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 John Stark, May 30 and July 9, 1728

     Robert Carter writes to Glasgow merchant John Stark, May 30, 1728, to report the arrival of goods and accounts, and to complain of certain of Stark's accounting methods. He informs Stark of several bills of exchange, and then seeks the merchant's support of the colony's effort to obtain repeal of the act prohibiting the importation of stemmed tobacco into Britain. In a lengthy post script dated July 9th, Carter encloses bill s of lading, complains of Stark's holding his tobacco too long before selling it, relates a misunderstanding over a "hamper" of claret, and orders some burgundy and champagne.

Letter from Robert Carter to John Stark, May 30 and July 9, 1728

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Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]     
May the 30th: 1728

Mr. John Stark

Sir --

     I have received Several Letters from you this year, the
goods you Sent by the Mazareen have been landed long ago, I have
bin so often and so long from home, I have not Overhauled them yet
The other day a pack of goods was put ashore at my house by Captain Dun
he Says he had them out of Gamell l in the Bay , I Suppose these
goods must have come from you I have not Seen the inside In
making up your Accots: of Sales you take a method that to me Seems
very Erronious. First you pay down the whole duty and then you
Sell the greatest part for Export giving Credit for the drawback
upon wch you raise a Commission so that here I have no[ illegible]
to and without any so that here I have no Advantage illegible of my money nay a loss this
is a way of making up an Account I have not been in used to either
in your Port nor any other, when they Sell their Tobacco for Export
they dont trouble the Account with the duty. another thing I observe
[you] dont allow me the full discounts for the Tobacco Sold for the home Con
sumption I cannot think but I had money in your hands to
Entitle me to all those discounts other men when they make up
their Accots: State the Several duties in different A [rtic] les and allow a duty of 20 perCent . wh [ich] the Act [ . . . ] gives for prompt payment, I desire you
will give me Satisfaction in these things [I have] dis [coursed]

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Captain Bowman about them. but he cannot give Answer me Satis
faction I have now aboard of Bowman the Lucia I reckon about
24 hogsheads of Tobacco how many more I Shall put into him I a [m]
not certain yet,

     Herein Send you the following bills of Exchange to wit
Alexander Scott on your Self for £12"-" Robert Alexander on Neal Buch
annan £11:10"8. Samuel Bowman on your Self for £15:18
which desire Credit for, making in the whole £39"8"8" --

     I have drawn on you Payable to Richard Meeks
for £21"9"8, which I desire you Please to anwer at time,

     Now allow me to turn my head a little on
Politics We are in a great design to get the Clause in the Act
in the Prohibiting the Stemming
Tobacco repealed Our Councll &
Burgesses have Addressed his Majesty and made Application to the
Parliament . about it. We have Employed a Gentleman of our Country
one of our Eminentest Lawyers as our Agent who is going home
to Solicit this Affair, We have great reson to hope the London
Merchants and Outports will Join their Interest with us and we
are told from many of your Countrymen here Your represen
tatives will Join their helping hand, And that you are generally
hearty aweary of this restraint most Certain it is that by de=
nying us the liberty of Stemming our Tobacco all the Trash and under
is Shipped off. It is become the Common trade through the Country
to buy up this under Tobacco as it is called but more properly Lugs
at half price and none is bad but the Planters can get Something
for it and when they lay out their Crops many will force the
Merchants to take two or three under hogsheads or Else they will not let
them have their best These things your Merchants can give you
a better Account of than I. Whereas if we are allowd to Stem
our under Tobacco we Should Seperate the good and heave the Trash
away and this Stemmed Tobacco would be as valuable nay more
than the best leaf which we know from long Experience. And we
cannot think it would hurt the King in his Customs. Stemmed

-3 -

Tobacco must be Comsumed in the nation and pay the duty. but this
rubbish Stuff as it is now managed must be either Clandestinely
run or Else Sent abroad either way the King has no Custom, And
the Market prodigious depressed as well to the damage of the Fair
trader as well as planter, And What Should hinder if the King
is no loser and if the Commodity would be much betterd to the
Merchants as we think is very demonstrable but that we may
reasonably promise our Selves Success inthis undertaking.
You make a Considerable figure in Glasgow where the greatest
part of the Tobacco in North Britain centers, I thought it not
amiss to give you this Short Entertainment about this affair
I could name you Several of your Merchants here that tells us
you will readily and Strenuously add your Endeavours to
take of this prohibition, I am

              Sir --
                  Your very humble Servant

per Denton

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                             To be Added to Mr. Starks Letter of the 30th: May

                                                            Rappahannock July 9th: 1728

      The above is a Copy This Accompanys Captain Bowman
and brings you a bill of Lading for 29 hogsheads of Tobacco another is ready
for him but he cannot take it in, I have a pretty deal of Tobacco on
my hands yet to come home and prize where I Shall get it freighted
I dont yet know believe I Shall Choose rather Glasgow than any other Port I
have often Complained to you of these lag Sales and upon very good
reason for they always prove the worst now you Say if I would
have Quick returns I must give orders to you to Sell at the Mast , this
will Entirely defeat me of any profit for my money. I am for tak=
ing that way that will return me the most but that I must leave
to your Judgement who up are upon the Spot and yet after all I must press
you to make up your Accots: as quick as you can that I may know
my Doom Your have been very large in making up your Accot: of the
James river Tobacco there is some more coming to you from thence
both of my own and Mr. Burwells Concern it is your mistake to call
it Madam Burwells the most of this is Tobacco which we call
under Tobacco Therefore if you dispose of it at the Mast it may perhaps
be the best way Your Country men and the Outport Merchants
have bought up this Tobacco all over Virginia and have given 2 pence
a pound in their Stores for it I will hope this Tobacco will rise pretty
well and return us a tolerable price,

