Source 4b

Letter from Thomas Mayhew to Gilbert Blight, 1630, Catalogue Ref. HCA 15/1.


Salé was the main Atlantic port in Morocco. The ‘West Country of Prize goods’ refers to the large amount of tobacco taken as prize or booty during the war between the English and Spanish, which pushed down tobacco prices. ‘Set it by for charges’ meant setting prize goods aside to cover port and legal costs, rather than selling them.


‘I most kindly salute you sir as I did for-

merly aduise [advise] you I sould  [sold] your tobacco to Master Nicolas

Spicer of Exon Merchant who went for Salé

on the Coast of Barbary and was to pay for it

by his bill 30ld at his returne (or at 6 monethes [months]

I hauing [having] paid makeing of it up into Roule,

but he is come home poore & except he can get

satisfaction for Captaines he did Redeeme he [can]

not pay, at the assizes [law courts] at Exton he shall [see]

what wil become of his payment for his [captains]

and accordingly I will proceed; I did profer [damaged/unreadable]

frend [to] his Bill and will deliver it at all times,

I will do therin as for my selfe, but I do

assure you, they did make a hard voyage

& by reason of much Brazell [Brazilian] tobacco carried

out of the west Country of prize goods, tabaco

was little or nothing worth there but as

aforesaid Ile [I will] do what I can for you in it.

But since I was a merchant, I haue [have] seldome

seene so Base a drug as Tabaco: Few men

will come to claim their goods but do

set it by for Charges Except they doe

forebeare makeing that will not mend; and yet

they must make good and not trash which I

pray perswaid them to so god keepe you.


London September


Your Louing [loving] friende


« Return to Tobacco
  • Who has bought Gilbert Blight’s tobacco?
  • The letter suggests that this English merchant was trading tobacco in Salé. What does this tell us about English trade networks in North Africa at this time?
  • The words ‘payment for his captains’ [line 10] refers to a ransom for sea captains taken by corsairs. These were pirates or privateers from the Barbary Coast who aimed to capture people to sell in the Arab slave markets in North Africa. What can this tell us about the risks of engaging in overseas trade in the period?
  • What challenges did Bond and Blight face in their attempt to trade in tobacco?
  • What do the folds in the document reveal about how letters were sealed and transported?
  • Mayhew stated: “But since I was a merchant, I have seldom seen so ‘Base a drug as Tabaco”. What could he mean by this? What could this suggest about how tobacco was viewed in the Stuart period?