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 Richard Oswald and Company, July 27 and August 7, 1731

     Robert Carter writes to Glasgow mechants Richard Oswald and Company, July 27 and August 7, 1731, to: dispute the firm's method of computing commissions; report a shipment of tobacco on board their ship the Martha; and to order goods that he enumerates. On August 7, 1731, he sends a copy of the letter of July 27, 1731, and orders claret.

Letter from Robert Carter to Richard Oswald and Company, July 27 and August 7, 1731

-1 -

Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]

July 27. 1731

Mr. Rich'd Oswald & Com


     On the 9th. Instant I own the receipt of your
letter and Accot of Sales and advised I had drawn on you for £15 pay
able to Colo George Braxton

     Since Mr Cheap hath been at my house and I have
discoursd him plentifully about the manner of yr. Making up your Accot
Your raising your Commission upon the long Customs in my thoughts is not
right the first 1 d. indeed by act of Parliament is to be paid Down but the
rest of the Duty which is never paid by the mercht that sells to Export I think
we ought not to be Charg'd with commission upon further than the Charge of
the bond that the mercht gives for it. I Produc'd to Mr. Cheap Several Accots
from other Merchts where the long dutys were not Carry'd to the Credit side
[Mr.] Cheap coming home I shall refer mySelf to the discourse I had
[with him] upon this Subject.

-2 -

     I have now shipt in your ship the Martha Capt Dunlop
41 hogsheads of tobacco 12 of them are markt for the Secretary my Son 29 belong
to myself one of them is markt [tobacco mark] these 29 you'l Please to Accot to
me for. If any credit be is to be given to report Our tobacco in These
parts this year is much better than the James River tobacco this tobacco of mine
hath been all brought home and priz'd at my own house and you must
allow me to tell you is both good and well handled. You made a quick sale
for me last year and I desire you to do the same

     A small Parcel of goods I would have yo to send me and
are as follows 12 dozo. Large Plad hose 5 dozo. Of Hair Coverlits 30 Ells of of yr.
Fine holland and 30 Ells Coarser do. As much fine damask as will make 2 table
Cloths & 2 dozo Napkins As much Coarse Huccaback as will make
three table cloths and 4 dozo Napkins these goods I shall not pretend
to direct any Particular ship to bring them if you take Care to order them to be
landed at my house I shall not Care into what river they come to come in at I am

                  Your most Humble Servant

{Sent by the Secretary}
{to James River}

copy Per Bowman

My son will take care to remit you bills of lading for my tobacco.

Gentlemen. Augst. 7. 1731

     The above is a Copy I have little to add to it only to desire
if my tobacco sells tollerably You will send me a groce of choice strong
Claret which Mr. Cheap tells me you have always the opportunity of doing
having large dealings in Wine. I am

              Gentlemen as above


Source copy consulted: Letter book, 1731 July 9-1732 July 13 , Robert Carter Papers (acc. no. 3807), Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of 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] Richard Oswald (1687-1766) was a prominent Glasgow merchant who was "involved in West Indies and Madeira trade as well as tobacco importation." In partnership with his brother Alexander, the firm owned three ships (the Martha, the Amity, and the Speedwell ) of the 41 sailing from Glasgow in 1735. ( Devine, T.M. The Tobacco Lords: A Study of the Tobacco Merchants of Glasgow and their Trading Activites c. 1740-90. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers Ltd. p. 183; and "The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry: LXXXVII: Scotstoun." . 8/2/2005, 10/23/2015.)

[2] This may have been Patrick Cheap, a merchant from Urbanna in Middlesex County. (Rutman and Rutman, A Place in Time: Middlesex. . . . p. 247. )

[3] To prize is "to compress (cured tobacco) in a hogshead or box." There is a good description of the process on pages 100-101 in Middleton's Tobacco Coast. ( Oxford English Dictionary Online . Oxford University Press; and Arthur Pierce Middleton. Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of the Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Era. [Newport News, VA: Mariners' Museum, 1953]. )

[4] Ell is a measure defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as "a measure of length varying in different countries. The English ell = 45 in[ches]."

[5] Holland is a "fine linen cloth first inported from Holland; after the 18th century the name was applied to any fine linen." ( "Glossary of Textile Terms." citing An Elegant Art: Fashion & Fantasy In The Eighteenth Century: Los Angeles County Museum Of Art Collection Of Costumes And Textiles . (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York: H.N. Abrams, c1983). )

[6] Damask is a "silk, wool, or linen reversible fabric richly figured with designs; ground and pattern distinguished by contrasting luster. ( "Glossary of Textile Terms." citing An Elegant Art: Fashion & Fantasy In The Eighteenth Century: Los Angeles County Museum Of Art Collection Of Costumes And Textiles . (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York: H.N. Abrams, c1983). )

[7] Huckabuck is "a stout linen fabric with the weft threads thrown up to form a rough surface; used especially for towels." ( "Of Silk, Cotton, Linen and Wool." Boston Newsletter. 18th Century Trade Terms from The Beekman Mercantile Paper 1746-1799 )

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

[9] 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. )

10[] 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 2006, was revised February 16, 2016, to add footnotes and strengthen the modern language version text.