Thursday 3 December 1663

Up and to the office, where all the forenoon, and then (by Mr. Coventry’s coach) to the ’Change, and so home to dinner, very pleasant with my poor wife. Somebody from Portsmouth, I know not who, has this day sent me a Runlett of Tent. So to my office all the afternoon, where much business till late at night, and so home to my wife, and then to supper and to bed.

This day Sir G. Carteret did tell us at the table, that the Navy (excepting what is due to the Yards upon the quarter now going on, and what few bills he hath not heard of) is quite out of debt; which is extraordinary good newes, and upon the ’Change to hear how our creditt goes as good as any merchant’s upon the ’Change is a joyfull thing to consider, which God continue! I am sure the King will have the benefit of it, as well as we some peace and creditt.

23 Annotations

First Reading

Terry F  •  Link

"a Runlett of Tent"

A cask of red wine (vino tinto) - Select Glossary.

Bradford  •  Link

"my poor wife," the Pepysian version of the Homeric epithet.

Glyn  •  Link

Pepys keeps complaining in the Diary about the inefficiency of his colleagues on the Navy Board, and the Board's constant need for more money; so perhaps it's worth stating that they actually did a good job. Under this administration the Navy Board never reneged on its debts although they will often be very late payers, and since taking over a bankrupt organization 3 years ago they have transformed it into a financially stable organisation (for which Pepys should get a lot of the credit but not all of it).

Of course, the fact that it is now a safe place to lend money to means that it can get it at a lower rate of interest. I think the London merchants are beginning to realise that it's probably safer to lend money to the Board than to the King.

Glyn  •  Link

"the Navy ... is quite out of debt".

Three years earlier, in spring 1660 the Navy owed over one and a quarter million pounds - NAM Rodger "The Command of the Ocean".

Terry F  •  Link

In light of what Glyn rightly says about the Navy Board's generally good husbandry, I know not what to make of L&M's comment that Sir G. Carteret exaggerates and cite sources. They also cite a Navy debt in November 1660 of over £1,5 Ml., but give no further balance-sheet numbers.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

re: "the Navy ... is quite out of debt"

Sounds like time to start thinking about war, then! Can't be in surplus, after all ... people might start thinking you don't need all that money. :-p

Michael Robinson  •  Link

"the Navy ... is quite out of debt".

"The Navy of the Restoration was powerful, but bankrupt. In the spring of 1660, with some ships in commission which had been unpaid for over four years, The Navy owed over 1 1/4 million pounds. The Cavalier Parliament established a commission to disband the army and pay off the Navy's acumulated dets, which by 1663 had raised more than 2 1/2 million pounds. Even so Charles II had to find at least pounds375,000 to discharge debts in its first four years on the throne, out of his ordinary income of one million a year, and it is not certain that all the naval debts of the 1650's were ever paid. Though the Parliaments of Charles II certainly had a more realistic idea of the cost of preparing for war ... they never provided him with an income sufficient to maintain the fleet which he and they desired."

N.A. M. Rodger, Command of The Ocean, p. 95

Cartaret clearly either exagerates (perhaps to improve the Navy's credit and reduce future expense) or the financial and administrative historians of today have a better grasp of the condition of the accounts and the state of the finances than he.


Once war starts so does the funding crisis.

Todd Bernhardt  •  Link

"Once war starts so does the funding crisis."

Some things never change...

cumgranosalis  •  Link

Runlett of Tent [runlet, rundlet]
runnel or rivulet from rundlet from roundelet, rondelet [rondelle][MFr] Roundelet [ME] little tun or barrel
i.e. a small cask or barrel for liquor
The capacity 18 wine gallons per barrel.
[no round of drinks please]
Tun be ME tonne or large cask of choice drunken liquids [952 litres [252 galls]]
14 roundelets to the barrell.

cumgranosalis  •  Link

Tent: it be a little more than tinta vino:
A Spanish wine of a deep red colour, and of low alcoholic content. Also tent wine. (Often used as a sacramental wine.)
1612 in Halyburton's Ledger (1867) 335 Sackes Canareis Malagas Maderais..Teynts and Allacants.
c1645 HOWELL Lett. (1650) II. lv. 74 The Vinteners make Tent (which is a Name for all Wines in Spain except white) to supply the place of it.
This Tent not be a habitat or a surgical instrument.
lifted from OED

Robert Gertz  •  Link

"So we're out of debt, Sir George? Hurrah!"

"Mmmn...We're sort of out of debt, Pepys. I mean, in a relative sense compared to our situation earlier."

"Oh. Then we're still in debt?"

"Mmmn...Not this month...If our restored credit works as I hope. And soon we'll go at the Dutch and recover the trade we've lost to them. That will clear our debt like magic!"

"So we go to war with the Dutch to grab their trade and get out of debt?"

"Exactly. And an excellent cause..."

"But...Sir George? If we go to war, won't we spend much more and go much deeper into debt?"

"Yes, but...We shall have Patriotic Enthusiasm on our side. Parliament is hot for war and will vote us enormous credits."

"But if past experience as I've read it holds true, we'll be deeper in debt than before, won't we?"

"Almost certainly. In the long term. But in the short time...As in, during our time in office...The prospects look bright. That's the wonderful thing about war, Pepys. No purse strings...For a little while. We'll be rolling in it."

"But we will still be in debt at the end, right?"

"Probably. But with luck and a few shocking, awesome victories, we'll scrape by till we are safely in retirement."

"But if we lose or Parliament demands immediate accounting of our debt during the war?"

"With your careful accounting? Nothing to worry about, Pepys."

