Papers of Prof. E. R. R. Green.

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Document ID 9307006
Date 24-03-1785
Document Type Letters (Emigrants)
Archive Private Donor
Citation Papers of Prof. E. R. R. Green.;Deposited by Dr. P. R. Green; CMSIED 9307006
                  Papers of Prof. E. R. R. Green.

(Copies of emigrant letters collected by and sent to E. R. R. Green
as part of his research project on emigration.)

                   Deposited by Dr. P. R. Green

Photocopy excerpt from "Virginia in 1785", a letter in the
collection of the Virginia Historical Society. The letter is dated
24th March, 1785 and is from John Joyce, Caroline county,
Portobago Bay on Rappahannock River, to his Uncle, Reverend Robert
Dickson, Narrow Water near Newry, Ireland.

                               Virginia 24th March 1785
Dr [Dear?] Uncle
As I have written to you in a former letter of the 1st of January
of my present situation, I shall say nothing more respecting that
in this one, only that I am well, and as happy as anyone could be
in the like circumstances. I shall now proceed to give you an
imperfect Description of this country, as far as my knowledge or
information and time of Residence will Admit Of.
Norfolk which was the first place I went on shore at, has been an
elegant, large town before it was destroyed, chiefly built of
Brick, but now rebuilding mostly with Wood; such a vast heap of
Ruins and Devastation, are almoost impossible to have any Idea of
unless seen, the Inhabitants before the War were almost all
Scotch, and is likewise now, altho [although?] as I have been
Informed there are not over 30 or 40 in it now, who possessed it
before the War. They are very desirous of having a discenting
[dissenting?] Clergyman plac'd [placed?] there, as they have no
Worship of any kind, their Church being destroyed with the Town
which has been a most beautiful Edifice. I have been told by one
of the principal Merchants they would subscribe 100 or 150
Guineas for a genteel well behaved Man.
The Rent of ground to build Houses on, if convenient to business
and Trade is exceedingly high. 100 G's [Guineas?] per annum is
not uncommon for a small Lott [Lot?], such as Merchants could
build Store-Houses upon. Tis [it is]  very hard to purchase Lotts
[Lots?], for the Proprietors altho [although?] reduced to extreme
poverty, many of them, will not sell out, but w'd [would?] choose
rather to live miserably in the forests, until they recruit
themselves by Letting their Tenements, and such as are untaken [?]
sell of [off?] the Old ruins to pay the Taxes of the Place rather
than sell out - such is their resolution to keep their posessions
The Cause which appears to me of their rebuilding the Town mostly
with wood, is this, the Proprietors will not let the Ground
longer than the duration of Seven Years, the tenant being bound to
Build and at the Expiration of that Term to deliver it up, of
course anthing that will answer the business, or serve any way
Tollerable [tolerable?] for that time, is the Houses that are
Built. However 'tis [it is?] thought 'twill [that it will?] be
the most flourishing Town in the State for Trade before many
years, having the finest Harbour and being Convenient to Europe.
Carpenters and Brick-Layers are much wanted in all the Towns,
they had in Norfolk 5 pounds per Month and work bounded them
through the year, and after 30s p. [per?] Week for Jobbs [jobs?]
of short standing - but indeed Workmen of all Denominations have
most enormous prices for their work. You have to pay from 18s to
25s for making a Suit of Clothes. They are very fond of Irish
Emigration here, and it is Given as a Toast often at their Fairs,
it really surprises me to see their inclined [inclination?] to
give the preference to ye Irish or English, rather than the Scotch
or French, altho [although?] the latter their assistants in the
War, notwithstanding they seem to dislike them in General, and if
there was a bargain in any of their Merchandise w'd [would?]
rather that an Englishman should have it than a Frenchman. The
Benefits arising from the Reformation [American Revolution?] I
think are not as great as they expected. They themselves confess
that they were better before the War than now, that is with
respect to Taxes, which are very heavy upon them; Yet they dont
[don't?] [appear?] to Repent in the least what they have done, I
believe they would do the same thing again were they put to the
Trial, and much applauded the Irish for their Resolutions, and
Spirit of Independence; but think you have let the time pass
when it might have been in your power to have gained it, that is
by joining them here while at Variance and England engaged but
they despair of your gaining it now. We have had various acc'ts
[accounts?] of your Disturbances here, we had once a Rumour that
You were actually at War with England. But I have heard since that
your Troubles are chiefly subsided, & [and?] only a few of a
factious [fractious?] [---?]eaded party & [and?] remain, that will
be punished & [and?] some of your Ring-leaders, as public examples.
I wish sincerely your troubles were at an end, & [and?] that
I could be certified of it from your Hand. They don't expect that
