Robert King Carter's Correspondence and Diary

   A Collection Transcribed
        and Digitized
   by Edmund Berkeley, Jr.

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Letter from Robert Carter to Thomas, Lord Fairfax, June 24, 1729

     Robert Carter writes to Thomas, Lord Fairfax, June 24, 1729, to inform the proprietor of the Northern Neck that he does wish to renew the lease of the proprietary, of the attacks being made on it by John Grymes and others in the colony, and to send him documents (not present) concerning the bounds of the holdings. He requests explicit instructions as to Fairfax's wishes as to the actions he should take in resisting the attacks. He reports the interest in iron and copper mining within the proprietary.

Letter from Robert Carter to Thomas, Lord Fairfax, June 24, 1729

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Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]     
June 24th, 1729

To the Rt Honble.
the Lord Fairfax

My Lord

     I receiv'd a letter from Alderman Perry of Dec: date acqua=
inting me that your Lordship hath been with him to let him know how you should
want your rent which now intirely belongs to yourself Colo Cages time being expired
In the month after and that he should accordingly pay it and he further tells me
your lordship wanted to know whether I should be willing to [. . .] ing [the] leas after the
old one was Expired In answer I Acquainted him the leas would be out in Sep 1731
that I was grown old and infirm and that we were fallen into such wretched times
by the Poor Price of Tobo in which your Lordships rents are always Paid when that
Commodity is worth little that I did not know what to say to it However in regard I had
so long thro so great a Part of my life servd in your Affairs both in your Ancestors
and in your Own time I adventured to give him instructions to take a new leas out from
yr Lordship and that so soon as your lordship shall pleas to Transact it of this
I suppose you have been Acquainted by this time

     I also told him it was some questions with me whether it would
be Proper for me to have a new Power from yr lordship only and whether it is
necessary I alter the stile of the grants of your lands for Hitherto I have gran
ted them in the names of your Lordship and Colo Cage as devisee in trust of my
lady Fairfax's Will that it was my thoughts however not withstanding your
Lordship had the Intire right to the profits of the Estate yet the trust in Colo
Cage is still subscribing and that the Grant should go on In the same stile but in
this I must submit to better judgements

     I also Acquainted Alderman Perry that upon the Crowns
having granted several Pattents for land According to the best information
I can get within the Plain boundaries of the Grant and Several more Pattents
are daily labouring after I had Entered a Caveat against the Passing any
more Pattents within these bounds desiring Mr. Alderman to give your Lordship
a full Accot of this matter as I doubt not he hath already or will soon do

     Since which we have had a hearing before the Govr &
Council and here with I send yr Lordship copys of all the Papers relating thereto
as also Copys of some transactions in former Governours times relating to yr
Lordships Grant

     These Papers by a serious Perusal will fully inform
your Lordship of the yeason [sic ] I go upon in Opposing these
Pattents this little Fork as it is Called where several Pattents

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by the Crown All manner of Persons that Ever I have talked with that [have]
any knowledge of the Place are clear in Affirming that [it] lyes within yr L [ord]
ships Express boundary on that side and as to the boundary on the Other si [de]
to the Northwards the great river of Potomack as you will be Informed [from]
some of this Papers forks above the Present Inhabitants the Southern b [ranch]
is called Chenandoah by the Indians and the main stream of the River
keeps away to the westward and wears the Indian name of Cohonkocut as t [here]
being no Comparison between the largeness of Chenandoah and Cononko [cut]
the Maryland Grant is bounded to the Southward by Cohonkocut and there [are]
many inhabitants seated of [sic ] maryland side a great way beyond Chenand [oah]
Even Above branches that issue out of Cohonkocut as above Chenandoah No [w if]
Cohonkocut is the Southern boundary to the Maryland grant why it should
be Also the Northern boundary to your Lordships grand is beyond my ca [paci]
ty to find an Argument for And yet our Receivr General declares it as hi [s]
Opinion that the lands above Chenandoah are clearly the Kings and [ . . . ]
to be granted as such and that my laying Claim in your lordships behalf [. . .]
these lands that are clearly within the Express words of your grant is such
presumption that will Endanger the grant itself Nay I have been willing
that the Receivr General should say At this Governours table after the che [ck]
of this Caveat that he beleiv'd the Proprietors would hardly venture a lawsui [t]
with his majesty and that it was his Opinion the Crown would compell t [hem]
to sell the grant and vest it in the Crown Again with such Eallation do [es]
our Receivr General treat your lordships Estates which are granted under
the kings broad Seal and have been allowed and Confirmd by such a su [cc]
ession of Crowned heads

