While partners of the Dismal Swamp Company tried to extend their holdings into North Carolina and Samuel Gist hoped to ship slaves from Africa to Virginia, Sir George Colebrooke set out to corner the world market in hemp. The dapper little baronet had inherited a fortune. Married to a rich heiress with plantations in Antigua, he spent lavishly and invested boldly. He was a leading director of the East India Company, a banker in Dublin and London, a builder of the new Stock Exchange, and a partner of Samuel Wharton and Thomas Walpole in their campaign for a grant of 20,000,000 acres in the Ohio Valley. His capital was estimated at £400,000. By 1771 he had contracts to buy so much hemp in Russia and elsewhere that he hoped to dictate the price for naval and commercial ropewalks.
The time had come for the fruition of the elder William Byrd’s scheme to drain the Dismal Swamp and grow thousands of acres of hemp. Elizabeth Harris, mother of Britain’s envoy to Berlin, wrote to her son about Sir George’s contracts: “if he should be ordered to be hanged, no one will have hemp enough to find him a halter.” Hemp from the swamp, as Byrd had imagined it, could now have gone either to Sir George or to rival “Combinations” soon formed among other buyers angry with his “rapacious and monopolizing Spirit,” who sought hemp not under his control. But the Dismal Swamp Company did not have any to sell. The moment passed. Sir George’s corner collapsed. Nothing loth, he set out to corner the world market in alum. In two years of trading commodities he lost £190,000.
Anthony Bacon, with more feasible ambitions, enlarged his enterprises, winning more contracts from the government. His sloop Providence plied between London and the Senegal River, laden with supplies for soldiers. By 1770 his partner, Gilbert Francklyn, had put four hundred slaves to work for commissioners, governors, and surveyors in the formerly French islands of the West Indies. Their partners, John Durand in London and Anthony Richardson in Grenada, arranged shipments of food to the islands. Some of the hired slaves were “very ill used.” Those working under contract died at a greater rate than slaves on a plantation.
Francklyn left Antigua for London late in 1770. Within a few weeks of his arrival the Board of Trade put him on the Council of Tobago, but he did not return to the West Indies until 1774. He and Bacon, members of the Company of Merchants Trading to Africa, joined a protest against the special arrangements among the London committeemen, the firm Ross & Mill, and the governors of forts on the Gold Coast. Bacon and other merchants appeared before the Board of Trade to be told that no action would be taken against the committeemen. Unlike John Shoolbred, who became an insider, Bacon persisted in his objections for years. But he could not stop Shoolbred’s rise to a dominant place in the Company of Merchants.
Since 1768, Anthony Bacon and John Durand had held a contract to supply masts from North America for Royal Navy vessels. They sought a privilege conceded to their predecessors: permission to sell masts to the East India Company. In other ways they departed from previous practice. Their agents felled white pines along the Kennebec River on land claimed by proprietors of the Kennebec Purchase. The proprietors expected payment for these pines, as in the past. Bacon’s agent replied that such an expense “would turn out too dear to the present Contractor.” Claiming that the trees grew “in the King’s Woods,” Bacon’s men cut them down, “wholly regardless of the Damage” to soil and undergrowth. Along the way, they took many trees unsuitable for masts, converting them to lumber.
Bacon did not have everything his own way along the coast of Maine. Lumbermen and makers of shingles and clapboards felled white pines suitable for masts. They damaged hundreds of others by scoring to see whether a tree would split free. Bacon had learned in Wales, in Canada, in Africa, in the West Indies—he and his partners in the Dismal Swamp Company had seen in Virginia and North Carolina—that a promising scheme attracted rivals and enemies. He did not rest. He must find new ventures and broaden old ones.
Samuel Gist made himself more infamous among Virginians in June 1771. He led a group of London merchants in persuading the Board of Trade to advise the king to disallow a popular Virginia law. The law looked innocent and simple. It confined the jurisdiction of the Court of Hustings in Williamsburg to suits arising within the city limits. This court previously had exercised an unlimited jurisdiction over suits in equity and in common law arising anywhere in the colony. Many people disliked the court because, apart from York County Court, it was the only one in the colony willing to hear and decide cases promptly. Creditors resorted to it for judgments against tardy debtors. Not surprisingly, Gist and other merchants objected to losing the one recourse at law which did not delay suits for three years.
The merchants appeared before the Board of Trade on June 14, 1771, and persuasively argued that the Court of Hustings ought to retain its broad jurisdiction. After the Crown disallowed the law, Arthur Lee, writing as “Junius Americanus,” published an open letter to the Earl of Hillsborough. He belittled opponents of the rejected law, calling Gist “a very insignificant merchant.” He censured Hillsborough for overruling Virginians’ “general complaint” against the court in Williamsburg. To raise revenue in America and to reduce colonists to bondage, the government was willing to poison justice. Gist’s success with the Board of Trade showed, Lee warned, that “the colonies are to feel not only the hand of oppression, but the finger of indignity and insult.”
The Virginia Gazette reprinted Lee’s letter; Gist had his mind on other things. Artisans were fitting out his captured French smuggler, transforming her into the Hope for her voyage to the Gold Coast. A week before she sailed, Gist and his colleagues at Lloyd’s set up their fund for a new home for marine insurance, entrusting it to an elected committee charged with finding or building convenient rooms.
To William Nelson the doings of Samuel Gist, “a little Gentleman, that walks the Change,” meant only minor irritation. Nelson enjoyed himself as acting governor of Virginia. He used Botetourt’s six white horses to run back and forth between Williamsburg and York Town. He retained Botetourt’s coachman and gardener. He said that he would be guided in office by a heart disposed to do right. Asking a London merchant to report on the man as soon as a new governor was chosen, Nelson did not wish to hasten that day. But, by the time Nelson wrote in December 1770, the day had come.
The government chose John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, thirty-eight years old, a man happiest outdoors. For the previous two months he had served as governor of New York. His main qualification was being the brother-in-law of the president of the Privy Council, Earl Gower. William Lee wrote from London: “his character here is by no means a respectable one.” New Yorkers already knew “Ld Dunmore’s Weaknesses,” which they reported to Virginians. William Nelson, never able to suppress a joke, replied to official notification of Dunmore’s appointment by professing to be “conscious that his Lordship’s abilities and disposition will restore the people nearer to that perfect State of happiness they experienced under his worthy predecessor, than can be expected from any thing I can do.”
