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Lot 318

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Iron Merchants Archive 150 Items and Journals Related to Stamp Act and Slavery, c. 1765-1825 Fantastic!

A group of approximately 150 documents and letters relating to the New York merchant firms of G. B. & J. Abeel and Abeel & Dunscomb. Spanning nearly sixty years, the papers include order lists, invoices, and additional routine content. Garret Abeel went into business with his brother-in-law, Evert Byvanch, Jr., in 1765. The business traded iron hardware, cannon balls, anchors, chains, anvils, nails, etc., and worked with businesses in Great Britain and Europe. When the Revolutionary War began, Abeel served for a period as a Major under John Jay with the First Regiment, New York City Militia. 

The letters and invoices between the merchants and buyers reveal insights into the constantly evolving and tenuous relationship of the transatlantic trade business. Most interesting is content regarding business affected by the Stamp Act of 1765 and a ledger with slave related listings.As tensions between Great Britain and her colonies grew, trade and the merchants' livelihoods were affected. Below are excepts taken from a volume belonging to Abeel and Byvanch, which contains copied business correspondences:

October 31, 1765, addressed to Messrs Neat Pigou and Booth, London: "Since our last to you of the 10th August have none of your esteemed favours, this only served to request the favour of you to present the Inclosed Canada Notes amounting to about ___ Livers for payment whenever the French Court shall agree to discharge such notes and when the money is received to remit us the N' amount in Tea Table Plate. We are sorry to trouble you with so trifling a commission only. If it had not been for the Late Acts of Parliament such as the Sugar and Stamp Acts. Shou'd have wanted several large articles sent us by your house, but while they are in being dare not order a single article in the way of Trade nor do we believe anyone else from this place will order goods till those Acts are repealed."

November 6, 1765, addressed to Messrs Devonshier & Reeve, Bristol: "...altho we are but young beginners, and our success in business has exceeded our most sanguine expectations, yet willing to sacrifice the prospect of private advantage to the good of our Country we have joined our fellow citizens in the following resolutions. First that in all orders they sent out to great Britain, for goods or merchandise of any nature, kind, or quality whatsoever, usually imported from Great Britain, they will direct their correspondents not to ship them, unless the Stamp Act is repealed. Secondly, it is further unanimously agreed, that all orders already sent home, shall be countermanded by the first conveyance: and the goods and merchandise thereby ordered, not to be sent, unless upon the condition mentioned in the foregoing resolution. Thirdly, it is further unanimously agreed, that no merchant will send any goods or merchandise sent upon commission from Great Britain, that shall be shipped from thence after the first day of January next, unless upon the condition mentioned in the first resolution. Fourthly, it is further unanimously agreed, that the foregoing resolutions shall be binding until the same are abrogated at a general meeting hereafter to be held for that purpose...Therefore must beg you to conform to the same in shipping or not shipping what we have wrote for...If the Act shou'd be repealed must request you to let us know at first opportunity if the goods will be sent that we may regulate ourselves accordingly in the remittance &c..."

August 27, 1766, addressed to Messrs Devonshier & Reeve, Bristol: "...Every person in America was interested in the repeal of the Stamp Act but the trading part in a more particular manner they began to feel the effects of a stagnated trade and want of goods from Europe in due time, for our parts most of those goods we have now received we expect to keep on hands till next spring as that is the time buildings are begun and carried on and most of the articles in our way are wanted. If must and will give pleasure to the friends of America in Europe to hear that upon the receipt of the account of the repeal of the Stamp Act the Americans were softened down more speedy that can be imagined. The words of tyanny oppression & rebellion were no more heard, everyone strove how he should most express his loyalty to the best of kings and gratitude to the patriotic Ministry and the friends of America in Europe. Our hoy and expectation were heightened beyond measure we dreamt and not we alone that trade would immediately flow in its old channel again. Alas we find the reverse. the life of trade is still wanting. Circulating medium is nearly sunk and we are debard the liberty of making any more paper money..."

September 24, 1766, addressed to Messrs Devonshier & Reeve, Bristol: "...As there is some likehood of a war between England and France, if such a thing shou'd happen soon, please directly after a declaration of a same to send us by first opportunity two tons of best FF powder over and above what we have already ordered as also two tons shot sorted two cask bar lead & one doz. four foot gun barrels, please to let the powder be unglassed such as sent Mr. Brancherhoff which is very good."

January 16, 1767, addressed to William Reeve: "...Human foresight is but short we dreaded last year & not without apparent reason, that the little cash we had remaining wou'd not support us through the year, & that a total stagnation in trade would be the consequence, but the Distresses of Europe in regard to bread, corn, & flour & flaxseed for Ireland has greatly benefitted us, & enabled the Americans to support their credit. For although money was very scarce, this scarcity proved an advantage to us by reducing Bills of Exchange soon below parr, making a quick circulation of the little cash remaining, & the advance price of the above articles enabling the country people to pay their old debts & purchase more goods of European Manufacturers than they otherwise would have done had money been plenty..." 

August 24, 1767, addressed to William Reeve: "...We can assure you that the N. Yorkers are far from being separated from the Mother Country, altho it may be the opinion of many in your part of the world that they are ripe for a Rebellion, and that it's dangerous to send them any more goods. It's true the rigorous proceedings of the H. of Comm. makes many people think hard of it, but what can we do but grin & bear it, and manufacture as much amongst ourselves as possible. Some goods we must have from Great Britain & those we will have & pay for..."

October 12, 1769, addressed to Frederick Pigou: "...We wish for the sake of Peace, Reconciliation & a mutual intercourse in trade between great Britain and her colonies, that the Revenue Act may be repealed next session of Parliament, yet we cannot help remarking what great & unexpected advantages have resulted to the colonies by their having been made...They have been the means of united the colonies in a bond of friendship & which we hope will last forever. They have made the Americans more frugal & industrious by opening their eyes to their own interest, forcing them to enter upon the manufactory of a great many articles, which they before imported from Great Britain. Indeed was the Acts to continue but a few years they would become exporters & not importers so that the duty wou'd not pay the expense of collecting. So surprisingly have we advanced in the manufactory of Paper, Glass &c &c, the materials for which we can supply ourselves with free from duty. And as for Tea its only an article of Luxury and not necessity..."

January 20, 1771, to brother-in-law Evert Byvanch in London: "...Just now we received news from Falmouth that war would be declared in England in a day or two after this vessel left it which is about seven weeks ago. Yet we trust this will find you safe in London, to hear which will be joyful news..."

Also included in the archive is a Ledger Book of Accounts for various vessels, with journeys dating from July 1794 to August 1795. Eleven different vessels are listed, some with multiple journeys taken. With some slave content: In September 1794, Schooner Sally took a voyage to the West Indies and a payment is recorded for "J. Collins niggers acct." Additionally, in May 1795, the Brig Diana took its second voyage to Hispaniola, and it provided payment to "the two negroes who worked their passages."

In total, the archive provides a considerable history of an early trade business in the burgeoning United States, and gives key insights into the toll that various acts of Parliament had on American business. The grievances held by Abeel and his fellow traders would ultimately lead to the outbreak of the American Revolution. The archive would be a great historical addition to any enthusiast's collection.

The papers have varying degrees of wear, soiling, toning, dampstainig, creasing, and tearing. Documents are very legible. Some of the ledgers have been removed from their original binding. One ledger has significant paper loss.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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30 September 2020 10:30 EDT

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