Letter: king's letter and instructions
Missives articles and instructions anent the fishing

The whilk day Sir Williame Alexander, knight, his majesteis principall secretarie in this kingdome, exhibite and gave in to the estaits his majesteis missive letter underwrittin, togidder with the instructiouns givin be his majestie to the said Sir Williame to be treatted be him with the saids estaits about the erectioun of a generall fishing, of the whilk missive and instructiouns the tennour followes:

Charles R[ex], right trustie and weilbelovit cousines and counsellours and right trustie and weilbelovit counsellours, we greit yow weill. Having with the advice of our counsell heere in England maturelie considered that als weill in thankefulnesse to almightie God as for the benefite of all our loving subjects, we ought no longer to neglect that great blessing offered unto ws in the great abundance of fishe upon all the coasts of these yllands, to the end we may at lenth injoy with more honnour these rights whiche properlie belong to our imperiall crowne and ar usurped by strangers, we have considered of a way whiche in tyme, by Gods favour, may produce this good effect and also increasse our navigatioun and trade. And becaus this worke concerneth equallie all our three kingdomes and must, thairfoir, be undertakin and ordered by commoun counsell and assistance, we have takin this opportunitie of your conventioun at Edinborrow to send our instructiouns to Sir Williame Alexander, our secretarie for Scotland, to acquaint yow with certane propositiouns for the advancement of this service, and we require yow both to give him hearing at large and freelie to intreate with him in everie point of his instructiouns and in whatsoever may be found expedient for the furtherance of so good and great a worke concerning both our honnour and the publict good. And with all we expect that yow proceid not onelie to a resolutioun upon suche articles as sall be agreed upon, bot that yow also endeavoure to putt thame in executioun so as by him we may speedilie understand how yow take it to heart and how farre yow concurre for the accomplishment of the worke whairin yow may expect frome ws suche priviledges and powers as sall be convenient and as reasonablie yow can desire. And also be assured that we sall gratiouslie accept your extraordinarie care and forwardnesse in a bussines whiche with extraordinarie earnestnesse we recommend unto yow. Givin at our palace of Westminster, the 12th day of July 1630.

By his majesteis commandement, John Coke

  1. NAS, PC1/34, f.12v-13r. Back
  2. NAS, PC1/34, f.13r-15r. Back
Instructions for Sir Williame Alexander, knight, our secretarie for the kingdome of Scotland, imployed by ws to treate with the lords of our privie counsell there about the erectioun of a generall fishing

First, yow ar to signifie unto the lords and others of our counsell in Scotland that having dewlie considered how great a blessing God hath gevin to our kingdomes in the abundance of our sea fishe upon all our coasts, and how the benefite thairof is reaped onelie by strangers, to the great disparagement and prejudice of our loving subjects, we have now takin a royall and firme resolutioun to sett up a commoun fishing to be a nurserie of sea men and to increasse the shipping and trade in all parts of our dominiouns; and these being commoun benefites to all our three kingdoms, so as they cannot be devidedlie injoyed by anie, our royall and gratious pleasure is to have it undertakin and ordered by commoun counsell and endeavoure, and to that end (among other things) we have sent yow to this meiting of the lords of our counsell at Edinburgh, there to make this intimatioun and to present unto thame the propositiouns whiche have beene offered and approved of heere as tending unto the advancement of this great worke, that they may be takin there into lyke serious consideratioun, als weill to ratifie and confirme what they sall agree upon as to advise what other wayes and meanes may induce to the perfyting thairof. And becaus a great stocke must be raised by contributions of adventurers who cannot otherwayes be drawin unto it bot by hope of great and present gaine, yow ar to shew to the saids lords the estimat which is made of the charge and profite, that it may be rectified if anie thing be mistakin and made fitt to be published for ane inducement to encourage men to joyne in a worke of so great hope.