The news reached Dunmore in New York on February 10, 1771. He refused to believe it. He had no desire to go to Virginia, “where there is little or no society.” He wrote to Nelson, saying he would try to remain governor of New York, and he wrote to the Earl of Hillsborough, asking to be allowed to do so. Nelson wished him success. As acting governor, Nelson collected a salary of £2,000 per year, with fees amounting to about £500. He welcomed a “longer Run in a pretty Good Pasture.” In Norfolk, William Aitchison also thought that Dunmore’s staying in New York would be wise. “I’m almost sure he will not be happy here,” Aitchison wrote; “they begin already to have false reports of him.”
In May court days in Williamsburg, the Dismal Swamp Company held a general meeting. Several members had failed to heed the company’s call in 1765 to provide another slave. They were assessed £7 per year. All members were assessed £100 in Virginia currency. They voted to use more than half this sum to buy Speaker Robinson’s share from his estate in order to increase each partner’s dividends as soon as profits began.
A few days later, Susanna Robinson was married to her second husband. At the same time, William Nelson’s son, Hugh, was married to Judith Page. Her grandparents were Mann Page, builder of the mansion at Rosewell, Judith Carter Page, the elder William Byrd, and Maria Byrd. William Nelson put Hugh to work in his store in York Town, watching to see whether he seemed “disposed to do Business properly.”
Amid court days and weddings, Williamsburg and the tidewater enjoyed beautiful spring weather and cloudless skies. West of Richmond, however, rain was falling continuously for ten days or more. Rivers in the tidewater, especially the Rappahannock, the James, and the Roanoke, rose. By Sunday morning, May 26, the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg was higher than anyone had ever seen; it continued to rise for the next twelve hours. The James rose at the rate of 16 inches per hour until it reached a depth of 40 feet above normal. A mass of brown water swept away houses, trees, livestock, crops, topsoil, and thousands of hogsheads of tobacco, leaving behind a layer of white sand. Floating debris sank some vessels; others helplessly fell downstream or stranded. Some people, carried off in their houses, drowned. The Roanoke River disgorged into Albemarle Sound logs, lumber, fence rails, corn stalks, and pieces of houses. Along the southern margin of the Dismal Swamp, “every thing in the marshes and low grounds is lost.” The water receded, revealing piles of tangled debris, within which animal carcasses rotted. Planters set the damage in Virginia at £2,000,000 sterling.
William Nelson summoned burgesses to Williamsburg to enact measures of relief. They authorized emission of £30,000 of treasury notes to compensate planters for lost tobacco stored in public warehouses. The burgesses congratulated Nelson on becoming acting governor, praising him for his “known Attachment to the true Interests of this Colony.”
As burgesses gathered, William Tryon left North Carolina, sailing to New York to become governor. The day the Earl of Dunmore dreaded had come. He offered to exchange governorships and let Tryon go to Virginia. Tryon declined. On Tuesday morning, July 9, he took the oath and received the great seal of the colony. After the new governor went in procession to the town hall, Dunmore spent the rest of the day drinking. He struck Tryon’s secretary, Colonel Edmund Fanning, and called Tryon “a Coward who had never seen Flanders”—that is, never served in combat. After nightfall Dunmore ran about the streets of Manhattan, assaulting people at random and saying drunkenly: “Damn Virginia—Did I ever seek it? Why is it forced upon me? I ask’d for New York—New York I took, & they have robbd me of it without my Consent.” He waited more than two months before leaving for Williamsburg.
On the last day of the special session burgesses voted unanimously to commission from a sculptor in England a marble statue of Lord Botetourt. All his successors ought to have before their eyes this example of the burgesses’ gratitude for a “prudent and wise Administration” and their admiration of his “public and social Virtues.” The Council and Acting Governor William Nelson quickly assented.
Lord Dunmore arrived at York Town late in September. William Nelson escorted him to Williamsburg on Wednesday, the 25th. Dunmore took the oath of office in the governor’s palace and spent the day with councillors and other gentlemen. In the evening the windows of Williamsburg were lit with candles.
Dunmore hoped to find one consolation in the governorship of Virginia: money, not just salary and fees but also land. He petitioned the king for a grant of 100,000 acres free of quitrents within the limits of the most recent Cherokee cession. He had no interest in restricting westward migration; he meant to profit from it. Remembering the blandishments with which Virginians had beguiled Francis Fauquier, the ministry forbade Dunmore to accept gifts from the General Assembly.
In his first months in Williamsburg, Lord Dunmore began to perceive that he was not the central figure in the workings of the colony’s government. He learned the importance of clerks of county courts, many of whom sat in the House of Burgesses. They owed their clerkships to Secretary Thomas Nelson. Though the secretary remained less conspicuous than his brother, the president of the Council, he had “more weight in the Colony” than anyone, including the governor. Dunmore found that he had no influence with county clerks; they were “indifferent” to him. He suggested to the Earl of Hillsborough that the Crown give the governor power to appoint county clerks. William Adair, sinecurist secretary by whose favor Thomas Nelson held office, was, Dunmore wrote, “a very old man.” Changes in his office could soon be made easily.
Thomas Nelson had served as resident secretary since Dunmore was eleven years old. He did not owe his long tenure to good luck. He knew that others coveted his office. William Byrd, hoping to rescue himself from debt, realized that Adair was “a very old gentleman & can not possibly live a great while longer.” He suggested that Sir Jeffery Amherst ask for the secretaryship, then take the deputy secretaryship from Nelson and give it to him. Rumor put Secretary Nelson’s income from fees at £1,000 to £1,400 sterling per year, after paying Adair his share. Byrd offered to keep only £500. Richard Henry Lee also knew that Adair was old; Lee had “an eye to the deputy Secretarys place.” He said he would give “a pretty good sum” to get the position from Adair’s successor, then remit all but £700 per year.
Lord Dunmore received from the Earl of Hillsborough a swift, abrupt reply, rejecting the idea of taking clerk appointments away from Nelson. Hillsborough did not need to be told that William Adair was old. Hillsborough wanted the secretaryship for his son, who was nineteen. He reminded the head of the ministry, Lord North, that he had taken good care of the office “by not yielding to any Sollicitations for Reversions.” Unfortunately for all of them—Dunmore, Byrd, Lee, and Hillsborough—William Adair was “very hearty.” The Earl of Dartmouth, after succeeding Hillsborough in office, wrote more sympathetically to Dunmore but gave him the same answer. Someone had planted in Dartmouth’s mind the suspicion that Dunmore, if given power to appoint county clerks, intended to sell these offices. This Dunmore denied, even as he asked the government to pay him more. Secretary Nelson kept his position, its power, and its income.
