28 Annotations

First Reading

vincent  •  Link

pre "civil" service."...given us by two tax merchants, and very merry we were till night..." Imagine sitting down with your Tax collector?
and see dec 10th and SP thoughts on paying up.
also see pg 241 on taxes, the "Restoration London' Liza Picard
I bet he does not tell them that he is an Esquire?

dirk  •  Link

"tax merchant"

At first look seems a rather awkward term, but it stands for someone who had bought the right to collect a specified amount of taxes of a particular kind. Of course this person would be committed to actually raising at least the amount he had bid for this tax collecting right - and preferably (much) more, as that surplus would be his profit margin. In that sence this was a commercial transaction, and the term "merchant" was justified.

Alan Bedford  •  Link

Elizabeth's brother Balthasar was nearly penniless nine months ago (see entry for 18 June 1660) and now he appears to have found the kind of position he had been looking for. Sam has so far not been approving of anything Balty has done.

Susan  •  Link

Were tax merchants held in low esteem at this time in England? In other words, were they notorious for exploiting their powers and getting as much as they could, whether people could pay or not (as happened in 18th century France with the tax on salt for example - the behaviour of Fremch tax farmers was one of the contributing factors in the revolution) The much maligned "publicans" in the New Testament were tax merchants and thought not fit for decent people to associate with.

vincent  •  Link

Esteem for the Tax Collector. Very hard question to answer.
Charles took the stamp money from the mails and gave it to his girl friend and paid off some favours. It was a question render unto Kaiser his, and to God His share, The argument is always what is a fair share, usually ends up, I pay too much, You not enough. History books never deal with that question, they play the game as one any sporting contest; King A blank- King B Dah. At the moment SP is not complaining so the Tax burden is not too much.

Hic retearius  •  Link

Plus ça change.

"the behaviour of French tax farmers"

Plus ça change, plus c’est la mème chose!

Paul Brewster  •  Link

"given us by two Tarr-merchants"
This is the reading per L&M. Given Sam's position I think the connection to two tar merchants seems equally plausible.

Mary  •  Link

"....her brother's Lady...."

L&M annotate: 'i.e. Lady Kingston's brother's lady: Elizabeth, wife of Maurice Fenton.' This is a plausible grammatical form for the time and leaves Balthy entirely out of the matter. There is no note in L&M of Balthy ever having found gainful employment with the Kingstons.

bruce  •  Link

dinner with tax men - What's in this for Sam? The meal, obviously, but "there's no such thing as a free lunch". Is he seeking to cut a deal on his personal taxes? Or arrange a rake-off from taxes paid by others he is responsible for through his job? With Sam's wide circle of acquaintances, I can't see him meeting with these tax merchants unless there's something in it for him!

PHE  •  Link

Sir Williams
I love the charming way Sam regularly refers to "the Sir Williams" - like 'the twins'.
But should it be 'the Sirs William'?? - maybe we shouldn't go there!

Mary  •  Link

Tax men/tar men

It seems more likely that tar merchants would have a pertinent reason for offering Sam dinner than any tax merchant.

Xjy  •  Link

Tax or tar? A Baltic connection?
I'm with Mary here, following Paul's note, and think tar merchants is more plausible. Anyone know the relative frequency of the terms tax merchant and tax farmer at the time?
Tar is absolutely crucial for a wooden navy. This gives a Baltic connection — northern Baltic ports like Oulu (now Finland, then Swedish “Uleaaborg”) were tar metropolises back then. How Baltic was this business in London in Sam's day?
Remember too Peter the Great was (had been) sniffing around Europe (Holland particularly) for his westernizing strategy. The Baltic and tar must have been central for him too and had an impact on naval affairs for all naval powers.

