17 September 1672

Navy Office

17 September 1672

Mr Southerne

In answer to your letter of the 14th, the rate his Majesty pays to seamen for Short-Allowance at 6 to 4, is twopence per diem, it being not the practice of the Navy to put seamen to any broken proportion of victuals, nor hath the King ever paid (to the best of my memory) any other sort of Short Allowance than that of 6 to 4 of all sorts of provisions, drink excepted. Where seamen indeed (as they sometimes are) shall be at Short Allowance of beer, also there the King hath paid after the rate of a halfpenny a day more. Where it hath happened that any particular sort of provision falls short, there the purser generally makes it good to him by money or otherwise in specie. One thing more I am to add, that many times where the purser is able he pays to[?] the company out of his own purse what is due to them for their Short Allowance, which I think no unfit to hint to you, that you may be satisfied before you pay the same to any ship, that the purser has not done it before.

I have acquainted the Board with what you propose touching your being supplied with two or three hundred pounds in new farthings, who approving very well thereof, have wrote to Sir Thomas Osborne to provide and send you the same with what speed he can, which I hope will come to you before it be too late for your use. These with my particular respects to yourself, and like to Mr Billop are all this present needful, from

Your very affectionate friend and servant

S. P.

“Short Allowance” was money credited to seamen when provisions were short. The potential for corruption is plain from the reference to how the purser was supposed to pay this himself from his own pocket when he was able to do so. James Southerne, then a clerk in the Admiralty, had clearly written to Pepys to clarify what the rates were, what the form was, and to ask for financial assistance to pay the Short Allowances owing. Pepys says he has ordered up some of the new farthings. Copper farthings and halfpennies first went into production in this year of 1672, and were intended to make official small change more readily available in preference to the tokens which were being widely made by merchants. The new copper coins were only legal tender up to a value of sixpence. The £300 suggested here would have amounted to 288,000 coins weighing 1.67 tons.

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