The Earl of Dunmore’s bearing and conduct differed sharply from Baron de Botetourt’s. The baron had met opponents unflinchingly but with smooth civility; the earl flew into a rage. Both held what Virginians called “Tory principles”; Botetourt’s had remained masked behind polished courtesies, while Dunmore boasted that he had studied under Lord Bute as a companion of the prince, now King George III. Dunmore’s notion of ingratiating himself with the people of Virginia was to get a large land grant, then sell parcels of it to settlers in a manner “advantageous to my family.” Members of the Dismal Swamp Company thought him ready to assist their plans across the mountains. To benefit from his administration they need not share his principles or enjoy his company.
George Washington and Thomas Walker worried about surveys in the spring of 1771. Washington hoped to complete the long-awaited grant to veterans of 1754, which Dunmore later approved. Walker wished to get the Loyal Company’s surveyors on the land along Virginia’s southern border newly ceded by the Cherokees. He impatiently waited through the summer while John Donelson, Alexander Cameron, and a group of Cherokees ran the new boundary between Indians and whites beyond the Cumberland Mountains and along the Kentucky River. Walker was eager to travel west, but he stayed at home while surveyors’ chains left some farms on the Cherokee side of the line. These unhappy settlers might start “some disturbance,” whereupon he would be suspected of encouraging them in order to get still more land from the Indians. Discretion kept him at Castle Hill until August: “some man had better steal an Horse than other look over the Hedge.” George Washington obtained from the college an appointment of his representative, William Crawford, as surveyor of the veterans’ grant. Crawford selected land for Washington while choosing tracts for the grant.
Balancing his books at the end of 1771, Washington wrote off his investment in the Mississippi Company as a total loss. He had no wish to do the same with his land along the Ohio River. He and Dr. Walker knew that migrants moved westward all the time, “settling on the choice spots,” expecting to get title by possession. Crawford expelled six men from one of Washington’s tracts in March 1772, but he could not promise to protect all of Washington’s property: “People Croud out in such numbers the Like was never Seen.”
Dr. Walker preferred to wait before driving settlers off the Loyal Company’s land. Doing so only to leave it vacant might discourage buyers. When the time came to eject squatters, their labor in creating farms would have added value to the land. After the Cherokee line was drawn, Walker got Dunmore and the Council to issue a proclamation ordering settlers “immediately to evacuate their Possessions.” But the squatters held out against the sheriffs. Others ignored the new line and moved into Cherokees’ land. Cherokee leaders complained that “they see the smoke of the Virginians from their doors.” Lord Dunmore explained to the Board of Trade: “the established Authority of any Government in America, and the Policy of Government at home, are both insufficient to restrain the Americans … wandering about seems engrafted in their nature; and it is a weakness incident to it, that they should for ever imagine the Lands further off, are still better than those upon which they are already settled.”
As the Hope arrived in Annamaboe Road, Virginia merchants in London heard of the death of one of their colleagues. On Tuesday, February 18, 1772, John Stewart died at his house in Black Raven Court on Tower Hill. For ten years he had held the government’s contract to convey felons sentenced to transportation to Virginia and Maryland from prisons in and near London. In the Chesapeake he sold convicts as servants for seven-year terms. The government paid him £5 for each felon transported; he sold them for £10. Skilled artisans went for as much as £25. By taking one hundred to two hundred felons in each vessel and returning with a cargo of tobacco, he contrived doubly profitable voyages.
Anthony Bacon moved swiftly. Less than a week after Stewart died—before his longtime partner, Duncan Campbell, submitted an application—Bacon got a contract from Lord North, though not a long-term, exclusive one. Other merchants competed afterward for each shipment of felons. Padlocked in iron collars, chained to one another in groups of six, convicts were taken from Newgate, Bridewell, and other prisons to the contractor’s vessel. In the ship their chains were locked to a board in a narrow hole. There they remained most of the time until sold in the Chesapeake. More than 14 percent of those in Duncan Campbell’s vessels died. So many merchants sought to take part that the government stopped paying £5 per head. Contractors bore expenses of the voyages in expectation of making their profit on sales.
Bacon did not succeed with Lord North after the death in July of John Roberts, sinecurist receiver general of quitrent revenues in Virginia. Bacon tried to get control of the choice of Roberts’s successor, an appointment he could in effect sell. But Lord North had a needy kinsman, his wife’s uncle, George James Williams. A wit-cracker in Horace Walpole’s circle, “Gilly” Williams required an income without official duties in order to live as a man of fashion. The post of receiver general for Virginia sustained him until Lord North advanced him to receiver general of excise. North assured Bacon that another vacancy would be his. If it occurred in Virginia, John Norton stood ready to “come on Terms with him for it.” Bacon promised him, “under the Rose,” a first chance.
Like everyone else who walked on ’Change in the summer of 1772, Samuel Gist had more pressing concerns than the fate of the Hope. Long after June 22, men in the City remembered “black Monday” as the worst day of a run on the banks. Throngs of depositors and holders of banknotes and bills of exchange demanded payment in gold and silver. No one knew who would suddenly stop meeting obligations. Perhaps every banking house would fail and “universal bankruptcy” follow. A man on ’Change might at any moment learn that he was ruined. Fear swept through the City. On the evening of Black Monday a merchant returned to his house and wrote: “distress seems picture’d in each Countenance on change.”
The panic had begun on the morning of June 10. All the night before, Alexander Fordyce of the banking firm Neale, James, Fordyce & Downe sat up, going through his books, juggling bills of exchange. He was getting ready to abscond. At six in the morning he left for France. Before noon a commission of bankruptcy was issued against him. Other failures followed. Merchants closed their doors and stopped payment. Rumors of suicides spread. The belief that “everything is gone” seemed to make itself come true. The Bank of England temporarily furnished hundreds of thousands of pounds to other banks to help them weather the panic. Its officers decided that they must also support Sir George Colebrooke. So much of his paper circulated on the Continent that his fall, they feared, would bring down Amsterdam. For a brief time Sir George nevertheless looked as if he might go under because the Bank of England could not issue notes fast enough to meet the run on him.
Even before Black Monday, Fordyce’s exposed position had been no secret in the City. He and other bankers, especially some in Scotland, long had run big risks. They had drawn bills on other banks in amounts totaling much more than their assets. As bills fell due, bankers covered them with other bills. A large portion of such men’s apparent capital consisted of these kited bills. One merchant called them “Immense quantitys of circulating paper, for which there is no real property.” No wonder Scottish firms and others could extend Virginia planters so much credit and buy their tobacco at 20 or 30 shillings per hundredweight. As long as demand for tobacco increased in Europe and prices held, everyone in the chain of credit flourished.
