Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 May 2018
Undoubtedly the Lordships has been informed of the miss usage of strangers in this place, as several Swedes have experienced in being obliged to pay 14 & 16 Rixdollars courtage to person[s], no ways qualified, nor in capacity to give them satisfaction, by reason in first place he understands no language but his mother tongue; in the next place, an entire stranger to trade or commerce pay even to honesty.
Thus did James Shastoe, the Dutch consul at Cagliari, describe to the Swedish Board of Trade the treatment of Swedes by local authorities in a 1735 letter in which he also applied for a the post of consul at the Sardinian port. To strengthen his case he cited not only the mistreatment of Swedish subjects but also his superior character and ability to conduct the service. Although Shastoe, who was of English origin, referred to his experience as Dutch consul, his application was unsuccessful. The first Swedish consul at Cagliari was appointed seven years later, and the successful candidate was a Swede, Carl Gustaf Mandell.
Shastoe's letter reveals two important facts. First, it confirms the presence of Swedish commerce and shipping in the Mediterranean as early as the 1730s. Second, it indicates that the Swedes who conducted this trade obviously did not have good relations with the local authorities. The traditional purpose of consular service was to make contacts among local authorities, businesses and foreigners (merchants, captains and sailors) as amicable as possible. Consuls acted as a special type of intermediary. On the one hand, they were official representatives of a foreign state; on the other, they conducted private businesses, frequently as commission agents for home-based mercantile and shipping enterprises. This role makes the consular service a useful subject for studying the relationship between early modern commerce, economic policy and institutional innovation.
In what were for them new areas of trade, like the Mediterranean and North America in the eighteenth century, Danish and Swedish merchants lacked intermediate contacts, such as family members or commission agents (see the essay by Michael Miller in this volume), who could provide reliable information about business opportunities and offer practical assistance to their vessels.