the benefits of Reformation [American Revolution?] will be of much
service to the present Generation, but that it will reach to their
posterity, & [and?] that they are perhaps not paying so much as
England would have imposed upon them, and after some time they
expect to be better. People of any property suffered in general
exceedingly, many of them from Wealth & [and?] affluence almost to
Their Taxes seem to be increasing and lie very heavy upon Men of
property; Besides their Land Tax every thing they have are Tax'd
[taxed?] ad valorem, every Negro Slave from 16 years of age tax'd
[taxed?] 20s. & [and?] 10s. for Children from the Minute they are
Born, which amounts to a very great Sum to such as have 150 or 200
Slaves such as Mr. Lomaxes, his Taxes amount to 350 pounds per
Annum. Cattle and all other things are tax'd [taxed?] in
proportion. The manner in which lands are Tax'd [taxed?], there are
inspectors Appointed to Value their Lands, then they have to pay so
much per Cent according to their property. Notwithstanding all this
they tell me they are not clearing the Interest of the National
Debt, therefore they are making more Taxes and Contributions,
and raising their Tax upon Negroes.
In the Colony of Virginia are an accounted 73000 Tithables 55985
[white?] and the Residue consists of Negro Men and Women, the
Number of Inhabitants are accounted, White and Black at 448008 - a
Negro Man or Woman between 15 and 40 are computed at an Average,
in value about 60 pounds. But a stout young fellow, particularly
one of them who are of any Trade will sell at 100 pounds and 120
pounds. I have known 15 sold at a time, some of them women and a
half of their Children, sell at a 1000 pounds. The value of the
negroes in the State are accounted at a moderate Computation,
worth 6378570 pounds. As to the Trade of the Colony its Staple
is Tobacco. They export 60 or 7000 [70,000?] Hogsheads each w't
[weight?] 1000 pounds [lbs]. The Common price here about Guinea
28 and 30s. Cwt [hundredweight?]. As to the Drink chiefly used in
this Collony [colony?] it is generally Cyder [cider?], every
planter having an Orchard and they make from 1000 to 5 or 6000
according to their rank and Fortune.
As to the soil it is very different in different parts, that which
lies upon the Rivers are generally a Black Deep soil, which
produces the largest Tobacco and all other Plants. But the land
that lies distant from the Rivers are generally of a midling
[middling?] quality yet produces Indian corn sufficient for the
Inhabitants, without the least manure (indeed the knowing little
of manuring) who Chiefly use Bread made from this Grain
particularly lower Classes, the very meanest and hilly Land are
proper for the Peach Tree, every planter, almost having an Orchard
of these Trees. The Brandy made from that Fruit I Think is
excellent and they [make?] it in general in sufficient quantities.
As to their Manufactures the[y?] Consist chiefly of Cotton, for
very little Wool or Linnen [Linen?]. Cloth is made in this
province there being but few Sheep, & [and?] of consequence
broad-Cloaths [broadcloths?] are Extremely dear, I think in
General 100 per Ct [cent?] dearer than in Ireland, and the most
of all Commodities which are Imported from Europe is all wear and
hardware. All Land that is clear is taken up with Tobacco and
Grain, few of them understand the management of Flax. Most of
the Men as well as all of the Women of the Lower Classes wear
Cotton Cloth of their own Manufacture, both summer and Winter,
which grows here in abundance.
I have heard this Province Esteem'd [Esteemed?] the Richest (that
is by its own Inhabitants) But from accounts I can learn, from
those who have travelled the other Provinces, it is esteemed the
Poorest, as to Household furniture it is thought to excel
[excell?] the other Provinces. They have an excellent Breed of
English Horses. The weather here is very variable particularly in
spring and fall, in the mornings and evenings, youre [you're?]
like to freeze and in the middle of the day it is almost burning
the soals [soles?] of ones shoes - even in December, in the
middle of the day it is scorchingly to [too?] warm, an [and?]
we have Green Peas, and Flowers in Bloom, its esteem'd
[esteemed?] the most sickly Province this Except Georgia and S.
Carolina. Fevers and Agues, Plurises [pleurisy?], Bilious Fevers
rage Terribly - when I first landed The Agues and Fevers were
about their last Stages, it appeared to me like a general Plague.
There were no less than 7 seized with it in the same House where
I was when I lodg'd [lodged?] during my stay there. Yet thank
God I never was in the least affected with it altho [although?]
I was sleeping in the room where they were raging out of their
senses with it nor never had any sickness since I left.
What accot [account?] I have given you is far from being a full
or perfect one & [and?] it is only the outlines of my own
observation & [and?] Conversation with others. Or to say even
could I describe it fully w'd [would?] be giving an accot
[account?] of America as I have heard some attributing the
description of one part or in one Letter as the Description of
America in general, which is entirely foolish, for this place