As Sir George Colebrooke did, Fordyce speculated heavily in stock, especially that of the East India Company. Trouble in India and a threat of war with Spain over the Falkland Islands in 1770 led to fluctuations in stocks from which Fordyce never recovered. To meet his obligations in the stock market, he used depositors’ money from his bank. He was only one conspicuous risk-taker in a network of overextended bankers and investors. Floating bills and East India stock were also popular on the Bourse in Amsterdam. There the House of Pieter Clifford & Sons helped Sir George make his contracts for the world’s alum, totaling more than £166,000. After the Bank of England turned more cautious in accepting bills of the most exposed banks, contraction followed. As soon as Fordyce fell and panic began, people spoke knowingly of the South Sea Bubble and “Fictitious & bad bills & notes.” At the end of the week begun on Black Monday, David Hume wrote: “It is thought, that Sir George Colebrooke must soon stop; and even the Bank of England is not entirely free from Suspicion.”
Anyone walking on ’Change felt himself surrounded by uncertainty. After mixing with unhappy merchants, brokers, and underwriters, Duncan Campbell wrote on Tuesday, June 23: “fear & doubts appear almost in every mans face—Brother dare hardly trust Brother.” Mistrust led to refusing to accept bills of exchange. Credit must contract, at least until one could tell who was sound and who would break. Six weeks after Black Monday, Samuel Gist told his representative in Virginia that bankruptcies had not ended. Merchants and brokers “Continue still to drop off, & many more are yet to go.” As did most men he knew, Gist expected to curtail credit and reduce the scope of his trade. With everyone else, he pressed for immediate remittances. He said that he would sell the Hope when she returned to London from Virginia. Prudently, when buying East India Company stock in April, he had confined himself to £500 face value, the minimum investment giving a stockholder a vote in the company’s General Court.
The Molly was one of the first vessels to arrive in the James River bearing the “dismall news” from London. Bankrupt merchants, closed banks, confusion—her captain had trouble finding enough money in coin to clear her out of port. In Suffolk, David Ross foresaw the panic’s consequences: “Cr will be vastly curtailed … the French agents will take the advantage of the peoples necessity & run down the Tobo. to a triffle.” Virginians, like men in the City, knew that they had been playing a dangerous game. Ever since the Association to reduce imports had failed, merchandise from Britain had almost fallen into their laps. New firms, aggressive competition, and low prices seemed to force them to buy more goods on easy credit. The Molly’s full cargo was a small part of more than £1,000,000 in imports to Virginia and Maryland during 1772. These strained even Virginians’ capacity for consumption, overwhelming the ability of many to pay.
Before Black Monday, Scottish merchants held out in an attempt to get the highest price for huge French purchases of tobacco. After June 22, they were happy to get 2⅓ pence per pound. Later the price fell as low as 2⅛ pence. By the end of the year prices in Virginia had fallen to 16s. 8d. per hundredweight. The great spring flood left many planters with short crops. Plantations unaffected by the flood would not derive the customary advantages from their position because Scottish storekeepers received from their home companies urgent instructions to contract their commitments and to send every possible remittance. Samuel Gist sought to collect his debts quickly, knowing that “the Scotch Factors … will push close for their Money & reduce their trade.” Planters who had adapted easily to higher tobacco prices and lower prices for goods behaved as if stunned by demands that they pay more, pay sooner, and receive less. The brunt of the panic’s effects did not fall on them, but they resented it. Debtors stayed away from merchants’ meetings in Williamsburg, the customary time to pay. British merchants and Virginia planters disagreed about who had been spoiled and who had been fleeced, but both felt distressed to see paper with their signatures on it come back to them so soon.
Men on ’Change received another shock on New Year’s Day, 1773. The Amsterdam mail brought news that Pieter Clifford & Sons had failed. Estimates of their obligations ranged from £700,000 to £1,000,000. The panic had spread to Europe, and many other firms went down. Two weeks later, a letter from Amsterdam, describing the collapse of credit, concluded: “It is now become a general Saying here, ‘That nothing but Hope remains to Mankind.’ ” For three days the Royal Exchange held no gatherings of merchants. More failures in London followed. Newspapers later reported that, in the year after Black Monday, “120 considerable Merchants, Bankers, and Traders, have been absolutely ruined.” In 1772, more than half of all bankruptcies in Britain occurred in London. In 1773, the number of bankruptcies rose to 623, an increase of 225 from the previous year. Rumor said that William James, second partner of Neale, James, Fordyce & Downe, frequented the office where the bank’s creditors received partial payments from its assets and begged each one to let him have twopence of every pound.
Having driven up the price of alum, Sir George Colebrooke’s effort to corner the world market collapsed. He never had acquired a lock on the supply. Prices fell, and he could not be kept afloat. Newspaper writers gloated that Lord North had abandoned the “little commerce-jobbing Baronet.” Trustees took control of his firm; his real and personal property was sold at auction. Two days after Sir George stopped payment, Alexander Fordyce’s former partner, Henry Neale, died. Obituaries gave the cause of the banker’s death as “a broken Heart.”
Among those overtaken by the crisis of January 1773 was James Russell, tobacco merchant in London. He stopped payment, called in his creditors, and opened his books. He owed more than £50,000, but more than £100,000 was owed to him. A few weeks later Russell wrote to a Maryland merchant: “as you justly observe there were too many goods sent to Ammerica last year.” His creditors chose trustees to oversee his transactions. On Saturday morning, April 17, without saying good-bye to his friends, he sailed for the Chesapeake. At the age of sixty-five, he spent the summer calling on his debtors in Virginia and Maryland, then returned to London. The thought of such a voyage upset Samuel Gist: “tis horrid indeed that a man at his time of Life & worth near £40,000 shd. be obliged to go abroad to Collect his Debts.”
Two months after Sir George Colebrooke stopped payment, Samuel Foote, actor and playwright, announced that he was preparing “a new piece for the light entertainment of the Summer.” The Bankrupt opened at the Haymarket Theatre on July 21. Much of the villainy in it, as well as its laughs, comes from two lawyers, Resource and Pillage. They advise any nearly ruined client on ways to raise money: for example, by getting others to advance cash for a “scheme of his, to monopolize sprats and potatoes.” Such a design would surely find investors: “The people of this country are always ready to bite at a bubble.” Foote’s hero, Sir Robert Riscounter, nobly refuses to run up even bigger debts before declaring bankruptcy, though Resource tries to persuade him to do so, saying: “consider you are a knight, and your dignity demands you should fail for a capital sum.” But Sir Robert dismisses the lawyers and sententiously utters the moral of the story: “Mutual confidence is the very cement of commerce. That weaken’d, the whole structure must fall to the ground.”
