Leger & Greenwood letterbook 1770-1775; 1788
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Collection Scope and Content Note

First Half: Leger & Greenwood, 1770-1775: The first section of the letterbook (pp. 1-194) documents several matters of importance for historians of the history of commerce in late colonial South Carolina. The firm's correspondence, though outgoing only, provides an important perspective on rice and indigo production and marketing in the years immediately preceding the American Revolution, 1770-1775, and it presents a fairly detailed depiction of trade networks, protocols, and the mechanics of trade. Leger & Greenwood were also major importers of British goods, and their willingness to supply luxury goods has resulted in a fascinating portrait of the tastes of wealthy Charlestonians, as well as the sources for supplying those tastes.

More generally, the Leger & Greenwood letterbook documents the tensions building within the trans-Atlantic mercantile community during the pre-Revolutionary era. Neither Leger nor Greenwood were particularly far-sighted about the events in which they were embroiled, and at points, they display a disarming naïveté about how things might work out. Clearly, their venture into the tea trade could not have come at a worse time, and the letters describing the Charleston Tea Party provide a view from some very interested participants in the events.

Second Half: Abram Greenwood, 1788: The second half of the letterbook (pp. 196-271) was written entirely in 1788, when Abram Greenwood, William's nephew, traveled to Charleston to collect the remaining debts of the late firm. At the time, William Greenwood, "the surviving member of the firm," was still very much unwelcome in his former home. Somewhat optimistically, the Greenwood family hoped that the adoption of the Constitution might enable them to collect their debts more easily (p. 211).

Where the first half of the book consists almost exclusively of correspondence with foreign suppliers, the second half contains mostly copies of letters sent to local debtors, and letters from Abram to his father and uncle in London, apprising them of his efforts. While in Charleston, word arrived from London that John Beswicke Greenwood had died, and, following an argument with his brother (another William Greenwood), had left his entire estate to Abram. Several thousand miles from the scene, Abram frantically did what he could to secure his legacy, authorizing powers of attorney to his father and uncle to represent his claims against what promised to be a hotly contested probate.

Most of Abram Greenwood's correspondence was occupied, therefore, with the twin concerns of Leger & Greenwood's settlement in South Carolina, and his own anticipated estate battle in England. His letters include a few other incidental, but important, items of interest, such as an outstanding description of Charleston (pp. 213-15) and an account of a slave being beaten and put into irons ( p. 253). Abram's efforts to collect on outstanding bills took him to the South Carolina convention for the ratification of the federal Constitution (pp. 245, 248), on which he provides some sketchy comments.

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