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 Alderman [Micajah] Perry, May 12, 1732

     Robert Carter writes to London merchant Alderman [Micajah] Perry,May 12, 1732, to report the arrival of a number of letters and accounts by several ships concerning his own and the affairs of the Burwell and Page estates. He asks the merchant to consider a discount on some transactions, and is pleased to have the final deeds for the purchase of the Lloyd estate although there may problems obtaining acceptance in the colonial courts whose standards are different from those in England. The charges of the British lawyer who handled the Lloyd transaction are far greater than he had expected but must be paid. Comments about local matters including payment of debts such as those of Dr. George Nicholas and tobacco shipments follow. He thanks Perry for writing that his grandson, Lewis Burwell, has survived the small pox and for nice comments about Burwell, but adds that it would have been nice if Burwell had bothered to write to his mother and grandfather.

Letter from Robert Carter to Alderman [Micajah] Perry, May 12, 1732

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Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

May 12. 1732

Alderman Perry


     My last bore date the 22d of April since which I have
your letters by the Bailey. the Phoenix, and the Spotswood with several Accots
of sales of my own tobaccoes Colonel Pages and Mr. Burwells, miserable times we
are Come to if they do not soon mend we shall soon grow a tattered crew Such prices
will never clothe us and our familys without any Surplusage to go towards
the payment of our debts all the comfort we have is upon Gods good
providence to send us better times by some [illegible] propitious means or other that we Can't
at present foresee

     In the letter I mentioned above I endeavoured to ac=
quaint you with the reasons I had to flatter myself with expectations of
being allowed the discounts upon my last Consignments desiring you will
take a review of that matter and say whether they carry any weight with them

     The deeds of Conveyance for the Investing me with a
Title of Lloyds virginia Estate Came Opportunely to be recorded in our General
and Mr. Clayton and I there executed them and one would think the

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proof they Come with of their execution will be inContestible [sic ] but yet
it does not Come up to the proof our Law requires of living witnesses and
how that is to be had in this case I can't tell unless the duplicates Mr.
Snell has can be sent So attested. There is mention of a fine to be levied
which I suppose Mr. Snell will take Care to send me which our lawyers
Say they think will Cure all defects Mr. Snells bill of Charges is
an Afterclap I never dreamt of I am altogether unfit to say whether
it be right or no it is a very large bill the affair has been a long time
upon the Anvil if I remember right in some of my Accounts Current I
have already paid some law Charges it proves a very dear purchase to
me especially in these poor times for tobacco however I must Acknowle=
dge your pains and trouble in bringing it to an issue has no
doubt been very perplexing and I am fully of the belief if you
could have Made it cheaper you would Mr. Snell if he will make no
abatement must I think be paid and I am thankful to you for
Your good Wishes that I may live in the enjoyment of this Estate
long enough to retrieve all these pull backs

      Captain Seabrooke is come in a very unlucky time
for my assistance I had disposed of all my tobacco and all within my power
before I knew anything of him. The quit rents I expect little or nothing
from by the Obstinacy of the people against the Law if I succeed better
than my present expectations it may be I may do a little for him
but to send any of that tobacco to London is next to giving it away and in=
deed it comes to little more in any of the Outports 50/. and £ 3 some odd for heavy
hogsheads is the most that any of us Can boast of

     This is design'd by Captain Malbon, I have loaded
upon him about 112 hogsheads which has given him the Start of
his neighbours he is gone to Clear Sends me word he will be with me in
two days I am going post to the funeral of my Dear Son Robert

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who died Suddenly Six days ago whether I shall return soon enough
for the Rebecca is a great Question and there is a long account to Settle be
tween us thirty hogsheads of this tobacco belongs to Mr. Burwells Estate 46 hogsheads of
my own the rest to Colonel Pages Estate I have promised the Burwell 90 hogsheads
and the Spotswood 60 or 70 and the Micajah 29 thus the greatest part
of my strength is shared among Your Ships I have sent a great deal of tobacco
to the Outports which affords somewhat better prices than we get from
London I have recommended Seabrooke the best I could to my acquan
tance up the River that are freighters and shall do him all the
further Service I can both your sake and Mr. Hasswells