The structure did not fall in 1772 and 1773. Despite speculators’ and risk-takers’ bankruptcies, European exchanges were not seriously threatened. Confidence and credit revived in 1774. The flow of commodities from Virginia and of merchandise to Virginia continued through familiar channels. Though the days of seemingly unlimited easy credit from merchants had ended, the days of easy collection of old debts had not begun. “I think Punctuality Seems either Fled or dead,” a British merchant in Norfolk wrote. “It seems hardly to be found in Virginia.”
William Nelson fell ill in June 1772. A disorder in his stomach and bowels weakened him and, he wrote, “affected my Nerves.” After attending a meeting of the Council on July 27 he believed that he was recovering, but he did not go to the capitol for Council sessions in August. His illness lingered, becoming “tedious and painful.” It baffled his physicians. Eventually he realized that he was dying.
As Nelson began the sixth week of his suffering, a violent gale struck the Outer Banks of North Carolina, then moved over Pamlico Sound, Albemarle Sound, the Dismal Swamp, and the James River. In the waters of North Carolina, schooners and sloops from New England, New York, Philadelphia, and Virginia stranded or sank. Several crews were lost. The storm did less damage in Virginia. Gratifyingly, the Royal Navy frigate Glasgow in Hampton Roads was struck by lightning, ruining her fore topgallant mast and topmast. Her officers had irritated merchants and planters by boarding many vessels in Chesapeake Bay to inspect cargoes and papers. Earlier in the year, Benjamin Harrison had complained: “there is no doing any thing in the smugling way.”
The day before the storm hit the Outer Banks on September 1, a hurricane passed over Antigua. The island already had suffered other ills. For two years, unusually dry weather had reduced sugar crops and dangerously lowered reserves of water. From Dominica the island was invaded by large carnivorous ants, which killed and consumed birds and small animals. On Friday, three days before the hurricane, a heavy storm severely damaged shipping in the harbor at St. Johns. The small ship Tom, with 150 slaves from the Windward Coast between decks, drove from her moorings and ran aground on the shoal.
The hurricane arrived on Monday, August 31. It passed almost directly over the island, sweeping it with winds of “amazing Violence” and with rain “in Torrents” for more than twelve hours. Blacks and whites died in collapsing houses. Francis Farley’s house just outside St. Johns was leveled. He was safely elsewhere. The four Royal Navy vessels in English Harbor lost their masts and drove on shore. Some trading vessels foundered at anchor; others ran aground. In the fields, sugar cane was shredded, broken, or flattened. Plantation outbuildings fell down or lost walls and were gutted. “The strength of the Winds is incredible,” a planter wrote; “they seemed to contend & battle together.”
When news of the Antigua hurricane reached Virginia, William Nelson “was said to be dieing.” He wrote his will on October 6, with David Jameson, his neighbor in York Town and partner in the Dismal Swamp Company, as a witness. He appointed as his executors his brother, the secretary; his two oldest sons, Thomas and Hugh; and Treasurer Robert Carter Nicholas. Saying that his property was “so much above my desire,” he divided his store and houses in York Town and his plantations and slaves in seven counties among his wife and sons. To his youngest sons, Nathaniel and William, students at the College of William and Mary, he bequeathed £5,000 sterling each and joint ownership of his share in “The Dismal Swamp Scheme.” As long as his condition permitted, he took communion, as he had always done. John Camm, quarrelsome rector of Nelson’s parish, found him facing death with equanimity and working to ease the minds of his family. All of Nelson’s best qualities, Camm said, “sat easy upon him.”
The scheme in which Nathaniel and William, Jr., would become partners had progressed. Slaves cut and dug the “great Ditch” running from Dismal Plantation to Lake Drummond. It was a narrow, shallow waterway opening an almost straight line through the northwestern corner of the swamp, closely flanked by large cedar, cypress, spruce, and white oak trees, tangled with undergrowth. Drainage into it was supposed to lower the water table in nearby land. The slaves then could fell trees, clear more land, and grow more crops.
The partners had not yet acquired the North Carolina sector of the Dismal Swamp. Earl Granville paid no attention to his vast proprietary holdings and collected no quitrents. He spent much of his day strolling in the mall of St. James’s Park, occasionally stopping to converse with “servant maids, street walkers, and needy adventurers.” The governor of North Carolina warned that the northern part of the colony had become an asylum for “the outcasts and fugitives of the other Provinces who retire to it and sit down where they like.” The “barbarous ignorance” of the people already living there proved receptive to “vices and corruption” brought by these newcomers. The governor urged the Crown to purchase the proprietary from the earl, but, after some prodding, Granville appointed an agent, reopened his land office, and collected quitrents. He made the governor his agent and limited all new grants of land to 650 acres.
Among the lessons William Nelson taught his son, Thomas, in preparing him to run the family business was a warning: Samuel Gist was “a shabby fellow.” Gist’s snow Planter, commanded by Captain James Miller, rode at anchor in the James River as Nelson lay dying in York Town. She had sailed from London in the third week of July, laden with three hundred packages of European goods. Gist had registered her five days after Black Monday and dispatched her promptly. He demanded remittances. Captain Miller spent only ten weeks in the James, then sailed for London with 256 hogsheads of tobacco, 5,000 barrel staves, and 400 pounds of sassafras, a much smaller cargo than the Planter’s capacity. While she remained in the James, Anthony Bacon’s representative, James Mercer, announced in the Virginia Gazette that he would attend the merchants’ meeting in Williamsburg on November 15. He called for payment of debts due to Anthony Bacon & Company. Mercer was a lawyer; he warned debtors they were “at their Peril to take Notice that I can wait no longer with them.” Gist, too, expected to be paid “as speedily as possible.” His books showed that his stepson, John Smith, owed him almost £1,800. Smith’s bills of exchange were protested in Bristol and London. Gist also refused to accept them.
The Virginia Gazette published an advertisement by William Byrd, announcing an auction, to take place on November 10 in Duke of Gloucester Street in front of the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg. Byrd’s property in Chesterfield County—2,000 acres at the falls on the south bank of the James, “the most valuable Plantation in this Colony”—would be offered for sale.
Maria Byrd—her son called her “my Deluded & superannuated Mother”—had died in August 1771, forty-seven years after her wedding and her arrival at Westover. Her will included a bequest of £500 sterling to James Parke Farley, recently wedded husband of her granddaughter, Elizabeth. James and Elizabeth lived at Maycox, across the river from Westover, replacing James’s sister and Captain Laforey. William Byrd already owed immense sums, and he resented this further drain on what remained of his father’s estate. Obeying, he said, “the unjust will of my insane Mother,” he paid his son-in-law.
