|Author(s)||Raquel da Silva|
|Addressee(s)||Abraão del Sotto|
Family letter from Raquel da Silva to her brother, Abraão del Sotto.
The author conveys various news and fears the loss of what she has been sending to the recipient, among other consequences of the ongoing war.
Given the suspicion that the Sephardic communities were trafficking goods and information to the detriment of the English Crown, several ships coming from or going to the Netherlands on their behalf were intercepted. In fact, the provisions in the Cromwell Navigation Acts prohibited the commercial contacts of the English colonies with the Netherlands, Spain, France and their overseas possessions. The proceedings that were initiated, under the guard at the Supreme Court of Admiralty, arose in the context of four moments of great tension between those two powers: the 2nd Anglo-Dutch War (1665-1667); the 3rd Anglo-Dutch War (1672-1674); the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763); and, finally, the 4th Anglo-Dutch War (1781-1784). The documentation found on board and preserved in the archive - private correspondence and cargo records - was taken as documentary evidence of the practice of cargo smuggling at sea. The letters described here are also demonstrative of the quality of the relationships within Sephardic families (Jews and converted), with the existence of strategically distributed social networks: on the one side, the settlers positioned below the Equator, more precisely in one area of the West Indies’ Seven Provinces (in the Caribbean), as part of the Dutch overseas territories; on the other, family and business partners, located in the main ports in the North Atlantic, important centers of financial and commercial activities. Incidentally, in some of these letters we may observe the occurrence of loanwords of English and Dutch origin belonging to the lexical-semantic field of trade relations. Examples of this are “ousove” and “azoes”, for the English “hoshead” or the Dutch “okshoofd”, an ancient measure of volume. In the present case, we have a set of letters that were transported on board the Dutch vessels Het witte Zeepaard, Bijenkorf, Fort Zeeland and Gekroonde Prins. They were coming from the port of Paramaribo and bound for an important and strategic port of the Company of the West Indies - Flushing, in North America - through the Caribbean.