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, August 1, 1723

     Robert Carter writes despondantly to London merchant Micajah Perry, August 1, 1723, that the sales accounts he has received recently for his stemmed tobacco sales are the poorest in 10 years, and portend the new act forbidding the important of such tobacco. He expects the effect of the act will be much fraud accompanied by a strong drive by Scots merchants to take over the trade in sweet scented tobacco. In the long term, he expects the English merchants to resist the Scots. On the brighter side, he expects better prices for stemmed tobacco until the act goes into effect.

Letter from Robert Carter to Micajah Perry, August 1, 1723

-1 -

Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

Augst. 1st. 1723 --

Micajh. Perry

     Since Sealing up my Letters for the Sarah
Your packets by Hopkins are come to hand, Most Mortifying Shocking
News they bring, The Poorest Accounts for stemmed Tobacco that we
have seen this 10 years Day, and an Act of Parliament,
forbidding Us to make any more, Mortifying Considerations
Indeed, Were it not for the Remembrance that We have but
A Short time to be in this Inconstant World, & that a few
Years will make it Equal to me, how things are Transac=
=ted here,

     The reasons prevailing it Seems have been the
[ . . . ] Advantage to the Kings Revenue, which I am Very much of the
Opinion will be found In Experience to be a great Mistake
It seems probable a New Door of fraud is opened The Scotch
Will now drive Furiously after the sweet scented Trade which
they could not so well do while stemming was in Fashion
The Consequence whereof will be, damage to the Shipping
In their Freights, and to Us the. consignors who must pay the
full Duty, Insomuch that in a few years neither the English
merchants nor the gentlemen in the Country will be able to live
but I have Strong hopes, that the Eyes of Our Superiors will
be soon opened & that the interest of the English merchants will Ere
long revive again, & will never Suffer the Trade to be wholly
ravished out of their hands, and as for the enlarging the Quan=
=tity, We that consign home our Own Tobacco must handle it
More nicely than Ever we did, & heave away all the Ground
leaves and All the shattered & broken pieces Although the
Small Tobo, & the lugs well managed is really as good, &
As Acceptable to the Pipe, as the best Top leaves from whence
I reckon the Quantity will be as much lessened as it is now
by heaving away the Stems, It should seem as if this Act
would raise the price of the stemmed Tobacco now gone home, which I
believe is the Neatest & the Cleanest from Trash that Ever
You Saw a Crop, The smokers will be for laying in Great
Stocks, which If reason takes place will Enliven Your
market Some Folks think You will hasten away
Your Ships, that they may return before the Act Commen
=ces, We Shall be in a great illegible dilemma what to do
until we hear from You, Our Crop is Early & may reasonably
be made fit for Shipping at least the greatest part by Christmas

-2 -

Captain Richardson will Inform You of the damage [...]
done to our Crop, by a pretty Smart storm, Four [days ago]

I am Sir                              Your very humble. Ser [vant] .

I Observe in the Act of Parliament
there is now only Eight pound of Tobacco
upon a hhd. allowed at the Scale this Allowance
I take to belong to the Importer.


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, especially 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] 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. )

[3] 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. )

[4] 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 )

[5] "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." )

[6] Captain [James?] Richardson commanded the Sarah and was based in Weymouth.

This text revised November 6, 2009.