The trustees nominally managing Byrd’s affairs had grown more “uneasy” about his large debts. Farell & Jones’s representative threatened to foreclose on Byrd’s mortgages. Byrd at last agreed to sell land and slaves in December 1771. James Parke Farley wished to buy the land in Chesterfield County, but he could do so only with help from his father, which Francis Farley refused. Francis Farley held on to his investments, turning down an offer for the Land of Eden. But he did not put more money into Virginia. At the auction late in 1771, Byrd sold about sixty slaves; no one bid on his land. So it would be offered again at the sale in front of the Raleigh Tavern. Besides land in Chesterfield County, he offered tobacco warehouses, ferries, a fishery, and several 100-acre lots.
At the sale in Duke of Gloucester Street on Tuesday, November 10, 1772, the property in Chesterfield County, “equal to any in America,” was knocked down to John Mayo. He thought it worth £8,000, though he got it for much less. Even so, the purchase called for more money than he could “conveniently get,” he said. He asked Samuel Gist to lend him £2,500. Gist refused. Sixteen months later, Mayo tried to sell 1,000 acres of the land he had bought at Byrd’s auction.
A second auction of slaves took place upriver on December 8. The next day Byrd executed a new deed of trust securing Westover and another plantation to his wife after his death. Mary Willing Byrd relinquished her dower right in his remaining property. Byrd and his trustees were free to sell it.
George Washington worked to acquire land while William Byrd reluctantly let go of his. Upriver from York Town, in New Kent County, at Eltham, home of Burwell Bassett, Washington spent the last week of October preparing William Crawford’s surveys for presentation to the governor and Council. Crawford had come with him to help. At last, after almost twenty years, the time had come to get title to most of the grant Governor Dinwiddie had promised to the officers and soldiers of 1754. Washington devised a way to apportion Crawford’s surveys among them. In Williamsburg he dined with Lord Dunmore on Wednesday, November 4, with Speaker Randolph on Thursday, and with members of the Council on Friday. He tried to persuade the councillors to allow him in the remaining future surveys to substitute better tracts for the rocky, hilly parts of the originally designated area. Washington’s plea invoked his wartime service: “it is the cream of the Land if one may be allowed to use the expression which stimulates men to such kind of Enterprise.” The councillors rejected his request; but on Saturday, November 6, they approved patents for land Crawford had surveyed. Washington’s portion, with his purchases from other veterans, was 20,147 acres, 10 percent of Dinwiddie’s grant.
After a painful series of attacks and apparent remissions, William Nelson died on Thursday, November 19. His widow gave way to her “deep affliction.” Her son, Thomas, worried that she grieved too much. In death William Nelson received much praise. He had stood firm for American liberty. He was the best that Virginia could produce: “The chief ornament of this Country.” Nelson’s body was buried in the churchyard in York Town on November 25. John Camm preached a sermon celebrating Nelson’s public service, his charity, his private virtues, and his Christian devotion, calling others to “tread in his steps.” Hardly any other prominent Virginian since the death of the elder William Byrd could have written to his London merchant, while suffering from a fatal illness: “I told you once before that it is as great an offense to a Virginia Planter to find fault with his Tobo as with his Mistress.”
John Norton’s ship Virginia arrived in the York River in mid-May 1773 bearing the life-size marble statue of Lord Botetourt. With one leg advanced and a slight forward inclination of the body, his figure seemed to have been caught in the middle of a graceful gesture. His relatives in England thought it “a magnificent Statue.” The burgesses put it in the capitol, facing the room where the General Court sat. There Lord Dunmore could read the inscription on its pedestal: “America, behold your friend! who, leaving his native country, declined those additional honours which were there in store for him, that he might heal your wounds, and restore tranquility and happiness to this extensive continent.” This description was not accurate, but monuments were supposed to edify rather than inform. Virginians liked to refashion their governors even while the men were alive.
Hoping to profit from western land, Dunmore showed favor to George Washington and other friends of expansion. He approved in December 1772 a grant to Washington of 10,990 acres on the left bank of the Kanawha River near its confluence with the Ohio. Three months later, Samuel Gist and his associates in Bristol and in Virginia asked Dunmore and the Council to renew a grant of 100,000 acres along the New River and the Holston River they had received in 1750 but had not yet surveyed and patented. The Council tabled their petition, awaiting word of the government’s new policy in the west. The news was unfavorable: the king and Privy Council ordered governors to suspend all grants except to veterans. On December 1, 1773, Washington received another grant farther up the Kanawha. During the following spring, Dr. Thomas Walker traveled to the valley of the Holston River. He called settlers on the Loyal Company’s property to meet him at the home of Samuel Briggs in April 1774. He took their bonds for the price of their tracts and gave them his bonds for conveyance of title as soon as they paid. Until then, he charged interest.
The Council of Virginia gave permission in 1773 for surveys beyond the mountains in tracts with settlers already on them. All other surveys, except those for grants to veterans, had been prohibited, in obedience to the Crown’s orders. Nevertheless, during the ten years since the royal proclamation, Dr. Walker had surveyed and sold 1,756 tracts covering 156,164 acres. Added to his surveys before the war, these totaled one-fourth of the Loyal Company’s original 800,000 acres. The Council authorized another set of grants under Dinwiddie’s proclamation in November 1773. Patrick Henry warned the councillors about men awaiting the Crown’s permission to patent large holdings west of the mountains. They had colluded with county surveyors and now stood poised to enter their premature surveys on the books, under false dates to make them look lawful, as soon as issuing of patents resumed. But these men did not have the right friends, as Walker and the Loyal Company did. After listening to Henry, the councillors added to their order for veterans’ grants a provision invalidating all surveys made without an order of Council or not already entered on surveyors’ books. To prevent tampering, the Council appointed a committee to inspect the books: John Byrd of Fincastle County, John Mayo of Botetourt County, and Dr. Thomas Walker.
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Black Monday and the flight of credit and capital almost ruined the East India Company. Famine and war in India, huge debts and extravagant dividends in Britain left it unable to meet its obligations. A special session of Parliament took up the company’s affairs. In exchange for rescuing it, the ministry subjected it to supervision by the government.
