahualpa. He accepted, and took a sixteenth
share in ship and cargo as well.
Owing to his ruthless repulse of a band of Indians
who had boarded the Pearl, Captain Suter returned
to the Coast a marked man. One day an Indian chief
came on board, ostensibly to trade. Immediately a
flotilla of dugouts, containing over two thousand
warriors, issued from behind a wooded point and surrounded the Atahualpa. They found a worthy successor to Captain Sturgis on her quarterdeck. Suter
took the chief by the throat, put a pistol to his head,
and told him to order the canoes away or he would
blow his brains out. The order was given. Deliberately weighing anchor, Captain Suter made sail, and
when free of the canoes released his prisoner, who
\ turned out to be the very Indian who had successfully
) attacked John Jacob Astor's Tonguin.
Owing to the War of 1812 and the presence of British
cruisers in the Pacific, Captain Suter sold the Atahualpa at Hawaii at considerable sacrifice; but he got
enough furs into Canton to send home, after peace was
concluded, a cargo that netted the owners almost
$120,000 on their original adventure of not over
Would that we could reproduce the language, expressions, and motions of that extinct breed, the Nor'-
westman of Boston! Of John Suter, little survives but
bare facts, and one anecdote. He was more deeply
religious than most New England-born sea-captains,
and read the Bible aloud daily on shipboard. One
young scamp of a supercargo amused himself by putting back the bookmark at the conclusion of every
day's reading, until the Captain remarked mildly that
he seemed to be having head winds through the Book
of Daniel! After a sixth and a seventh voyage around
the world, Captain Suter settled down in Boston to
the tranquil joys of home and family, church and lodge,
that he had fairly won from sea and savage barter.
"Sir, you'l please to let my mama know that I am
well, Mr. Boit [the fifth mate, aged seventeen] also
requests you'l let his parent know he is in health."
This postscript to a letter of John Hoskins, clerk of the
Columbia, to her principal owner, reminds us how
young were the Yankee seamen of that period. It
seems that the generation of Revolutionary privateers-
men was so quickly absorbed in our expanding merchant marine as to call the youngest classes to the
colors. A famous youngsters' voyage to Eastern
waters, many times described* was that of the Derby
ship Benjamin, of Salem, in 1792-94. Captain Nathaniel Silsbee, later United States Senator from
Massachusetts, was but nineteen when he took command of this vessel; yet he had followed the sea for
five years, served as Captain Magee's clerk on the
Astrea, and commanded two voyages to the West Indies. His first mate, Charles Derby, was but one year
older; his clerk, Richard J. Cleveland, but eighteen.
The second mate, an old salt of twenty-four, proved
insubordinate and was put ashore!
With a miscellaneous cargo, including hops, saddlery,
window glass, mahogany boards, tobacco, and Madeira
wine, these schoolboys made a most successful voyage
to the Cape of Good Hope and He de France, using
sound judgment as to ports, cargoes, and freight,
amid embargoes and revolutions; slipping their cables
at Capetown after dark in a gale of wind to escape a
British frigate; drifting out of Bourbon with the ebb
tide to elude a French brig-o'-war; spending a few
days fishing, shooting wild goats, and catching turtles
at Ascension; returning to Salem after nineteen months'
absence, with a cargo which brought almost five hundred per cent profit to the owner, and enabled the young
master to make a home for his mother and sisters.
Captain Silsbee was by no means the youngest shipmaster on record. James Howland, 2d, of New Bedford, was given a merchant ship by his father on his
eighteenth birthday, and as her captain went on a
honeymoon voyage to the Baltic with his still younger
bride, before the year elapsed.
But the most remarkable youthful exploit in this
bright dawn of Pacific adventure, that has come to my
notice, is John Boit, Jr.'s voyage around the world,
in the eighty-nine-ton sloop Union, of Boston.
At the age of nineteen, on August I, 1794, he sailed
from Newport as master of this sixty-foot craft and
her crew of twenty-two, with ten carriage guns, eight
swivels, and a full cargo and outfit for the Northwest
Coast. The voyage south was pleasantly broken by
catching green turtles and shooting albatross — one
measuring sixteen feet tip to tip; by celebrating Christmas Day, and stopping at St. Iago and the Falklands,
to save the crew from scurvy, and to hunt wild hogs.
The Union rounded the Horn safely in thick, blowy
weather, reaching 570 42' south latitude on February
4» x795- On May 16, two hundred and sixty days out,
she sighted land, and the next day dropped anchor in
"Columbia's cove, Bulfinch's Sound," on Vancouver
Island. Here, young Boit tells us, he felt quite at
home. The natives recognized him, and inquired
after each and every member of the Columbia's crew.
Furs were double the price of 1792, but trade was
brisk, and the sloop went as far north as 540 15' to
complete her cargo.
On June 20, when lying at anchor in Puget Sound,
the Union was attacked by several hundred Indians
under Chief Scootch-Eye. With husky savages swarming around the sloop and over his bulwarks, Captain
Boit and his crew kept their nerve, and without a single casualty to themselves killed the chief and forty of
his warriors. When they got under weigh, and stood
in toward the nearest village, the Indians came out
trembling, waving green boughs and offering otter-
skins in propitiation.
After a fruitless attempt to cross the bar at the
mouth of the Columbia River, the Union went north
again to Queen Charlotte's Island, and left the Coast
for Canton on September 12, 1795. One month later,
Captain Boit sighted "Owhyhee," at a distance of
thirty leagues. The next day, sailing alongshore, the
sloop was visited by native canoes bringing hogs and
pineapples, and " the females were quite amorous."
On December 5, the sloop joined seven larger American
vessels at Whampoa. After exchanging his sea-otter
for silk and nankeens, and taking freight and passengers for the He de France, he got under weigh in company with the American fleet on January 12, 1796.
It was a two months' sail through the China Sea, the
Straits of Sunda, and the Indian Ocean to Mauritius.
Completing his cargo there with coffee and pepper,
Captain Boit began the last leg of his voyage at the
end of March, 1796. After passing the Island of Madagascar, he found the sloop's mast sprung, and had to
fish it and apply preventer backstays while under
weigh. Then came a four days' westerly gale, which
stove in part of the Union's bulwarks, and swept the
hen-coops off her deck, as she lay to. Early in May she
rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and caught the
southeast trades. Off Georges Bank, she was brought
'ffV: I"      75 11 \/J
to by the French sloop-of-war Scipio, but allowed to
pass "with the utmost politeness." Near Boston Harbor the British frigate Reason fired a shot through the
Union's staysail, and forced the young master to come
aboard with his papers, but "finding they could not
make a prize of the sloop, suffer'd me to pass, after
treating me in a rough and ungentlemanlike manner."
At last, on July 8, came the welcome gleam of Boston
Light. Castle William, as seafaring men still called
Fort Independence, saluted the returning sloop with
fifteen guns, which she returned. Anchoring in the
inner harbor, she saluted the town, and got "three
huzzas of welcome" from the wharves. The Union
made a "saving voyage," beat most of the fleet home,
and was the first, possibly the only, sloop-rigged vessel
ever to circumnavigate the globe.
In view of the newspaper publicity given nowadays
to men of twice Boit's age and experience for crossing the Atlantic in vessels no smaller than the Union
and far better equipped, it is refreshing to note the
scant attention he got. "Sloop Union, Boit, Canton,"
in small type at the end of * Arrivals' in the "Boston
Centinel." That was all!1
Many a Boston family owes its rise to fame and
fortune to the old Nor'west and China trade; and not
a few of them were founded by masters who came
in through the hawse-hole, like Sturgis and Suter.
Emoluments were much higher than on any other trade
route. Masters and mates received only twenty to
twenty-five dollars monthly wages; but each officer
1 Another Boston paper reports his experience with the men-of-war,
but makes no comment on his voyages.
76 O
had the 'privilege' of one-half to five tons (twenty to
two hundred cubic feet) cargo space on the homeward
passage for his private adventures in China goods;
beside lprimage,' a commission of from one to eight
per centf on the net proceeds of the voyage. It was
only prudent for owners to be generous with their
ships' officers, on a route where the opportunities for
private trading and fixing accounts were so great.
Even with half the luck of John Suter, a master could
clear twenty-five hundred dollars a year, and pyramid
his profits by taking a share in the next voyage he
These wages and allowances were sufficient to attract the best type of New Englander. Nor'westmen's
officers were almost exclusively native-born or adopted
Yankees, and the men recruited largely from Cape
Cod, Boston, and ? down East.' But every forecastle
contained a few foreigners.2
No Richard Dana has told the story of the Nor'-
westmen from the foremast angle. Unless the records of our admiralty courts yield something, the
common seaman's side is lost. Certain it is, that the
Northwest fur trade, until it existed no more, enjoyed
a greater prestige and popularity among New England
seamen than any other route.3 Mutinies occurred, but
1 Suter's primage of ten per cent on the Atahualpa was exceptional.
On his next voyage, in the Mentor, he received but seven and one-half.
The Mentor's chief mate had twenty dollars wages, one per cent on net
sales at Canton, and two and one-half tons \ privilege* home.
2 See chapter vin.
* Dana tells a good story illustrating this, in his Two Years Before
the Mast. On her homeward voyage from the California coast, with a
cargo of hides, the Alert spoke a Plymouth brig, and sent a boat aboard
to procure fresh provisions. Her Yankee mate leaned over the rail, and
asked where they were from. "From the Nor'west Coast!" said sailor
Joe, wishing to gain glory in the eyes of this humble West-India trader.
' * What's your cargo?'' came next. ' j Skins!)' said Joe. j' Here and there
a horn?" said the mate dryly, and every one laughed.
mutinies prove little. One that Captain Suter suppressed in Honolulu Harbor, with his strong right arm
and cutlass, was caused by gambling among the crew.
Many deserted in the Sandwich Islands, but who would
not? Rumors have come down of unscrupulous owners, who in order to save money abandoned men on
the Northwest Coast and substituted Kanakas. Captain James Magee brought the first Chinaman to the
United States, but he was a student, not a sailor. And
few such made the voyage twice. As "China Jack"
(the favorite Whampoa factotum for American vessels) remarked after essaying a round trip to Boston,
"Too muchee strong gale, sea allsame high mast head
— no can see sky!" CHAPTER VII
The most formidable rival to Boston in the contest for
Oriental wealth lay but sixteen miles "to the east'd,"
as we say on the Massachusetts coast when we mean
north. Salem, with a little under eight thousand inhabitants, was the sixth city in the United States in
1790.1 Her appearance was more antique even than
that of Boston, and her reek of the salt water, that
almost surrounded her, yet more pronounced. For half
a mile along the harbor front, subtended by the long
finger of Derby Wharf, ran Derby Street, the residential and business center of the town. On one side were
the houses of the gentry, Derbys and Princes and
Crowninshields, goodly gambrel or hip-roofed brick
and wooden mansions dating from the middle of the
century, standing well back with tidy gardens in front.
