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Old 12-01-2019, 05:11 PM
davidmich is offline
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Question on the rank of 'upper-merchant' in the 18th century navy


Hi

I'm looking for a definition for the 18th century naval rank of

'upper-merchant' on a Dutch retour ship. Was it the equivalent of a Commodore?

I look forward to your feedback.
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Old 12-01-2019, 05:24 PM
Asympotically fat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidmich View Post
Hi

I'm looking for a definition for the 18th century naval rank of

'upper-merchant' on a Dutch retour ship. Was it the equivalent of a Commodore?

I look forward to your feedback.
I didn't know the answer, but I found your question interesting so I looked it up. It appears the nearest equiavalent is ship's captain as they were the ranking officer on the ship. But their responsibilities were different from a captain in the Royal Navy for example.
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Old 12-01-2019, 09:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Asympotically fat View Post
I didn't know the answer, but I found your question interesting so I looked it up. It appears the nearest equiavalent is ship's captain as they were the ranking officer on the ship. But their responsibilities were different from a captain in the Royal Navy for example.
Thank you Asympotically fat. Very helpful.
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Old 12-02-2019, 05:23 AM
Melbourne is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asympotically fat View Post
I didn't know the answer, but I found your question interesting so I looked it up. It appears the nearest equiavalent is ... as they were the ranking officer on the ship. But ... their responsibilities were different from a captain in the Royal Navy for example.

Your reference translates upper-merchant as super-cargo (from the Spanish), also sometimes called commissioner or principal factor (from the French). But in Aus, the only well known upper-merchant would be Francisco Pelsaert, from the Bativia.

Pelsaert was an Admiral/Commodore/Commander, I think not just of the ship, but of the fleet (7 ships). I think that the ship, as well as the cargo, was owned by the company, and that he, as the company representative, was the 'owner' of the ship, and the 'employer' of the ships crew as well as being the 'employer' of the ships officers. (Unlike the English/American system where the Captain employed the crew). But if Pelsaert was the Admiral of the fleet, that suggests that the ships each had a Captain, not just a sailing master or executive officer.

The term 'Admiral' isn't often used for a merchant fleet, but the Bativia was an armed ship: 100 soldiers, 30+ guns. The Company was something of a government in it's own right, and I've got the idea that even in Holland the merchants ran some of the government and all of the navy.

Last edited by Melbourne; 12-02-2019 at 05:24 AM.
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Old 12-02-2019, 06:08 AM
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In Spanish the sobrecargo is one of the execs of a ship's captain: in a merchant ship, he's in charge of the cargo (the contramaestre is in charge of the personnel); in a passenger vessel, the sobrecargo is in charge of the personnel and passage. The names work the same way in air transportation and in military vessels; they can occasionally apply to fleets.

If the terms are truly equivalent, that would make that "upper-merchant" the second-in-command of a ship or fleet, independently of specific navy rank. In some situations, the sobrecargo would actually be giving instructions to the captain (not orders, because if God came on board, God would call the Captain "sir").

Last edited by Nava; 12-02-2019 at 06:10 AM.
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Old 12-02-2019, 07:40 PM
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Opperkoopman der VOC is the senior merchant, responsible for the trade and the merchandise. He represented the owners of the ship, and until the later 18th century, was senior to the ship’s captain. This site claims much the same (in Dutch) except they say that as early as 1742 the Opperkoopman may have lost the absolute seniority. https://www.vocsite.nl/geschiedenis/functies.html
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