Robert King Carter's Correspondence and Diary

   A Collection Transcribed
        and Digitized
   by Edmund Berkeley, Jr.

List of Letters | About This Collection

Electronic Text Center , University of Virginia Library


Letter from Robert Carter to John King, July 25, 1723

     Robert Carter writes to Bristol merchant John King, July 25, 1723, concerning his recent intent to ship tobacco on board Captain Stretton's ship that was frustrated because Stretton was anchored so far up the river that communication was slow. When he received King's letter of February 10, 1723, telling him not to ship to Bristol, and relating the low prices, Carter decided against the shipment. He then turns to the reports in the colony of the bill nearing passage in Parliament that will prevent the importation of stripped and stemmed tobacco that has been pushed hard by the Scots merchants, complaining that the English merchants did not work hard enough to make the Scots trade fairly. He concludes with an order for nails, hoes, and coal.

Letter from Robert Carter to John King, July 25, 1723

-1 -

Rappa [hannock, Lancaster County, Virginia]
July the 25th: 1723
Mr. Jno: King

Sr -- --

     Your ships run by my house so much in haste
that I have not had the opportunity of writing direct I was in
treaty a pretty while with Captain Streton about a little freight
but he stood hovering about paying me for carrying it on
board I desired no more than what I have from other ships
but he lay so high up our River that our writings to one
another met with delays until at length comes yours from
London of the 10th. of February discouraging me from shipping
any sort of tobacco to your port which removed all thoughts
of shipping that way out of my head, indeed your prices does
it Sufficiently, 8 pence 1/2 for stemmed tobacco and 7 pence 1/4 for Leaf are
prices I cant live by

     It seems the Scotch have not only baffled you
in your Attempt to make them fair Traders but at the

-2 -

passing the bill about the Trade have gained another unfore
seen advantage upon us which if True if they can be let alone
will entirely make us their province, The Story is thus a
Merchant out of Glasgow writes to his partner here of the 9th of
May that the tobacco bill had a Second reading and was ordered to be
engrossed and & that they have got a clause added prohibiting
all stripped stemmed and Lug tobacco to take place the first of June
next this they Effected by the Strength of their Members and the
Assistance of the outports that the London Merchants go Stark
mad, this Letter I both Saw and read our Scotch Merchants
here are very much Exalted at it and talk wonderful big

     I would desire you when you have an opportunity
without paying freight to send me in the following goods
to wit 20 thousand 8 penny nails 20 thousand 10 penny ditto 10 thousand 20 penny 6 dozen broad
hoes 6 dozen narrow hoes and a Chaldron of coals but I
would not be put to the charge of hhds. to hold the Coales
which makes them prodigious dear Your nails are much
less and shorter of the sorts than they used to be

     I hope your next will bring me an Account
current that I may see how matters stand between us I am

Your very humble Servt --


Source copy consulted: Robert Carter Letter Book, 1723 July 4-1724 June 11, Carter Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond. There is a 19th-century copy 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. His usual return address, the county, and colony have been added for clarity to the brief heading on the draft.

[1] Joseph Stretton commanded the Prince Eugene from Bristol. He had been accused in August 1721 of having traded with pirates in Madagascar, and was tried in England and found innocent. Money that had been withheld from him in Virginia he recovered by petitioning the Council. (McIlwaine, Executive Journals of the Council. 3[1705-1721]:550, and 4[1721-1739]: 10. )

[2] Parliament had indeed passed an act forbidding the importation of stemmed tobacco in 1722. John Randolph would be sent to England in 1729 as agent for Virginia to try to have the act overturned; his mission would be successful. ( Arthur Pierce Middleton. Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of the Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Era. [Newport News, VA: Mariners' Museum, 1953], 116. )

[3] "The lowest grade [of tobacco] was known as lugs as early as 1686. . . ." ( Philip A. Bruce. Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century: An Inquiry into the Material Condition of the People, Based on Original and Contemporaneous Records. [New York: MacMillan and Co., 1896], I:442 online at "Classics of American Colonial History." )

[4] 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. )

[5] Chaldron is "an obsolete form of cauldron" and meazns "a dry measure of 4 quarters or 32 bushels. . . ." ( Oxford English Dictionary )

This text revised October 8, 2009.