Opposite were the wharves, separated from the street
by counting-rooms, warehouses, ship-chandlers' stores,
pump-makers' shops, sailmakers' lofts; all against a
background of spars, rigging, and furled or brailed-up
sails. Crowded within three hundred yards of Derby
Street, peeping between the merchants' mansions and
over their garden walls like small boys behind a police cordon, were some eighteen or nineteen hundred
wooden buildings, including dwellings of pre-witch-
craft days, with overhanging upper stories, peaked
gables, small-paned windows, and hand-rifted clapboards black with age.
1 Not including Beverly, which with three thousand, three hundred
inhabitants in 1790, was combined with Salem as a port of entry in 1789.
A few steps from the merchant's mansion lies his
counting-room and wharf, where his favorite vessel is
loading Russia duck, West-India sugar, New-England
rum and French brandy for anywhere beyond the
Cape of Good Hope; to return with goodness knows
what produce of Asia, Africa, and the Malay Archipelago, which you may then purchase at wholesale or
retail from the selfsame wharf. From his front chamber
the merchant may watch the progress of his new vessel
in the near-by shipyard; but unless he be a privileged
character like'King' Derby, with "an intuitive faculty
in judging of models and proportions," he had best not
interfere. Shipbuilding, an ancient industry in Salem,
is now growing fast; the China voyages of the Grand
Turk and Astrea produced such a demand for new tonnage that Enos Briggs, a master builder of Pembroke
in the Old Colony, has come to Salem, and at the head
of Derby Wharf is constructing a new Grand Turk of
five hundred and sixty tons, for which the new duck
manufactory is weaving sailcloth. Next year he shall
astonish the natives by launching a vessel-sideways
from the wharf; all Salem, summoned by town crier,
helping or cheering. Ebenezer Mann, another North-
Riverite, has the barque Good Intent on the stocks for
Simon Forrester; and a vessel is rising on every slip of
the ancient yard where Retire Becket carries on the
business of his ancestors.
A Salem boy in those days was born to the music of
windlass chanty and caulker's maul; he drew in a taste
for the sea with his mother's milk; wharves and shipyards were his playground; he shipped as boy on a
coaster in his early teens, saw Demerara and St.
Petersburg before he set foot in Boston, and if he had
the right stuff in him, commanded an East-Indiaman
before he was twenty-five.
Whenever a Salem lad could tear himself away from
the wharves, he would go barefoot to Juniper Point
or pull a skiff to Winter Island, and scan the bay for
approaching sail. Marblehead was a better vantage-
point; but it was a lion-hearted Salem boy indeed who
dared venture within the territorial waters of Marblehead in those days! The appearance of a coaster or
fisherman or West-India trader caused no special
emotion; but if the stately form of an East-Indiaman
came in view, then 't was race back to Derby Wharf,
and earn a silver Spanish dollar for good news. The
word speeds rapidly through the town, which begins to
swarm like an ant-hill; counting-room clerks rusli out to
engage men for unloading, sailors' taverns and boarding-houses prepare for a brisk run of trade, parrots
scream and monkeys jabber, and every master of his
own time makes for cap-sill, roof-tree, or other vantage-
Let us follow one of the privileged, an old-time
provincial magnate now in the East-India trade, as
with powdered wig, cocked hat, and scarlet cloak,
attended by Pompey or Cuff with the precious telescope, he puffs up garret ladder to captain's walk.
What a panorama! To the east stretches the noble
North Shore, Cape Ann fading in the distance. No
sail in that direction, save a fisherman beating inside
Baker's. Across the harbor, obscuring the southerly
channel, Marblehead presents her back side of rocky
pasture to the world at large, and Salem in particular.
Wind is due south, tide half flood and the afternoon
waning, so if the master be a Salem boy he will bring
his ship around Peach's Point, inside Kettle Bottom,
Endeavors, Triangles, and the Aqua Vitses. We adjust
the glass to the outer point where she must first appear,
and wait impatiently.   A flash of white as the sun
' m
catches foretopgallant sails over Naugus Head; then
the entire ship bursts into view, bowling along at a good
eight knots. Her ensign's apeak, so all aboard are well.
A puff of smoke bursts from her starboard bow, and
then another, as the first crack of a federal salute
strikes the ear. Fort William replies in kind, and all
Salem with a roar of cheering. Every one recognizes
the smart East-Indiaman that dropped down-harbor
thirty months ago.
"Is the front chamber prepared for Captain Richard?" asks our elderly merchant, as he descends to
greet his son — just in time, for the ship, hauling close
to the wind, is making for Derby Wharf. Within ten
minutes she has made a running moor, brailed up her
sails, and warped into the best berth. The crowd parts
deferentially as master and supercargo stalk ashore,
gapes at a turbaned Oriental who shipped as cabin
boy, exchanges good-natured if somewhat Rabelaisian
banter with officers and crew, and waits to see the
mysterious matting-covered bales, shouldered out of
the vessel's hold.
To conclude this picture of Salem at the dawn of her
period of greatest prosperity, read this abstract of the
entries and customs duties during a period of twenty
days, from May 31 to June 18, 1790, as I found them
in the old custom house on Derby Street; and remember that these are foreign entries only, not including
the fishermen, and the coasters that distributed Salem's
winnings to a hundred American ports.
May 31. Brig Wtttiam & Henry, B. Hodges master,
from Canton. Tea, coffee, silks, spices and nankeens for
Gray & Orne, Benj. Hodges, George Dodge, Jno. Apple-
ton, Samuel Hewes Jr., Simon Elliot, Robt. Wyer, Mark
Haskoll  #9,783.81
June 2.  Schooner Betsy, William Wooldridge master,
Above is a view of Salem Harbor from South Salem. Derby and Crowninshield
wharves are shown on the left; Baker Island and Naugus Head in right background. The small engravings on the left show men heading a barrel of dried fish,
and a vessel hove down, having her seams payed with tar  THE SALEM EAST INDIES
from Cadiz.   Lemons, feathers, raisins, oil and salt for
William Gray.        114.30
June 3. Schooner Active, Seward Lee master, from
Lisbon. Wine, salt, lemons, and feathers for William Gray      171.47
June 5. Schooner Lark, Saml. Foster master, from
Cadiz. Salt, Lemons, figs, &c. for Brown & Thorndike.. . . 3540
June 5. Schooner Bee, Hezekiah Wallace master, from
Lisbon.  Wine, salt and feathers for William Gray        166.92
June 5. Ship Astrea, James Magee master, from Canton. Tea, silks, China ware, nankeens and other merchandise for O. Brewster, J. Powers, Wm. Cabot, Webb
& Brown, E. Verry, A. Jacobs, David Barber, B. Pick-
man, J. McGregore, G. Dodge, E. H. Derby, S. Parkman,
D. Sears, E. Johnson, N. West, J. Gardner Jr., T. H.
Perkins, Jno. Derby Jr., Webb & Bray, Magee & Perkins,
J. Magee, T. H. Perkins & Co., J: Magee & Co 27,109.18
June 11. Schooner Experiment, Joseph Teel master,
from St. Eustatia. Sugar, rum, gin and salt for R. Beckett & J. Teel        123.64
June 11. Brig Three Brothers, John Collins master,
from the West Indies. Sugar, rum, iron and salt for John
Collins        207.82
June 12. Schooner Nancy, Sam. Mclntire master,
from the Isle of May.1 Salt for Samuel Page         96.12
June 14. Schooner Hanah, Rich. Ober master, from
Lisbon. Salt, wine, and lemons for Hill & Ober.  55*23
June 15. Ship Light Horse, Ichabod Nichols master,
from Canton. Tea, silks and China ware for E. H. Derby,
Hy. Elkins, J. Crowninshield, I. Nichols, Jno. Derby Jr.,
E. Gibaut  16,312.98
June   17.   . Schooner  Dolphin,  Thos.   Bowditch  Jr.
master, from Port au Prince. Salt, sugar, and coffee for
Norris & Burchmore  56.97
June 17. Schooner Sally, John Burchmore master, from
Port au Prince. Sugar and molasses for Jno. Norris & Co.      323.93
June 18. Schooner Lydia, Gabriel Holman master,
from Aux Cayes. Molasses for Sprague & Holman  70.43
June 18. Schooner Sukey & Betsey. Thos. Bowditch
master, from Martinico. Molasses, raisins & limes, for
Saml. Ingersoll        101.97
1 Maia, in the Cape Verde Islands.
June 18. Schooner John, Nehemiah Andrews master,
from St. Lucia. Sugar, coffee, cocoa and molasses for
N. West..	
June 18. Brig Favorite, William Bradshaw master, from
Lisbon. Salt, wine, and lemons for Joshua Ward & Co..
Boston was the Spain, Salem the Portugal, in the
race for Oriental opulence. Boston followed Magellan
and the Columbia westward, around the Horn; Salem
sent her vessels eastward after the Astrea, around Africa, along the path blazed by Vasco da Gama. Trace a
rough curve from the Chinese coast along 200 north
latitude, pull it south before reaching Hawaii, to join
120° west longitude at the equator, and you have a
rough line of demarcation between the two. Everything north and east was preempted by Boston. Salem
never entered the Northwest fur trade, and her first
circumnavigator was a humble seal skinner in 1802.
But to the southward and westward of this line, in the
Dutch East Indies, Manila, Mauritius, both coasts of
Africa, and the smaller islands of the Pacific, Salem had
the same connotation as Boston on the Northwest
Coast; it stood for the whole United States. As late
as 1833, Po Adam, the wealthiest merchant of Qual-
lah Battoo, "believed Salem to be a country by itself,
and one of the richest and most important sections
of the globe." Boston vessels competed at Calcutta;
Salem vessels sometimes attained Canton; the fleet
met off Java Head and returned home together; but
for the most part each respected the other's territory,
and left little to divide between Providence, New York,
Philadelphia, and Baltimore.
