Stephanos Theodoros Xenos.

Depredations; or, Overend, Gurney & Co., and the Greek and Oriental steam navigation company online

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WHOEVER may attentively peruse this little volume
will perceive that it was impossible for me to enter
into an explanation of my transactions with Messrs.
Overend, Gurney, and Co. without first giving some
account of the formation of the Greek and Oriental
Steam Navigation Company, and its existence for
three years previously to the period at which I en-
tered into relations with the great Lombard Street
capitalists. Such account was indispensable to the
clear understanding of the after-narrative.

With regard to the conversations recorded in this
volume, the accuracy of which may be questioned
by the sceptical, I ought, perhaps, to offer some ex-
planation. In the first place, I have, during many
years, been in the habit of taking notes and keeping
a diary of all important transactions in which I have
been engaged. Secondly, I never destroy letters or
documents ; so that, in case of necessity, I have
authorities to which I can refer, and, if need be,


produce. And, thirdly, as far as I am personally
concerned, I can always rely on my memory, which
is singularly clear and retentive, particularly though
possibly I am not singular in this respect in cases
where I have been wronged and ill-treated. I can
then recall correctly, not alone the words of my
opponents, but every look, and movement, and ges-
ture that have aggravated the wrong-doing by which
I suffered. Of the conversations reported here, I can
conscientiously say they are substantially what the
speakers expressed; and they would be literally the
same, but that many of these conversations were
originally uttered in Greek, and not a few in broken
English. It was, therefore, necessary that the one
should be translated and the others corrected before
going to press.

Despite the care with which I have always guarded
my business documents, I had, in 1865, the mortifi-
cation to lose a case containing many important papers,
amongst others, Mr. Edwards's letter in reference to
the yacht, and the original of the printed circular to
which I refer at page 217. It was in removing some
of my furniture from Petersham Lodge that this mis-
chance occurred. A diligent but fruitless search was
made when the loss was ascertained. (See Appendix,
No. 24.) The absence of some of these documents

has not alone delayed the publication of this volume,
but obliged me to suppress all allusion to many im-
portant points, about which I was quite clear, but
would not mention without being in a position to
produce corroborative proofs.

In further authentication of the correctness of that
which is set down in the following pages, it may not
be amiss to mention that this history of the Greek and
Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which I find
myself obliged to hurry into publicity, formed origi-
nally portion of a work which was not intended to see
the light for many years. It was written whilst the
facts were fresh in my memory whilst the words still
vibrated in my ears.

In publishing this little volume, I feel that I am
making my defence at the bar of public opinion. I
hope my auditory will remember that I was put upon
my trial without notice or warning. Should it be
urged against me that I make free with the names of
other men, let it not be forgotten that my name was
not spared. What I say is spoken solely in self-
defence. "With the materials at my command, I might
have sent forth to the world a sensational volume.
Had I sought a succcs dc salon, I might have garnished
my narrative with savoury morsels of scandal, with
piquant allusions to many an operatic Zephyrina and


dramatic Eucharis ; I might have told tales of Pretty
Horsebreakers and capricious Anonymas; or I might
have hinted at certain titled Calypsos, at whose bid-
ding some of our good City men entered the commer-
cial lists, and there fought the most desperate combats.
And I might, indeed, on the other hand, have talked
of many patient Griseldas, who, whilst their husbands
lavished thousands on worthless rivals, stinted them-
selves in martyrizing economy, trying to counterbalance
reckless extravagance. With all these accessories I
have dispensed, contenting myself with an unvarnished
narrative of dry facts. "Were the century a few years
older, had time toned down the memory of the present,
I might, in a more voluminous work, have laid before
the public more realistic views of the great panorama
which is daily being revolved in this GEEAT