     Indeed all our Governours in the time of my Agency h [as]
treated the Grant and me too with a great deal of Civility and Calm respe [ct]
Particularly our Present Governour whose business it chiefly is to take [. . . ]
of Asserting the kings boundary to his lands whose Calm and tempera [te]
carriadges both in this and all other matters hath been very Exemplar [y]

     I must Confess if the Receivr General can by the strength of
his interest compass bringing your Lordships grant Again into the
hands of the Crown he will gain a Considerable Perquisite to the [pro]
fits of his Place (As it will be to Mr Auditor Blair's the Commiss [ary's]
kinsman) If he can but keep himself fixed in that also He holds [the]
Place by the favour of Mr Horace Wallpool and has his commission
[. . .] Upon this bottom I fancy he builds his hopes of [. . .]
[. . .]

      [. . .] As for these lands in the little Fork and [. . .]
                                                             Chenan [doah]

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too will never return much Profit to me in my time but the lands above
Chenandoah are very large and Extensive and said to be wonderfully good
and may in time be a vast Addition to your lordships Estate

     Thus my lord I have laid these matter fully before your
Lordship and have though it my duty under the trust I am not to let
your Lordships Estate be taken Away without any Opposition And I
shall begg yr lordship to be very Plain in your directions to me whether
I shall persist in Prosecuting this Affair to settlement of your Lordships
boundarys or if your lordship is pleased to be satisfyed in being confin'd
to Chenandoah to the Westward and to loos the little Fork to the Southward
as well as the great fork which the Crown hath already taken Possession of
altho I never yet could see any reason for it Be pleas'd to let me have your instru
ctions upon this whole matter to be my guide for the future

     In the late controversy I had with Colo Drysdale our then govr
it Appear'd that both your lordship and Colo Cage relyed Chiefly Upon Alder-
man Perry to Personate that Affair for you before their Lordships the bo=
ard of Trade
therefore I have thought it Proper to send him Copys of All the
Papers that I now send to your lordship that he may be fully Apprized of this
Controversy relating to the boundarys and may be Prepared to make Appli-
cation where he shall think it necessary for your lordships Service and interest
beleiving your Lordship will still think it necessary to disire his Assistance

     There is one thing more I shall take the liberty to mention to your
Lordship In these late years since the Backwoods have come to be seated thick
with inhabitants abundance of Peoples are making daily searches after mines
in the mountainous barren Lands tis the Current Opinion that there are very
rich Ores in some of these mountains if any could be so lucky to find them out
There are now within your lordships grant Two Iron furnaces Erected that
are brought to Pretty good Perfections and there is Plenty of Iron Ore I believe
as good as in the world the two Furnaces belong the one to Bristol the other to
London There are two Places in the back woods also that have some [veins?]
of Copper ore that are at a great distance from water Carriadge and will be
Attended with very great charges to do any thing with them There is a Compa[ny]
of Bristol Merchts that have sent in men skilld in those Affairs to search
into the bowels of the Earth after this Copper Ore but some of them make hea:
vy Complaints to me that the terms of your Lordships Grants your lands [ . . . ]
are too hard and discouraging having An Exception of All royal mines
and a full third of All lead Copper Tin Coals Iron &c: I tell these go [ . . . ]
men I follow the steps of my Predecessors they made the limit a [ . . . ] be [fore]
my time I dare not make any Alteration without Particular [. . .]

