The pursuit of patronage in any age is never a pretty picture. Whether today or 200 years ago, it is, at its worst, an undignified scrum for lucre and scraps of influence. It was hardly different in the 18th century, when even (or especially?) peers of the realm were reduced to grovelling with officers of the crown for jobs for their friends. This letter from William Anne Keppel (1702-1754), Earl of Albemarle and the Governor of Virginia, to Thomas Pelham-Holles (1693-1768), Duke of Newcastle, written on this date in 1742, reveals the occasional depths of that desperation. John Carter (c1695-1742), the Secretary of Virginia, was indeed on his deathbed, but such news often erupted in unbecoming battles over the spoils the not-yet-so dearly departed was about to leave behind. But it was rarely about the money; more often it was about influence, or at least the perception of influence, which can be as important. On the other hand, failure could signal that one’s access to the halls of power was slipping away. One wonders, however, just what was going on between him and Dick Shelby to generate such a plea.
“By a letter I received this Evening from Lt Governour Gooch I am informed that Mr Carter ye Secretary to ye Colony grows worse every Day & that they have no hopes left of his Life. – Lett me then once more entreat you with more zeal and earnest then ever I had at any time for any thing in my Life to remember my early application to your Grace for my friend Adair who for many reasons greatly deserves from me this mark of friendship, and don’t (after ye flattering hopes I have fed myself with for these last years) Lett me be beat by Dick Shelby. Pardon me Dear Duke of Newcastle for being so anxious, & pray consider that making a friend happy is making oneself so too.”
In the end, Newcastle settled on Albemarle’s choice, William Adair. But that was hardly enough for Albemarle for he was back at his fulsome best the next year, pledging his support for Peyton Randolph for the position of Virginia’s attorney general while begging Newcastle to “Forgive me for God sake ” for some unknown slight to Henry Pelham, Newcastle’s brother and the Prime Minister. Clearly, Albemarle had an unfortunate tendency to affront people in high places, although he hung on to his post as Virginia’s governor until his death in 1754.
[See VCRP SR 07569 for precise citation for letter]