After lending the company £1,400,000, the government had an even greater interest in helping it to sell tea. High taxes and competition from smugglers left the company with large stockpiles of unsold tea. Lowering its price ought to encourage buyers. The company could do this if the Treasury refunded Customs duties on tea re-exported to the colonies. Tea would be even cheaper if the ministry also removed the tax payable in America, the last of the Townshend duties designed to assert Parliament’s right to tax colonists. Lord North was willing to refund duties collected in Britain but not to withdraw the colonial tax, even if doing so promised greater returns to the East India Company. The Tea Act became law on May 10, 1773.
Some directors of the East India Company suspected that the ministry passed this law “to make a cat’s paw of the Company and force them to establish the 3d pr. lb. American duty.” Nevertheless, an opportunity to ship newly inexpensive tea to America attracted some of the most important merchants, men who cut large figures on ’Change and who underwrote policies at Lloyd’s: John Nutt and William Greenwood in the South Carolina trade; Frederick Pigou, Sr., in the Philadelphia trade; William Kelly and Frederick Pigou, Jr., in the New York trade; and the irascible Brook Watson in the Boston trade. Anthony Bacon warned them that many Americans still opposed the tax and held the “Utopian” notion “that men should have no cause of complaint on any occasion whatever.” Such people saw cheap, taxed tea as a threat, not a gift. Even so, in the summer of 1773 the men at Lloyd’s stood ready to transport the East India Company’s tea, part of it consigned to their associates in the colonies. Recommending their Boston connections as factors at a commission of 6 percent, Brook Watson and his partner wrote: “we are ready to give security to the amount of ten thousand pounds for their performance.”
Anthony Bacon foresaw resistance in the colonies, but he supported the Tea Act, saying that its propriety was “obvious,” blaming opposition on “a seditious spirit.” Whatever his private opinions and predictions, he must follow the ministry. He was one of those members of Parliament known to their critics as “Ld North’s contractors.”
Bacon gave up some of his contracts and dissolved his partnership with Anthony Richardson and Gilbert Francklyn, apparently in 1773. He remained at Number 12, Copthall Court, in the afternoon shadow of the Bank of England, but no longer as Anthony Bacon & Company. Gilbert Francklyn’s ambitions went beyond Bacon & Company or the Council of Tobago. He spent time with his friends on the Board of Trade, trying to become governor of New Hampshire. Fielding Lewis, still Bacon’s representative at Fredericksburg and in the Dismal Swamp Company, had not paid his debt—more than £2,300 and rising. For a while, apparently between contracts, Bacon received a pension of £600 per year from the government’s secret service money, disbursed to cement political loyalty to the ministry.
Having established himself in the iron industry at Merthyr Tydfil, Anthony Bacon sought the acquaintance of other ironmasters. Among the most important was John Wilkinson of Broseley in Shropshire, 25 miles northwest of Birmingham. After becoming Bacon’s agent, Wilkinson also supplied cylinders to James Watt and Matthew Boulton for their new steam engine. With Bacon, Wilkinson contracted to make cannon for the government. He was proving the superiority of artillery pieces bored out of a solid piece of iron, not molded around a core. His foundry used the best iron from coke-fired furnaces. Wilkinson knew how to make guns; Bacon knew how to reach the Board of Ordnance. Bacon offered the new cannon to the government “upon his reputation, as a man of honour and integrity, as he expects the future favour of the Board.” He received his first order for experimental pieces in July 1773.
The trials succeeded. The government’s master founder at Woolwich reported: “casting guns solid in the manner of Mr. Bacon is infinitely better than in the ordinary way.” The Board of Ordnance gave Bacon a contract, and he sold artillery to the East India Company.
In Wilkinson’s works at Broseley and in others nearby, Bacon saw what Merthyr Tydfil might become. This part of the valley of the Severn was filled with furnaces, forges, and foundries, interspersed with warehouses and large piles of coal, lime, and ore. Bellows blasted and furnaces flamed night and day. Clouds of black smoke obscured nearby hills. Almost everything seemed to be made of iron: door arches, window cases, chimney-tops, water sluices, water wheels, wheels of slitting mills. Roads for transporting coal and ore were paved with iron. There was even a design to span the Severn with a bridge of iron. In his will, John Wilkinson directed that his body be buried in an iron coffin.
Happily, the works at Merthyr Tydfil always had smelted with coke and needed no conversion from charcoal to coal. Coal mining had expanded in recent years; the turnpike along the River Taff reached Merthyr Tydfil. In 1771 and 1772, Bacon added five new leases to his landholdings. Wherever more people gathered to work in mines, furnaces, and foundries, rents rose. As soon as Anthony Bacon chose to increase his iron operations in Wales, all stood ready.
After four years in Louisa County, William and Mary Anderson almost had fulfilled Samuel Gist’s wish that they live miserably. William’s first venture as a tobacco merchant, in partnership with his brother, Matthew, lasted only through 1769 and 1770. They depended upon the good will and generous credit of John Norton. Norton and his wife tried to reconcile Gist to his daughter and son-in-law, but Anderson called this goal “impracticable.”
William Anderson went into business as a merchant by himself in 1771, announcing his intent to “deal largely in Tobacca of the best Quality.” His competitors in Louisa County, Scottish factors in nearby stores, received their merchandise from Glasgow earlier in the season, giving them “a great advantage.” His store offered the usual goods: cloth, clothing, pewter dishes, utensils, pans. He promised Norton bigger consignments of tobacco than he shipped. Illness obliged Anderson to spend a month at Warm Springs in the summer of 1771. His business did not survive the panic of 1772. Norton stopped filling his orders. At this low point in their fortunes, William and Mary Anderson were rescued by an unlikely combination of events—the deaths, a few months apart, of both of Mary’s half brothers, John and Joseph Smith, stepsons of Samuel Gist.
The Smith brothers had not heeded Gist’s urgings to shun the Andersons as punishment for their elopement and their ingratitude. The brothers remained the Andersons’ friends. Joseph quarreled with Gist over the division of property left by his father. Gist warned him against going to court: “the Law is expensive … the event will show who is Right.” Joseph, his wife, Martha Jacquelin Rootes Smith, their son, and her young son by her first husband lived on a plantation in Hanover County with sixteen slaves. He tried to make extra money by selling lumber. Gist called him “a very improvident Man.”
During the panic of 1772, John Norton and Gist provided neither money nor goods to John Smith. His last order filled by Norton was for a spinet. He was popular in Hanover County; voters sent him to the House of Burgesses. He owned land in three counties and five times as many slaves as his brother did. But John Smith failed as a merchant, partly at Gist’s expense.