Besides the fishing vessells, whilks ar alreadie prepared and imployed upon the severall coasts of these kingdomes upon the fishing seasouns, it is thought fitt for a considerable beginning to make a new provisioun of 200 vessellis more betuix 30 and 50 tunnes a peece, whiche being rated by a medium of 40 tuns and at 3 lib. the tun will coast for the hulles onelie with the yron workes 120 lib. everie ship, and for the hundreth, 12,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

For rigging, sailes, cables, ankers, majesties boats and other furniture the lyke rate, 12,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

Everie vessell will require 120 netts, whiche with headlynes and corkes will coast for everie vessell 120 lib., and for 100, 12,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

Everie nett will require 10 faddome of 3 or 4 inche war rope, which makes thame for everie vessell 250 faddome, estimat at 100 weight, which at 5 nobles per cent will coast 16 lib. 13 s. 4 d. a vessell, and for 100, 01,666 [lib.] 13 [s.] 04 [d.]

Other necessareis at 4 lib. the vessell, for 100 will coast, 00,400 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

These hundred fishing vessells may make three returnes everie yeere. The first whairof is for herrings and may catche 100 last a peece, in all 10,000, and so manie last the barrellis will coast at 20s the last, 10,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

These 10M last of herrings will require 3,000 weight of salt accompting 30 weight for everie 100 last, whiche at 4 lib. the weight will coast, 12,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

Everie fishing vessell of this burdein must be manned with 16 men and boyes, in all 1,600, to be victualled for 4 moneths frome the first of June till the 30 of September, whiche at 13 lib. 4 s. a man per mensem cometh to, 04,533 [lib.] 06 [s.] 08 [d.]

The wages of 16 men in everie shippe cometh to 74 lib. for 4 moneths, and for 100 shippes to, 07,400 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

Totall charge of 100 vessellis, 72,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

The profite to be raised of 100 vesselles.

The first fishing being 10,000 last of herrings, if they sall be sauld at sea, will at 10 lib. the last come to, 100,000 lib. 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

Out of whiche, deduceing 72,000 for the charge, it cleareth the stocke of the vessells with thair furniture and netts and in money, 028,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

In the secund fishing beginning the first of October and ending the 31 of Januar in lyke manner for herrings these 100 vessells may take 60 last a peece, in all 6,000 last, whiche being winter herrings will be worth at 12 lib., the last, 72,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

And deducing the charge of 6,000 last of caske, 6,000 lib.; of 1,800 weight of salt, 7,200 lib.; of wages, 7,400 lib.; and of victuals, 4,533 lib. 6 s. 8 d., in all, 25,133 [lib.]

The cleere gayne will be in money, 46,867 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

The thrid fishing beginning in Marche and ending 31 May, for the taking of ling and cod in the loches and upon the Rona, accompting that everie vessell may catche 6,000 fishe, and 100 vessells 600,000 at 30 lib., the 1,000 will yeeld, 18,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

Besides the fishe of everie vessell will yeild 3 tuns of oyle worth 13 lib. 6 s. 8 d. the tun, whiche for the 100 vessells cometh to, 4,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

Totall profite, 22,000 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

Out of whiche, deduceing for hookes, lynes, leades for everie ship 14 lib. 10 s., whiche for 100 shippes is 1,450 lib., and for salt 10 weight for everie ship 4,000 lib., for 3 moneths victualls 3,200 lib. and for three moneths wages 5,510 lib., in all, 14,160 lib.

The cleere gayne resteth, 07,840 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

And so these three fishings in one yeere will repay all disbursements and yeeld in cleere profite all the shippes and netts with thair furniture to serve againe for manie yeeres and beside in money to be shared among the adventurers, 82,707 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

The other 100 fishing vessellis will require the lyke charge and yeeld no lesse profite, whilk added to the former sowme produceth yeerely, 165,414 [lib.] 00 [s.] 00 [d.]

This benefite will be muche advanced if the fishe be caryed to the mercats where they will yeild abone a thrid part more in pryce and no lesse by the returnes to be made in the commoditeis of these countreyis where the fishe sall be sold.

When yow have thus satisfied the lords in the charge to be required and in the profite quhilk may accrew, yow ar to understand frome thame what nomber of vessellis may be furnished in that kingdome and what proportioun of money may be raised, and to that end yow may move thame to conferre with the nobilitie and gentrie and speciallie with the free burrowes, that it may appeare what severall undertakings may be procured amongs thame in lyke maner as we purpose to do heere.

