A NAVY AGENTíS BUSINESS
The earliest records mentioning Henry Cort by name are found in pension books for Navy widows at the National Archives (ADM22/75 et seq).
Widow's remittances are paid once a year, each year's remittances being recorded in a separate book (sometimes two).
Some widows delegate collection of their remittances to an attorney.†† One column in the book is reserved for the names of these attorneys.
In October 1757, aged 16 or 17, Cort is cited collecting widows' remittances on behalf of attorney T Bell & Co.
Paid to Henry Cort 12 October 1758 for T Bell & Company for son James Administrator.
† Admiralty record of last remittance for pension of Ann Hackman, carpenterís widow.
Such records are not suspected by earlier commentators, who rely on London trade directories.† They cite 1765 for the start of Cort's career as a navy agent.
You can trace Henry Cort's rise from clerk to agent through PRO half-pay records (ADM25).
Officers, and those in special posts such as surgeons, go on "half pay" (not always half of full pay) between spells of service on ship.† Once retired, they are permanently on half pay.
Those on half pay receive remittances twice a year.† Each half-pay book covers one six-month period.
You find that half-pay clients of Thomas Bell move to Thomas Batty by 1761.† Full-pay (ADM33) clients are then with "Batty & Cort".† Later Cort describes himself as Batty's "copartner" during this period.
Though no evidence has been found, it is probable that Cort has paid for his advancement, or someone has paid on his behalf.† By 1763 he is sole proprietor of the agency.
This year marks the end of The Seven Years War, when many ships are laid off and officers put on half pay.† Half-pay rolls rise rapidly to around 1200.
The number of Cort's half-pay clients rises from 19 to 91.† For the next ten years of peace it remains above 70; in some it exceeds 100.
It is apparent from the Navy's pay records that he is collecting pay on behalf of ships' officers and some other ranks.
It is also apparent from chancery files that he is acting as a banker.† He keeps accounts for his clients and honours their "bills of exchange" (effectively cheques).