TROTTER, John (1757-1833), Storekeeper General. The archive of John Trotter, comprising correspondence, accounts and other administrative papers, bound volumes of proposals and related printed matter, approximately 1798-1830, altogether ten bundles of correspondence (approximately 200 letters and papers), nine volumes, folio, manuscript, and 2 volumes, folio, printed, together with seven printed army surplus sale catalogues, 1818-1819. PROVENANCE: John Trotter; and by descent.
THE ARCHIVE OF THE FIRST STOREKEEPER GENERAL OF THE BRITISH ARMY. The correspondence (incoming letters and enclosures and retained Treasury, in particular for the early years of the department of the Storekeeper General, 1807-1809, on subjects including the remuneration of Messrs Trotter & Co for the period preceding the office's establishment, a scrutiny of finances up to 1806, the status of the depôt at Portchester Castle in 1809, and appointments and salaries in the department, 1809-12; also with suppliers of military stores, mostly concerning rejected goods, 1809-10 (one consignment of greatcoats is rejected because 'potato dust' had been used to add weight to the cloth); with General W. Cuppage, a supplier of hides and harness, 1807-1828 (one bundle); also with John Trotter Sr, his uncle and predecessor as head in Messrs Trotter & Co, with his brother Coutts Trotter and others.
The unbound papers include a number of proposals, between 1802 and 1821, for the reform of the system of military supplies, including justifications of Trotter's conduct; returns and abstracts of accounts, including an 'Abstract of bills for Camp Necessaries & Hospital Stores ... from 1793 to 5 June 1807', a table of prices charged by Messrs Trotter, 1775-1806, another of price increases, 1790-1802, a detailed invoice and a return for the year 1801; also Trotter's 'General Instructions to Depôt Agents', 5 May 1805, specimens of standard forms and invoices showing the depôt system in action, and other administrative papers.
The bound volumes comprise: 'Plan for Military Stores' as sent to Francis Moore, the Deputy Secretary at War, 2 June 1805, including a full account of Trotter's career, 57 pages, folio (with two other copies); an extensive 'Plan for providing military stores' forwarded to Lord Palmerston in July 1813, 65 leaves, folio; a paper dated 20 June 1807, provided to the Commissioners of Military Enquiry, justifying his mode of operation, 51 leaves, folio; 'Letter to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales', 12 August 1814, lobbying for the creation of the Soho Bazaar for the relief of army widows and orphans (3 copies bound in one); a volume containing miscellaneous rough notes and drafts on various matters, [c.1812-1818]; a draft memoir entitled 'Public Life of John Trotter Esq', 28 May 1830, 22 leaves, folio; and a volume of printed extracts from journals and House of Commons publications, with manuscript insertions.
John Trotter's career is succinctly and accurately summarised in the DNB (from family information, perhaps including the memoir in this archive): 'coming up to London in 1774, [he] joined and at an early age became head of a firm of army contractors. After the peace of 1783 he urged on the government the absurdity and extravagance of selling off all the military stores, only to replace them by new purchases on the occasion of any alarm, and offered to warehouse them in his own premises. This was agreed to in 1787. On the outbreak of the French war the business increased enormously, and by 1807 he had established 109 depots, containing supplies insured for 600,000l. The storekeepers were all appointed and paid by him; there was no government inspection, apparently no government audit. The agreement was that he was paid the cost of the stores, plus a percentage to cover expenses and profit. In the hands of an honest and capable man the system worked efficiently; but it was felt to be improper to leave the country in entire dependence on one man or to give any one man such vast patronage; and in 1807 Sir James Pulteney, then secretary for war, established the office of "storekeeper-general", giving Trotter the first nomination to the post, and retaining the services of all his employees'. His ingenuity also extended to the design of a new standard 'Round Private Tent' in 1792, and to the establishment of the Soho Bazaar in 1815. This important reforming figure seems to have been little studied, and the present archive has apparently not been available to scholars.