and Ireland do not more widely differ in their ways and manner of
[missing] than this & [and?] other Parts of America.
   The Gentlemen here particularly since Taxes became high upon
Negroes seem to be willing to adopt [missing] of Renting their
Land to Tenants and dispose of their Slaves - for there is no
such Thing as Tenants here as yet nor can they get any, Land is
too plenty, there are Thousands of Acres lying uncultivated in
one Continued Forrest [forest?]. Gentlemen owning vast
Plantations containing several Thousand Acres consequently
[missing] 8th of it can be of any Present Advantage, or so
[missing] bring in any money yearly. There being no Tennants
[tenants?], the mode they have is this, they have an overseer or
overseers & [and?] their slaves Clear and Plant Tobacco, Indian
Corn, Wheat & [and?] sometimes Cotton. Few Oats are used here &
[and?] what they have make use of it to feed their cattle for
they would not eat it; the [missing] being tended, they carry the
Tobacco to their Merchants for which they barter for such
Commodities or Goods as they want, they who live 100 miles and
upwards in the back Country, they lay in Goods will serve them
untill [until?] the following Year - and as to their Indian Corn
there are Traders who come from Pennslyvania, New England, the
Gersies & [and?] part of Maryland in little Vessels fitted for
the purpose up the Navigable Rivers with such Commodities as
they could want, and Take Corn in Exchange; for they raise no
Indian Corn in the above mention'd [mentioned?] places -
therefore for 100 pounds that an Estate would bring in by this
mode could they have it rented would bring in 1000 pounds. They
are very indifferent Labourers, I think they never Cultivate any
Ground as it [should be?] it must be much superior to our land,
for with any Kind of Cultivation it will carry where I am, 5 and
6 crops of Wheat and tobacco, so that I think a man that
understood Farming ought [to?] make Very handsomely for himself,
had he any Capital to begin on so that he would be able to have
a parcel Cleared at first, whenever that seems Runout Clear a new
peice [piece?] which is there [their?] method here. They seem in
this part unaquainted with any plan of making Money but such as I
have mention'd [mentioned?], there are a Thousand Ways of making
Money in Ireland unknown to them here. Which might grow to much
advantage in this place. Since the War there is a Land Office
Opened, and the Inhabitants since that have explor'd [explored?]
back upwards 5 or 600 Miles farther than Before to a new Country
called Kaintuckey [Kentucky?], which have lowered the purchase
of lands here and have made Taxes more severe as it is reckon'd
[reckoned?] the finest Country in the World, affording almost all
the necessities of life Spontaneously and the Emigrations from
this and other parts to it, are I dare say as much as and more
than what is from Britain and Ireland here, there you may go take
up what Quantity you please at 20s per h'd [head?] purchase.
Lands situated nigh trading Towns on Navigable Rivers and bays,
seems to be advancing as fast in their price here, as in Ireland.
They tell me that Land which could 5 years ago could have been
purchased for 20s. an ackre [acre?] now am't [amounts?] to 5 pounds
purchase. mur'd [murdered?] some who attempted to Survey on the
West side of the Ohio, but it is now much hush'd [hushed?] &
[and?] it is only said to be reports. But the People by removing
Back has enraged the Indians, so that there is a talk of a
General Indian War, & [and?] that they have
 There are no Emigrants in this part of the Country nor much in
any part of Virginia Except Merchants and Mechanics, such in a
short time may make fortunes - Yet were these people to come &
[and?] rent farms here I am sure they could have almost any
Quantity at a moderate price, in short they w'd [would?] not
know what to ask per acre by way of renting but I am sure 5s. or
4s. 6d. would be thought sufficient & [and?] yet [I think?] the
same industry in Ireland might [missing] as well at 12 and 14s.
This Province sends 76 Members to Assembly Yearly. If Jammey
Clouney sets out for America I am really distressed on his
[missing] considering his family and smallness of his stock
[missing] not imagine what they w'd [would?] do untill [until?]
they w'd [would?] get settled. I assure there would be a great
deal of hardship and Difficulty attending it more than he can
have any Idea of. I have an instance or two of it. But I wish
every thing for the Best.
 I am afraid I have tried your patience with [missing]
circumstantiall [circumstantial?] accounts, I beg D'r [Dear?]
Uncle that you [missing] write to me by first and inform me of
the State of the Nation and that of our Friends. Give my kind
Love to Aunt and all my Relations. I again Repeat it, pray
write to me. I w'd [would?] be glad of advice and Directions
how I should Conduct myself in which your experience and
Knowledge of the World has furnish'd [furnished?] you with.
I am D'r [Dear?] with unfeigned respect and wishes for your
Happiness your ever affect. [affectionate?] Nephew
                                               John Joyce
[Addressed] Rev'd [Reverend?] Robert Dickson
                  Narrow Water near Newry Ireland.