Letter No. 18
21 May 1859
“San Vicente” to Manila
My dear Robert,
I wrote you last to Bombay and to Hongkong (thinking you might have gone there) and reuesting you to call on Sir J. Bowring and his son J.C. Bowring in Jardine & Co., to whom I wrote asking him to do what he could for the ship. I have since received tour letters of July 14 and March 17, by the latter of which I learn that the ship is finished up. The only regrettable thing about this is the trouble and annoyance it must have caused you. From first to last on the India voyage you must have had an unpleasant, wearisome time with her, especially when knocking about the coast without getting a satisfactory freight. You say you would be home in May, and I presume this letter will still find you there.
You will have learned from Father that I have at last managed to set the direct trade to Australia in motion, having loaded the brig “Pet” and the barque “Camilla” with sugar for Melbourne.[i] It is possible that another moderate-sized vessel will be sent this year, as I have 4,000 piculs of sugar in store, and could buy a lot more on receipt of orders.
In other respects I have not been so fortunate. While I was in Manila, Higgin gave credit to a Spanish trader here, named Don Luis Eyzaquine (who had just commenced business on a rather extensive scale and was supposed to be furnished with a fair amount of capital) to the extent altogether of about $8,700 – most of this he promised to pay on arrival at Manila, whether he went to make some business arrangements, but his speculations having turned out unfortunate, he has not been able to pay anything. I have secured myself in part here by taking over goods from his agent to the extent of about $4,000, but they are unfortunately very unsaleable here (wine, spirits, preserved meats, etc.) and will take about two years to realize. He has a lot of goods (mostly bought from us) in the next province of Antique, and I hope to get hold of them, or part. If not, I stand to lose $3,000, and meanwhile have $8,700 shut up and not available, which seriously affects my remittances to constituents for goods sold. And I don’t suppose they will consign any more goods until things get straight, as I have written explaining how matters stand. I had made about $3,000 in commissions since arrival here, and counted on this sum to go home with, but apparently it will disappear. This is rather annoying, after so much hard work; but it is no good “crying after spilt milk” as a general rule. The money I shall not care for, but shall be sorry if the loss is sufficient to prevent my going home next year, which probably may be.
Your L100 is all right at Ker & Co. I think I had better send it home with the interest. As Eyzaquine was apparently in a very good position here, I should have given credit to him myself had I been here, so I cannot blame Higgin in the matter. Eyzaquine also got an advance of $4,000 from Russell and Sturgis, in Manila on the strength of his connection with me, and my having consigned some of his sugar and hemp shipments to them – I fear they will not see the money again. However, things may turn out much better than they at present look, and I will let you know how they get on. I think it may be put down as a pretty logical certainty that none of the Loney family are destined to make money in the present generation – though of course you will not allude the above to Mother, as you say any little excitement hurts her, and she might suppose matters to be worse that they are. But for this contretemps, the business was getting on swimmingly enough, and I still think that a good thing can be made of it. The sugar crop is increasing very much. I gave high prices for the “Pet” cargo, and this had led planters and other to see how much they benefit by the direct trade, and coupled with the general high prices for sugars, it has induced a great extension of planting. The crop next year will be ten times larger than when I first came here, and I think the future of the direct trade is now secured especially if the Sugar Company at Melbourne authorize Russell & Sturgis to keep the Iloilo pot boiling, which I think they would, as the cargoes of “Pet” and “Camilla” cost much less than if shipped to Manila. When I get home, I think a fair number of consigners could be recruited up, even without advances, but if not, should the present difficulties be tided over all right (and I fully believe they will be) there will always be lots of consignments from Manila after remittances are squared up O.K. It will be safe enough to leave Higgin in charge of the business. He is rather over sanguine, but is now cured of that and able to carry on in my absence.
We have written to a young man named Richard Crosby, who speaks Spanish, and is at present with Bulleras and Co., Liverpool, and I believe he will come out, though he has not answered definitely. I do not know what your intentions are as to future proceedings, but presume that in the first place you will serve your time in the navy for the additional half pay, and by that time if you like, we can see about setting up a house in Liverpool in connection with Iloilo. If matters do not go properly in that way, what do you say to buying a small estate in upper India in the temperate region, and cultivating it – say cotton near a railway – if not, as far as regards myself, I think I could get a tolerable situation in Spain; that is, supposing Iloilo to be left alone. The “Camilla” was sent to Manila to take a cargo for New Zealand, but the limit given could not be acted upon. It appears that there is a good demand for unclayed sugar at New Zealand, and if you take another vessel of about 300 tons, and could obtain capital enough to keep her going with cargoes of sugar, a good thing could be made of it between New Zealand and Iloilo. I enclose a few instructions about entering the port, which I got for Captain to write out. They are not very explicit, but useful enough. They are copied out by the young American W. Loring who is with us. He is not as you see very brilliant with his pen. He is employed weighing sugar and is a well-disposed young fellow, whose education has, however, been much neglected. He will probably go into L & S’s house after learning something here. My health continues to hold out very tolerably. I never have any positive illness, but generally feel very weak and languid – a year of cold weather would set me up all right, but it is now time I should have it, and I shall be much disappointed if I cannot get away next year. I expect to hear from you from England in a couple of months as to what you are going to do next. Perhaps something matrimonial may enter into your plans.
William Greenshields has been stirring himself at Liverpool in re Iloilo, and sent me an excellent order for hemp and sugar; a want of funds on the spot, (bills in England cannot be sold here) and the uncertainty of rates of freight – which have lately been on the rise – prevented its execution. I think there is an opening at Liverpool for a house connected with Manila and Iloilo, combining a booking business for Spanish ships; but it is so long since I have been in England and there is so much competition there, that I don’t profess to be very clear on this hear; if you knew Spanish, I should recommend you to come here at once, but as you don’t, and at your age never will, you could never stand living here, or make yourself sufficiently understood to carry on a business satisfactorily. This place is going ahead pretty rapidly. In five years hence, if the direct export continues, it will have changed very much. I have lately been sending old Sir J. Bowring a few notes about it. He is writing a book and has been coming his usual soft-sawder dodge, saying in one of his letters: “You gave me many useful materials, and without compliment I may say that I found no one more able or willing that you to assist me in my researches;” and again, with regard to his visit here, he writes: “I cannot leave these regions without conveying to you my most cordial thanks for those attentions which made our visit to Iloilo singularly agreeable. Its recollections will live long in my thoughts. Again I beg to assure you that I shall feel particular pleasure in being useful to the locality and to yourself.” I have no time to write Father and Nanny by present mail, please tell them I have their March letters and will reply soon, and meantime thank them muchisimo (very much) – I don’t know that I have any more to say at present that would interest you, and have letters to write to Manila. So, hoping to her splendiferous accounts from you next time, I remain, dear Robert
Your affectionate brother,
[i] The following yearly shipments were made to foreign countries:
Year Tonnage Destination
1859 584 Australia
1860 2,511 Australia
1861 2,766 Australia
1862 6,404 Australia
1863 3,419 Australia
1863 6,670 China
1863 580 Great Britain