I. The First Chartered Steamers . . . . ' 1

EL. The First Ownership . . . . . ' 8

III. Profits and Contracts . . . . .14

IV. The First Clouds 20

V. The Gal way Steam Company . . . . 20

VI. A Commercial Perseus . . . . .34

VII. My Agents 38

VIII. A Grave Mistake 40

IX. Disappointment . . . . . .50

X. The Ultramarine Powder . . . . .54

XI. The First Mortgages 58

XII. The Miniature Court of Louis XIV . . . G4

Xin. A Perilous Position . . . . .- .72

XTV. Messrs. Overend, Gurney, and Co . 79

XV. My First Financer . . . . . .84

XVI. My Second Financer . . . . .91

XVn. The "British Star" .100

XVIII. The Penelope 10. r >

XIX. Deeper in the Water . . . . . 113

XX. My Third Financer 119

XXI. How Eighty Thousand Pounds were Lost . .125

XXII. A Breach of Faith 131

XXIII. Zachariah Pearson . . . . . .140

XXIV. Who is entitled to a Commission 1 . . .152
XXV. My Fourth Financer 157

XXVI. Kemortgaging the Steamers . . . 1 63

XXVII. A Second Breach of Faith . . . .169

XXVIII. A Third Breach of Faith . . . .".174

XXLX. Criminal or Not? 182



XXX. Politics 187

XXXI. The Election of Prince Alfred . . .193
XXXII. My Illness . . . . . . .198

XXXIII. Release of Petersham Lodge .... 207

XXXIV. The Insolvency of Messrs. Overend, Gurney,

and Co 210

XXXV. The Storm '. . . . ' . . .219

XXXVI. A Challenge . . . . . . .227

XXXVII. The Settlement . . . . . ' . 232

XXXVIII. Idleness . . . . . . . 236

XXXIX. Announcing to Messrs. Overend, Gurney, and

Co. their Insolvency .... 241

XL. The Philhellenic Committee . . . .247

XLI. The Stock Exchange . . . . . 255

XLII. Messrs. Overend, Gurney, and Co. a Limited

Company . . . . . .262

XLI II. Battle between the Jews and the Greeks . 267

XLIV. The Anglo-Greek Steam Navigation and Trad-
ing Company ..... 273

XLV. The Consulate 286

XLVI. Depredations . . . . . 293

XL VII. The Eats and the Pig . . ... .295

XLVIII. Conclusion 304





IN the year 1856 I was running a line of sailing vessels
from London to the Levant and Black Sea. The chief
import and export trade of England with that part of
the world is in the hands of the Greek houses of Eng-
land; and I must say my line of packets enjoyed a
marked and special patronage, and was yielding a
lucrative return. Whilst I was running several small
clippers to the Levant, Messrs. Smith, Sundius, and Co.,
with Mr. A. G. Eobinson, were running steamers on the
same line. These gentlemen had to contend with a
brisk competition on the part of the Liverpool lines, as
well as with some London steamers ; but as the outward
and homeward freights for steamers were, in those
days, three times greater than at present, their profits
must have been enormous.

Having maturely reflected on these facts, and see-
ing that the export trade between London and the
Levant had nearly reached 7000 tons per month, I
resolved to substitute steamers for my sailing packets.
In entering into competition with the established
steam owners, I determined to profit by the errors
they were committing, and avoid them. Amongst
these I shall mention two which were a cause of daily
complaint. In the first place, merchants, after having
announced their goods to their correspondents, were


not always able to find room for them on board the
steamers ; and secondly, merchants who applied to the
steam owners and agents within the last few days of
the steamer's stay in London, were often obliged to
pay 10s. or even 1 per ton higher freight than those
who had shipped first. This latter custom had enabled
the owners of the steamers to take a very high tone.
Owing to these difficulties in shipping, there were
incessant complaints from Constantinople, Smyrna,
Odessa, and other Levantine towns. Disagreements
were constantly occurring between London merchants
and their foreign consignees, and in more than one
instance commission agents had lost their appoint-
ments on suspicion of incapacity, or worse.

This condition of things, combined with a promise
of efficient support on the part of the shippers, had
naturally great weight in inducing me to turn my line
of sailing packets into steamers. But to start a line
of steamers requires a large capital. I applied to
Messrs. Lascaridi and Co., of 32, Bucklersbury ; that
firm came to my assistance. The Messrs. Lascaridi
had two steamers, the Aleppo and the Beyrout. Mr.
George Lascaridi, whose name recurs frequently in
these pages, was at that time the sole representative
of the London house of Lascaridi and Co. This
gentleman placed the above-named steamers in my
hands. We ran them conjointly with the James
Brown and the Britannia. The two last-named steam-
ers entailed a small loss in the first voyage, owing to
our having miscalculated their carrying capacity. The
company thus started in May, 1857, I called " The
Greek and Oriental Steam Navigation Company." As
soon as the above-mentioned charters had expired,
we time-chartered the Hercules, Milo, and Admiral

Kanaris, at 22s. 6d. per ton per month, belonging to
Mr. Edward Gourley, of Sunderland, now M.P., and
others. Thus the Greek and Oriental Steam Naviga-
tion Company sprang into existence in 1857.*

The steam power of the company consisted, at first
starting, of five vessels the Beyrout, the Aleppo, the
Hercules, the Milo, and the Admiral Kanaris. In
addition to these we had several sailing vessels. We
were able to keep up a brisk competition with Messrs.
Smith, Sundius, and Co., and others, as we enjoyed the
exclusive patronage of the Greek houses of London
and Manchester.

