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Adam Cuninghame journal and letters(1728–1736)

  • MS 2011.8
  • 4 items

The journal of Adam Cuninghame records his voyage to Virginia from Scotland, April 4-October 21, 1728. Cuninghame recounts the many adventures of the ship and its crew who were fired upon by a French vessel, lost a man overboard who was killed by sharks, ran out of provisions and liquor (the latter due to theft by the transports), endured a hurricane, and were at the mercy of a drunken captain who often failed to leave his cabin for days at a time.

Cuninghame wrote two letters from King George County, Virginia to his father, William, in Glasgow. In the first letter dated August 2, 1729, Cuninghame describes Williamsburg as “but a small Village containing not 60 families at most.” Cuninghame explained to his father that there were too many physicians in Williamsburg for him to be successful there. In the second letter dated May 24, 1730, Cuninghame wrote concerning his continuing troubles at making a living and his indebtedness. Cuninghame explained to his father that the way to wealth in Virginia was not through the practice of medicine but through trade explaining that this is how his fellow Scotsmen, Alexander McKenzie and Dr. Archibald Blair made their fortunes.

In a final letter written to his father from Newcastle upon Tyne, March 23, 1736, Cuninghame requested a secret meeting with his father. Cuninghame asked his father for financial assistance and informed him of his desire to be transported “to some Forreign Plantations where I may pass the remainder of my days in a Sincere repentance for my former folly.”

The journal is published in The Colonial Physician & Other Essays by Whitfield Bell [New York: Science History Publications, 1975].


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