The usual Salem method of making a trading voyage
was to start off with a mixed cargo, assembled from
Southern ports, the Baltic, the West Indies, and New
England; peddle it out at the Cape of Good Hope,
Mauritius, and various ports in the East Indies; picking up oddments here and there, taking freight when
occasion offered, buying bills of exchange on London or
Amsterdam, and like as not making three or four complete turnovers before returning home. A typical outward cargo was that of f King' Derby's ship Henry,
one hundred ninety tons, which cleared from Salem for
the He de France (Mauritius) in 1791. Pottery and ale,
iron and salt fish, soap and gin, hams and flints, whale
oil and candles, saddles and bridles, lard and tobacco,
chocolate and flour, tables and desks made up her
manifest. Her twenty-one-year-old master, Jacob
Crowninshield,1 was one of four brothers, each of whom
commanded a vessel at about the same age. Their
father, George Crowninshield, had but recently retired
from the sea at the age of fifty-five, and was soon to
rival 'King1 Derby as merchant-shipowner. Captain
Jacob had a great career before him; crowned by an
offer, thirteen years later, of the Navy Department
by President Jefferson. Ill health from long voyages
in tropical waters obliged him to decline; but the same
high office was subsequently conferred on a younger
brother by President Madison.
The Henry obtained most of her return lading at
Mauritius. But British sea power gradually strangled
this eastern emporium of France, and Salem vessels
were obliged to go to the source of supplies. This led to
Massachusetts men taking up their residence in the
seaports of British India. Samuel Shaw found his
friend Benjamin Joy already established at Calcutta,
on his return from China; and Thomas Lechmere, of
Salem, became an alderman of Bombay.
In this sort of commerce, a large discretion was left
to shipmasters and supercargoes.  A typical letter of
1 Pronounced * Grounsell' at that period, but now as it is spelled.
instruction is one of 1792 from William Gray, another
Salem rival of the Derbys, to Captain William Ward,
of the brig Enterprise, one hundred sixty-four tons. He
will dispose of his Russia duck, 'coles' (from Liverpool), and anything that he may think proper, at the
Cape of Good Hope. There he is to pickup wine, brandy,
raisins, and almonds for the He de France, where the
whole cargo ought to sell for one hundred percent profit,
provided the Enterprise arrives before a certain Boston
vessel. Captain Ward is to purchase there anything
that will pay cent per cent at Salem, according to a list
of prices current furnished him. His next stop should
be Calcutta to take on sugar, saltpeter, and " Bandanno
silk Handkerchiefs" at the same rate. Otherwise he
must try to get a 'cheep' cargo of teak to exchange
at Canton for China goods. He may even sell the brig,
if a good opportunity offers. As Captain Ward did not
find prices low enough for his owner's modest expectations, he took freight from India to Ostend, and there
filled his hold with European merchandise.
Until 1811, when British regulations (surprisingly
liberal at first) forbade all but direct voyages between
India and the United States, the East-India trade was
susceptible of infinite variety. Benjamin Carpenter,
the Salem master of the Boston ship Hercules, wrote in
1794 that profits might be pyramided indefinitely by
freighting goods between Ceylon, Bombay, Calcutta,
and Madras, and by judicious turnovers at Rangoon,
Bengal, and Coromandel. That is, provided one tipped
heavily, and behaved like a gentleman. "From the
Governor to the meanest citizen, I have made it my
study to please. Let a man's occupation be what it will,
you may have occasion for his aid. I have known a
present of 10 s. to be the means of saving £100. Good
language will have the same effect, therefore exert
yourself as much as possible this way and set apart
£20 for these purposes."
During the European war, Madeira acquired an important relation to the East-India trade. Salem and
Boston merchants exchanged general cargoes there
for Madeira wine, which found a ready sale in Calcutta. They also began the pleasant practice of laying in a few pipes I for home consumption, the long
voyage in southern waters improving its flavor. A
typical voyage was that of the Maine-built ship Herald, three hundred twenty-eight tons, commanded
by Nathaniel Silsbee (formerly of the Benjamin), and
owned by himself, Samuel Parkman, and Ebenezer
Preble. She sailed from Boston in January, 1800, with
a cargo consisting of butter, beef, tobacco, codfish,
rum, nankeen from China, two hundred thirty-six pipes
of French brandy that had run the British blockade,
and a large quantity of silver dollars and bills of exchange. Most of the provisions, the nankeen and the
liquorwere exchanged at Madeira for two hundred sixty
pipes of "India market" wine and a score of "choice
old London particular" for Boston. This genial cargo
was carried around the Cape of Good Hope to Madras,
where the India market wine was sold, and pepper, blue
cloth, 'camboys' and 'Pulicate' handkerchiefs taken
aboard. At Bombay and Calcutta, the bills and specie
purchased pepper, sugar, ginger, and a bewildering
array of India cottons, for which the fashions of that
day, and the absence of domestic competition, afforded
an excellent market in the United States.2 The Herald's
1 A pipe was a double hogshead, containing no to 125 gallons.
2 In the "Beverly Shipping Documents," 1, at the Beverly Historical
Society, is an important letter of 1796 from Benjamin Pickman, of Salem,
to Israel Thorndike, of Beverly, advising him how best to lay out $20,000
at Calcutta, with samples of several different cottons attached. It appears from this that Beerboom Gurrahs, a stout white sheeting, cost
invoice shows' Callipatti Baftas,'' Beerboom Gurrahs,'
'Allabad Emerties,' and a score of different weaves.
Madras chintzes and seersuckers are the only names
recognizable to-day.
Calcutta, lying eighty miles up the Hoogly River,
was a port most difficult of access before the days of
tugboats. After passing the Sand Heads — a considerable feat of navigation in itself, at times — it often
took weeks to beat up-river. The anchorage at Calcutta was dangerous on account of the tidal bores, which
in certain seasons worked havoc with ground-tackle
and shipping. In the southwest monsoon season of
1799, writes William Cleveland, of Salem, insurance
from Calcutta to Hamburg was sixteen per cent; but
premiums would be written for half that rate from the
Sand Heads to Hamburg.
The Herald left the Hoogly in company with three
vessels from Philadelphia and one from Baltimore.
Outside competition was evidently becoming serious.
It was the period of our naval hostilities with France.
When the Americans fell in with a British East4ndia-
man, under fire from a French privateer, they decided
to bear a hand, and formed line-of-battle. The master
of the vessel abreast the Herald expressed a keen desire
to leave, his speed being sufficient to elude the privateer.
Captain Silsbee roared through his speaking-trumpet,
" If you do, I '11 sink you!" To which his colleague replied, "Damn you, Silsbee, I know you would!"; and
saw the action through to a successful finish.
Small "private adventures" for the officers' and
about twelve cents a yard, white print cloth seven to eleven cents, and
"mock Pulicat Handkerchiefs," eighty-four to ninety-five cents for
eight. William Tileston, of Boston, known as ' Count Indigo,' did an
extensive business printing India bandannas at his dyehouse in the old
feather store, Dock Square, and at Staten Island. The duty saved by
importing plain goods made this profitable.
owners' friends, varying in amount from a box of codfish to several thousand dollars in specie, were carried
both by China and East-India traders. Captain Gibaut,
of Salem, in 1796, "had private orders to execute in his
ship at Canton amounting to $4000, for the little elegancies of life ... so rapid are our strides to wealth and
luxury," notes the Reverend William Bentley. On the
brig Caravan, of Salem (two hundred sixty-seven tons),
early in 1812, Captain Augustine Heard took two thousand silver dollars to invest for his father, the same for
each brother, and from twenty to one hundred dollars
for sundry maiden aunts and retired Ipswich sea-captains. Numerous friends requested him to purchase
for their wives red cornelian necklaces, camel's-hair
shawls, pieces of cobweb muslin or Mull Mull, straw
carpets, bed coverings, and pots of preserved ginger.
Henry Pickering wanted a Sanskrit bible, and three
children gave him a dollar each to invest in Calcutta.1
Besides there was a cargo valued at forty thousand
dollars, and the first consignment of missionaries, male
and female, sent by the Puritan Church of Massachusetts to " India's coral strand." But the Reverend and
Mrs. Adoniram Judson and Samuel Newell were not
wanted at Calcutta by the British authorities, and had
to be dropped at Mauritius.
Augustine Heard was a shipmaster whose cool daring
became legendary. Approaching the Sand Heads in an
onshore hurricane, having lost his best bower anchor,
and drawing a foot more water than there was on the
bar, Captain Heard shook a reef out of his topsails,
and laying the vessel on her beam ends, managed to
1 One of the notes pasted in the Caravan's invoice book is: "Sir —
Please to purchase for Capt, John Barr — $200 — 2 Camels Hair Shawls
— White — 2 yards in Length & if yards in width, with a Broad Palm
leaf Border mostly Green." A feminine hand has added, "narrow Border
round Edge avoid Red. If any Bal[ancej buy best Bandannas."
scrape across. Once, he is said to have run a pirate
ship under in the China Sea. There are two versions of
his return voyage in the Caravan, after the War of 1812
had commenced. According to one, he sold the Caravan
and cargo to avoid capture in a South American port,
and disguised as a shipwrecked mariner, with the
specie proceeds in his sea-chest, took passage on a
slaver to Rio de Janeiro, and thence to Boston. According to the other, the Caravan was captured off the
coast of Madagascar by an English cruiser, which sent
a lieutenant and prize crew aboard. All the Americans were placed in irons except the colored cook, and
Captain Heard. Some days afterwards, a sudden and
violent storm arose. While the English crew was aloft
taking in sail, and the lieutenant busy giving orders,
Heard went into the galley, got the cook, and with his
aid knocked the irons off his own people. They then
seized arms, rushed on deck, and as each English Jack
descended the rigging, clapped him in irons and sent
him below. Captain Heard then extended the courtesies
of the cabin to the English officer, and brought him and
his crew as prisoners into Salem Harbor.
On the Northwest coast of Sumatra, Salem found
wealth and adventure such as Boston men obtained on
the Northwest coast of America. Her merchant seamen, like the Portuguese before them, tracked Eastern
spices to their source. It was at Benkulen, in 1793,
that Captain Jonathan Carnes heard a rumor of wild
pepper to the northwestward. Returning to Salem, he
was given command of a fast schooner, and cleared for
unknown destination. "Without chart or guide of any
kind, he made his way amid numerous coral reefs, of
which navigators have so much dread even at the
present day, as far as the port of Analaboo."1 His
1 J. H. Reynolds, Voyage of the U.S. Frigate Potomac (1835), 201.
cargo, costing (with expenses) eighteen thousand dollars, sold for seven hundred per cent profit at Salem.