It is a recognized commercial truth, that on a time-
charter the charterer seldom gains. That there should
be a loss in our case was an inevitable consequence of
the position in which my partners and I were placed.
Neither Mr. George Lascaridi nor I had any experience
in the management of steam property. Our steamers
were of small power, and consumed enormous quanti-
ties of coal ; and, above all, unfortunately we had paid
an extravagant price per ton for the charter of these
steamers. Then there was no organization amongst
our agents ; abuses crept in, and we had no check on
their expenses. Neither had we any control over the
captains and engineers, who, with a view to benefiting
the owners of the steamers, navigated slowly; so that,
in spite of the splendid freights I had secured, and the
great support of the shippers, we again lost several
thousands of pounds.

Mr. George Lascaridi, having the large business
of his own firm to attend to, threw on my shoulders

* The Hercules was chartered in 1857; the Milo and Admiral
Kanaris in March, 1858.

B 2

all the work and the responsibility of the Greek and
Oriental Steam Navigation Company. He supplied the
capital, I, through my friends, found the cargoes ; but
Mr. Lascaridi requested me to keep the name of my
capitalist secret, for fear of injuring the credit of his
firm. Owing to the observance of this secrecy, a certain
amount of mystery, in the eyes of the commercial
world, hung about the Greek and Oriental Steam
Navigation Company.

About the year 1857 I began to understand some-
thing of the nature and value of steam property. I
was educated by the Greek Government in the mili-
tary school of Evelpides. I had studied there eight
years, destined to become an officer in the Royal
Engineers or the Eoyal Artillery. Owing to these
early studies, I found no difficulty in mastering a
knowledge of the mechanical structure of steamers.
A long acquaintance with military discipline made the
inspection of the staff of the steamers a kind of plea-
sure to a man whose first love was not commerce, and
whom the political aspect of his own country had driven
to England to engage in the labyrinthian perplexities
of trade.

Having gone closely into details, I discovered to
my great confusion that, of the 50,000 which we
had paid the charterers for freights, 20,000 would
have gone as profit into our pockets had we been
the owners of the steamers. I found that the entire
expenses of a steamer of that description for each
voyage was 3500; this deducted from 6000, the
gross freight, left a net profit of 2500 per voyage.
Each steamer made four voyages in the year, so that
here was a net profit of 10,000 per annum on a
maritime property that only cost 16,000. It was

evident that by eighteen months' work a steamer
would pay for herself. The important point was to
find the cargoes. This I was in a position to do
abundantly through my large connexions. My friends
gave me the preference and the first refusal of their
goods. I drew the attention of Mr. Lascaridi to all
these points, and urged upon him. the necessity of pur-
chasing our own steamers. But he was discouraged
by the losses we had sustained, and was besides over-
burdened with other large transactions, so that he
seldom came to my office. In fact, there was no
written contract between us, nor had we ever entered
into a thoroughly good verbal understanding. Add
to this, that the Greek and Oriental Steam Navigation
Company was to expire at the expiration of the charter-
parties of the three steamers the Hercules, the Milo,
and the Admiral Kanaris. The Bey rout and the
Aleppo I had been compelled to take out of the line
after a couple of voyages, as being too small for the

Such was the position of affairs when several
brokers, seeing the extensive business of the office, the
credit of the Greek and Oriental Steam Navigation
Company, and the great support it received from the
Greek merchants, offered to sell me steamers on long
credit. I went to Liverpopl in the month of March,
1858, and there bought on credit, for 22,000, the
General "Williams, of 1152 tons register and 160
horse-power. In payment I was to give the bills
of the Greek and Oriental Steam Navigation Com-
pany. The General "Williams was in trust for the
^orphans of the late owner, and the trustee, Mr.
Panton, of Sunderland, and the builder of the steamer,
Mr. A. Leslie, of Newcastle, who had an interest in the


vessel, wished to have the bills endorsed with another
name. I tried Mr. Lascaridi; he at first positively
refused, but after several days' discussion he decided
upon accepting instead of endorsing the bills, and he
would do this only on condition that the steamer
should be registered in his name or in that of his
nominee. He would at the same time give me a letter
to the effect that when the steamer should have cleared
herself in my line, he would then transfer the half
ownership to me. In other words, I was to work the
steamer to pay the bills accepted by Messrs. Lascaridi
and Co., before I should be put in possession of my
half ownership.

