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


Letter from Robert Carter to Thomas, Lord Fairfax, July 16, 1730

     Robert Carter writes to Thomas, Lord Fairfax, bthe proprietor of the Northern Neck, July 16, 1730, to apprise him of the challenges to the proprietary being mounted in the colony, and to send him (not present) a copy of the recent statement of complaints against the proprietary prepared by the colony's House of Burgesses. Carter notes his shock at learning that the former lieutenant governor, Alexander Spotswood, has been making statements that Carter has no authority to make grants of land in the proprietary which authority he notes he has always had from the several proprietors for whom he has been agent or lessee. Carter reports that the leader of the opposition is John Grymes, the colony's receiver general, and that Grymes and his supporters are well financed.

Letter from Robert Carter to Thomas, Lord Fairfax, July 16, 1730

-1 -

Rappa [hannock, Lancaster County, Virginia]

July 16, 1730

To the Lord Fairfax

My Lord.

     I did myself the honour on the 18th of June
to Acquaint your Lordship of the Attempt our house of Burgesses
was making upon your Lordships Estate in the Northern Neck [sic ]
and that upon the petition of some Dutchmen who desire to remove
with their families from New York [sic ] an order has lately been made
in Council to grant large quantities of Land above and about
Shenandoah a large branch of Potomac River dividing
MaryLand from the Northern Neck against this order I had the
permission of the Governour to enter a Caveat which was all I could do

     The house of Burgesses have set forth their
complaints against the Grant in a long petition to the king in
Council expecting thereby to bring the grant upon Trial the most
considerable men in the Northern neck are strenuous enemies s
to the Grant. Colonel Grymes our receiver General heads them and openly de
clares he will use his utmost interest to bring the grant upon Trial &
seems very sure he shall be Able to Carry his Point that your Lordship
may be apprized of this petition I send you now a Copy of it by the first
Opportunity under Mr: Perrys Cover who after perusal I request to
Expedite it to Your Lordships hands one of their main complaints is
that under the grants of your Lordships agents the Grantees have
no security in the title to their Lands And Colonel Spotswood has
told a great many and to my self also he heard your Lordship say
You had given no power to me to grant Away any Lands

-2 -

which shocked me very much considering your Lordships power is re
corded in our general Court and was sent me in at my taking the
first Lease and Colonel Spotswood adds that Your Lordship said you had
good advice I had no power to grant Lands under my Lease if it be
so what a prodigious wound would this be to your Lordships Estate &
what just reason the Grantees would have to go into Complaints I shall Submit to
your Lordships consideration my
power from your Lordship & Colonel Cage is the same that I had from my Lady
and before her from My Lady Culpeper and my Lord Fairfax
And all the agents that have been in the Execution of the Grant
from the beginning have Acted under the same power in granting
away the Lands in Fee simple and has now been practiced
since the year [omission in text] when Colonel Ludwell began his agency and
from the first appearance of the grant here
before him I believe a Considerable time another great foundation of com
plaint has been your Lordships lease to the Bristol men -- giving them
power to dig up your tenants Land 5 miles round their own Land
after copper ore when every Tenant have a right in those ores by their
Grant but Your Lordship will be best acquainted with the Nature of the
Complaints from the Petition

     The house of Burgesses went into resolve to give
£150 sterling out of the Countrys money to Solicit this Petition [illegible] this
resolve came up to the Council but they would not Concur in it so it dropped
the petition was sent [illegible] presented to the Governour who has the Care of transmitting
it to his Majesty however the Advocates of this Petition missed of this
money they are gentlemen of such strength and have so much
Zeal in the Matter that I am [not ] doubtful Your Lordship must expect money
will not be Wanting I have done Your Lordship the best service I could
in this affair and have had the Advice of our best Lawyers for my

-3 -

I am an old man and have a very broken Constitution not fit for
troubles of this Nature at this time of day

     I have given Orders for copies of all the ancient proceedings relating to
Your Lordships Grant which I shall transmit as soon as I get them have
thought it Necessary to send away this Copy of the Petition I am

              My Lord
                  Your Lordships
                    Most obedt &
                      Most humble Servt


Source copy consulted: Letter book, 1728 August-1731 July, Robert Carter Papers (acc. no. 3807), Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. There is a nineteenth-century copy of this letter in the Minor-Blackford Papers, James Monroe Law Office and Museum, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Robert Carter generally used a return address of "Rappahannock" for the river on which he lived rather than "Corotoman," the name of his home, on his correspondence, especially to persons abroad. The county and colony have been added for clarity.

[1] This letter is not presently extant.

