• Early New England Shipping Letters Detail Van Buren Politician's Involvement In African Camwood Trade

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    Offering four ALSs, three from Captain JOHN WOOD, a ship’s captain, of Newport, RI, to CHARLES DUDLEY of Albany, NY, and one from DUDLEY to Wood.  The letters deal mostly with the mercantile business and their partnership importing and selling African Camwood, which is   extremely hard, heavy and durable. It is traditionally used to make mortars, knife handles and furniture. Camwood powder is used for cosmetic purposes.


    Most notable is that Dudley was one of Martin Van Buren’s Albany Regency, one of America’s first political machines. He also served as mayor of Albany, a member of the New York State Senate and the U.S. Senate.


    Wood and Dudley owned a number of vessels, one named the Blandina Bleecher Dudley after Dudley’s wife.


    First letter: CAPTAIN JOHN WOOD of Newport, RI, writes to CHARLES DUDLEY, 2 pp, 8 x 10, Newport, March 20th, 1817.


    “...I am in Newport. I have made up my mind to have gone in the Gov. Jones to Rio Janero. A few days before the Brig was loaded, Wm Weeden, who is on the farm informed that he should not stay on the farm another year in consequence of the high rent. This notice entirely altered my plans for in case Wm Weeden left, I should go on myself. I called on my brother to go the voyage after three months. Wm Weeden has agreed to give the old rent $400 and does take it another year. 


    “I suppose Wm wrote you the particular respecting Brother Jack’s last sickness. I have no doubt but that he made a happy exit. I was with him at the close. He retained his senses until a few hours before his death. He was deprived of speech for some days. He was very patient. Mr. Towle was with him several times...Nothing has been done respecting Mr. Crooke’s Estate...It is my decided opinion that it ought to be settled without delay. As there is but few debts to pay delays are always dangerous and often attended with unpleasant [urgencies]...I have not heard from the Brig since she sailed...


    “As it respects the business between us, I hope that I shall be able to settle to our mutual satisfaction...


    “The banks discount very little paper. I have nineteen tons of camwood of the Brig Jones Cargo on hold in Boston. Please to write me the price of wood in Albany.”


    Toning, folds. Very nice integral address leaf with manuscript postage and a black Newport, RI, circular postmark. Fine docketing.


    Second letter: CHARLES DUDLEY writes to CAPTAIN JOHN WOOD. Marked “Copy,” Albany, March 31, 1817. 2 pp, 8 x 10.


    “...I should still have supposed that you was about on a voyage to South America.


    “In November last, I rec’d a letter...with the melancholy [news] of my Uncle John’s death. I have no doubt but that his later moments was soothed by the kindness and attending of his friends. He has, I trust, gone to a better and happier world...


    “The...damages, together with the commissions paid by me to Mr. Hubbard, forestalling the bill, was a charge immediately against you without any reference to the account that might be between us...


    “The price of camwood in this place is from 120 to 130 dollars per ton...[if it is of the] best quality...Any appearance or altercation, it sells generally at about $10...”


    Third letter: CAPTAIN JOHN WOOD writes to CHARLES DUDLEY, Newport, June 13th 1817.


    “Agreeable to the account received from you, respecting the price of Camwood, I have ordered Messrs Oliver Borland & Abbot Merchants, Boston, to ship the wood to you and did agree with a Capt McCall at Newport to take the wood at $5 per ton. On his arrival in Boston he had an offer of a full freight in consequence of which he declined...There is no sale in Boston for African produce, which has been attended with a great loss to me since my arrival last summer.


    “I shall leave this tomorrow morning with Rebecca for Philadelphia to take John on and place him in a store...


    “You will dispose of the wood at the best possible price on receiving it as I think it probable it will not be higher soon...The amount of interest for the damage...you will deduct from the sales and the balance remit to me. I wish it was in my power to pay the whole of your demand but owning to many disappointments in the sale of the last cargo and the great length of time my brother has been on his voyage puts it out of my power. My brother sailed from Rio Grande for the Havana the 7th April and should he arrive before the vessels that sailed in company with him, he will make a great voyage. I purchased and fitted half of a Brig which sailed for the Havana twelve days ago. It was my intention to have gone out in her...”


    Some wear at the vertical fold connecting the bifolium, possibly the work of mice, which affects a few words. Seal tear, folds and toning.


    Fourth letter:  CAPTAIN JOHN WOOD writes to CHARLES DUDLEY, Newport, Dec. 23rd, 1819. 1 ½ pp, 8 x 10.


    “...The owners of the Brig Catherine have last concluded to fit for the Havana and New Orleans. We take a small cargo out after disposing of the cargo...You cannot form any idea how dull it is in Newport. The Brig is all ready for sea. Shall sail the First Word...


    “Have taken Mr. Samuel Barker as partner. He is well qualified for the business. The profit is not sufficient to support my family. It is truly disagreeable to leave one of the best women and dear children but I have the consolation of knowing that I am doing my duty and submit with patience the children are all well.  When I arrive in the Havana and I shall think of you and get some fine cigars and some ginger for Blandinia [Dudley’s wife] as I heard she wished for some...John Wood”


    Overall, the letters are in excellent condition with exceptions noted after each letter.


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