Joseph Smith died in the latter part of 1772. William Anderson became administrator of his estate. Edward Jacquelin Smith, Joseph’s infant son, became Anderson’s ward. John Smith died in January 1773, unmarried and childless. The obituary William Rind published in the Virginia Gazette conveyed an opinion about Gist’s conduct as a stepfather by saying of John Smith: “He died without a parent to lament a son.” His will appointed William Anderson as his executor and made Mary Anderson his chief heir. When Gist’s wife, Sarah, died in 1766, her will left Gist only a life interest in land she held. Upon Gist’s death, the land was to go to John Smith and his heirs. With the deaths of the Smith brothers, possession or reversion of thousands of acres in Virginia rested with Mary Anderson—the daughter Samuel Gist had sworn never to see again. And control of the Smith brothers’ estates lay in the hands of William Anderson, whom Gist had said he would always despise as a villain and a seducer, with whom Gist had sworn “never to have any Connexion.”
A little more than a week after John Smith’s death, William Anderson wrote to John Norton, promising to pay his debt soon. He added: “I hope to have the Pleasure of settling myself in London … but this I would not willingly have mentioned until you hear more of it.” In transatlantic correspondence, Samuel Gist embraced his wayward daughter and her husband. Soon William Anderson was writing to him to secure insurance at Lloyd’s on 30 hogsheads of tobacco. Anderson advertised auctions of the personal property and some of the real estate of the Smith brothers. Most of the land in Goochland County offered for sale as Smith’s never had belonged to John Smith, though the auction supposedly was “Pursuant to the Will.” Part belonged to Gist, and part would have belonged to Mary Anderson after Gist’s death. Gist had his eye on better tracts. William Anderson began to solicit consignments of tobacco for Gist and to advise him about the best port in Virginia for a voyage by his ship. Anderson sold his store in Louisa County and worked to collect debts. If John Norton could wait no longer for remittances, Anderson wrote, “I expect that Mr. Gist will pay you some money for me.” The Andersons hoped to move to London in 1774. That year Gist ordered a new 300-ton ship built in Yorkshire. He named her the Mary.
Gist was ready to move into one of the “excellent houses” nearing completion just east of Savage Gardens on Tower Hill. In the past few years the architect for the Corporation of London, George Dance the younger, had transformed vacant lots and dunghills along the Minories into three “convenient and elegant districts”: Crescent, Circus, and America Square. In his almost uniform rows of adjoining four-story brick buildings it was easy to see the influence of new buildings in Bath, as well as a resemblance to Grosvenor Square and Cavendish Square, rendered on a reduced scale. Gist took one of the best locations: Number 16, America Square, a corner house overlooking both the square and John Street, which ran from Crutched Friars to the Minories. Among his new neighbors were his fellow tobacco merchant William Molleson, on the other side of America Square, and his colleagues at Lloyd’s, Thomas Wooldridge and William Kelly, in Crescent. Gist acquired more space for his office and his counting room; he lived in a manner befitting his prosperity. His success in London could now plainly be seen from the street.
As his reconciliation with his daughter and son-in-law showed, Gist had not lost interest in Virginia. He paid £24 15s. 10d. to the Dismal Swamp Company in September 1773 for hiring a slave. Rather than buy slaves from Africa or in Barbados, the members had voted to hire laborers from slaveowners. Since April, when Gist had learned of the condemnation of the Hope at the Island of Princes, he had turned to another enterprise: shipping indentured servants to Virginia.
More widespread, energetic recruiting of servants, combined with dislocation and economic depression after the panic of 1772, swelled the number of people willing to engage themselves for four years of servitude in return for passage to Virginia in search of better opportunities. John Hatley Norton, in York Town, urged his father and brother in London to invest on his behalf in a shipment. A large vessel full of servants might return a profit of £700. John Norton sought Samuel Gist’s opinion. Gist warned him that expenses would be higher than young Norton expected and the profit small. John Norton sent only half as many servants as his son requested. At the same time, Gist wrote to some of his Virginia correspondents, asking them to help William Anderson dispose of servants Gist would dispatch to Virginia soon.
In January 1774, Gist’s snow Planter rode at her mooring in the Thames at Ratcliffe Cross, beyond Wapping, well below the Tower. Her master, Captain David Bowers, had followed the Virginia trade since the age of fifteen. In cold rain, then heavy snow, his seamen rigged the vessel, bending sails to the yards, loading cargo and provisions. Captain Bowers spent his time writing indentures with artisans who came on board and agreed to sail with him and to work four years as servants. They had come from all parts of England, Scotland, and Ireland—weavers, bricklayers, cabinetmakers, carpenters, farmers, husbandmen, and men of other occupations. Gist said the Planter would take them to the Rappahannock River “unless Mr. Anderson orders to the Contrary.” After Captain Bowers had signed seventy-five indentures, he was ready to sail. The Planter slipped her mooring and dropped down the Thames with the early morning tide on Friday, February 4. Four days later, after a heavy snowstorm, she stood out to sea in a hard, cold northwest wind.
The Planter’s voyage was long and difficult. The day after she passed Lands End, she encountered such strong winds and high seas that the crew battened down the hatches. Among the servants confined between decks in the dark, there were “some sleeping, some spewing, some pishing, some shiting, some farting, some flyting, some daming, some Blasting their leggs and thighs, some their Liver, lungs, lights and eyes, And for to make the shene the odder, some curs’d Father Mother, Sister, and Brother.” In the following weeks, officers, seamen, and servants were stricken with fever. Three servants died. The Planter made Cape Henry eleven weeks after leaving the Downs. Sailing into Chesapeake Bay, Captain Bowers dropped anchor in Hampton Roads, remaining briefly, then at Urbanna and Tappahannock on his way up the Rappahannock River to Fredericksburg. There she discharged the last of her merchandise. On Sunday, May 15, William Anderson came on board.
Ten days earlier, Anderson had advertised in the Virginia Gazette the arrival of the Planter “in the Interest of Mr. Samuel Gist.” Sale of servants’ indentures was to begin on Monday, the 16th. That day prospective buyers came on board, two of whom were men known as “Soul drivers,” buying the indentures of groups of servants, then taking the servants around the countryside for resale, one by one. While dealing with buyers, Anderson and Bowers loaded the Planter with hogsheads of tobacco. She also called at Port Royal and in the James River. She suffered a mishap in the James when she drove on shore and ran a fluke of her anchor through her bottom. After her repairs and replacement of lost tobacco, Captain Bowers sailed for London in the first week of September, completing a profitable voyage. Three months later, one of the servants who had arrived in the Planter wrote to his wife in the Shetland Islands: “I yet Hope (please God) if I am spared, some time to make you a Virginia Lady among the woods of America.”