[2] A caveat is a "process in court (originally in ecclesiastical courts) to suspend proceedings; a notice given by some party to the proper officer not to take a certain step until the party giving the notice has been heard in opposition." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Pres, and McIlwaine. Executive Journals of the Council. . . . , 4[1721-1739]:223. )

[3] ". . . in which it is set forth among other matters of complaint 'that the head springs of the Rappahannock and Potomac are not yet known to any of your majesty's subjects;' that much inconvenience had resulted to grantees therefrom and praying the adoption of such measures as might lead to its ascertainment to the satisfaction of all parties interested. Lord Fairfax who by his marriage with the only daughter of Lord Culpeper had now succeeded to the proprietaryship of the N orthern Neck likewise feeling it due to his grantees to have the question relieved from all further difliculty, preferred his petition to the king in 1733 praying that his majesty would be pleased to order a commission to issue, for running out, marking, and ascertaining the bounds of His patent according to the true intent and meaning of his charter". Robert Carter, who died in August 1732, would not know of the establisment of the royal commission to set the boundaries of the Northern Neck. (Samuel Kercheval. A History of the Valley of Virginia. [Winchester, Virginia: Samuel H. Davis, 1833.])

[4] "The receiver-generalship was a royal appointment" and the official was required to give bond both to the lord of the treasury and to the governor. "Those who filled the office of receiver-general were practially all councillors. . . . The duties of the receiver-general included the receiving of the quit-rents, the revenue arising from the export duty of two shillings per hogshead on tobacco, the one penny per pound on tobacco exported from Virginia . . . the port duty, which was the revenue arising from the fifteen pence per ton on all vessels arriving in the colony, and all funds of the colony not received by the treasurer. . . . He paid out of the revenue . . . the salaries of the officers of the colony, also those of the auditor-general of the colonies and the solicitor of Virginia affairs, both of whom lived in England. All the public expenses of the colony, except, of course, those paid out of the funds held by the treasurer, were paid out of the funds received in his office. . . . He of course reported to the lords of the treasury all payments made on the order of the governor. The accounts of the revenues and the reports of disbursements forwarded to the lords of the treasury were certified to by the auditor and the governor, and sent by the governor." (Percy Scott Flippin. The Financial Administration of the Colony of Virginia [Johns Hopkins Press, 1915.] 41-42. )

[5] Alexander Spotswood (1646-1740), army officer with a succesful career, was a protege of George Hamilton, first earl of Orkney, the royal governor of Virginia, who sent Spotswood to Virginia in 1710 as lieutenant governor. His first five years in the colony were fairly successful ones, but his policies concerning land quit rents and over the colonial church brought confrontation with powerful members of the Council. Their interests in England led to Spotswood's dismissal as governor in 1722. He had acquired large land holdings, and he went to England in 1724 where he married and worked on securing the titles to his Virginia land holdings. In 1730 he returned to Virginia and remained there. (Gwenda Morgan. "Alexander Spotswood," in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and Leonidas Dodson. Alexander Spotswood, Governor of Colonial Virginia, 1710-22 [Philadelphia, 1932].)

[6] Catherine Culpeper, widow of the fifth Lord Fairfax (d. 1710); from her father, the 2nd Lord Culpeper, she had inherited about 1689 his five-sixths interest in the Northern Neck Proprietary in Virginia. Lord Fairfax consulted Micajah Perry about the affairs of the Propietary, and Perry had recommended Robert Carter to be the Virginia agent in 1702. He held the post until 1710 when Lady Fairfax transferred the agency to Edmund Jenings with Thomas Lee as the deputy agent. When she died in 1719, she bequeathed her Virginia property to her son Tom, but she made Wiliam Cage and Edward Filmer, trustees of the proprietary. Filmer soon died, and Cage, a kinsman of the 6th Lord Fairfax, became the sole trustee. From his grandmother, Margaret Lady Culpeper, the 6th Lord Fairfax inherited the other one-sixth of the Proprietary. Cage consulted Perry, and Robert Carter was again made agent in 1721, holding the post until his death ten years later.

[7] There is no explicit discussion of the Council of the resolution of the House of Burgesses to appropriate the money, but on June 17, 1730, the Council did approve the petitions of the persons from other colonies that Carter notes at the beginning of this letter. There is a brief discussion of the controversy over the western boundaries of the proprietary in Charter VIII of Stuart E. Brown's Virginia Baron. (McIlwaine. Executive Journals of the Council. . . . , 4[1721-1739]: 223 ; and Brown. Virginia Baron. . . . pp. 39-44. )

This text, originally posted in 2005, was revised September 25, 2015, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.