The town went pepper mad. A dozen vessels cleared
for Benkulen; but few of them got so much as a sneeze
for their trouble. Gradually, however, the secret
leaked out; and by 1800, years before there was a
published chart of the Malay archipelago, the harbors
of Analabu, Susu, Tally-Pow, Mingin, Labuan-Haji,
and Muckie and all those treacherous waters now illuminated by the genius of Conrad, were as familiar
to Salem shipmasters as Danvers River. Twenty-one
American vessels, ten from Salem and eight from Boston, visited this coast between March 1 and May 14,
1803, bargaining with local datus for the wild pepper
as the natives brought it in. Between the two northwest coasts there was little choice, in point of danger.
Many a Salem man's bones lie in Sumatran waters, a
Malay kreese between the ribs.
By way of reward, Salem became the American, and
for a time the world emporium for pepper. In 1791,
the United States exported 492 pounds of pepper;
in 1805, it exported 7,559,244 pounds — over seven-
eighths of the entire Northwest Sumatran crop; and
a very large proportion of this was landed in Salem.
Captain James Cook imported over one million pounds
of pepper in one lading of his five-hundred-ton ship
Some of the tinware that itinerant Yankees peddled
throughout the Eastern States, was made from Banka
tin, obtained by Salem traders from an island beside
the Gaspar Straits. Batavia, the Tyre of Java, shortly
This is the usual version of the origin of the Northwest Sumatra trade.
W. Vans, however, claims that he and Jonathan Freeman opened that
trade in their brigantine Cadet in 1788. {Life of William Vans (1832), 4.)
See forthcoming articles by Mr. George Putnam in Essex Historical
after the ship Massachusetts was refused entrance,
opened her doors to American vessels, which brought
home increasing amounts of sugar and coffee.
The famous Astrea, John Gibaut master, ventured
into the harbor of Pegu, near Rangoon, in 1793, and
was promptly commandeered by His Burmese Majesty.
This enabled Captain Gibaut to travel up the Irawaddy
River, collecting curiosities for the East-India Museum
and for-his Salem pastor, Dr. Bentley. He was undoubtedly the first American to take this classic road
to Mandalay. No permanent trading connection, however, seems to have been established with Burma.
A year later, one of the numerous Captain Hodges of
Salem adventured a quantity of gum lacquer from
Pegu, but was unable to dispose of it at any price.
"This day a letter from an Arabian Chief, Said
Aimed," records Dr. Bentley on October 2, 1805, "by
Mr. Bancroft, a Salem Factor in those seas. He mentioned the wish of a Jew to write to me in that country,
from whom I may expect to hear by Capt. Elkms."
That year Salem imported two million pounds of coffee
from Arabia. So remote from the beaten track of vessels was Mocha, that the Recovery, of Salem, Captain
Joseph Ropes, which opened the trade in 1798, was
given a reception similar to that of Columbus in the
new world. In 1806, the ship Essex, Captain Joseph
Orne, with sixty thousand dollars in specie, adventured
up the Red Sea to Hodeda. At Mocha he augmented
his crew with some Arabs, who turned out to be \ inside men' of a notorious pirate. The Essex was captured, and her entire crew massacred. When the news
reached the Salem owner, who was Captain Orne's
uncle, he is said to have remarked, "Well, the ship is
A more cheerful story of the Mocha trade is the
92 w
maiden voyage of the well-armed ship America, owned
by George Crowninshield and his sons, and commanded by his nephew, Benjamin Crowninshield.
On July 2, 1804, she left Salem with very positive and
emphatic orders to proceed to Sumatra for pepper,
and nowhere else; for Captain Benjamin was too much
inclined to use his own judgment. "Obey orders if you
break owners," was a maxim of the old merchant marine. Yet this independent master received at Mauritius such favorable news of the coffee market that once
more he determined to disobey. On November 30, the
America passed "through the straits of Babelmandel,
and anchored off Mocha, the Grand Mosque bearing
E. by S." There, and at Aden and Macalla Roads she
took in coffee, gum arabic, hides, goatskins, and senna,
and cleared for Salem.
Now, by June, 1805, when the America was sighted
from Salem town, pepper had fallen and coffee risen
to such an extent that the owners were praying Captain
Ben had broken orders! Unable to restrain their impatience until she docked, the Crowninshield brothers
put off in a small boat. Approaching her to leeward,
they began sniffing the air. One was sure he smelled
the desired bean; but another suggested it might be
merely a pot of coffee on the galley stove. Finally, disregarding all marine etiquette, Benjamin W. Crowninshield shouted, "What's your cargo? " — " Pe-pe-per!"
answered the Captain, who was enjoying the situation
hugely. "You lie! I smell coffee!" roared the future
Secretary of the Navy through his speaking-trumpet.
Once having found their way into the Pacific Ocean,
Salem shipmasters began to exploit its " Milky-ways
of coral isles, and low-lying, endless, unknown archipelagoes and impenetrable Japans." The crews of Salem vessels, undismayed by the occasional killing and
93 11
eating of their comrades by Fiji cannibals, gathered
edible birds' nests from surf-beaten rocks, employed
native divers to fish tortoise-shell and mother-of-pearl ;
and gathered slimy sea-cucumbers ('beech de mer')
from coral reefs, to make soup for the mandarins.
Thus a new medium was obtained for purchasing China
tea. One lonely group in the South Atlantic, Tristan
de Cunha, was taken in formal possession by Jonathan
Lambert, of Salem, remaining his private principality
until his death in 1813.
A second ship Astrea, Henry Prince master, displayed her ensign in Manila Bay on October 3, 1796,
and opened a trade in sugar, hemp, and indigo that continued as long as Salem men owned vessels. No Salem
boy, in seventeen ninety-eight, thought the Philippines
were canned goods! Most of our present insular possessions were visited by Boston or Salem ships before
the nineteenth century — except Guam, which was
saved for 1801. The barque Lydia, of Boston, Moses
Barnard master, was chartered by the Spanish government to convey thither a new governor of the Marianas, with " Lady, three Children and two servant girls
and 12 men servents, A Fryar & his servent, A Judge
and two servents." The log of this voyage, by the
Lydia's first mate, William Haswell, is among the most
entertaining of the several hundred sea-journals preserved in Salem. The Lydia first put in at Zamboanga
(Mindanao), a pleasant place which produced nothing
but "Cocoa Nuts, water & Girls." Six of the latter
were brought on board by the governor's sons, with
"Music to Entertain us, but the Ship was so full of
Lumber that they had no place to shew their Dancing
in; how ever we made a shift to amuse ourselves till 3
in the Morning, the Currant then turning and a light
breeze from the Northward springing up sent them all
I       i     I 94 III       m THE SALEM EAST INDIES
on shore, they Singing and Playing their Music all the
way." At Guam, officers and crew had royal entertainment. The governor and family wept copiously at
their departure, and pressed livestock, fruit, and other
gifts on the captain until they overflowed the deck, and
had to be towed astern in the jolly-boat.
This commerce with the Far East, in pursuit of
which early discoverers had scorned the barren coast
of Massachusetts, was a primary factor in restoring
the commonwealth to prosperity and power, in giving
her maritime genius a new object and a new training, in
maintaining a maritime supremacy that ended in a
burst of glory with the clipper ship. By 1800, Massachusetts had proved the power of her merchants and
seamen, when unrestrained by a colonial system; had
given the lie to tory pessimists who predicted her
speedy decay when detached from the British Empire.
A tea party in Boston Harbor, at the expense of the
British East India Company, brought on the American
Revolution. Twenty years later, tea and spices earned
through trafficking with savage tribes, carried in Massachusetts vessels and handled by her merchants, were
underselling the imports of that mighty monopoly in
the markets of Europe. CHAPTER VIII
Shipbuilding, the ancient key industry of Massachusetts expanded greatly during the Federalist period.
Exactly how much, we have no means of knowing,
for no record was kept of the many vessels built for
other states and countries. But the total merchant
and fishing fleet owned in Massachusetts (including
Maine) tripled between 1789 and 1792, doubled again
in the next decade, and by 1810 increased another fifty
per cent, attaining 500,000 tons, a figure not surpassed
until after 1830.
The far-flung commerce of Salem and Boston was
conducted in vessels that were small even by contemporary standards. 'King' Derby's entire fleet of six
ships, one barque, four brigs, two ketches, and a
schooner had a total tonnage of 2380, less than the
clipper-ship Sovereign of the Seas a half-century later.
William Gray owned 113 vessels first and last, before
1815; but only ten of them were over 300 tons burthen,
and the largest was 425 tons. The average dimensions
of six famous East-Indiamen of Salem, built between
1794 and 1805, are, length 99 feet, breadth 28 feet,
burthen 336.I The second Grand Turk (124 feet long,
564 tons), Salem's " Great Ship," was sold to New York
in 1795 for $32,000, as "much too large for our Port &
the method of our Trade." Salem Harbor was so
shallow that vessels drawing more than twelve feet
1 The same length as, and a slightly greater breadth than the Boston
mackerel schooner Fannie Belle Atwood in 1920.
had to unload by lighters; but in Boston, twelve feet
could be carried up to Long Wharf at low tide. Yet
Boston vessels seem to have been no larger than those
of Salem, and the average Nor'westman was nearer
two hundred than three hundred tons.
"A wise marchant neuer adventures all his goodes
in one ship," wrote Sir Thomas More. Even those
who could afford large ships preferred to distribute
the tonnage among several small ones. For it is a great
mistake to suppose that the danger of seafaring decreases as tonnage increases, beyond a certain point.
Every square yard more sail area, in those days of
single topsails, hemp rigging, and simple purchases,
increased the difficulty of handling. Every foot more
draft increased the danger of navigating uncharted
seas and entering unbuoyed harbors. "Lost at sea
with all hands," that frequent epitaph of the great
clipper ships, was seldom if ever the fate of a Massachusetts vessel in the Federal period. The Crownin-
shields lost but four of their great fleet of East-India-
men by 1806; two on Cape Cod, one on Egg Harbor bar,
and one on the French coast. Massachusetts builders,
moreover, had not yet acquired the technique to construct large vessels properly. Hence the superstition,
current in New England seaports until 1830 or thereabouts, that five hundred tons was the limit of safety;
that a larger vessel might break her back in a heavy
sea. To round the Horn in a vessel under one hundred
tons, as did several of the Boston Nor'westmen, was
a remarkable feat of seamanship. But the boldest
Yankee shipmaster of 1800, if given the choice, would
rather have taken a Chebacco boat around Cape Stiff
than a two-thousand-ton clipper ship.
