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 Micajah Perry, Senior, and Junior, May 27, 1721

     Robert Carter writes to London merchants Micajah Perry, Senior, and his grandson of the same name, May 27, 1721, complaining about the low sales of several hogsheads of tobacco, and stating that he expects his crops will be sold at as good prices as other gentlemen in the colony are receiving for large lots of tobacco. He hopes that a verbal message he recceived the day before about action in Parliament to remedy the effects of the South Sea Company scandals will prove to be true. Freight rates for ships in the York River have fallen to £8 which he attributes to the merchants' custom of forcing planters to pay the freight. Captain Wharton maintains he won't accept below £10 and Carter has sent aboard 90 hogsheads, transporting them to the ship in his own sloops; the ship has gone up the Rappahannock to Hobb's Hole. Slave sales are brisk at Tindall's Point, and Carter is relieved that he has not as yet had any bills protested for his work as agent for the sale of slaves imported on the Mercury . There are about 40 ships presently in the Rappahannock and as many in other rivers. He tells the Perrys that they will learn about the threats to these ships from pirates from those reaching England. He looks forward to an account current they have promised.

Letter from Robert Carter to Micajah Perry, Senior, and Junior, May 27, 1721

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Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

May the 27th. 1721

Messrs. Micajh. Perry
Senr. and Junr.

Gent --

     The last Letter I have from You bears date the 16th of February
It mentions only the Sale of four or five hogsheads more of my Tobacco , in discourse with
Colonel Byrd . Mr. Armistead and a great many others I understand You had
Sold Their tobaccos in round parcels and at good rates, I cannot allow my self to come
behind any of these Gentleman in the Planters Trade, by all the Letters I have received
from You [I] do not remember You mention of above seven or Eight hogsheads of all my
last years Tobacco sold, I will hope my reputation is not quite Sinking at Your
house, thank God I can boast of as high prices from other men and as much
Sold as any of them,

      Last night a verbal message was sent me from York as a piece of good
News. That the Parliament had put all the annuitants upon the Same foot
they were before the Act of Parliament that passed in favour of the South sea
That is as I understand It our claim is again upon the bank of England
I believe this comes from Frank Willis, Shall be glad to find he's not mistaken --
The York Masters two Days ago were forced to Strike their freight to £8, Captain Turner
was at my house yesterday and told me the story with a great deal of regret
It Seems Your bringing up the custom of making us pay freight for our goods
hath occassioned this stiffness in the Gentleman of the Country.

     Wharton has blustered mightily he will not go under £10 per Tun --
I have 90 hogsheads on board him which to give him life I carry to his Side in my
own Sloops, but there I will Stop until I see whether his stomach will come
down, I believe if he has got fifty or Sixty hogsheads more in at this Day it is
the most, for the rest, I reckon he may lie and cool his fingers, he is gone
up to hobb's hole with his Ship. -- I have not one line yet concerning
the Mercury's affairs nor do I see one protest, I cannot Expect to Escape
So clear when they are to come I dont know, hope It will be timely enough
to get them renewed by this fleet, much good may It do The Guinea
Agents with their business I would not Transact another
concern of that nature at this Day in the manner I did before for
£15 per cent The Choice of Negroes at Tindall's Point as fine Slaves
they tell me as ever was Seen have been Sold at 16.17 & 18 pound per head
the worser Sort a great deal Lower, We have forty odd Sail of Ships

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in our river, and there is about the same Number in York The other Rivers
are also full Its hard that Such a fleet Should be under no better guard
The story of the pirates threatening of us. You will have at large, for
other things I shall refer you to my former Lettrs.

     Your last promisies me an account in a Short time I Suppose you
Mean an account Current It will be very welcome if It proves to be a
pleasing one when It comes.

     This salutes you by the way of Liverpool I am Gentleman

Your most humble Servant

Two Liverpool Ships in our river take a freight for London


Source copy consulted: Robert Carter Letter Book, 1720 July-1721 July, BR 227, Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California. Printed: Wright. Letters of Robert Carter. . . . pp. .

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] Francis Willis (d. post 1749) of Ware Parish, Gloucester County, who served as burgess. ( "Willis Family." William and Mary Quarterly. 1st ser. 5(1896): 24-27, 171-176; 6(1897): 27-29, 206-214.)

[2] Carter refers to the scandal of the value of the stock of the South Sea and other companies which wild speculation had driven enormously high in June 1720, and which was nearly worthless several months later. Many fortunes were made and lost. Perhaps the most succesful speculator was Sir Robert Walpole who made a fortune, retired, and then was called to save the nation as prime minister, a post he held from 1721 until 1742. ( Goldwin Smith. A History of England. Chicago, etc.: Scribner's, 1949. pp. 422-424. )

[3] Wharton was Captain John Wharton of the 80 ton Loyal Margaret. ( Survey Report 6800 abstracting Adm. 68/194 found in the microfilms of the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Shirley and Albert Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. )

[4] Hobb's Hole in Essex County is today called Tappahannock.

[5] The year before Carter had acted as one of two agents for the sale of a cargo of slaves sent into the colony on the Mercury by the slave traders Francis Chamberlayne and Francis Sitwell. See his letters to them of July 26 and 27, and September 27, 1720, and July 2, 1723 . Carter was concerned that some of the bills of exchange that he had accepted might not be good (protested).

[6] In 1660, the English government chartered a company called the "Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa." The Company did not fare well, due mainly to the war with Holland, and in 1667, it collapsed. But out of its ashes emerged a new company: The Royal African Company. Founded in 1672, the Royal African Company was granted a . . . monopoly in the slave trade. Between 1680 and 1686, the Company transported an average of 5,000 slaves a year. . . . In 1698, Parliament . . . opened the slave trade to all. With the end of the monopoly, the number of slaves transported on English ships would increase dramatically -- to an average of over 20,000 a year. By the end of the 17th century, England led the world in the trafficking of slaves. ( "Royal African Company established 1672" in "Africans in America,", 4/14/2009 )

[7] Tindall's Point, now known as Gloucester Point, is in Gloucester County on the York River.

[8] The Rappahannock River on which Carter lived.

This text revised April14, 2009.