Messrs. Lascaridi and Co. had at this time in their
employment, as managing clerk, Mr. Nicholas Ko-
ressios, a Greek. It was this Mr. Koressios who,
on the 2nd of April, 1858, drew up the letter in
which Messrs. Lascaridi and Co. informed me that they
had bought the General Williams for 21,250; in it
also, to my surprise, they informed me that they in-
tended giving Mr. Koressios a -i~f- share in the General
Williams. Enclosed in this letter was the draft of the
reply that I was to write them. I refused to sign
any reply, and declined to accept Mr. Koressios as
co-owner. Consequently the General Williams took
the line without any contract being drawn up between
me and Messrs. Lascaridi and Co., or between me and
Mr. George Lascaridi.

I twice loaded the General Williams with excellent
cargoes. In her second voyage she foundered off
Malta, leaving a profit by the insurance and freight of
about 8000. These profits were reduced to 5000
only by a long account, furnished by the house of
Lascaridi of Liverpool,, for needless repairs and for

stores put on board the General Williams before
leaving Liverpool for London ; there was also a large
item for commission on the purchase of the steamer.
I demurred to these charges, and said if any one was
entitled to commission on the purchase of the steamer,
it was I, who had negotiated and concluded the trans-
action, and yet I had not made any charge. This
and other transactions tended to weaken the good
understanding that had subsisted between Mr. George
Lascaridi and me.



IN chartering the Hercules, Milo, and Admiral Kauaris,
the Greek and Oriental Steani Navigation Company
had undertaken to supply these vessels with fuel ; we
had accordingly sent large deposits of coal to our agents
at Constantinople. These agents were the house of Las-
caridi, known in .the Levant as Messrs. Fachri, Lasca-
ridi, and Co. These gentlemen furnished accounts of
stupendous magnitude for discharging and loading the
steamers ; in fact, it became evident, on a comparison
with the expenses of the steamers of other owners,
that our agents did not understand their business, and
were defrauded by those they employed. The exorbi-
tant items in these accounts constituted the principal
losses incurred by the three chartered steamers. I pro-
tested against these charges, and held Messrs. Lascaridi
and Co., of London, responsible for the proceedings of
their house at Constantinople. Hereupon Mr. George
Lascaridi coolly informed me that the members of the
house at Constantinople were not .his partners, that I
must look to them for the accounts in question, and
that I might give the agency to whom I pleased. I
replied :

" Oh, no ! Lascaridi ; I hold you responsible, be-
cause, when I talked of recommending the steamers, you
said distinctly, ' Send them to our house at Constanti-
nople.' The world believes it to be your house. Had
you told me at the time that you would not be held

responsible for the acts of Messrs. Fachri, Lascaridi, and
Co., because they were not your partners, I would have
recommended the steamers to some more competent
firm. Besides, how comes it, when these gentlemen
write to me, they always say, * Ours of London,' and
so forth? In short, I shall not accept their drafts,
especially now that they hold large deposits of our
coal, and that the price of coal is gone up at Constan-
tinople, so that the coal is worth much more than
when I sent it out."

I was compelled to take this determined tone,
because I had learned, upon inquiry, that Messrs.
Fachri, Lascaridi, and Co. were partners, under certain
conditions, with the London house of Lascaridi and
Co., and the latter being a partner in the Greek and
Oriental, it was only just that the losses of the
latter company should be shared by all the partners.
But, so far from acting in this fashion, Mr. George Las-
caridi wished to throw the entire burden of the losses
sustained by the Greek and Oriental on that company
alone, whilst the profits were to be divided half and
half with the house of Lascaridi and Co. The reasons
he gave for this mode of proceeding were, that when
Lascaridi and Co., of London, accepted bills for the
Greek and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, his
partners abroad knew nothing of the transaction, and
that when he communicated with them on the subject,
they refused to have anything to do with steamers ;
consequently, he alone was my partner in the Greek
and Oriental. The conclusion drawn from these pre-
texts by Mr. George Lascaridi was, that the Greek and
Oriental Steam Navigation Company was to bear un-
divided every loss it incurred, and was at the same
time to be reckoned a debtor to the house of Las-


caridi and Co. for money advanced or bills accepted
for the chartered steamers of the company.