Salem's fleet included vessels constructed on the
North River, the Merrimac, or "Down East," but her
merchants greatly preferred home-built ships, under
their immediate supervision. A launching, "the noblest sight man can exhibit," thought Dr. Bentley, was
a gala occasion. In his diary for October 31, 1807, he
writes: "This day Mr. Brigs in South Fields launched a
ship [the Francis] for Mr. Peabody, Merchant of this
town of Salem, into South river. And about an hour
afterwards Barker, Magoun & Co. launched at the entrance of the neck into the Lower harbour a Ship for
Nathaniel Silsbee, Merchant of this Town. This last
I saw. As the flats are level & the building ground low,
the builders could not have the advantages of the two
other yards which are steep banks of the rivers. But
As soon as her stem block was taken away she began
with a gradual increased motion to descend to the
water, & without the least interruption or crack of
anything near her, she rode upon the Ocean amidst the
incessant shouts of the Spectators."
Most American seaports, including Boston, have
shamefully neglected the splendid history of their
maritime efforts. But Salem loved her ships, and
cherished their memory. Hence she has taken first
place by default, and her many writers have unconsciously given the modern public (as did their ancestors the South-Sea islanders) the impression that Salem means America; that nowhere else in the world
were built or owned such fast and wonderful vessels.
The Peabody Museum ship portraits deepen this impression; for Salem employed the best artists of the
day to depict her vessels — Antoine Roux, of Marseilles, portraitiste de navires unsurpassed for precision
of detail and artistic effect; Michele Corne, whom the
Mount Vernon brought from Naples in 1800, to pass
the rest of his long life in New England seaports; and
his pupil George Ropes.  " In every house we see the
ships of our harbor delineated for those who have
navigated them," wrote Dr. Bentley in 1804; and the
same holds true to-day. When Salem capital was
transferred to cotton mills, her merchants, unlike
those of Boston and New York, did not discard their
ship pictures in favor of steel engravings after Sir
Edmund Landseer, or dismal anonymous etchings of
wintry trees.
Quaint and interesting the ships of the Federalist
period certainly were, with their varied coloring
(bright, lemon, or orange waist against black, blue, or
dark green topsides, and a gay contrasting color for
the inside of bulwarks); their carved 'gingerbread
work' on stern, and 'quick-work' about the bows;
their few large, well-proportioned sails (royals seldom,
and skysails never being carried), and their occasionally graceful sheer. But strip off their ornaments,
and you find, with few exceptions, a chunky, wall-
sided model. The big ships of that day were built in
Philadelphia and Europe; the small, fast clipper
schooners and brigs, on Chesapeake Bay. New England builders obeyed the ancient tradition that "ships
require a spreading body at the water's edge, both
afore and abaft, to support them from being plung'd
too deep into the sea." 1 The apparently sharp bow m
some contemporary pictures is really nothing but
deadwood, an ornamental cutwater preserving the
tradition of a Roman galley's rostrum. The real bows
were of the 'cod's head' type, bluff and full, buffeting
a passage for the ship by sheer strength. And in no
Massachusetts-built ship of this period whose dimensions are preserved, was the length as much as four
times the beam.
1 William Hutchinson, Treatise on Practical Seamanship (Liverpool,
1777), 12.
Several of these vessels made good, but not remarkable passages. The ship Fame (112 feet long, 263
tons), whose launching was a great event of 1802, once
made Vineyard Haven in ninety-two days from Sumatra, completing the round voyage in seven months
and seven days. But the full-bodied New York
packet-ship Natchez, built in 1831, made her home
port in sixty-seven days from Java Head, when driven
by 'Bully' Waterman. The fastest Salem vessel of
our period was the ship America, 114 feet long, 31 feet
beam, and 473 tons burthen, built in 1809 by Retire
Becket, with the aid of a local Scots draughtsman.
Her beautiful portrait by Antoine, Roux suggests
easier lines than were then common. But her record
day's run (over 240 miles) and bursts of speed (13
knots) were made as a privateer, with hull razeed to
331 tons, and a lofty rig that no mere merchantman
could have carried. Another much-touted Salem-
built vessel is the frigate Essex; but a careful reading
of Captain David Porter's log of her Pacific cruise
proves her to have been an uncommonly slow sailer
for an American frigate. In the Peabody Museum,
Salem, is an interesting half-model of the ketch Eliza
(93 X 25 x 9 feet, 184 tons), built by Enos Briggs in
1794, and indicating a striving after speed. She has a
curved stem, hollow water-lines, the stern of a modern
navy cutter, and considerable deadrise; suggesting
both a Baltimore clipper and the yacht America.1 The
Eliza once made a round voyage to India in nine
months. She must have carried very little cargo compared with the usual chunky type, for which reason,
possibly, the experiment led to nothing.
1 Very likely her lines were copied from a Chesapeake Bay schooner.
The "Fast-sailing Virginia built schooner Fox, 30 tons, 58 feet," is advertised for sale in the Salem Gazette of July 15, 1796.
It did not take much in those days to give a vessel a
reputation for speed. In 1816, Augustine Heard, who
had commanded Boston and Salem vessels for years,
considered the brig Hindu fast, because on a voyage
from Calcutta to Boston she sailed 7 to 7.5 knots an
hour within six points of the wind, and 8.9 knots off
the wind. Dr. Bentley notes that several Salem vessels, unable in their outward passage to breast the
winds and currents off the coast of Brazil, were forced
ignominiously to run home.
Until some competent naval architect makes a
thorough study of American shipbuilding (and may
the day come soon!) no one has a right to be dogmatic.
But I venture the opinion that Salem-built vessels of
the Federalist period were in no way superior to those
constructed elsewhere in Massachusetts; that the
builders of New York, the Delaware, and Long Island
Sound were probably quite as competent as those of
New England; and that the first real advance in the
design of large American merchantmen, subsequent to
the Revolution, came during or after the War of 1812.
The lower Merrimac from Haverhill to Newbury-
port was undoubtedly the greatest shipbuilding center
of New England, at this period as in colonial days.
Currier's rare monograph on Merrimac shipbuilding
lists about 1115 vessels constructed and registered
there between 1793 and 1815, inclusive; and a number
constructed for outside parties are not to be found
on his list. Twelve thousand tons of shipping were
launched on the Merrimac in the banner year of 1810.
As in other shipbuilding centers, all the cordage, sails,
blocks, pumps, ironwork, anchors, and other fittings
were made locally, employing hundreds of skilled
mechanics. The jolly ropemakers of Salem used to
outwit the Puritan taboo on a merry Christmas, by
feasting St. Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint
of their profession, every December 25!
■ It was a Newburyport builder, Orlando B. Merrill,
who in 1794 invented the lift or water-line model,
probably the greatest invention in the technique of
naval architecture between the days of Drake and
the days of Ericsson. The lifts of the model, measured
with a foot-rule, determined the dimensions of the
vessel; and when she was completed, the model was
neatly sawed amidships, one-half going to the owner,
the other remaining in the builder's shop. Every
builder was his own designer, as a matter of course.
The technique was handed down from father to son;
but there was such competition that no shipbuilder
ever grew rich in the Federalist period.1
Medford, where the Blessing of the Bay was launched
in 1631, became again a shipbuilding center in 1802.
In that year Thatcher Magoun, of Pembroke, a pupil
of his townsman Enos Briggs at Salem, examined the
shores and bed of the Mystic River. Finding them
free of obstruction, noting the noble oak groves in
the neighborhood, and estimating that the Middlesex
Canal, just completed, would enable him to tap the
timber resources of the upper Merrimac, he decided to
establish a shipyard at Medford. Calvin Turner, of
Scituate, and another member of the house of Briggs,
joined him in 1804. From the start, these Medford
builders specialized in large ships and brigs — two
hundred and fifty tons up — but until the War of 1812
they only built two or three apiece annually. After
1815, the vessels that he built for the China trade gave
1 I have found little data on the cost of vessels at this period. The
Merrimac-built brig Enterprise, 164 tons, cost $5000 to build in 1792,
and the Maine-built ship Wells, 205 tons, sold when three years old for
$7000 in 1804.
Thatcher Magoun a reputation second to none among
American shipbuilders; and "Medford-built" came to
mean the best.
Boston and Charlestown yards did little but naval
construction and repairing during the Federalist period, although several fine ships were there built by
Josiah Barker (of North River origin), and Edmund
Hart, the master builders of the Constitution. The Boston fleet, three times as great as Salem's and second
only to New York's, was largely procured from the M aine
coast, the Merrimac, and the North River. That narrow
tidal stream, dividing the towns of Marshfield and Pembroke from Scituate, Norwell, and Hanover, was like
the Merrimac a cradle of New England shipbuilding.
The North River attained the height of its activity
in Federalist days. Thirty vessels were completed
here in 1801, and an average of twenty-three a year,
1799 to 1804. Looking downstream from the Hanover
bridge, eleven shipyards were in view, filled with vessels in various stages of construction. Every morning
at daybreak the shipwrights might be seen crossing
the pastures or walking along the sedgy riverbank to
their work, for a dollar a day from dawn to dark.
When the sun rose above the Marshfield hills, like a
great red ball through the river mist, there began the
cheery clatter of wooden shipbuilding — clean, musical sounds of steel on wood, iron on anvil, creak of
tackle and rattle of sheave; with much geeing and
hawing as ox-teams brought in loads of fragrant oak,
pine, and hackmatack, and a snatch of chanty as a
large timber is hoisted into place. At eleven o'clock,
and again at four came the foreman's welcome shout
of "Grog O!" For it took rum to build ships in those
days; a quart to a ton, by rough allowance; and more
to launch her properly.
Standing on this same Hanover bridge to-day, it is
hard to believe what the records show to be true, that
within a few hundred yards, where there seems hardly
water enough for a good-sized motor boat, were built
for New York merchants in 1810-11 the ships Mount
Vernon 1 and Mohawk, respectively 352 and 407 tons
burthen. Farther down, near the Columbia's birthplace, even greater vessels were launched — poking
their sterns into the opposite bank, and having to be
dug out. Getting them down this narrow, tortuous
river, full of rocks and shoals, was a ticklish business,
entrusted to a special breed of North River pilots.
Crews of men followed the vessel on both banks, with
long ropes attached to each bow and quarter, hauling
or checking as the pilot, enthroned between knight-
heads, commanded, "Haul her over to Ma'sh-field!"
or,'' Haul her over to Sit-u-wate!'' Motive power was
provided by kedging, heaving up to an anchor dropped
ahead by the pilot's boat. Fourteen tides were sometimes required to get a vessel to sea, as the mocking
river sauntered for miles behind the barrier beach, and
dribbled out over a bar that taxed all Yankee ingenuity to surmount. When shipbuilding had ceased, a
new outlet opened at the nearest point to the ocean.
