Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 23.djvu/156

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Gresham
Gresham
148

Huguenot leader, Cardinal Châtillon, fled for safety to England, and Grindal, bishop of London, being unable to comply with the council's request to entertain him at Fulham Palace, Gresham received the cardinal and his suite at Gresham House, to which he conducted him from Gravesend on 12 Sept., accompanied by many distinguished citizens. Gresham proposed to take the cardinal to Osterley, but after a week the cardinal removed by the queen's appointment to Sion House.

At this time (1568) a quarrel was proceeding between the Spanish and English courts on account of the seizure by English merchants of large cargoes of Spanish treasure in English ports. The Duke of Alva, by way of reprisals, placed all Englishmen at Antwerp and elsewhere on Spanish soil under arrest, and in January 1569 sent over an agent named Dassonleville to demand restitution. The agent was committed to the custody of Alderman Bond in Crosby House; he requested to see the Spanish ambassador, who was also under arrest, and Gresham was directed to bring them together. On 22 Feb. 1568-9 an unsuccessful conference took place between Cecil, Sir Walter Mildmay, and Dassonleville at Gresham's house. To prevent the Spanish treasure falling into Alva's hands, Gresham proposed that the money should be coined for the merchants, and then borrowed of them by the government for two or three years on loan. This advice was acted on, and Gresham made the needful arrangements. A final settlement of the dispute was not arrived at till five years later, when it was arranged by Gresham and others to restore to Spain the arrested goods (ib. p. 308).

In April 1569 Gresham was requested by foreign protestants to go over with an English merchant fleet then sailing for Hamburg, which from this time took the place of Antwerp as a mercantile centre, and assist to take up a loan in their behalf in that city. The Prince of Orange and his party again sought Gresham's help in the summer of 1569, and asked him to raise a loan of 30,000l. on the queen of Navarre's jewels . The French ambassador, La Mothe, who had prevented any assistance being sent by the queen and her ministers, was alarmed, and saw no means of resisting Gresham's interference. La Mothe states that Gresham also secretly supplied the merchants in London with money, so that the greater part of the value of two cloth fleets sent to Hamburg (estimated at 750,000l.) never returned to this country in specie or merchandise, but remained in Germany to strengthen Elizabeth's credit on the continent. Gresham now advised the council to endeavour to obtain from the London merchants the loans for which they had hitherto depended upon foreign money-lenders. He was accordingly authorised to negotiate with the merchant adventurers, who, after some dilatory excuses, refused to comply. But a sharp letter, written by the council at Gresham's instance, procured in November and December a loan for six months of about 22,000l., in sums of 1,000l. and upwards, subscribed by various aldermen and others. An absolute promise of repayment, with interest at twelve per cent., was made, and bonds were given to each lender in discharge of the Statute of Usury, which forbade higher rate of interest than ten per cent. These loans when due were renewed for another six months, and the operation proved mutually advantageous. In 1570 and 1571 Gresham repeatedly complained, without much success, of the government's unpunctuality in paying off their loans. On 26 May 1570 he advised the raising of a loan of a hundred thousand dollars in Germany. On 7 March following he pointed out that if the queen's credit with the citizens were maintained by greater punctuality in discharging her debts, she could easily obtain 40,000l. or 50,000l. within the city of London. He also proposed that 25,000l. or 30,000l. of the Spanish money that still lay in the Tower should be turned into English coin. Gresham was henceforth compelled by increasing infirmity his leg was still troubling him to leave to agents the transaction of his foreign business. On 3 May 1574 he ceased to be the queen's financial agent. He sold his house at Antwerp on 14 Dec. 1574 for a cargo of cochineal, valued at 624l. 15s. (Relations politiques des Pays-Bas, vii. 386-7, Coll. de Chron. belges in-édites). He was only once again, in 1576, publicly associated with finance, when he was placed on a commission of inquiry into foreign exchanges. He contributed 80l. to the expenses of Frobisher's voyage in 1578 (State Papers, Dom. 1547-80, pp. 615, 621).

An investigation into the financial relations between Gresham and the government, made in the light of the pipe and audit office accounts, shows that Gresham incurred little or no personal risk as a government financier, that his profits were very large, and that his conduct was often open to serious misconstruction (cf. Mr. Hubert Hall's analysis of Gresham's accounts for 1562-3 in his Society in Elizabethan Age, pp. 65-9, App. pp. 161-2). Personal expenses were allowed on a generous scale, and he seems to have been permitted at times to apply government money in his hands to private speculations. When Gresham's employment ceased in 1574, his accounts had