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, August 1, 1723

     Robert Carter writes to London merchant William Dawkins, August 1, 1723, to inform the merchant that he has received his packets by Captain Hopkins. He issues orders that his sons Robert and Charles, then in England at school, be returned to the colony so as to arrive by April if possible. The new act of Parliament (that will prohibit the importion of stemmed tobacco into England) will greatly affect his operations as he does not have servants who know how to pack leaf tobacco for shipment. He also believes that the Scots merchants will enter the sweet scented tobacco trade which they have avoided heretofore. His letter closes with comments on what he and other planters will need to do in the months before the act goes into effect.

Letter from Robert Carter to William Dawkins, August 1, 1723

-1 -

Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

Augst. 1st. 1723

Mr. Wm. Dawkins -- --

     Since the Sealing the Sealing up of my
Lettrs. Your Packetts by Hopkins are come to hand, You may
believe they bring a great deal of Mortification with them
but afflictions make wise, I Shall Endeavour to make that use
of them, -- I shall only Observe that whenever Mr. Levitt
buys, tis at an Underrate,

     My Sons Expences I shall not complan of, but
You must be Sencible that the Prices we are brot, to will but
Very Illy keep pace with these things, however I shall
not be long under them, My Possitive ordrs. are That my Sons
Robin and Charles, be Sent in to me According to the
Limitations I have Sett them, That is Robin to come
Away with the first Ships & Charles with one of the Latter
part of the Fleet unless he has a mind to come away wth.

-2 -

his Brother, Capt. Richardson is genly. a lag Ship [and will ?]
be as well pleasd to have Charles come with him [as]
any person but In Some Ship to be here about Apr[il next?]
Sure I will have him Sent, if You will be guided by
My Orders,

     It is to no purpose to complain of the Act of Pa[rl]
tis a very great Shock to me, I have hardly a
Servt. that knows how neatly to pack a hhd of Leaf Tobo., My
Crops have bin wholly Stemd for these thirty Years &
More, The Encreasing of the Kings Revenue by It I be=
=lieve wll be found to be a Great Mistake, I Apprehend
a New Door of Fraud will be now open for the Scotch they
will drive furiously into the Sweat Sented Trade which
they were pretty much kept from by the Steming Tobo.
A Commodity they did not care to be concernd in, Cer=
=tainly these things will never hold long, nor will the
Eng. Merchts. Sett down Contented, & Suffer the Whole
Trade to be Wrested out of their hands, Our Way must
be while we are under ths. prohibition, to heave away
as much as our Stems amounted to, which I believe
Will be found to bring us pretty near a Par in Respect
to the Quantity.

     You Encourage the getting home as much Stemd
Tobo. as Is possible before the Act takes place, and that the
Smoakers when they know they are to have no more
will be fond of it, My thinks tat this very Consideration
Should raise the Price of that, thats now gon. Should we
Stem the forwardest of our Crops, & no Ships come Early
Enough to return in time, or any Accident happen to
delay them, all will be lost, but we Shall better know
how to govern ourselves, by the Measures You take wth.
Your Shipping, I remember the time when I have had
All my Crop Floating in Novr., and we planted very for=
=ward this Year and Shall house betimes, I shall leave
the rest to Your Consideration, Capt. Richardson will
best Inform You of the Damages we have sustaind in
Our Crops, by a pretty smart Storme not many days
ago, I am --

Yor. very humble Servt


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. There is a nineteenth-century transcript of this 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 to merchants abroad. The county and colony have been added for clarity.

[1] Captain James Hopkins would be in command of the Mary in 1727-1728. He was then working for London merchant Robert Cary. He is mentioned in Carter's diary. ( Adm. 68/194, found in the microfilms of the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. )

[2] Captain [James?] Richardson commanded the Sarah and was based in Weymouth. He and his ship are mentioned a number of time in Carter's 1723 diary.

[3] Parliament had passed an act forbidding the importation of stemmed tobacco in 1722. John Randolph was 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. )

[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] Sweetscented tobacco was one of two major types grown in Carter's day. It was mild compared to the stronger oronocco. Sweetscented required "a type of soil of limited distribution" and "was largely confined to the banks of the great rivers, the James, York, Rappahannock, and Potomac." ( Arthur Pierce Middleton. Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of the Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Era. Newport News, VA: Mariners' Museum, 1953. p. 97 )

This text revised November 4, 2009.