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, July 3, 1723

     Robert Carter writes to London merchant Micajah Perry, July 3, 1723, to report on the law passed by the recent General Assembly limiting the quantity of tobacco that can be produced by each planter, and stating some of the arguments in its favor. He thanks Perry for his recent arguments against the Scots merchants, and hopes Perry will work for the King's support of the new law. He admits to Perry that the new law may not reduce the quantity of tobacco available for sale because each planter will use his best grounds for his limited number of plants, and will tend them with greater care. He also informs Perry of new taxes on liquor and on slaves, the latter which he is sure that the African company will fight even though Maryland has had a similar law for some years, and the tax is paid by the colonists rather than the importer. He sends Perry copies of the speeches recently given in the Assembly by the governor and others.

Letter from Robert Carter to Micajah Perry, July 3, 1723

-1 -

Rappa [hannock, Lancaster County, Virginia]
July the 3d: 1723
Micaja Perry

Sr -- --

     The Vigorous Appearance you made against the
North Brittains, when the complaints against their frauds was in --
Agitation gives us hopes you will be Ready to give your Assisting hand
to all Oportunities that may offer for the promoting the good of the tobacco
Trade and the Welfare of this country, and in your Letters you have
recommended to us the doing what we could to help our Selves in
Order to which our good Governour has adventured to pass a Law
for laying a Stint upon planting tobacco : to 6 ,000 000 plants per head for three Years
which is to be in force in April next that the Kings pleasure may
be known whether he will be graciously pleased to allow us this
Law, we are not insensible It may raise potent enemies at home
as well as it will Occasion representations by some from hence
on Accot: of the harsh aspect it has upon the Kings Revenue both
in Britain and here, we are in hopes the Merchants will very well
approve of it and give their utmost Efforts to Support it in being,
neither will it lessen the Quantity of tobacco so mightily as some
will Imagine, we shall tend all the best of our Grounds and Manage
it with the greatest niceness so that probably we shall make more
and better tobacco of this 6 000 m plants than we usually do of 10 or
12: Thousand besides we shall turn out a great many to making tobacco
that we are now employed other ways in hopes of its becoming a
good commodity , the present necessity our Trade is under strongly
pleads for us a low market at home your Shipping all coming full
and now the greatest prospect of a Crop upon the Ground that ever
was known, what must we come to shall we not be allowed to
Live upon our labour, we must be driven by necessity to some
other ways to Support our families, tobacco will never do it unless
we can restrain ourselves to make no more than the World will
Consume, I need not multiply Arguments to you

-2 -

Your own thoughts will better Suggest them, the Scot [ch ]
run away with the Trade here and by their frauds can of [fer]
to give better prices to the poorer sort than other men This instead of being a
remedy is a great part of the Disease, and is the effectual way
of cutting the Throats of all the Consigners. Surely if our Gracious
King has a true knowledge of our Miseries he will Extend his mercy
to us in indulging us in this Affair although it should somewhat
lessen his revenue for a Short time.

     There is another Law passed laying a Duty upon Liquors
and 40 shillings per head on Slaves instead of 5 £: although this has been
a standing Law for a long time always when the country was in
want of Money for our Public Occasions and is now Subsisting in
Maryland is highly threatened with a repeal by the African company
although in truth the Tax is laid upon our Selves and not upon the
Importers, Constant Experience has convinced us that Slaves
and Liqours have risen in proportion to the Duties & more , but we
want not malcontents tht will lay hold of all Occasions to be Caviling and finding fault with
everything that is done under the present administration there are
several other things do not a little disturb our Anti Courtiers you
will have news Mongers enough I dare say I need not give --
you the trouble

      For your entertainment I send you the Speeches that
passed between the Governour and the Assembly, you must Excuse
the faults of your man Harvey who is a very Indifferent Clerk
I am Sr [sic]

Your most humble servant


Source copy consulted: Robert Carter letter book, 1723 June 16-1724 April 23, 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 trading policies of Scots merchants were of considerable concern to Virginia planters and English merchants at this time, and the matter came before Parliament in 1723. Vessels sent by Scots were crewed by captains and factors authorized to pay good prices in Virginia which enabled them to obtain full cargoes. English merchants argued that the only way the Scots could afford to pay such good prices was their ability to avoid paying duties on the tobacco at home. Micajah Perry appeared before Parliament and gave statistics of the duties paid by his firm in earlier years and the far smaller amounts paid in the past several years because his ships could not obtain full cargoes in Virginia. (Price. Perry of London. . . . pp. 64-65. )

[2] For the Council's reasons for assenting to this proposed tobacco law, see McIlwaine. Executive Journals of the Council. . . . , 4[1721-1739]:45-51.

[3] Carter entered these words himself in the clerk's draft as the use of italics indicates.

[4] Carter entered these words himself in the clerk's draft as the use of italics indicates.

[5] The Royal African Company, founded in 1672, grew out of earlier slave-trading companies that had been founded in the middle of the seventeenth century, and that held monopolies on the English trade in slaves. The trade proved so profitable that Parliament was lobbied successfully to rescind the monopoly and open the trade to anyone which happened in 1698. Carter anticipates that the company will fight the proposed tax on imported slaves even through it is to be paid by the colonial purchasers, not the importers. He was correct for the law was not allowed to stand due to lobbying against it in England. ( ; and Billings. et al. Colonial Virginia: A History. p. 232. )

This text revised August 21, 2009.