The North River builders did much work for "foreign" (i.e., non-Massachusetts) order, and for the
whalemen. Their vessels seem to have lacked even
a local reputation for speed. Very few paintings of
them have survived. One, of the ship Minerva, 223
tons, built by Joshua Magoun at Pembroke in 1808 for
Ezra Weston and others of Duxbury, shows a vessel
built in the best style of the day; gray-blue topsides
1 Length 99 feet, 6 inches, breadth 28 feet, depth 14 feet, 3 inches.
The largest vessel ever constructed on the North River was another ship
Mount Vernon, 464 tons, built in 1815 for Philadelphia by Samuel Hartt.
and bulwarks, with bright waist, quarter-galleries,
beautiful quick-work on the bows, and a finely proportioned sail plan.
Fishermen and other small vessels were constructed
in Plymouth Bay at this period; and at Wareham and
Mattapoisett on Buzzard's Bay were more children
of North River, building three-hundred-ton whalers
for Nantucket, and neutral traders for New Bedford.
Fishing vessels were also built on Cape Cod, Cape Ann,
and Essex, as well as in the larger centers. The presence in the Boston registry of the two-hundred-ton
ship Merry Quaker, built at Dighton in 1795, proves
that that center of religious dissent on the Taunton
was up and doing. But having viewed the Merrimac,
Salem, the Mystic and North Rivers, we have made
the rounds of the greater shipyards in Massachusetts
And now for the sailors. A frequent occurrence in
the New England of our period is illustrated by a pretty
story of Cohasset. One spring evening young Southward Pratt, a farmer's barefoot boy, goes out as usual
to drive the cattle home. But the cows are heard
lowing at the pasture bars, long after their accustomed
hour to be milked. There is no trace of the lad. Something called him from that rocky pasture; a sea-turn
in the wind, perhaps; or a glimpse of Massachusetts
Bay, deep blue and sail-studded, laughing in the May
sunshine. True to his name, Southward obeyed the
Three years pass. The cows are now tended by young
Mercy Gannett, who has come from Scituate to live
with the Pratts as hired girl, in the friendly fashion of
the day. One summer evening she comes running home
from the pasture, frightened, breathless. A strange
young man with bronzed face and lithe, free movements, had appeared at the pasture bars, and announced he would drive the cattle home that evening.
Of course it was the prodigal son; and naturally he
married Mercy, and lived happily ever after.
Southward's sudden departure, and his return, are
both typical of the Massachusetts merchant marine.
The Bay State, more seafaring in her taste (if one includes Maine) than any other American commonwealth, has never had a native deep-sea proletariat.
Her fleet was manned by successive waves of adventure-seeking boys, and officered by such of them as
determined to make the sea their calling. The European type of sailor, the "old salt" of English fiction,
content to serve before the mast his entire lifetime,
was almost unknown in New England. High wages
and the ocean's lure pulled the Yankee boys to sea;
but only promotion — or rum — could keep them
there. If Southward or Hiram enjoyed his first voyage
and made good, he was soon given an officer's berth,
of which there were plenty vacant in a marine that increased from 58,800 to 435,700 tons (excluding fishermen1) between 1789 and 1810, which required from
eleven to fifteen men per ton, and in which the proportion of officers to seamen was not less than one to
five. If quickly cured of his wanderlust, he went back
to the farm, and was replaced by another boy. When
the embargo tied up Salem shipping, the discharged
crews returned to their villages — precisely as did the
Russian workmen during the late Revolution,.
Speaking broadly, officers' berths in European ma-
1 For the crews of fishermen, to which these statements do not apply,
see chapter x.
rines were class preserves, going by favor and influence to the sons of shipmasters, merchants, and their
dependents. Few European sailors had the education
to qualify themselves for command. But in the Massachusetts marine the great majority of masters came
in through the hawse-hole, and the vast majority of
seamen had sufficient command of the three R's to
post a log, draft a protest, draw up a manifest, and,
with a little instruction on shore or shipboard, find a
position at sea. Captain Zachary G. Lamson, of Beverly, tells of sailing as foremast hand on a Salem brigantine, every one of whose crew of thirteen rose to be
master of a vessel. With officers thoroughly trained in
the rudiments of their profession, and young, ambitious seamen culled from the most active element of a
pushing race, it is no wonder that the Massachusetts
marine achieved great things.
Never, save possibly at some colonial period, has
the Massachusetts marine been one hundred per cent
American. In Federalist days, it certainly contained an
appreciable minority of foreigners. How much, it is
impossible to say. Not until 1817 did federal law require two-thirds of a crew to be American. Even before 1793 we find a foreign minority in the crew lists
of some famous Pacific traders;j and after that date,
1 On the ship Massachusetts in 1790, there were six petty officers from
Massachusetts, four from England, and one each from New Hampshire,
Ireland, Scotland, and Sweden. Before the mast were nineteen from
Massachusetts, seven from other New England states, ten from England,
six from Ireland, and one each from Scotland and Virginia (Delano, Voyages, 27). Eight nationalities were represented in the Boston's crew of
fifteen, in 1803 (Jewitt's Narrative); but this crew was enlisted in England. The New York brig Betsey, in the China trade, picked up her
crew at New Haven and Stonington (Edmund Fanning, Voyages, 1833
ed., 69). The Margaret, Captain James Magee, had two Swedes, one
Dutchman, and sixteen Americans before the mast. On the Boston
ship Hercules, in a voyage to Calcutta in 1792-94, all four officers, eight
when British subjects with -forged naturalization papers, or birth certificates purchased from a discharged
American, sought whatever protection the American
flag afforded, these crew lists are open to suspicion. A
Spanish boy named Benito, who joined the Astrea at
Cadiz, shipped on his next voyage as Benjamin Eaton,
of Salem. Captain Samuel Snow, of Cohasset, was
really Salvador Sabate y Morell, brought from Spain
many years before by Captain Ephraim Snow, of
Truro. William Gray testified in 1813 that in his opinion one-fifth of the seamen in the American merchant
marine were foreigners. Adam Seybert, the statistician, estimated one-sixth in 1807. Probably the proportion was less in New England, where the native
supply was abundant. A British agent was told by
Salem merchants in 1808 that they no longer employed British seamen, in order to avoid trouble from
impressment. John Lowell asserts that only the vessels of the middle and southern states, where the
native population had little maritime aptitude, employed foreigners to any extent. This statement must
be taken with caution, as made for political effect; but
the argument is reasonable. Only a careful examination and rigorous checking-up of the crew lists in our
custom-house records can establish the truth.
Looking over these crew lists of registered vessels,
one finds a small, constant minority of foreigners—-
not only Englishmen, but Germans, Scandinavians,
and Latins — who acknowledge themselves such. But
the great majority profess to be native-born Yankees, and probably were. Newburyport drew farmers'
out of nine petty officers, and fifteen out of twenty-five seamen were
Massachusetts men. The other petty officer and one seaman were Irish,
seven seamen were English, and two doubtful. (MS. Journals, Essex
boys from the valley of the Merrimac and from all
southern New Hampshire. Marblehead's sailors were
mostly of the tough local breed. Salem drew upon her
own population, and all Essex County; her vessels also
include a large number of men from the Middle States
and Baltimore.1 Boston's crew lists have been destroyed; but most Cape Cod boys seem to have gone
there for a start. The youthfulness of them is striking.
Most are in their teens and early twenties; seamen
over thirty are rare, and over forty almost unknown.
The few older men were probably victims of drink,
who squandered their wages at the end of each voyage,
in classic sailor fashion, and had no other recourse but
to reship.
Tradition, love of adventure, desire to see the world,
and the social prestige of the shipmaster's calling were
partly responsible for Yankee boys going to sea. Few
could grow up in a seaport town and resist the lure.
For boys in the inland towns, seafaring offered the
only alternative to clodhopping, the sole means of
foreign travel, and the best opportunity to gather
wealth. The West was not yet a word to fire the imagination. Hewing out a new farm in the Green Mountains or the Genesee Valley did not promise much
variety from home life. One could fight Indians on the
Northwest Coast — and play with the Kanaka girls
between fights. Ordinary life, to be sure, was not so
dismal in New England farming towns as the self-
styled experts in Puritanism would have us think.
1 On the ship Restitution of Salem in 1804, out of nine seamen seven
give their residence as Baltimore, although two were born in Salem, two
in Germany, and one each in North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Philadelphia. On the ship John of Salem, 250 tons, in 1804 nine seamen give
their birthplace in Essex County, nine elsewhere in Massachusetts, three
elsewhere in New England, two in New Jersey, one each in Maryland,
"America," and Denmark.
There was a succession of husking-bees and barn-raisings and rustic dances and sleighing parties, well lubricated with rum. But imagine the effect of a young
man returning with tales of pirates and sea-fights and
South Sea Islands, with 'cumshaws' of tea and silk
and Chinese carving for his mother and sweetheart,
and a bag of silver dollars to boot.
For one of the chief attractions of seafaring was the
high wages that were not only earned, but actually
paid, in the Federalist period. iThe Columbia, on her
first voyage, paid ordinary seamen but $5, and able
seamen $7.50 per month; but she sailed in a period of
unemployment. Wages quickly rose with commercial
expansion. By 1799, J. & T. Lamb were paying boys
$8 to $10, ordinary seamen $14 to $17, able seamen
$18, and petty officers up to $24 per month, in the
Northwest fur trade. The crew of their snow Sea Otter
was paid off with $500 to $600 each, after deducting
$100 to $150 for articles furnished from the slop chest,
on which (if the Lambs followed the practice of Bryant
& Sturgis) the men were charged at least one hundred
per cent profit. In addition they could make a couple
of hundred dollars on a judicious investment at Canton, stuffed into their sea-chests.
Data on wages in other trade routes are scarce, but
what we have indicate a rise to a similar high level.
Israel Thorndike, of Beverly, was paying ordinary seamen $4.50 and able seamen $7 per month in schooner
voyages to the West Indies and Portugal in 1790. In
1794, the A.B.'s rate had risen to $10. On the U.S.
frigate Essex, in 1799, boys and ordinary seamen got
from $5 to $14, able seamen $17, besides prize money;
at a time when an army private's pay was $3 per month.
According to a French admiral in 1806, some seamen he
impressed from an American brig were getting $17.
In the Russian trade in 1811, William Gray is paying
his ordinary seamen $16 and his A.B.'s $20 and $21.
Senator Lloyd, of Massachusetts, stated early in 1812
that the average pay of American seamen was $22.50
per month.
Shore wages, in comparison, were low. Common
labor received but eighty cents to a dollar a day in New
England between 1800 and 1810, and out of this had
to feed and house itself. There were few opportunities
for wage-earning, outside farm labor. Consequently
many young men went to sea merely to lay by a little
money to get married on, or buy a farm. But many of
them never returned from their dangerous calling.
