Leckie family papers  1794-1808
full text File Size: 11 K bytes | Add this to my bookbag

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Leckie family papers contain 44 letters, 3 ledgers, 2 inventories, and a receipt, spanning 1794-1808. The materials primarily document the business activities of the Leckies, who traded dry goods between the United States, England, Jamaica, and Haiti. The correspondence contains many details on the nature of an ambitious mercantile business and matters affecting it during this period. These include political disruptions that threatened trading, especially in Santo Domingo (August 31, 1797), insurance of cargoes, the suitability of certain kinds of goods for specific markets (August 5, 1797), and the types of materials bought and sold, such as cloth, groceries, soap, and candles. The inventories provide further specifics on types of items and prices.

The letters also reveal family relations and their repercussions on the business. In their correspondence, the Leckie brothers frequently quarreled with and chastised one another. They found particular fault with Alexander, who, according to his brothers, made a number of bad contracts (April 7, 1795), as well as an "unfortunate and premature attachment" to a young woman in Virginia (December 28, 1795). In a letter of February 4, 1802, George discussed Alexander's enormous debts ("Alexander could not be indebted at New providence in any less sum than 100.000 Dollars"). Despite this, all three remained in the business at least until 1808.

William Leckie's letters, in particular, show him to be a keen observer of society. In a letter of August 15, 1802, he described the rapid growth of cotton as a crop, the construction of Washington, D.C., and his views on the American social and political scene. His comments on the growing tensions over slavery in the south would prove prophetic: "I have thought that two circumstances are likely to operate at possibly no very distant day to the disadvantage of this happy Country, the first is the great laxity of morals & religion…The other is the increasing quantity of blacks…who are all natives & many of whom can read & write, these will perhaps prove the bane of all the Southern States & by their struggles for freedom involve nearly one half of the Union in Civil Wars."

Show all series level scope and content notes