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A legal dispute between Daniel Bishop, vintner, Edward Coxe, merchant, et al. reveals these close ties.[60] In October 1618, Bishop, together with one James Glover of Bristol, had leased a tavern called the King’s Head and Merchant’s Arms, in which wine was to be sold. Over a period of three years these two men, acting as partners, had become indebted to divers persons for upwards of £300, which they were unable to pay on time. On a thorough examination of their joint estates, Glover decided it was wise to leave the partnership and was willing to grant to Bishop all his rights in the tavern as well as all the personal property of the partnership, if Bishop in turn would dispose of all their outstanding debts. At first Bishop was unwilling to agree to this, but two of his creditors, Edward Coxe, merchant of Bristol, and John Gibbens, baker, encouraged him and promised to stand surety for the debts of the partnership and to use their credit to provide Bishop with the wine he needed to continue his trade. This is a most revealing act on their part. In their efforts to save their debtor from bankruptcy they were not only hoping to recover the money owed them but were also preserving the access to the market that Bishop provided. Moreover, as Bishop was paying his old debts he was becoming further obligated to these benefactors for additional extensions of credit. Had this arrangement been successful the result would have been a tavern tied to the wholesalers who supplied it.

As the relationship between debtor and creditors developed, Coxe and Gibbens required Bishop to sign over to them his rights to the tavern as well as all of the debts owed him—a sum of £200 or so—with the understanding that the conveyance of the tavern would be null and void if Bishop should pay off all his creditors within fifteen months. Bishop paid the first installment on this plan, but found it impossible to meet the second one. Still, the tavern held out a powerful attraction to merchant capital. Even in the depths of Bishop’s financial difficulties, Edward Peters, merchant, was willing to replace Gibbens as coguarantor of Bishop’s debts. Unfortunately for Bishop, this intervention came too late. By March 1623, Coxe and Gibbens had already sued process in the Bristol Tolzey, where the Sheriffs’ Court was located, and, as a result, a capias had been issued and Bishop’s property had been attached. Fearful of the outcome of his case in the Tolzey, Bishop fled the city—over the rooftops, according to one story—taking with him all the plate and other valuables he could manage to transport. He thereby made himself not only a bankrupt but a thief and outlaw to boot. Undaunted, Coxe and Gibbens pursued him with legal process into Gloucestershire and from there across the country to London, where he was found and arrested a year later. Soon thereafter they joined with Robert Aldworth and John Gonning, merchants, and sued a commission of bankruptcy out of the Chancery, which put a final end to Bishop’s career.


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