The Rutland letterbook consists of retained copies of Thomas Rutland's outgoing correspondence between May 10, 1787 and August 28, 1789. Although the letters are usually brief and "routine," they form an important resource for the study of the commercial activities and attitudes of a substantial Annapolis merchant.
A major theme that emerges in Rutland's correspondence is the extremely contentious nature of his relationships with creditor, debtor, and neighbor alike, particularly with James Williams, Charles Ridgely, and Charles Carroll of Carollton. The letters provide relatively little detail on Rutland's mercantile activities, either in scope or in terms of goods traded, but they do create an impression of the tenuous financial foundation, built on a bedrock of indebtedness, that underlay his mercantile empire. Though Rutland held considerable interests in land and slaves, the letterbook documents the time and energy that he necessarily devoted to fending off creditors, as well as the extensive efforts he made to collect from his many debtors.