Sailing and Trading on His Own


The West Indies Islands cover an area of a little more than ten thousand square miles. There were seven hundred thousand African slaves overseen by fewer that thirty-eight thousand French slave owners. Stephen saw it as a difficult situation to say the least, seething with unrest.
The principal products for export by these West Indies islands were sugar and coffee. From Bordeaux to the islands, Girard noted in his journal, would typically take between 57 and 65 days each way, depending on good sailing weather.

At the age of twenty-four, Stephen could handle any unusual emergency at sea. He was young, strong and cocky. He was about to learn however, an important lesson -- know your clients and know their needs.
The fact that he had been to Haiti before did not guarantee his success in trading.. He had no money of his own so he bought merchandise on credit in Bordeaux , using his father's good reputation as security. He intended to sell the entire cargo for a decent profit and return to France, pay his debts and have money of his own. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Not only did he fail to make a profit, he failed to sell his merchandise.

The principal reason for Girard’s failure in trading in Port au Prince in 1774 was his inexperience. He allowed some Bordeaux merchants to dump junk on him that they could not sell in France. The goods were badly selected for the market in Haiti. Girard had purchased these items on credit and was standing to take a serious loss.

Among the items he had hoped to sell were: twenty snuff boxes for ladies, fourteen dozen silver cords, a Solomon violin, beaver hats, velvet saddle cloths, gloves, lace, ribbons etc.  This was hardly a cargo that the poor people of Haiti needed. It did not take Girard long to recover from his losses. In 1774, he was broke and a year later, after being employed by Thomas Randall, Girard had put aside 17,000 francs and not a sou would go to paying the swindling merchants in Bordeaux. 

This was the principal reason that Girard was never to return to his native city. His merchandise sold at a loss of 25 per cent. He was unable to pay the merchants from whom he bought the goods, and fearing imprisonment for debt, should he go back to Bordeaux, he sought a discharge from the roll of the ship.

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