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but to sooth them a little I told [them] I would try the matter before your Lord [ship]
Upon the great discouragment they say there is by the large [. . . ] rvations
grant And the Hazards they shall un[omission in text] as well as the great charge they [will]
be at And at last it may be miss of finding any veins of Ore that may be worth
while they threaten to discontinue their Searches

     I never yet Could find any directions from the Proprietors [of]
the termes respecting the Ores the Grants should be made upon Upon [sic ] the p [rior?]
Exerting of the Northern Neck Grant People were very Careless what was writ [ten]
they were Underrespecting mines having in those times very little or no Exp [ecta]
tion of finding What these Adventurers will do a deal of time and a g [reat]
deal of Charge must be spent before the Event will be seen

     I find in Colo Ludwells book of grants the Exceptions to m [ines]
were much more favourable to the takers up of Land then they were made [by?]
Colo Fitshughs & Capt Brent who succeeded to Colo Ludwell in the Agency th [e]
limitations I have followed Ever since and never till of late took notice [of]
the difference betwen Ludwells grants And Fitzhugh's

     Herein I send yr lordship the terms of Colo Ludwells Gran [t]
how this difference came to be made between these Grants Agents I can [not]
tell I can hardly think Fitzhugh had any new instructions from the P [roprs]
now whether your lordship will think fit to Encourage the taking up of y [our]
Barren mountainous lands which have little or no temptation on the Surf [ace]
of them to give me orders to make a relaxation in respect to the benefit of fron [tier?]
mines and ores I shall submit to yr determination I cannot but think Colo
Ludwell who was the first that Entered on the Proprietors business set out w [ith]
full and plain instruction from the Proprietors and strictly Borrowed them i [n]
the forming his grants however this Alteration came to be made afterward

     So many various Subjects to be spoken Clearly to hath necessaril [y]
drawn this letter into An Uncommon length for which I hope yr Lordships

              My Lord
                your Lordships
                  Most Obedient
                    Most Obliged &
                      Most Humble Servt
                        ROBERT CARTER


Source copy consulted: Source copy consulted: Add. Mss. 30306, f.91-f.92v., British Library, London, from the microfilms of the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. This is the recipient's copy signed by Carter as is indicated by the used of bold italics. It has been bound into a book whose tight margins have obscured some words in the gutter from the camera.

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 persons abroad. The county and colony have been added for clarity.

[1] Catherine Culpeper, widow of the fifth Lord Fairfax (d. 1710); from her father, the 2nd Lord Culpeper, she had inherited about 1689 his five-sixths interest in the Northern Neck Proprietary in Virginia. Lord Fairfax consulted Micajah Perry about the affairs of the Propietary, and Perry had recommended Robert Carter to be the Virginia agent in 1702. He held the post until 1710 when Lady Fairfax transferred the agency to Edmund Jenings with Thomas Lee as the deputy agent. When she died in 1719, she bequeathed her Virginia property to her son Tom, but she made Wiliam Cage and Edward Filmer, trustees of the proprietary. Filmer soon died, and Cage, a kinsman of the 6th Lord Fairfax, became the sole trustee. From his grandmother, Margaret Lady Culpeper, the 6th Lord Fairfax inherited the other one-sixth of the Proprietary. Cage consulted Perry, and Robert Carter was again made agent in 1721, holding the post until his death ten years later. (For sources, see those listed at the end of the discussion of the Proprietary on the home page.)