For me that is...Carteret thinks contentedly.

Terry F  •  Link

Carteret's Qualification's not to be overlooked

"This day Sir G. Carteret did tell us at the table, that the Navy (excepting what is due to the Yards upon the quarter now going on, and what few bills he hath not heard of) is quite out of debt;"

Ah - the parenthetical phrase. Nice riff on that, Robert, and on what war budgets still require, 343 years on, as Todd pointed out.

Recall the many ships' crews that have been paid by "tickets" - promissory notes like pawnshop receipts, redeemed on the open market at a percentage of their face value - and the tumult that resulted, both from below and above. No wonder Pepys ends this day's entry glad at news that might bring the Navy Office "some peace and creditt."

A. Hamilton  •  Link

Navy Budget

It would be nice to put some frame of reference around the Navy's expenditures in Sam's day, if it can be done. Michael Robinson's source says a Parliamentary Commission raised 2.5 million pounds for the Navy from the Restoration through 1663, about 3.5 years, and that the King had to scratch up another L375,000 to cover the shortfall. If the Navy owed L1.25 million in debts at the restoration, then the rate of naval spending during the first 3.5 years of CII's reign would work out to just under L470,000 a year. If we use our rough common price converter of L1(1661)= L100 (2006), that works out to L47 million a year or about $90 million. You couldn't buy the downpayment on a single modern man of war for that today, suggesting something is left out of the 1660s figures for the costs of the Navy, and also that our conversion factor may be seriously on the low side.

Pedro  •  Link

Thanks Michael for figures quoted by N.A. M. Rodger.

Adding a little from Gentlemen and Tarpaulins by J. D. Davies...

The financial position of the Navy had been deteriorating since at least 1658, and the supply of victuals to the fleet was in the same state. On the 13th February '60 the Navy Board itself forecast the collapse of the system.

At the Restoration every ship's pay was in arrears. The seamen that brought the King home received the equivalent of about 10 shillings in gold, shortly after, each ship received one month's pay. At the end of June the Admiralty was able to allocate £8000 to the seamen's wages, to which the Duke observed, "they suppose will satisfy the common men, the officers they judge will not be less hasty for theirs."

The paying off of the fleet proved a long, fraught affair which dragged on well into 1661, but the new royal authorities had done enough in the short term to buy the allegiance of the seamen.

cumgranosalis  •  Link

'tis why the working stiffs of UK would not accept checks [slashed or not slashed] for a pay check, it must be hard coin of the realm.[date of change late 20C] Those that be salaried [or worth thy salt] would receive their monthly allotment and had tabs with the touts and other gentry tradesmen that had to wait for their balances to tallied on lady day and other quarterly days of checks and balances. Praying that they would not end up in hock themselves.
Men and women got cash, or did without while the Betters never mentioned the word for pecuniary problems, but lived in genteel poverty.
'Tis why Penn Jnr. got a bunch of undeveloped acreage in a far off land.
Monies be of two types, rich and poor.
Have no cash and owe a penny then thee be broke.
Owe 10,000 'sumthinks' and be owed 10,000.25 bits, thee be rich.
Ye are worth wot thee can borrow.

cumgranosalis  •  Link

"suggesting something is left out of the 1660s figures for the costs of the Navy" A tar would average a bob a day and to-days able seaman gets ? along with cost of labour of modern goods, tis why low cost centers are in the forefront of any budget. Then they thought 'nutin' of useing a bedragled fleabitten hulk [total rite off] to send it roaring hot flaming missile that was past its best into a an unfriendly fleet, now we send a hi tech object that be worth 100 thousand low level annuall salaries [sum times].

Jesse  •  Link

"our creditt goes as good as any merchant's"

I wonder if the Navy's just gotten enough together to make, what in today's terms would be, the minimum payment upon a large credit card debt. A little more frugality and who knows, perhaps a 'surplus'… . Then again, as noted above, a little war can change all that rather quickly… .

Michael Robinson  •  Link

Navy Budget -- Frame of Reference

Rodger's text is footnoted with citations and the work has an extensive bibliography for those that wish to pursue the subject.
Alas my enthusiasm for the Pepy's diary is insufficient to sustain me through any extensive reading of detailed histories of English public revenue in the C 17th., financial administration, contracting, etc.

Harvey  •  Link

Conversion rates; I've found that multiplying by 100 gives a good idea of current value for small items like meals and drinks, but it needs to be more like 1000 x for big expenses... buying property, ships etc.

Second Reading

Bill  •  Link

“ sent me a Runlett of Tent”

RUNDLET, a small Cask for Liquors, from 3 to 20 Gallons.
---An universal etymological English dictionary. N. Bailey, 1724.

RUNDLET, A small barrel.
---A Dictionary Of The English Language. Samuel Johnson, 1756.

RUNDLET or RUNLET, a small vessel containing an uncertain quantity of any liquor from three to twenty gallons.
---The Complete Dictionary of Arts and Sciences. 1765.

Bill  •  Link

“ sent me a Runlett of Tent”

4. A species of wine deeply red, chiefly from Gallicia in Spain
---A Dictionary Of The English Language. Samuel Johnson, 1756.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

Re: prices: see my entry in the Prices section of Money in the Encyclopedia:…

‘ . . The important thing to grasp and remember is that using ‘real price’ by itself vastly understates the status and power that came with what seem to us quite modest sums of money in the pre-industrial society of 1660 . . ‘

The appropriate multiplier for the cost of a ship is ‘relative share of GDP’ = 29,000. That is NOT a misprint.

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