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 William Dawkins, December 16, 1727, and February 20, 1728

     Robert Carter writes to London merchant William Dawkins, December 16, 1727, to alert him that the governor has renewed his son Robert's appointment as naval officer, and that he wishes Dawkins once again to join with merchant Robert Cary in being Robert's security in England. He notifies Dawkins that the Surveyor General of Customs in the southern colonies, Richard Fitzwilliams, desires to have the naval officer located at Urbanna where the collector of customs is located, and asks Dawkins to oppose this move if Fitzwilliams pushes it at home. In a lengthy post script dated February 20, 1728, Carter comments on Isaac Lee's debt to Dawkins and his attempts to collect it for the merchant, recommends Dawkins forget about collecting other debts, notes that the Carter will once again be late in reaching the colony which will affect the business she can expect, and complains that Dawkins has not sold his tobacco.

Letter from Robert Carter to William Dawkins, December 16, 1727, and February 20, 1728

-1 -

Mr Wm Dawkins     Rappa [hannock, Lancaster County, Virginia]     
Decr. 16th 1727

Sir --

     Our Governor has been so kind to renew my
son Roberts Commission for the Naval Officers place of this river
his Securitys here are the same they were Colonel Page & the Se=
we conclude he must give securitys to the commissioners of the
customs again this will Create a new charge but I doubt there's
any help for it

     Mr Fitzwilliams Surveyor General I suppose with design to get the place for another if he could hath made out some oppos=
ition as to the place my son lives at that the two officers ought to be
kept together at Urbanna where the collector lives & that Colonel
with his consent had Agreed to that place my Answer was
this had never been the practice in relation to the Naval Officers
nor was it so through the Country now; that my son lived as convenient
& more convenient for the trade than Urbanna that it wore
the name of a town but besides the Collector's had but two or three
small families in it & an ordinary to the truth of these Allegations
all your Masters that Use this river will testify bear testimony upon occasion
I am Suspicious Mr. Fitzwilliams who is a very pushing Gentle=
will make some representation of this matter to the Commissioners

-2 -

I desire you will be upon your Guard to make a strenuous oppo=
sition to any Attempt He shall make I suppose your frequent Attendance at the Customs house
& the large sums of money you yearly pay to the Crown has gained
you so much interest with the Comissioners to procure for you a fair
& a favorable hearing against any information that may be
made to the prejudice of your friends I write to Mr. Cary to join
with you as my sons security to the Commisioners

              I am

to be copyed

-3 -

     A Postscript to Mr. William Dawkins added to his last Letter
                             R[appahannock] February the 20th: 1727/8

     I have lately received yours by Adam Graves &ca:
among the rest of your Packets poor Isaac Lee's will who [se] Strange
Inclination Itho to travel the remote parts of the world I thought portended
a more favourable faith it will be hard upon us to raise money for
your Debt you Should Send in your bond to us or at least a Copy, You
must be Satisfied to be Sure a good Security taken before any division
is made. You write to me about your affair with Mr. Lee as If I had forgotten
you but do assure you I have Seldom an Opportunity that I do not
not [sic ] make use of to dun him upon your Account he has had a loss of
your Letter long Since, he now promises me he will take Effectual
care in a Short time to make a Considerable advance towards retr=
enching his Debt he Affirms he wrote largely to you by Trice as for
your other Debts I have long Since told you few of them would ever
be got I cant think it worth while to put you to the Charge to Send a M=
essenger after them they have been so often demanded already to so little purpose,

-4 -

     The Carter it Seems is to be a lag Ship again what her
fate will be I shall not pretend to guess if you take so little care of her
your Self when She comes here what reason have you to Expect the
name of so large a Ship should carry so much weight to do her business
She has never wanted my Quota of her Loading, often to my great

     You tell me you disposed of none of my Tobacco that
by Keeling was time Enough with you. 9 pence from others have been
a Common Price among Several of my Acquaintance, & but a
few days ago a Certain person Assured me he heard a Considerable Gentleman of your
walks Say he Should have no old Tobacco upon hand by that time
the new got there. We have had a bitter hard winter which makes
the forward Ships very backward, I am

                                                            Your very humble Servant

per the Leopard


Source copy consulted: Robert Carter letter book, 1727 May-1728 July, Robert Carter Papers (acc. no. 3807), Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. Carter inserted in his hand a long addition to the draft at the beginning of the second paragraph as is indicated by the use of bold italics.

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 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] The Rappahannock

[3] As Surveyor General of the Customs in the colonies in "South America," Richard Fitzwilliams was a member of the councils of Virginia, South Carolina, and Jamaica. He had come to Virginia in 1717, and "powerful political friends quickly brought him the post of collector of customs in the lower James River district and then his . . . position as surveyor general and elevation to the Council in 1725." He served with William Byrd on the commission to survey the boundary between Virginia and North Carolina in 1728.

"The Virginia Company of London appointed a surveyor general for Virginia in 1621, and the crown continued to appoint surveyors general after Virginia became a royal colony in 1624. From 1693 until the Revolutionary War, the College of William and Mary was responsible for the Office of the Surveyor General, which appointed official surveyors and received one-sixth of the fees that they collected." (
Billings. et al. Colonial Virginia: A History. p. 239; McIlwaine. Executive Journals of the Council. . . . , 4[1721-1739]:93-4; 155-56, and ("Surveors and Mapmakers" in "Mapping Virginia" on the website of the Library of Virginia.)

[4] Urbanna was a town in Middlesex County built on lands orginally owned by Ralph Wormeley who resisted the idea after the town was authorized by the act of 1680. But development began after his death in 1701 and the passage of the third town act in 1706. ( John W. Reps, Tidewater Towns: City Planning in Colonial Virginia and Maryland. Williamsburg,VA: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1972. pp . 78-9. )

[5] An ordinary was "an inn, public house, tavern, etc., where meals [were] provided at a fixed price; the room in such a building where this type of meal [was] provided." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online )

[6] A "pushy gentleman" would be one who, according to the Oxford English Dictionary who pushes . . ."excessively or aggressively forward or [who is very] self-assertive (with pejorative connotation).")

[7] Isaac Lee (1700-1727) was a son of Hancock Lee and his second wife, Sarah Allerton. Isaac was a resident of Westmoreland County but died in England. (Descendants of John Lee ,, 5/11/04)

[8] To dun someone is to "to make repeated and persistent demands upon, to importune; esp. for money due." ( Oxford English Dictionary online. )

[9] The 140 ton Welcome was owned by London merchant James Bradley to whom Carter would write about her on May 17, 1727 . John Trice (Frice) was her captain, 1723-1727. ( Adm 68/195, 154r, found in the microfilms of the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. )

[10] Captain William Keiling commanded the Betty. ( Survey Report 6800 summarizing Adm. 68/194, Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. )

[11] The Leopard was a Liverpool ship commanded by Matthew Hayes in 1727-1728. (See Carter to Pemberton December 19, 1727 , and February 21, 1728 .)

This text, originally posted in 2004, was revised July 28, 2014, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.