     It seems you are acquainted with my Transaction
with Dr Nicholas his share of Mr. Burwells Crops is under my finger
for the payment of a large sum of money I advanced for him
I purposed to have talked with him at Williamsburg about your affair
but he was called out of town prevented my doing of it then in a Short
time our assembly meets my design is to serve you as far as in my
power when I see him if you will have patience and he agrees to it
I believe you may be in no danger of Your money in the long run, I am
very sorry he has been so indiscreet to plunge himself at this egregious
rate I believe one great means has been from his being Concerned in an
an Iron Work which they say now promises Wonders and that they have
already run iron enough to reimburse all their Charges

     We have been so pressd for some Country debts due from Colonel
Page's Estate that we have been forced to take up Cash to discharge
them and we have been under the necessity of drawing upon You bills
of Exchange
for one hundred and twenty pounds payable to Dr Blair
which we desire you to answer at time upon the Account of that Estate Colonel Pages
tobacco that is on board the Rebecca was inspected under the view of Several
Gentlemen who give it a very extraordinary Character it was made at
his best plantations Indeed I saw some of it myself and am in great hopes
you will be able to advance it to the top market

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     I have already advised you Mr. Falconars Executors have
taken a short way to pay themselves Colonel Pages debt to their Testator
by Stopping money that was owing to me from Falconars Estate which
I well know they cannot legally do but I am almost come to the humour,
of resting tamely under it and waiting till I can be reimbursed from the
Estate We hope to go a great way discharge Mr. Tuckers debt this year by some tobacco sent him Mr.
will not have much to Claim Mr. Bradbys we hope to lessen
considerably if he sells the tobacco for any thing that is to account for Mr.
debt will be very much reduced and then we shall in a manner
be altogether in Your hands but there we must Expect a Considerable increase

     As you have very generously professd a tender regard &
friendship both to Colonel Page and his remains and that You will stick at
nothing to serve this Estate in helping it out of its present Thraldom so it must
be our part to take Care that you have all proper Justice from us in return.
It is now more nearly my Concern than it was before the death of the poor young
Gentleman that was so suddenly snatched away and I shall more nearly consider all
the ways in my power to extricate it out of its present distress

     Your broken account against Mr. Burwell's Estate and me too
although but for one hogshead of tobacco of my own strikes very deep what the loss is to
be does not yet Appear indeed your accounts of your sales to this Date are very
recent but the Sales of some tobacco I had made to Alderman Levett is much of another
Stamp by a Certain Gentleman I am Charged with a loss for some tobacco sold in the
years 1724:25:26 after several accounts Current received this matter I
must never Submit to unless the law will Condemn me to it but more of this

     It is very comfortable news to hear that my Grandson Lewis
was recovered out of that fatal distemper to Virginians the Small
pox and the good things you are pleased to say of him in respect to his morals and improvements
are no less pleasing If out of your great respects to him and his father you have
not been too indulgent to his Character methinks it had been but a dutiful piece
of Respect if not to me at least to his mother to have afforded a line under his

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hand but he takes no more notice of either of us than if he had no such relations
This letter is got to a great length and yet I shall add one paragraph more

     I will not set up to foretell what will be the fate of the Shipping
this year the general Cry at Williamsburg was that the Crops were very
Short in most parts of the Country and that many of the Ships of which we
have good Store will not get load en but these Stories will come with the greatest
force from your masters Tobacco is risen in the Country considerably to the
Southward Especially for the payment of the Public dues and Contingencies
owing out of Colonel Pages Estate I could not meet with any person would sell me
a pound of Public tobacco under 12/6 percent if Malbon stays my return I shall
go near to give you a further line I am

                  Your most humble Servant.


enclosed I send you a small bill of Exchange
drawn by John Lewis on Captain
& Company for 3.2.6 which desire you to negotiate.


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.