[2] A caveat is a "process in court (originally in ecclesiastical courts) to suspend proceedings; a notice given by some party to the proper officer not to take a certain step until the party giving the notice has been heard in opposition." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[3] "The governor's Council, also known as the Council of State or simply the Council, consisted of about a dozen of colonial Virginia's wealthiest and most prominent men. Beginning in the 1630s the Crown appointed Council members. . . . Crown appointments were lifetime appointments. From 1625, when Virginia became a royal colony, until the outbreak of the American Revolution (1775-1783), the Council members advised the royal governor or his deputy, the lieutenant governor, on all executive matters. The Council and the governor together constituted the highest court in the colony, known initially as the Quarter Court and later as the General Court. The Council members also served as members of the General Assembly; from the first meeting of the assembly in 1619 until 1643 the governor, Council members, and burgesses all met in unicameral session. After 1643 the Council members met separately as the upper House of the General Assembly." ("The Governor's Council" in Encyclopedia Virginia )

[4] The Fry-Jefferson map shows the Little Fork as a tributary of the Hedgman (now the Rappahannock) River. It lies in what is probably Culpeper County today, not far from the Blue Ridge.

[5] "The receiver-generalship was a royal appointment" and the official was required to give bond both to the lord of the treasury and to the governor. "Those who filled the office of receiver-general were practially all councillors. . . . The duties of the receiver-general included the receiving of the quit-rents, the revenue arising from the export duty of two shillings per hogshead on tobacco, the one penny per pound on tobacco exported from Virginia . . . the port duty, which was the revenue arising from the fifteen pence per ton on all vessels arriving in the colony, and all funds of the colony not received by the treasurer. . . . He paid out of the revenue . . . the salaries of the officers of the colony, also those of the auditor-general of the colonies and the solicitor of Virginia affairs, both of whom lived in England. All the public expenses of the colony, except, of course, those paid out of the funds held by the treasurer, were paid out of the funds received in his office. . . . He of course reported to the lords of the treasury all payments made on the order of the governor. The accounts of the revenues and the reports of disbursements forwarded to the lords of the treasury were certified to by the auditor and the governor, and sent by the governor." (Percy Scott Flippin. The Financial Administration of the Colony of Virginia [Johns Hopkins Press, 1915.] 41-42.)

[6] See the discussion of the Northern Neck proprietary on this project's home page.

[7] Perquisities are "any casual profit, fee, remuneration, etc., attached to an office or position in addition to the normal salary or revenue." ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press. )

[8] John Blair (1687-1771), born in Scotland before coming to Virginia with his father in the 1690s, was a nephew of Commissary James Blair and a merchant in Williamsburg. He was a justice of York County and held a variety of government posts including: deputy auditor general, 1728-71; member of the House of Burgesses, 1734-41; clerk of the council, 1741-43; and member of the council 1745-1770. As senior member of the Council, he was was acting governor of Virginia on a number of occasions between 1758-68. (John C. Van Horne. "John Blair ca. 1687-1771" in Kneebone, Bearsss, et al. , Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Vol. 1, pp. 543-544 ; and "Diary of John Blair." William And Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine. 7[Jan1899]133-53.) )

[9] Horace Walpole (1678-1757) was the younger brother of Robert Walpole, the chief minister of England. Horace held the posts of "auditor general and surveyor general of the royal revenue in the colonies" as well as numerous diplomatic posts. (Billings. et al. Colonial Virginia: A History. See also the extensive article on Walpole by Philip Woodfine in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. )

[10] 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. )

[11] William Fitzhugh (1755-1701), lawyer, emigrated from England, married, and settled at "Eagle's Nest" in Stafford County by 1674 where he became burgess and later, justice and militia officer. He became, with George Brent, agent for the proprietors in 1693 and held the office until his death. (Davis, William Fitzhugh. . . . pp. 3-55. )

[12] George Brent (d. 1699) of "Woodstock," Stafford County, prominent lawyer and attorney general of the colony after 1684. He inherited from his grandfather the family's claim to a portion of the Brent Town grant. He and his friend and law partner, William Fiitzhugh, became the Virginia agents of the Northern Neck proprietary in 1693. (Harrison. Landmarks. . . . p. 178 ff.; and Davis, William Fitzhugh. . . . pp. 41, 93. )

This text, originally posted in 2005, was revised April 3, 2015, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.