Eric Walla  •  Link

xjy: small side note: Peter I was born in 1672. Expect "Great" things of him later.

vincent  •  Link

Tar Merchants vs Tax Merchants makes eminent sense: Thanks PB: SP having read his Sailors Grammar will truly understand the value of Tar. Unfortunately Taxes were collected by non Government agents for a fee [percentage kept unknown].Soon another scheme to help Charles stay in Power the Hearth Tax.[ another tax was on Playing [card] Tables of walnut tree] [from Liza Picard pg.242]

vincent  •  Link

Another major reason for Tar[Merchants]: It was very important commodity not unlike the oil industry today. The Shipping industry would not be, but for pitch and tar. It was/is a major by-product of the pines, another major reason the English were interested in the Baltic,- "Trees" [masts and pitch]. Most of us are only interested in wot glitters.'Tis the mundane items that we ignore that make the world turns.
"..In the year 1655 England seized a weakly guarded Spanish Island: Jamaica.....
Morgan had his lead ship (a small sloop, covered with pitch, tar, and brimstone.) loaded with kegs of gunpowder, and had dummies (made of pumpkins and wood, dressed as buccaneers) placed at battle stations throughout his ship. While the Spanish still laughed the small vessel slowly approached them and suddenly burst into flames, it then exploded: sinking the first man-o-war, and burning the second to the hull...."

vincent  •  Link

PS.-"... [in]Sweden, it was called "Peasant Tar" or was named for the district from which it came, for example, Lukea Tar or Umea Tar...."
Tar, the word is also a name of a musical instrument.

Pedro.  •  Link

Tax men/tar men.
Fascinating how our "annotators" can spot this point and provide such interesting information. I learn so much from the site. History, nautical terms and I can even speak a bit of Latin! I don't think i'll be able to get my hat on if I last the 10 years.
Ta very much!

scarabaeus stercus  •  Link

The day thee stops learning, is the day thee provide food for daisies and other useful life forms.

Andrew Hamilton  •  Link

Tax men/tar men

To paraphrase Russell Long, son of Huey,
"Don't tar you, don't tar me. Tar the fellow behind the tree."

tc  •  Link


And of course sailors in general became known as Tars or Jack Tars...or as the Yanks would have it, Limey Tars.

dirk  •  Link

Tax vs. tar

Would be interesting to know if the shorthand for "x" was in any way like the one for "r" - and if there was a source for likely confusion. I'm aware this kind of problem is a déjà vu, but does anyone have a guide to Shelton’s shorthand somewhere in the attic??

dirk  •  Link


Rev. Josselin's diary:
"a winters day. for cold winds snow, sleet, hail, rain, bad weather"

language hat  •  Link

"tax merchant"
dirk, your post implies you know of such a term, but I've never seen it (I know only "tax farmer") and the OED is unaware of it. I tried googling it, and the only hit that had it in this sense (apart from this thread!) was this:
But that site is about Lithuanian Jews, and I strongly suspent the term is translated from Yiddish or Russian rather than being a preexisting English one. So if you have examples of actual use, I'd be interested in seeing them.

vincent  •  Link

Tarr merchant; the subject will be discussed in june of 63.

Second Reading

william wright  •  Link

Re Baltic tar. I restore old wooden boats alongside another old boat builder and we still use "Stockholm Tar" on certain joints for and aft. This tar allow the boat to take a bit of a hit when say tying up and do not leak as it stays flexible. A lot of tar was also sourced from America for use on our navy ships, and most of it came from Carolina, hence the name of Tar Heels for people from that part of the world.

Eric Rowley  •  Link

The symbols for "r" and "x" are very similar in the shorthand. The symbol would also be written quite small above the symbol for "t". The placement of the second consonant being the shorthand for an "a" between the letters. It would be easy to mistake while transcribing.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I think the merchants were selling tar, not farming taxes.
To justify three Commissioners going out for lunch and spending an entire afternoon schmoozing, they must have been tar merchants.

Pepys is being educated about the business, and getting to know the players, as a day may come when the Sir Williams are away -- indisposed, dead, or at sea -- and as the youngest member and the only one not an experienced seadog needed for other services, he will be left to do it all.

Christopher Boondoc  •  Link

A lenten great fish dinner on a Friday. some catholic present? Note that the Church of England did observe Lent. Not only a Friday, but Lent season until Easter. I never thought switching from Meat to Fish was much of a sacrifice. We must not hold meat in such luxurious regard!

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