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Robert "King" Carter ( 1662 - 1732 )  Category ( Historical_Figures ) [suggest a correction]
 

Robert CarterOf the great many British men and women to come settle the Colony of Virginia during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, perhaps the greatest achiever is Robert "King" Carter. He was bestowed the moniker "King" due to his unsurpassed colonial wealth, aristocratic approach to handling business, and his political savvy.

The Carter family in Virginia is yet another example of how those of humble or middling British roots might rise to the top of the Virginia wealth and gentry. Carter was born at Corotoman Plantation, which was located on the Northern Neck of Virginia, in Lancaster County. His parents, John Carter and Sarah Ludlow were immigrants to Virginia during the height of seventeenth-century immigration, and were of modest means, but powerful ambition. His parents made sure that young Carter received some education and that he married well, Judith Armistead of Hesse, in Gloucester County. When she died in 1699, he courted and then married Elizabeth Landon in 1701.

Each of the surnames into which he married were prominent in Virginia financial matters and politics. Carter was elected as a Burgess from Lancaster County and served in the General Assembly of Virginia. He served for a total of five years. He eventually rose to the position of President of the Governor's council and even served as acting Governor of Virginia after the death of Governor Hugh Drysdale. Perhaps his crowning political and social achievement was when he became an agent of Thomas Fairfax, Sixth Lord Fairfax of Cameron.

Fairfax was the owner of what was known as the Fairfax Proprietary of the Northern Neck of Virginia. With such powerful connections, Carter was able to quickly amass large tracts of land for himself. Within ten years he owned more than 110,000 acres of land, in the Northern Neck and in Southwest Virginia. He was one of the wealthiest men in the colony and arguably the most influential.

Few things political or social took place during his prominence that did not have the Carter stamp of approval or participation. By the time he died in 1732 (which was the year George Washington was born), he owned 300,000 acres of land, one thousand slaves, and -- unlike most of his equally prominent, but land-rich, cash-poor fellow Virginia planters -- ten thousand pounds in cash. Lord Fairfax, reading of Carter's death and rich legacy in London newspapers, was affronted that his mere agent would engage in such profound self-interest while under his employ. He immediately named his own cousin, Colonel William Fairfax, as his new land agent. Lord Fairfax then undertook a journey to Virginia to inspect his property himself, and then moved there permanently in 1747.


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