Aleppo and Devonshire Square: English Traders in the Levant by Ralph Davis

By Ralph Davis

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None of the other brothers was a business-man of his stature. George Radcliffe left Aleppo in r 720; he engaged in various small business affairs in which he dissipated his fortune, quarrelled throughout a whole decade over the disposal of his claims on the Aleppo partnership, and showed increasingly in his complaining letters the growth of his mental disorder. His brothers John and Arthur, formerly his allies against their elders, grew weary of him as the storm of abuse and complaint turned their way; it was even some relief when he went quite out of his mind in I 7 3 5, and could be handed over to medical care.

They took it for granted that he was mistaken, not dishonest ; that once their viewpoints had been clearly set before him the decision he made would be a just one, whichever side he came down on. Then, however the matter was disposed of, correspondence would be resumed on amicable terms. This reputation for integrity was perhaps the principal source of his influence, from the time when as a young man in Aleppo a number of Levant merchants were willing to appoint him as their factor. In later life he was concerned in the East India Company, in the Ostend East India Company which tried to break its monopoly in 1727, and the London Assurance, of which he was for many years a director and for a time deputy-governor.

In fact there was little difficulty about entry to the Company itself, at least on a formal level. It imposed only one general restriction on entry ; nobody but a 'mere merchant' - that is, someone who took no part at all in retail trade, could be admitted. 1 There was no further restriction on provincial merchants though in fact very few joined the Company; but Londoners (defined as people living within twenty miles of the City) were required to be freemen of the City before admission. While admitting members by patrimony or apprenticeship without any fee, the Company took from other entrants a fee of £2 S if they were under twenty-seven years old, and £so otherwise.

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