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 Robertson,] May 15, 1727

     Robert Carter writes to [William Robertson,] May 15, 1727, clerk of the Council, to alert him that he had not signed, as naval officer, one of his lists of shipping, and to give him instructions about the celebration of the King's birthday. He encloses a letter to be forwarded to his son John, secretary of state of the colony, whom he is asking to stand in for himself because his ill health will not allow him to attend. In an enclosure, he gives further and specific instructions about the illumination of Williamsburg and details of the celebration.

Letter from Robert Carter to [William Robertson,] May 15, 1727

-1 -

Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

May 15th: 1727

Sir --

     Yor: Messenger with the Expresses my Boat fetched
over last night after all Mr. Carys delays he has not Sent me
duplicates which he promised me and I must have which from you to let him know it and you
must prepare me duplicates also. You have not signed yor:
of Entrys inward, reckoning I Suppose yor: Signing the Clearings --
outward Serves for both I note it because the other Officers
Sign all their lists, a copy of the Letters to the board of Trade I
Shall take care to keep, here are Keeling, Hopkins, Woodward
Londoners Suddenly bound out therefor [e] keep the public
Papers to be sent in one of them

     Pray, let Mr. Jacob Walker have an Order
to provide a flag for point Comfort and do you provide
another for the Battery at York it is my Duty to pay all
possible respects to the governor when he Arrives

     You have forestalled me two or three days
in respect to the Kings birthday I intended to wait but until
Wednesday night before and then to have dispatched dire [ct]
ions to you about it You very well know my Innate Prin
ciples have all along been Strong and Entirely for the
family and in the Post I am now in my Duty require [s me]
to Celebrate his Majestys birthday. My Daily Indispo [sitions]
deny me the Satisfaction of being present at the seat of G [overnment]
my Self. Yesterday I was so Very ill could hardly Stay t [o the]
End of Divine Service and afterwards was forced to [ride]
out half a dozen mile [s] to get my breath without Eatin [g a]
mouthful of Victuals in the whole day it was w [ith]
Difficulty I held out the Court The Oyer and Term [iner]
I must be at if it be possible. The Load of my own bu [siness is]
in its greatest throng however I resolve to have the [birthday]
kept with as much Show as it was by Colonel Drysdale

-2 -

     In order to this herewith I Send a Letter to the Secretary wch:
you are to Send away by Express desiring him to Personate
my room and if he Should decline it I must rely Upon
You and Mr. Hickman to do your utmost and I will by you
request the Town Gentlemen, Mr. Attorney Major Holloway
and Major Blair to be Assisting in the Government & direct [ing]
the Affair. The Governor's house to be Sure is the fittest place You
may be sure very well Conclude when I laid in that wine at Town I had this
day in my thoughts in Case a governor should not Arrive What
ever Sorts of drink Colonel Drysdale had I would have the Same
and in all respects keep pace with him My Salary is as
large and I thank God I have as little reason to be Sparing
of it I Speak more particularly in the Enclosed paper,

     The warrants for the apprehending of Prowse
I have signed and have dispatched away Seven of them for
the Northern Countys and for Middlesex. The rest are returned.
I am

Sir --
Yor: most humble Servt:

-3 -

The Necessarys requisite for the Birth Night in all respects
Equal the last birth night,

The Governor's house to be Illuminated Mr. Clayton
also and likewise the Capitol if it was so before I believe the
College and all the houses in Town will be also Illuminated
bonnfires to be made as before,

All the Loyal healths to be drunk. The Guns
to be fired and the Batterys to fire. The flags to be hoisted
as was orderd by Colonel Drysdale

The Gentlemen and Ladys that will come to
Invited Cold Treats to be provided a Ball to be had for the
[la] dys, The Gentlemen of the Council and their familys
-4 -

particularly to be Invited Mr. Grymes's family I shall invite
whatever I have Omitted to be Supplied The charge an Ac [count]
to be kept of and paid of Mr. Grymes I Expect will let me
have the money

My wine you may be free with I beleive one
of the Pipes will Sufficiently answer the Occasion Other
Liquors &ca: you must provide as well as you can I am

Sir Yors: ut Supra --

All Immaginable care must be
taken to prevent disorders and


Source copy consulted: Robert Carter Letter Book, 1727 April 13-1728 July 23, Carter Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond. Considerable damage to the right margin of the first page of the letter has removed the endings of some of the lines. There is a 19th-century transcript of the letter in the Minor-Blackford Papers, James Monroe Law Office and Museum, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Pages three and four are the enclosure mentioned in the letter.