When Mr. George Lascaridi and I first started
the Greek and Oriental Steam Navigation Company,
I proposed to him to draw up a regular contract
between us. His clerk, Nicholas Koressios, prepared
a preliminary draft, in which he inserted his own
name as my partner. This draft contained the most
absurd conditions. The so-called ' 'T^o'/A^a," or
memorandum, was drawn up in Greek by Mr.
Koressios, who at that time possessed immense
influence over the mind of Mr. George Lascaridi.
It divided the shares of the Greek and Oriental
thus :

i or 20 shares . . Lascaridi and Co.

f or 20 do. . . G. P. Lascaridi.

f- or 40 do. . . Stefanos Xenos.

4- or 20 do. . Nicholas Koressios.


According to the terms of this 'T^^v^a I was to
be manager of the company, Mr. G. P. Lascaridi to be
president, and Mr. Nicholas Koressios to be 'Ee-
Taffrfc (controller) and vice-president. I refused to
enter into such a contract. A sharp correspondence
was exchanged between me and Mr. Koressios, and I
finally forbade that gentleman to enter my office.
Events showed that my penetration was not at fault.
Within a very few months Mr. Koressios received per-
mission to retire from the service of Lascaridi and Co.

After that I was never able to persuade Messrs.
Lascaridi and Co. to draw up a deed of partnership
between them and me. Mr. George Lascaridi used
to tell me that he had boundless confidence in my


honour, and did not care for a written contract. I
could not do less than respond to such expressions
of trust, and, of course, ceased to press the matter.

Seeing that the charter-parties of the Hercules,
Milo, and Admiral Kanaris were about to expire, and
that the Greek and Oriental would be left with only
one steamer, the General Williams, and the sailing
packets, I started, in company with Mr. John Preston,
the ship-broker, for West Hartlepool, to inspect a large
new steamer that Messrs. John Pile and Co. had then in
their building-yard. She had been offered to me by
Mr. John Preston on long credit. I was to give in
payment the acceptances of the Greek and Oriental
Steam Navigation Company.

Whilst inspecting this large steamer, I observed
in the West Hartlepool Dock a small steam barge of
very shallow draught, whose engines were at that
moment being tried. I asked to whom it belonged.
Mr. Joseph Spence, one of the partners of John Pile
and Co., who accompanied us, said it belonged to his
firm, and was a river barge. It was for sale. A pro-
ject at that moment shot through my brain. 1 said to
myself, " If I could send three such steam barges up
the Danube into the shallow waters, let us say as far
as Calafat and Oltenitza, where the markets are in
which the grain is purchased that is brought down to
Galatz and Ibraila in carts, I should be able to buy
wheat and Indian corn at at least 5s. or 6s. less per
quarter than they can be bought at Galatz or Ibraila.
I could tranship this grain on board the large steamers
at Sulina for England."

Without losing a moment, I entered into nego-
tiations. I would take the large steamer, which
was 1017 tons register, and of 220 nominal horse-


power. I would take the little steam barge, and
two similar to be built within five months. After
some discussion, it was agreed that for the entire lot
I should give 33,850. In payment, I was to give
the acceptances of the Greek and Oriental Steam
Navigation Company from three to thirty months,
which was equivalent to 2^ years' credit. The accept-
ances were to be drawn by Messrs. Lascaridi and Co.
The steamers were to be delivered free of mortgage.

I did not finally close the contract, because, before
doing so, it was necessary to speak with Mr. George
Lascaridi. I immediately returned to town and saw
him. I said :

" Now, George, you know very well that this
company, instead of entailing losses, would have left
splendid profits if we had had our own steamers. In-
stead of losing any more time disputing about the
accounts, and trying to determine whether you or
Messrs. Lascaridi are partners in the Greek and
Oriental Company, let us, like sensible men, try to

Online LibraryStephanos Theodoros XenosDepredations; or, Overend, Gurney & Co., and the Greek and Oriental steam navigation company → online text (page 1 of 25)