EAST INDIAMEN’S NAVIGATIONAL OBSERVATIONS
HAGGIS, Charles (1722-1772) ship’s captain. Autograph letter addressed to William Herbert “under the Piazzas on London Bridge” with Bishop mark 5 December, no year (c1750s), 1 side of large folded folio sheet, with address panel on folded reverse, detailing observations in the west Indian Ocean “When I was left on Princes Island in the Year 1748 Capt Bows of the Slot Van Capel told Capt Fowler and me that in his outward bound Passage, he saw breakers that broke very high, it blowing fresh. He brought to and Sounded, had Ground at 60 Fm was then by a Good Observation with Hadleys Quadrant in Latd. 38o 24’ S and Longitude 58:35 E from Teneriffe and from the Cape 20o :20’ East. ……………….The Master Attendant at the Cape told us that there was a Shoal to the Eastward of the Cape in the Latd. 38o : 29’ S. and about 25o .00 East of it ………… I take this to be the above mentioned Shoal”. At the foot in William Herbert’s hand “From Mr Chas. Haggis” followed by navigational notes headed “In Capt. Richd. Allwrights Book”. Folds of the paper sheet split and repaired with archival tape on the blank reverse.
Charles Haggis was born in the East End of London in 1722, the son of Henry and Elizabeth Haggis. His initial service at sea has not been traced, but the present letter appears to be the earliest reference to his maritime service, placing him at Prince’s Island (in the Sunda Straight between Java and Sumatra) in 1748, a route heavily used by ships of the East India Company. After this date Haggis’s service in the East India Company is well documented as commander of the Prince Henry 1758-1762, and of the Thames 1763-1772. Most notably was his command of the Prince Henry to St Helena 1761-2 which the Royal Society had sponsored with Nevil Maskelyne and Robert Waddington on board to observe the transit of Venus.
Haggis’s correspondent was the bibliographer and print seller William Herbert (1718–1795) who in his early years (1738-45) had travelled to India as purser's clerk in East India Company's ships. Back in England he moved his business in 1749 to a newly built house on London Bridge as a seller and publisher of prints, maps, and charts, where he remained until 1759. Amongst other works Herbert published the first edition of William Nichelson's Sundry Remarks and Observations Made in a Voyage to the East Indies (1758) and Nichelson's A New Directory of the East-Indies with General and Particular Charts for the Navigation of those Seas (1758). Hagiss’s information in the present letter was used in these and later publications (n.b. The Oriental Navigator, Or, New Directions for Sailing to and from the East Indies. 1801).
Richard Allwright, referred to by Herbert at the foot of the letter, was in the employment of the East India Company as commander of the London, and may be the same individual who was appointed a captain of the Greenwich Hospital in 1772.