High-value assets

(Lord’s day). Up, and after a little at my office to prepare a fresh draught of my vowes for the next yeare, I to church, where a most insipid young coxcomb preached. Then home to dinner, and after dinner to read in “Rushworth’s Collections” about the charge against the late Duke of Buckingham, in order to the fitting me to speak and understand the discourse anon before the King about the suffering the Turkey merchants to send out their fleete at this dangerous time, when we can neither spare them ships to go, nor men, nor King’s ships to convoy them.
At four o’clock with Sir W. Pen in his coach to my Lord Chancellor’s, where by and by Mr. Coventry, Sir W. Pen, Sir J. Lawson, Sir G. Ascue, and myself were called in to the King, there being several of the Privy Council, and my Lord Chancellor lying at length upon a couch (of the goute I suppose); and there Sir W. Pen begun, and he had prepared heads in a paper, and spoke pretty well to purpose, but with so much leisure and gravity as was tiresome; besides, the things he said were but very poor to a man in his trade after a great consideration, but it was to purpose, indeed to dissuade the King from letting these Turkey ships to go out: saying (in short) the King having resolved to have 130 ships out by the spring, he must have above 20 of them merchantmen. Towards which, he in the whole River could find but 12 or 14, and of them the five ships taken up by these merchants were a part, and so could not be spared. That we should need 30,000 [sailors] to man these 130 ships, and of them in service we have not above 16,000; so we shall need 14,000 more. That these ships will with their convoys carry above 2,000 men, and those the best men that could be got; it being the men used to the Southward that are the best men for warr, though those bred in the North among the colliers are good for labour. That it will not be safe for the merchants, nor honourable for the King, to expose these rich ships with his convoy of six ships to go, it not being enough to secure them against the Dutch, who, without doubt, will have a great fleete in the Straights. This, Sir J. Lawson enlarged upon. Sir G. Ascue he chiefly spoke that the warr and trade could not be supported together, and, therefore, that trade must stand still to give way to them.
This Mr. Coventry seconded, and showed how the medium of the men the King hath one year with another employed in his Navy since his coming, hath not been above 3,000 men, or at most 4,000 men; and now having occasion of 30,000, the remaining 26,000 must be found out of the trade of the nation.
He showed how the cloaths, sending by these merchants to Turkey, are already bought and paid for to the workmen, and are as many as they would send these twelve months or more; so the poor do not suffer by their not going, but only the merchant, upon whose hands they lit dead; and so the inconvenience is the less. And yet for them he propounded, either the King should, if his Treasure would suffer it, buy them, and showed the losse would not be so great to him: or, dispense with the Act of Navigation, and let them be carried out by strangers; and ending that he doubted not but when the merchants saw there was no remedy, they would and could find ways of sending them abroad to their profit.
All ended with a conviction (unless future discourse with the merchants should alter it) that it was not fit for them to go out, though the ships be loaded.
The King in discourse did ask me two or three questions about my newes of Allen’s loss in the Streights, but I said nothing as to the business, nor am not much sorry for it, unless the King had spoke to me as he did to them, and then I could have said something to the purpose I think. So we withdrew, and the merchants were called in.
Staying without, my Lord Fitz Harding come thither, and fell to discourse of Prince Rupert, and made nothing to say that his disease was the pox and that he must be fluxed, telling the horrible degree of the disease upon him with its breaking out on his head. But above all I observed how he observed from the Prince, that courage is not what men take it to be, a contempt of death; for, says he, how chagrined the Prince was the other day when he thought he should die, having no more mind to it than another man. But, says he, some men are more apt to think they shall escape than another man in fight, while another is doubtfull he shall be hit. But when the first man is sure he shall die, as now the Prince is, he is as much troubled and apprehensive of it as any man else; for, says he, since we told [him] that we believe he would overcome his disease, he is as merry, and swears and laughs and curses, and do all the things of a [man] in health, as ever he did in his life; which, methought, was a most extraordinary saying before a great many persons there of quality. So by and by with Sir W. Pen home again, and after supper to the office to finish my vows, and so to bed.

insipid discourse about suffering
is dangerous

all unprepared heads must be spared
those being the best for war

it will not be safe to expose
the rich to doubt
or the poor to conviction

horrible is the death grin
they escape in fight not laughs and curses
and the things of life


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 15 January 1665.

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