Yellow Jack contracted in a West-India port disposed
of many a stout ploughboy. We hear of schooners
limping home from the Spanish Main, sailed only by
one sickly man and a boy. Out of 634 members of the
Essex Lodge of Free Masons in Salem, 293 were mariners and 246 master mariners; of these 50 were lost at
sea and 42 died in foreign ports. "By the arrival of
Capt. Phillips from Calcutta in the ship Recovery,"
writes Dr. Bentley, "we learn of the death of Winthrop
Gray, the last of a company of jolly fellows at Salem.
We hear of the death of several of our promising young
seamen." Within a few yards of each other in the old
graveyard at Kingston, overlooking Plymouth Bay,
may still be seen the following memorial stones:
Erected in memory of Capt. Joshua Delano who died in Havanna
April 2, 1800 aged 31 years.
Erected in memory of Capt. William Delano, who died on his
passage home from Batavia Octr. 21, 1797, aged 27 years.
In memory of Peleg Wadsworth, who was drowned February
24th 1795 in Lat. 39 N. Long. 70 W. aged 21 years 6 months and
5 days.
In memory of Amasa Holmes, who died in his passage from
Cronstadt to Boston Jan'y 30, 1834, in the 24th year of his age.
In memory of Simeon Washburn who was drowned July 6, 1805,
aged 24 years.
The only approach to a privileged class in the Massachusetts fleet was the supercargoes. This position —
the business agent of the owners on shipboard — was
often reserved for Harvard graduates, merchants'
sons, and other young men of good family who had
neither the taste nor the ruggedness for the rough-and-
tumble of forecastle life. His position was no sinecure.
The relationship with the master, between whose
functions and the supercargo's there was no sharp line,
required diplomatic qualities. Responsibility for selling and obtaining cargoes required self-reliance, and
sound knowledge of world commerce and economics.
John Bromfield, a supercargo with two generations of
Boston merchants back of him, read Henry Cole-
brooke's "Husbandry and Commerce of Bengal,"
William Marsden's " History of Sumatra," Colonel
Symes's "Embassy to Ava," Stavorinus's "Voyage a
Batavia," and Wilcocke's " History of Buenos Ayres,"
to qualify himself for his business. As supercargo under Captain Bill Sturgis in the Atahualpa, he informed
the master of the pirate junks' approach off Macao —
his brother had been killed by Malay pirates a few
years before — and fought like a lion during the action.
Joseph W. Cogswell, one of that group of New England
intellectuals who attended Gdttingen, first changed
his sky if not his mind as supercargo on William Gray's
brig Radius, in the most difficult days of neutral trade.
Patrick T. Jackson, pioneer cotton manufacturer and
founder of the city of Lowell, learned his first lessons
from the world as clerk to his brother Captain Henry
Jackson, on J. & T. H. Perkins's ship Thomas Russell,
in the Mediterranean and East-India trade.
A supercargo was occasionally promoted to master
mariner, as in the case of Dr. Bowditch; but there were
few captains in the Massachusetts fleet who had not
worked their way up from the forecastle. In spite of
this democratic method of selection, New England
shipmasters were distinguished for their gentlemanly
qualities. The English merchant marine, in spite of
privilege, was still officered by Captain Cuttles and
Hatchways, of the type described by Smollett. If an
English gentleman went to sea, he chose the navy. But
in New England the social prestige of the merchant
service remained as high as in colonial days. Gentlemen of family and education set the quarterdeck
standards, to which homespun recruits conformed as
best they could. Consequently we find American shipmasters received into the upper bourgeois society of
the seaports where they traded; and not infrequently
marrying Spanish or Italian girls of good family.
Captain E. H. Derby, Jr., was entertained by Nelson /^
aboard the Victory. The same wages and commissions
were given generally as in the Canton trade,1 although
naturally the latter was the most lucrative, and obtained the best men. Thus the officers became partners
in every voyage. Not infrequently a shipmaster retired by the age of thirty with sufficient capital to start
a mercantile business of his own. The master mariners
whose names are in the records of the Boston Marine
Society before 1812, were the merchant-shipowners of
the next generation.
Hitherto, Yankee shipmasters had never been conspicuous in navigation. In seamanship they were
preeminent; in rigging, handling, and caring for their
1 Chapter vi.
vessels — in getting the last ounce of speed and service
out of them. Having no dockyards to depend on, they
were used to turn engineer on occasion. Captain
William Mugford received a gold medal from the
American Philosophical Society, for the jury rudder
he rigged on the ship Ulysses. They thought nothing
of heaving down or careening a vessel on some lonely
South-Sea beach, scrubbing her bottom, paying her
seams, and making extensive repairs, while part of the
crew stood guard against cannibals. When Captain
Penn Townsend, by miscalculation, found his brig
Eunice high and dry on St. Paul's Island (a favorite
Salem resort in the Indian Ocean), his crew built a
huge wooden cask around her hull, and rolled her off.
Dead reckoning, by compass, log, and dipsey lead,
was the traditional New England method of finding
one's position at sea.*1 That was all very well for Atlantic and West-India voyages, but not for circumnavigating the globe. The stately ship Massachusetts,
in 1790, in all her padded equipment, had no chronometer, and no officer who could find longitude by
any other method. Consequently she missed Java
Head, and lost several weeks' time. But a Salem boy
was already planning a remedy.
Nathaniel Bowditch 2 was born at Salem in 1773, the
son of Habakkuk Bowditch, a shipmaster who had
seen better days. His formal schooling was slight.
The dawn of Salem's maritime expansion found him apprentice to a local ship-chandler. He fed a precocious
passion for mathematics in the Philosophical Library,
1 All the seaport towns had private schools of navigation in the sev-
ehteen-nineties. Even at as small a village as Wellfleet, " We have in the
winter a number of private schools, by which means the greater part of
the young men are taught the art of navigation," writes the Reverend
Levi Whitman, of that place, in 1794.
8 First syllable rhymes with *how.*
the nucleus of which was an Irish scientist's collection
which a Beverly privateer had captured during the
Revolution. In 1796, he went to sea as captain's clerk
on the ship Henry, Salem to the He de France, and the
following year sailed as supercargo in the Astrea, to
Manila. On this voyage he not only spent every spare
moment in making observations, but taught twelve
members of the crew to take and work lunars, the only
method of getting longitude without a chronometer,
which no Salem vessel could afford. Working lunars
is a tricky business, for any error in the observation
brings a thirty-fold error in the result; and as young
Bowditch found no less than eight thousand errors in
the tables of the standard English book on navigation,
he decided to get one out of his own. Two more
voyages gave him the practice and the leisure for the
immense amount of detailed calculations; and in 1801
appeared the first edition of Bowditch's "Practical
Navigator," which has been translated into a dozen
languages, passed through countless editions, and still
remains the standard American treatise on navigation.
While the "Navigator" was making a market for
itself, its author went to sea, as master of the ship
Putnam, Beverly to the northwest coast of Sumatra.
At the close of this successful pepper voyage, he proved
his own theories by entering Salem Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1803, in a blinding northeast snowstorm,
without having picked up a single landmark. For
years to come, " I sailed with Captain Bowditch, Sir!"
was a Salem man's password to an officer's berth.
Notwithstanding the work of Bowditch, it took a
generation or more to wean most Massachusetts shipmasters from their dependence on dead reckoning, in
which primitive method they were adepts. An interesting incident of neutral trading illustrates this.   In
1810, an American vessel was seized at Christiansand,
and condemned by the admiralty courts of Denmark
(then at war with England) on the ground that her lack
of chart or sextant proved that her voyage commenced
in the British Isles. The other American shipmasters
in port then drew up a protest in which they assert,
"we have frequently made voyages from America
without the above articles, and we are fully persuaded
that every seaman with common nautical knowledge
can do the same."
Captain Jeremiah Mayo, of Brewster, about the
year 1816, took the brig Sally of Boston, 264 tons, from
Denmark through the English Channel to the Western
Ocean in thick weather — without an observation or
a sight of land. Bryant & Sturgis reprimand one of
their East-India shipmasters, in 1823, for purchasing
a chronometer for $250, and inform him he must pay
for it himself. "Could we have anticipated that our
injunctions respecting economy would have been so
totally disregarded we would have sett fire to the Ship
rather than have sent her to sea." Nathaniel Silsbee,
in 1827, sailed to Rotterdam in a brig that had no
chronometer, and whose officers knew nothing of lunar
Still it was not Bowditch's fault if seamen did not
use the means he offered; and an increasing proportion
of them did. On his death, in 1838, the Boston Marine
Society resolved, "As astronomer, a mathematician
and navigator himself, a friend and benefactor has he
been to the navigator and Seaman, and few can so
justly appreciate the excellence and utility of his labours, as the members of this Society.... His intuitive mind sought and amassed knowledge, to impart
it to the world in more easy forms."
Boston,  Salem, and   Newburyport all had their
116 :     SHIPS AND SEAMEN j J
marine societies, open to master mariners and sometimes shipowners as well, before the Revolution. But
at Salem in 1799 there was organized the East India
Marine Society, with membership restricted to Salem
shipmasters or supercargoes, "who shall have actually
navigated the Seas near the Cape of Good Hope or
Cape Horn." An exclusive club, perhaps; one whose
certificate of membership equaled a patent of nobility
in Essex County; but not a small or merely a social
club. Fifty-seven members were admitted during the
first two years. The Society furnished them with blank
duplicate sea-journals to be filled out and deposited
in the Marine Library at the close of each voyage.
Therein were faithfully noted all observations of latitude, with the position of ports, reefs, and headlands,
as "the means of procuring a valuable collection of
useful information." Blank pages were assigned for
"remarks on the commerce of the different places
touched at in the voyage with the imports, exports
and manner of transacting business." In this way the
community gathered strength from the achievements
of its members.
"Whatever is singular in the measures, customs,
dress, ornaments, &c. of any people, is deserving of
notice," continue the directions, which conclude with
an injunction to note down "any remarkable books in
use, among any of the eastern natives, with their subjects, dates and titles"; and to collect for the East
India Marine Museum, articles of dress and ornament,
idols and implements and all things vegetable, animal,
and mineral. At their annual meetings the members,
each bearing some Oriental trophy, passed in procession through the streets, preceded by a man "in Chinese habits and mask," and a palanquin borne by Salem negroes tricked out as natives of India, bearing a
proud Salem youngster in the habiliments of a native
prince. To the public spirit of her shipmasters, Salem
owes the nucleus of her famous Ethnological Museum,
and records of her early commerce unsurpassed by any
American seaport. I CHAPTER IX      J
Divitis Indice usque ad ultimum sinum (the spoil of
Ind, to the uttermost gulf) was the appropriate motto
on Salem's city seal. Wealth, her merchants certainly
did acquire. Elias Hasket Derby, dying in 1799, bequeathed an estate of a million and a half dollars to
his sons. Israel Thorndike, of Beverly, and Captain
Simon Forrester, who came to Salem a poor Irish lad,
each left about the same sum. 'Billy' Gray, when
Jefferson's embargo caught him, was reputed to be
worth three million dollars, and known to be the
greatest individual shipowner in the United States.
