CROMWELL, OLIVER Document signed (Oliver P[rotector]), manuscript warrant in a secretarial hand, dated 1 April 1657 at White...
, manuscript warrant in a secretarial hand, dated 1 April 1657 at Whitehall, addressed to Joseph Almond, Thomas Chesham, Thomas Cowell and William Naylor. Single page on folded sheet, 11 3/4 x 8 inches (30 x 20.5 cm). 15 lines in secretarial hand in a dark brown ink with Cromwell's signature at the head and the name of the addressees at the foot. Minor toning, folded in fours horizontally at an early date, remains of a guard on the verso of the conjugate sheet, but generally in excellent condition, framed with an engraved portrait of Cromwell.
Cromwell's signature is, as usual, slightly palsied, as he was suffering from the malaria that he contracted during his ruthless Irish campaign of 1649-1653. In November 1649 he had been afflicted with what was almost certainly a malarial fever, and he was to die in 1658, the year after this document was prepared, from complications of that illness.
This interesting warrant documents the seizure of "quantities of Gold and other things at ye Downes [the stretch of sea off Dover] in several ships bound for the East Indyes, as being designed to be exported out of this Commonwealth contrary to Law"... It further details the arrangements that were to be made for an inventory to be taken by Captain Rolt (presumably Thomas Rolt, later knighted under James II, an official of the East India Company) and Mr. Jessop (likely William Jessop, of the Council of State), as well as the ultimate disposal of the goods "to see ye same delivered to the Commsrs. of the Customs"... This may be an implementation of the Navigation Act of 1651, which was designed to address the Dutch dominance of naval commerce, though seizures under that Act were primarily directed against foreign vessels involved in importing, not exporting goods. Perhaps not coincidental to the events noted in the document, Cromwell renewed the Charter of the English East India Company in October of 1657, having declared it invalid in 1653, (thereby he opened up the trade to all comers). The result had been a financial and diplomatic fiasco that proved very costly to England, and the seizure documented here may be seen as Cromwell attempting to discourage rivals to the Company. In any case, this warrant contains interesting insights into the thorny relations between Cromwell and the East India Company, in the year before his death.
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