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] The Bailey was a London ship owned by William Dawkins and commanded at various times by Adam Graves (1725-1730) and by Thomas Dove 1730-1732. She was a vessel of some 250 tons and carried 15-17 crew members. ( Survey report 6801 summarizing Adm. 68/195, 156v, and other data in Adm. 68/194 and /196, found in the microfilms of the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia; A letter of Carter's to Dawkins May 12, 1732, refers to "your ship Bailey." as does a letter of August 10, 1733, from Carter's executors to Dawkins. [ Lloyd T. Smith, Jr., ed. The Executors' Letters of Robert Carter of Corotoman, 1732-1738. (Irvington, VA: Foundation for Historic Christ Church, 2010) p. 76]. )

[2] The Phoenix apparently was a London vessel for she is recorded as having paid the required sixpence fee in London in December 1732. ( Survey Reports 06445, 06447, etc., summarizing Adm.68/196, 68/198, etc., from the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. )

[3] The Spotswood was a London ship commanded by James Bradby, 1727-1732, and was owned by Micajah Perry. ( Survey Report 06445x swummarizing Adm 68/195, 70r ff., found in the microfilms of the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. See Carter to Micajah Perry April 16. 1730. )

[4] Carter held a lease to the Lloyd estate, which was that of John Lloyd, husband of his niece Elizabeth, for many years. He noted in a letter to Micajah Perry July 13, 1723, that the estate consisted of about 1,900 acres. These holdings apparently lay up the Rappahannock near the falls as Carter always sent his sloop for its tobacco. The estate's tobacco mark was the double arrowhead or double "L" which Carter frequently uses in hisdiary and letters to refer to it. He undertook to buy the Lloyd estate in the later years of his life, and finally acquired it about 1732. (Revised 2007 Nov. 30 )

[5] "The governor's Council, also known as the Council of State or simply the Council, consisted of about a dozen of colonial Virginia's wealthiest and most prominent men. Beginning in the 1630s the Crown appointed Council members. . . . Crown appointments were lifetime appointments. From 1625, when Virginia became a royal colony, until the outbreak of the American Revolution (1775-1783), the Council members advised the royal governor or his deputy, the lieutenant governor, on all executive matters. The Council and the governor together constituted the highest court in the colony, known initially as the Quarter Court and later as the General Court. The Council members also served as members of the General Assembly; from the first meeting of the assembly in 1619 until 1643 the governor, Council members, and burgesses all met in unicameral session. After 1643 the Council members met separately as the upper House of the General Assembly." ("The Governor's Council" in Encyclopedia Virginia )

[6] Charles Seabrook was a partner with Thomas Reynolds in a Yorktown business. In Seabrook's 1752 will, he bequeathed half his estate to Reynolds including his share in a sloop. ( "Reynolds and Rogers." William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine ,12: 128; and Survey Report 04620 summarizing the 1743 will of George Tilly in Principal Probated Registry Class Will-Register Books 26 BOYCOTT Probate Act Book 1743, f. 9, vo, mentions Chas. Seabrook as a witness together with the chief and second mates and the ship's carpenter. )

[7] 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. )

[8] Out port means "a port outside a particular place; any port other than the main port of a country, etc.; spec[ically]. a British port other than London." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online )

[9] The Rebecca was probably a London ship; she was of 300 tons, had a crew of 11, and was commanded by Samuel Malbon in 1730-32. ( Survey Report 06445 sumarizing "Adm. 68/196," "Greenwich Hospital: General Accounts. the Names of Ships and The Accounts Paid for Sixpences at the Port of London." )

[10] The Micajah & Philip was a large vessel of some 400 tons carrying a crew of 27. The captain's name varies from record to record as James Bradley or James Bradby. Thomas Jones wrote to his wife, then in England, concerning this ship in 1728, "The Micajah & Philip that comes to James River is as good as the best Ships that Comes hither, but Bradby the master seems to be a little conceited and prodigal." ( Adm. 68/194-196, found in the microfilms of the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia ; and Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 26[1918]: 172, abstracting the Jones Papers at the Library of Congress. )