And becaus it is not held fesible or convenient to mesnage this commoun bussines by a commoun and joynt stocke, bot rather in severall companeis or members whiche notwithstanding may have relatioun to one bodie or corporatioun, yow ar to that end to move the counsell there to take the same course we intend heir, namelie in everie province to sattle a severall companie in the cheefe citie, toun or burrow and to take order that all adventurers of that province may joyne with that companie both in the charge and contributioun for setting furth the shippes and in sharing the benefite quhilk sall be raised by the fishing.

Yitt considdering that the fishings sall not out in all places at all seasouns bot the generall herring fishing beginneth about the Orcads in June and thence proceedeth all the sommer alongs the coasts of Scotland and England till the middes of winter, and that all the yeere it continueth about the Hebrides and Ireland and speciallie at the Lewes, that thairfoir the adventurers may fishe freelie in all places and at all tymes and yitt so as the lawes and freedome of everie kingdome may be preserved (whilk is our gratious resolutioun), we conceave necessarie and accordinglie yow ar to communicate it with the lords that all the adventurers in this companie of the commoun fishing be our owin liege subjects, and that no stranger of what natioun so ever be admitted unto it otherwayes then as servants, except they transplant thameselffes into our dominiouns and there be endenized and take the oath of our alledgeance. And forder, that all our awin subjects of that companie be endenized respective in either kingdome both to obey the lawes and to injoy the liberteis accordinglie.

And becaus the Lewes is the most proper seate for a continuall fishing along the westerne coasts, yow ar to lett the lords know that we are resolved to take it into our awin hand as adherent to our crowne, yitt purposing to give suche satisfactioun to the Erle of Seafort as sall be honnourable and just, to whilk end the lords sall demaund the said erle ane trew particular of the rents he receaves there and certifie ws how they may be mainteanned and made good frome tyme to tyme.

It is also our purpose as yow must accquaint the lords to erect in that ylland one or moe free burrowes in suche places as sall be fittest for advancing of the fishing and for magazens and stages.

When yow have thus advised with the lords of the nomber of vessells, the encouraging of adventurers, the proportioun of the charge, the sattling of companeis and the disposing of places als punctuallie as yow can, it remaineth that yow propone unto thame the forme of governement without whiche a bussines of this consequence can nather be established nor continued. There be lait erected formes both in Spaine, France and the Low Countreis which show the necessitie of settling a commoun counsell or contrectatioun office to be composed of sindrie chosin men of qualitie of eache natioun, with power givin frome ws to make and execute suche ordinances as in conformitie to the lawes of eache kingdome sall be found expedient both for the ordering, taking and vending of the fishe, and alsua to heare and determine suche questiouns and differences as sall happin about the same. Lykwayes in everie province in that citie or burrow where a companie sall be sattled there must be a court of assistants to correspond with the commoun counsell, with commissioun in lyke maner to order the bussines of thair awin companie, according to suche ordinances as sall be established by the foresaid commoun counsell and determine differences rysing among thameselffes about the effaires of thair fishing with relatioun to the said commoun counsell in caises of appeale.

Having treatted with the lords about these and others particulars whiche may occurre and sall be found necessarie for the sattling of this bussines, if anie suche difficultie arise as cannot be determined by your negotiatioun yow ar to move thair lordships to nominat commissioners to treate forder with suche as we sall appoint heere, and by thame to send ane perfyte report of all points whairin they require satisfactioun.

Yow ar to observe these instructiouns for your directioun in your proceidings with the lords, yitt if anie thing may occurre whairby the service may be fordered whilk is heere omitted, yow or they ar not heirby restrained to use your best endeavoures thairin as occasioun sall serve. Givin at our palace of Westminster, the 12 of Julie 1630.

By his majesteis commandement, John Coke

  1. NAS, PC1/34, f.12v-13r. Back
  2. NAS, PC1/34, f.13r-15r. Back