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 William Dawkins, November 15, 1731

     Robert Carter writes to London merchant William Dawkins, November 15, 1731, to send a copy (not present) of an earlier letter, and a bill of lading (not present) for a shipment of tobacco. He discusses at length the effect of the new tobacco inspection act in the colony.

Letter from Robert Carter to William Dawkins, November 15, 1731

-1 -

Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

Novr. 15. 1731

Mr. William Dawkins


     The above is a copy of mine by the Mary Brigga=
ntine Captain Belcher

     Herein I send you a bill of Lading for 20 hogsheads of
tobacco They were paid me for Quitrents brought home & prized at my own
house I think they are good of the sort you may please to take your
own way in the sale of it either at the mast for Export or inland --

     We are now under a great puzzle with our tobacco law
the weights & Scales are not Come in Mr. Buchanan has sent some
scattered letters signifying that it was passed Warehouses are built &
building in most parts and so are the inspectors Appointed except in
Some of the Upper parts of Our Rivers which we reckon will soon be
Supplyied also -- this good Effect the law has already had that all
people and especially our Overseers are wonderfully alarmed in the
neat handling of tobacco it occasions the throwing away of abundance of what
we used to get good money for I almost think there will not be more tobacco
to ship this Year it may be not so much by a great deal as was the last
Notwithstanding the great noises of a mighty Crop but I would not have
you take much notice of what I say the best guesses we can make
are very much at random however I believe you may reckon safely
that the tobacco which will be shipped will in general be the neatest & best hand
led that ever you saw I am

                   Your most humble Servant


Source copy consulted: Letter book, 1731 July 9-1732 July 13 , Robert Carter Papers (acc. no. 3807), Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. There is a 19th-century transcript of the 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 merchants abroad. The county and colony have been added for clarity.

[1] A bill of lading is "an official detailed receipt given by the master of a merchant vessel to the person consigning the goods, by which he makes himself responsible for their safe delivery to the consignee. This document, being the legal proof of ownership of the goods, is often deposited with a creditor as security for money advanced." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[2] Quit rent was the term used for "a (usually small) rent paid by a freeholder . . . in lieu of services which might otherwise be required; a nominal rent paid (esp. in former British colonial territories to the Crown) as an acknowledgement of tenure," in this case, to the proprietors of the Northern Neck. Carter as the proprietor's agent, collected these payments. ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[3] To prize is "to compress (cured tobacco) in a hogshead or box." There is a good description of the process on pages 100-101 in Middleton's Tobacco Coast. ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press; and Arthur Pierce Middleton. Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of the Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Era. [Newport News, VA: Mariners' Museum, 1953]. )

[4] To sell at the mast means a sale on board a ship where the "ship's mainmast [w]as the usual place of assembly for a court hearing, public sale, etc., on board ship. . . . " ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. ).

[5] The tobacco inspection act of 1730 was introduced and steered through the legislature by Lieutenant Governor Sir William Gooch. " The "bill called for the inspection and bonding at public warehouses of all tobacco shipped abroad; for the destruction of all unacceptable tobacco; for standardization of the size of hogsheads . . . ; for maintenance of detailed records to prevent smuggling; and for the circulation of warehouse receipts as legal tender in lieu of tobacco iteself. . . ." Gooch also managed to obtain approval of the act in England. It went into effect 1731 August 1.(Billings. et al. Colonial Virginia: A History. pp. 236-39.)

[6] Merchant James Buchanan (d. 1742) had run his business from Bideford and Topsham, Devonshire, but he later moved it to London. ( The Directory Containing an Alphabetical List of the Names & Places of Abode of the Directors of Companies, Persons in Publick Business, Merchants and other Eminent traders in the Cities of london and Westminster and Bororugh of Southwark. London: Printed and sold by Henry Kent in Finch-Lane Near the Royal Exchange . . . , 1736. p. 110; and A Compleat Guide to All Persons who have any Trade or Concern with the City of London and Ports adjacent. . . . London: Printed for J. Osborn, at the Golden Ball in Pater-noster-row, MDXXXL )

[7] Carter means that the tobacco inspection law had been approved in England.

This text, originally posted in 2006, was revised March 24, 2016, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.