[1] Robertson had been appointed a naval officer in 1719, and Carter refers to lists of ships entering and departing the colony prepared by these officials as one of their duties. (McIlwaine. Executive Journals of the Council. . . . , 3[1705-1721]:512. )

The naval officer was an official in the colony that reported to the Commissioners of Customs, a body that had first been established in 1663; the group was reorganized several times, especially after 1688. The board was "intrusted with collection of customs both in England and the colonies." The board helped write many of the instructions for colonial governors in collaboration with the Privy Council. "Their direct connection with the colonies was through the governors, who were instructed to correspond with the commissioners, and to send them, every three months, lists of clearances, and also reports of illegal trading. The governor's agent in matters of trade was the naval officer whom he was empowered to appoint, but who was required by the 7th and 8th William III to give security to the commissioners of customs." ( Louise Phillips Kellogg. The American Colonial Charter. A Study of English Administration in Relation Thereto, Especialy after 1688. [Annual Report, American Historical Association. Vol. 1, Govt. Print. Off., 1904], p. 226. For a recent study, see Alvin Rabushka. Taxation in Colonial America [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.] )

[2] Established in 1696 as successor to a similar body, the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations was "an advisory group, subordinate to king and Privy Council, and with no executive, financial, or penalizing powers, the Board of Trade was nevertheless able . . . to exert a far reaching and often determining influence in colonial matters. . . . It prepared the royal instructions for the governors overseas. . . ." ( Henry Hartwell, James Blair, and Edward Chilton. Hunter Dickinson Farish, ed. The Present State of Virginia, and the College. [First published, 1940, by Colonial Williamsburg, Inc., and reprinted Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1964.] pp. xvi-xvii. )

[3] Captain William Keiling commanded the Betty. ( Survey Report 6800, Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. )

[4] Captain James Hopkins commanded 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. )

[5] Thomas Woodward commanded the Providence during a number of voyages to the colony, 1723-1727. ( Adm. 68/194 and 195, Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. )

[6] Carter had forgotten that George (not Jacob) Walker was the "Gunner and Storekeeper of the Battery at point Comfort" at the eastern end of the peninsula between the James and York rivers southeast of Williamsburg at "the entrance to historic Hampton Roads, an important harbor situated at the mouths of the James, Nansemond and Elizabeth Rivers. (McIlwaine. Executive Journals of the Council. . . . , 4[1721-1739]:33; and )( "Old Point Comfort VA" at Lighthouse,, reviewed 6/7/2012. )

[7] Carter refers to the birthday (May 28) of King George I who reigned 1714-1727, dying June 11 of that year. ("King George I" at "Royal Family History" examined 6/5/2012. )

[8] Williamsburg

[9] After Lt. Gov. Drysdale's death in July 1726, Richard Hickman had been appointed by the Council to keep up the governor's home. (McIlwaine. Executive Journals of the Council. . . . , 4[1721-1739]:114. )

[10] Archibald Blair was a prominent merchant of Williamsburg, and was chosen one of the Council's representatives to convey its message of sympathy to Mrs. Drysdale after the death of her husband, the lieutenant governor. (McIlwaine. Executive Journals of the Council. . . . , 4[1721-1739]:17, 114. )

[11] John Prowse was being sought because he had been accused of the murder of an Indian. (McIlwaine. Executive Journals of the Council. . . . , 4[1721-1739]:133, 453. )

[12] The buildings of the College of William and Mary

[13] "Ut supra" is a Latin phrase meaning "as cited or stated above."

This text, originally posted in 2003, was revised June 12, 2012, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.