      Captain Gamell Sent ashore my Pack of Goods
in another Ship was bound hither Dunlop Master and with it
a hamper of Claret I refused to take it telling him it did not
belong to me I know nothing of it he assured me Gamell told him
it was for me, upon which I was free with it proved good wine

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and very Opportunely come for our Governor Soon after made me a
Visit which cost me a good deal of it Since I have understood by
Mr. Gay the wine belonged to Colonel Epps of James river, I Suppose it was
of your Shipping all that I can Say is you must Charged [sic ] my Accot
with it and give Epps Credit or Send him the wine again as you
See fit,

     The Burgundy & Champagne you Sent me from
Dublin Some years ago has kept so well that I think it is as
good now as when it first came I desire you will Send me 4 dozen
of each Sort if you have Opportunity and from the Same person
you bought that by whose Extraordinary care in the well bottling
Corking and the well packing I reckon has been a great means
to keep it so well I would also have you Send me 6 or 8 dozen of
right good Claret I Shall Conclude at present

herein is a bill of Lading for 12 hogshead belonging to Colonel Page


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. The letter draft has suffered some damage to its margins, especially on the right side of the first page, and has some textual damage.

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] John Stark was a prominent Glasgow merchant in the sugar trade. He served as as baillie and provost (mayor) from 1725-1727. ( John M'ure. The History of Glasgow. [Glasgow: D. Macvean and J. Wyllie & Co., 1830] pp. 227-228 as seen on Google books; and "Provosts of Glasgow" at "Welcome to Glasgow" . )

[2] Carter noted in his diary January 19, 1727, the arrival of the Mazareen at his house and a visit from her captain, Richard Kelsick, four days earlier.

[3] The Martha was commanded by a Captain Dunlop and owned by Richard Oswald & Company; see Carter to Richard Oswald & Company August 11, 1729, and Carter to Oswald, July 27,1731 .

[4] Captain Gamell has not been identified.

[5] Chesapeake Bay

[6] Because English law allowed an English purchaser of imported tobacco to apply for rebates of the impost, or duty, if the tobacco was exported from the country, Carter expected a discount on the charges on his tobacco sold to English merchants for export.

[7] Captain Samuel Bowman commanded the Lucia. Carter mentioned this vessel in his diary in June 1724, and again on March 4, 1726, when he wrote that she "came in had 20 Weeks Passage."

[8] A bill of exchange is a kind of check or promissory note without interest. It is used primarily in international trade, and is a written order by one person to pay another a specific sum on a specific date sometime in the future. If the bill of exchange is drawn on a bank, it is called a bank draft. If it is drawn on another party, it is called a trade draft. Sometimes a bill of exchange will simply be called a draft, but whereas a draft is always negotiable (transferable by endorsement), this is not necessarily true of a bill of exchange. ( "Dictionary of Financial Scam Terms," 8/22/2005 )

[9] Parliament had passed the act forbidding the importation of stemmed tobacco in 1722. John Randolph would not leave for England until 1729; 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.] p. 116. )

10[] King George II (1683-1760) reigned from 1727 until 1760. ("The Royal English Monarchy." 11/20/03)

[11] England

[12] Out port means "a port outside a particular place; any port other than the main port of a country, etc.; spec[ically]. a British port other than London." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online )

[13] "It is become the practice of all the Consigners almost in Virginia to tye up all their Ground Leaves that has any part of the leaf good and this wears the Name of under Tobbo. . . , " and "The lowest grade [of tobacco] was known as lugs as early as 1686. . . ." ( Carter to Perry , May 25, 1728, and 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." )

[14] The John & Betty was a Liverpool ship owned by merchant John Pemberton; she often carried slaves into the colony. In 1726 the captain was John Gale, and in the next year, she was commanded by a Captain William Denton. The ship would be lost in 1729. (Wright. Letters of Robert Carter. . . . p. 18, n. 23 ; Carter to P3mberton , December 18, 1727; Carter to Pemberton, April 15, 1730; and Carter to William Dawkins, June 28, July 26, and August 22, 1727, for Denton's first name. )

[15] A bill of lading is "an official detailed receipt given by the master of a merchant vessel to the person consigning the goods, by which he makes himself responsible for their safe delivery to the consignee. This document, being the legal proof of ownership of the goods, is often deposited with a creditor as security for money advanced." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[16] To sell at the mast means a sale on board a ship where the "ship's mainmast [w]as the usual place of assembly for a court hearing, public sale, etc., on board ship. . . . " ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. ).

[17] Claret is "a name" that was "originally given . . . to wines of yellowish or light red colour, as distinguished alike from 'red wine' and 'white wine'; the contrast with the former ceased about 1600, and it was apparently then used for red wines generally, in which sense it is still. . . . " ( Oxford English Dictionary Online )

This text, originally posted in 2004, was revised November 8, 2014, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.