[11] Carter may refer to Samuel Haswell, a London Assurance director in Suffolk Lane, and a member of Haswell and Brooks which was a London firm listed in 1740 directories of that city. ( 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 ; and Kent's Directory For the Year 1740 Containing An Alphabetical List of the Names and 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 the Borough of Southwark. [London: Printed and Sold by Henry Kent in Finch-Lane, near the Royal Exchange: and by the Booksellers and Pamphlets Shops of London and Westminster, 1740]. 8/12/2005 and 5/9/2016. p. 39. )

[12] Carter uses the word "plunge" in the sense of "the point at which a person is precipitated into trouble, difficulty, or danger; a critical situation, a strait; a dilemma." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[13] A bill of exchange is a kind of check or promissory note without interest. It is used primarily in international trade, and is a written order by one person to pay another a specific sum on a specific date sometime in the future. If the bill of exchange is drawn on a bank, it is called a bank draft. If it is drawn on another party, it is called a trade draft. Sometimes a bill of exchange will simply be called a draft, but whereas a draft is always negotiable (transferable by endorsement), this is not necessarily true of a bill of exchange. (See "Bill of Exchange" in the online Dictionary of Financial Scam Terms: the Truth vs. the Scam. )

[14] John Falconar (1677-1729) was a London merchant with whom Carter dealt. He apparently was in New Jersey and Maryland, 1699-1705. In 1728, Falconar and Henry Darnell formed an association of 29 London tobacco merchants to deal with the French tobacco purchasing agent as a group in order to keep the price as high as possible. The association lasted only lasted a year or two before dissolving because some of its members were dealing directly with the French agent and selling below the agreed-upon price. (See Carter's letter to Falconar of July 24 and August 22, 1727, for details about the payment of £200 to him. See Carter to William Dawkins, for Falconar's death date. "GEN-MEDIEVAL -L Archives" on Rootsweb, 8/10/2015 ; and Arthur Pierce Middleton. Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of the Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Era. Newport News, VA: Mariners' Museum, 1953. p. 129 )

[15] "The Lionel Lyde mentioned above as a partner in an ironworks was very active. He was from Bristol and traded with Virginia in both slaves and tobacco. He was also involved in the transport of felons to Maryland and Virginia. Some of the time he was a partner with Isaac Hobhouse in ship voyages. He had an interest in a glasshouse. He served as Sheriff, Mayor, and Alderman of the City of Bristol." ( John Blankenbaker. "Germanna Colonies L Archives." Online at rootsweb. See also: Marie B. Rowlands. Masters and Men: In the West Midland Metalware Trades Before the Industrial Revolution. [Manchester University Press, 1975 ], p.76; Walter E. Minchinton, ed. The Trade of Bristol in the Eighteenth Century, [Bristol Record Society, 1957.] 20:101; and John Latimer The Annals of Bristol in the Eighteenth Century. [the author, 1893. Transcript online .)

[16] Carter refers to Page's "remaining or surviving members . . . of a group of people" in this case the family. ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[17] Thraldom is "the state or condition of being a thrall; bondage, servitude; captivity." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[18] Richard Levett (d. 1740), mercer, represented Aldersgate on the London council from 1722. A mercer according to the Oxford English Dictionary Online is a tradesman "who deals in textile fabrics, esp. silks, velvets, and other fine materials; spec. a member of the Worshipful Company of Mercers, a livery company of the City of London." Levett apparently had other facets to his business besides textiles. ("British History Online," 9/3/2015.)

[19] Lewis Burwell (1711 or 1712-1756), Carter's grandson by Elizabeth Carter Burwell and her first husband, Nathaniel Burwell (1680-1721); Carter was his guardian. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge, and inherited considerable property, living at "Fairfield," Gloucester County. He would be president of the Council in 1750-1751. (Kneebone et al. , Dictionary of Virginia Biography. 2:434-5. and Carleton. A Genealogy. . . of Robert Carter. . . . p. 114. )

This text, originally posted in 2004, was revised November 10, 2014, to update a footnote, and again May 11, 2016.