Robert King Carter's Correspondence and Diary

   A Collection Transcribed
        and Digitized
   by Edmund Berkeley, Jr.

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Electronic Text Center , University of Virginia Library


May 5, 1705
Letter from Robert Carter, John Lightfoot, and Philip Ludwell to the House of Burgesses, May 5, 1705

     Robert Carter, John Lightfoot, and Philip Ludwell state to the Virginia House of Burgesses, May 5, 1705, their reasons for addressing the Queen about the "Mal-Administration" of Governor Francis Nicholson.

Letter from Robert Carter, John Lightfoot , and Philip Ludwell
to the House of Burgesses, [May 5, 1705]

-1 -

[Williamsburg, Virginia]

[May 5, 1705]

To Speaker and Gentlemen of
the House of Burgesses

     You have not thought fitt, to Admitt us Personally to give You our reasons agt. your intermeddling
wth: the Complaints &c, against his Excellcy: which he hath laid before you. We have put some few of them in
Writing, wch: we here send You, and we desire your Serious Consideration of before you proceed to any
determination in that Affair. We are

Gent. Yor. most humble Servants

-- --

Directed on the Back

the Speaker & Gentlemen of
the House of Burgessess
-- --
-- --

Reasons offered by John Lightfoot, Robert Carter & Philip Ludwell Esqrs. agt.
the makeing any Determination by the House of Burgesses upon the
Complaint & Affidavits against his Excellcy. --

  1st     That the Complaint was made by the Greater part of the Councill then in being who had given their
  attendance upon the publick affairs & were both Eye & Ear witnesses of the mismanagements. there, &
  therefore they were the most proper persons & the most likely to make a true representation thereof. &
  Since her Majesty hath been pleased to appoint them of the Councill , & thereby hath made it their proper
  Province to give the best advice they can for preserving her Majestys Interest & the peace & welfare of
  her Subjects here; they take it to be a duty incumbent upon them in Case of the Mal-Administration of
  a Governr. to apply themselves to their Sovereign for Redress, & this they think they have a right
  to doe without being lyable to any Censure but that of her Majesty. And they think that both her Majestys
  Service & this Countries interest will be greatly promoted thereby.

  2d.     That the matters contained in the Complaint for the most part are Mal-Administrations in the --
   Councill in the Generall : Court & in the Upper house of the Generall Assembly; So that the Councill are not
  only the best acquainted with the transactions there, but also they are most nearly concerned in thm.
  as relateing chiefly to their Libertys & priviledges in wch. the House of Burgesses have no right
  to intermeddle.

  3d.     That the Complaint consists of matters of fact wch. are provable by Evidences, & the Complainants
  are able to make Sufficient proof of them whenever they shall be lawfully impowered so to doe,
  but at present they cannot do it, because her Majesty hath not thought fitt to give any directions
  therein, and they cannot believe that the House of Burgeses will ever be guilty of so great
  an absurdity as to proceed to Judgement of the truth or falsehood of any matter of fact, --
  wch. doth not ly their own knowledge, wth.out Examining such Evidence as can be given
  to make proof thereof.

-2 -

   4. [sic ]      That (whatever hath been suggested) the Complainants have always been far from
  endeavouring to raise partys or factions or to disturb the peace of the Country; on the Contrary their
  great moderation hath appeared in the patience & Submission they they have shewed notwithstanding
  the many injuryes & indignityes (not to be mentioned) tht. have been put upon themselves & others
  by the Governrs. unjustifiable behaviour, & in this particular Case they addressed themselves in the
  most peaceable & humble manner to her Majesty the proper fountain of justice for their
  relief, & she hath been gratiously pleased to take the same into her own Cognizance
  So that the House of Burgesses cannot concerne themselves in this matter without arrogateing
  to themselves a power to make a previous determination to tht. of her Majesty in an affair
  wch. she hath been pleased in an Especial manner to reserve for her own Consideration.

   5th.      That it appears plainly by her Majestys Order in Councill & by the Letters from the Rt. Honble: the
  Lords Commissioners for Trade tht. the Complaint & other papers were sent to the Govr.. for him to
  make his answer; not that they should be brought to any tryall or determination here; it
  is so far from that, that he is commanded not to shew so much as any manner of
  resentment agt. the Complainants, till her Majestys pleasure be further known. And it is impossible
  the House of Burgesses should take upon them to make any Judgemt . in this matter wth.out
  going directly Contrary to her Majestys pleasure in this particular, & to the very express Letter as
  well as intent of the command from the Lords Commissioners for Trade.

   6th.      That the House of Burgesses cannot take upon them to intermeddle in this affair without making
  themselves Judges of the Rights & Priviledges of the Councill , wch. in Consequence may create lasting
  divisions & misunderstandings between thm. & the Burgesses; For whatever determination shall be
  made here it cannot be supposed tht. the Complainants will be so far wanting either in their duty to her
  Majesty or in their regard to their owne Characters or the Countrys interest as to Sitt Still patiently
  & not endeavour to Sett all persons & their proceedings in a true light. And it is not improbable
  but the misfortunes tht. may ensue to the Country upon such differences, may be what is chiefly
  aimed at.

   7th.     That the Complainants have been very Cautious of Concerning themselves wth. the House of Burgesses
  tht. they might not give thm. the least umbrage of disatisfaction. And surely the House of Burgesses
  have great reason to be as Cautious tht. they do not themselves sowe those seeds of discord &C
  Contention wch. may in a short time grow up to interrupt the peace & happiness of the --
  whole Country.

-- --

Copy Teste. William Randolph Junr. Clerk House Burgesses
-- --

Memorandum That the House of Burgesses had the Letter read, but would
doe nothing in it.

-- --
-- --

A Copy


Source copy consulted: New York (Colony). Council Papers. State Archives, New York State Education Department, Albany, Vol. 51, p. 32a-b. This document was copied for Governor Francis Nicholson's private papers, and was carried by him to New York when he later became governor of that colony. The papers remained in New York, passing into the custody of the State Library which burned around the turn of the twentieth century, causing some damage to this series of records. These records have been transferred to the state archives, and there are several copies of this document in the series. The text was transcribed from one that seems to be most contemporary in its handwriting to the early eighteenth century, and two other copies in the series have been used to supply words in the copy text that were damaged by the fire.

[1] John Lightfoot (d. 1707) of New Kent County had been appointed to the Council in 1692. (Tinling. The Correspondence of the Three William Byrds. . . . p. 129. )

[2] The date of the document was determined from other records in the series pertaining to the actions of the House of Burgesses on this matter.

[3] The complaint referred to was part of an ongoing conflict between some members of the Council, including RC and James Blair, and Governor Francis Nicholson who lost, in large part due to political maneuvering carried out by Blair in England. Details of this conflict can be found in Rouse, James Blair of Virginia , and Billings, et al. Colonial Virginia: A History.

This text revised June 30, 2008.