But more than this, the Salem merchants spent their
money in a manner that enhanced the pleasant art of
living, and permanently enriched the artistic content
of America.
Puritanism, in its religious and social implications,
stamped Federalist Salem. Puritanism is the reputed
enemy of art and genial living. Yet the people of
Massachusetts Bay, since their first struggle for existence on the fringe of the continent, had built a succession of goodly houses in oak and pine, and even brick,
whose beauty improved as the sea yielded an increasing store. The spoil, accumulated through twenty
years' voyaging to the uttermost limits of the Far
East, produced at Salem the fairest flowers of American domestic architecture.
The presiding genius of this Federal architecture
(as it should be called, rather than the loose and ill—
fitting 'Colonial' or 'Georgian') was Samuel Mc-
Intire. Born at Salem in 1757, the son of a house-
wright, Mclntire had as hard and meager a boyhood
as Bowditch. Of his young manhood we know little.
Probably he worked as a woodcarver, and exercised his
talents not only on houses, but on the figureheads,
cabin mouldings, and quick-work of vessels. Suddenly
in 1782, the year of peace, he blossoms forth as the
architect of the Pierce-Nichols house; with its outbuildings one of the finest architectural groups ever
executed in wood in the United States.
This house was built for Jerathmeel Pierce, a merchant who saved enough out of the Revolution to prove
an early success in the East-India trade. It marks a
new type, the square, three-storied, hip-roofed, detached dwelling, which stamps the Federalist period in
New England. Captain Pierce, after a frugal fashion of
that day, had only half the interior completed at once.
The rest was fortunately postponed until Mclntire had
acquired a new manner; the refined and delicate style
of interior decoration introduced in London by the
brothers Adam. The east parlor was completed in
1801, just in time for the marriage of Sally Pierce to
Captain George Nichols.
This twenty-three-year-old shipmaster had followed
the sea since the age of sixteen, and had many acquaintances at London, St. Petersburg, Calcutta, and
Batavia. He brought his bride from Bombay, for her
wedding dress, the most beautiful piece of striped muslin ever seen in Salem. After four weeks' honeymoon
he was off again to Sumatra. At the age of twenty-
nine he retired from the sea, and lived long enough in
the beautiful house that his father-in-law built, to vote
twice for Abraham Lincoln.
For twenty years after the building of the Pierce-
Nichols house, little notable construction was done in
Salem. A few merchants, like E. H. Derby, employed
the young architect to erect new and splendid dwellings,
adorned by pilasters and surmounted by glazed cupolas
whence approaching sail might be surveyed in comfort.
But the greater number required a prudent accumulation, before deserting the ancestral gambrel. As they
gathered wealth and the possibility of leisure, the mercantile families shrank from the raw east winds, and
picturesque but embarrassing contacts of the waterfront. About 1801, they began to desert Derby Street
and its tributaries for Essex Street, Washington Square,
and above all, Chestnut Street.
On this broad, elm-shaded, avenue — to-day {he
finest street^rchitecturally, in New England — Mclntire and his nameless fellow-workers expended the
endeavors of their fruitful years. The square, three-
storied, hip-roofed house, constructed of warm red
brick laid in flawless Flemish bond, prevailed. The
front doors are framed in fanlight and sidelights,
shaded by oblong or elliptical porches whose roofs are
supported by attenuated columns, their capitals carved
by the master himself. A Palladian window opens on
a formal garden in the rear. The interiors are simply
arranged, with four rooms to a floor, and decorated in a
free and original adaptation of the Adam style. Stables,
barns, and garden houses are designed with the same
care as the mansion, that nothing might mar the
general effect.
In his public buildings — the Court House, assembly halls, and South Meeting-House, Mclntire was
equally successful.
There was little in the architecture of these dwellings,
save their uncompromisingly square mass, to suggest
the character of their occupants.  For very few of the
shipmasters and merchants of Federalist Salem came
of wealthy colonial families. They were a rugged race,
with little of the polish that marked contemporary
society in Boston or Philadelphia or Charleston. They
were self-educated; for Salem then had miserable
schools, and no boy destined for the sea went to Harvard. They were not ashamed to work with their own
hands in garden or outlying farm; and in a run of ill-
luck, their wives or sisters could without loss of caste
open a little shop in a front room — as Hepzibah in
The House of the Seven Gables.'' Their ways were at
best bluff and simple; at worst, harsh and blustering.
Too many carried the manners of the quarterdeck
into their Adam parlors. One wonders where they
acquired the taste to erect such dwellings, or, if the
taste was wholly their architects' { to enrich them with
the beautiful furniture, porcelain, and glass that are
still the pride of Salem. Everything made in 1810 was
not good; Chestnut Streetrmansions might as well have
been stuffed with vulgarized empire as with chaste
Salem society, like that of all our seaport towns, was
stratified. Of the life of her middle and lower classes
we know little save their occasional delinquencies.
Salem is said to have had a greater per capita wealth
than any American town; but hard winters always
crowded the almshouse and demanded much charity
of the well-to-do. All classes were bound together by a
common interest in maritime prosperity. In 1790, the
two hundred and twenty-eight heads of families (including widows) in Dr. Bentley's East Church, included
thirty-five mariners, fifty-eight master mariners, nine
1 For the sort of thing that the Salem architects avoided, see the
engraving of "Mr. Dorsey's Gothic mansion" at Philadelphia, in Den-
nie's Portfolio, v, 124 (1811).
boat- or ship-builders, five rope- or sail-makers, and
five fishermen. Even people whose principal occupation was independent of commerce, generally owned a
share in a ship, or made private adventures. Nathaniel
Richardson, who owned the largest tannery in Essex
County, also owned four vessels; and his son Nathaniel,
who "hurried into bold adventures," died in Malaga
at the age of eighteen.
Unquestioned social preeminence was enjoyed by
the merchant-shipowners, who with few exceptions
had commanded vessels on East-India voyages. Their
social life was simple rather than brilliant. Formal
dinners were infrequent, balls given only by subscription, at stated intervals, in Hamilton Hall or Washington Hall, according as the company was Federalist
or Republican. For the bitter politics of this period
divided Salem society by a deep longitudinal chasm,
across which the rival clans of Derby and Crowninshield glared defiance; Driving or sleigh-riding, with
Nahant or some good tavern for objective, was a common diversion. But perhaps the favorite one for shipmasters' families was a fishing party in the bay, followed
by landing on Baker's or Misery Island for a magnificent chowder, cooked, as a chowder should be, in iron
pot over driftwood fire by a Salem African. Several
families maintained small pleasure-boats. The finest
of them, George Crowninshield, Jr.'s, thirty-six-foot
Jefferson, rigged like a Chebacco boat, once took
Dr. Bentley from Salem to Beverly harbor in fifteen
minutes and back in thirty-four. Wealth cost that
generation too much effort to be frittered in riotous
living or wasteful display. Those Salem families who
acquired a fortune in the days when every day brought
a ship, have with few exceptions retained their position
to this day.
Boston throughout the Federalist period was a
commercial center of about three times the importance
of Salem, whether one takes population, tonnage, or
customs duties as the standard of comparison. The
commercial activity of Boston Harbor was prodigious,
"Upwards of seventy sail of vessels sailed from this
port on Monday last, for various parts of the world,"
states the " Columbian Centinel " on Wednesday, October 26, 1791. In 1793 there entered and cleared
eleven vessels from England, one hundred and nineteen from the West Indies, and one hundred and sixty-
three from other foreign ports. "The harbour of Boston is at this date [November, 1794] crowded with
vessels," wrote Thomas Pemberton. " Eighty-four sajl
have been counted lying at two of the wharves only.
It is reckoned that not less than four hundred and
fifty sail of ships, brigs, schooners, sloops and small
craft are now in this port." The population increased
from 18,320 in 1790 to 33,787 in 1810.
To take care of this expanding commerce and population, Boston began the process, which still continues,
of making new land by filling in various coves that
gave her so jagged a shore-line. A corporation began
shoveling the crest of Beacon Hill into the Mill Pond,
near the present North Station, about 1807; and
another laid out Broad Street, somewhat straightening the harbor front. Other companies financed
new wooden bridges to Charlestown, Cambridge, and
South Boston, which opened up sections of the town
never before utilized; and before the end of the War of
1812 work started on the Mill Dam, a continuation
of Beacon Street across the Back Bay. Still, not very
much was done before 1825 to take away the picturesque stabs that salt water made into old Boston. One
tongue of the harbor came up to Liberty Square; and
another to Dock Square, which was the market and
retail center of the town. A few yards away was State
Street, rapidly becoming lined with the new banks and
insurance offices that commercial expansion required.
Near by was completed, in 1808, the new Exchange
Coffee-House, whose seven stories proclaimed Boston
a town, merely because she was too proud to become a
mere city! A Boston Loyalist who returned for a visit
in 1808, wrote, "The great number of new and elegant
buildings which have been erected in this Town, within
the last ten years, strike the eye with astonishment,
and prove the rapid manner in which the people have
been acquiring wealth." Boston was practically rebuilt between 1790 and 1815, in a distinctive style
of Federal architecture which the public persists in
lumping with everything else built before 1840 as
Like the merchants of Renaissance Italy, those of
Federalist Boston wished to perpetuate their names and
glorify their city by mansions, churches, and public
buildings of a new style and magnificence. Luckily,
among their number was a young man who had the
training and the genius to guide this impulse into fruitful and worthy channels. Charles Bulfinch, in contrast to Mclntire, had every advantage of birth,
wealth, and education. The son and grandson of prominent physicians, he graduated at Harvard in 1781, and
was sent to France and England for five years' study of
architecture. On his return, in 1786, he found Boston
more concerned in preserving its existing property
from Dan Shays, than ambitious to build. With unerring instinct, he helped to launch the very voyage
whose consequences made his career. The Columbia's
great adventure was planned at his father's house, and
Charles Bulfinch himself was one of her owners.
125 1
The merchants were soon ready for new houses, and
the cramped condition of Boston compelled them to