Henry Strachey papers  1768-1802
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Collection Scope and Content Note

The Henry Strachey papers comprise 102 letters, a letterbook containing an additional 35 letters, 5 financial records, 4 legal documents, and 2 volumes of reports from the governors of various American colonies to the Earl of Dartmouth, 1773.

The correspondence covers the period between 1733 and 1802, although the bulk centers around 1776-1785. The largest portion of the correspondence is between Strachey and his wife, Jane; they exchanged a total of 34 letters between 1776 and 1778, while Strachey was in North America. The collection includes 29 letters from Henry to Jane and 5 long letters, totaling around 60 pages, from Jane to Henry. Strachey's letters to his wife primarily concern his impressions of the colonies, news about his health, and observations concerning mutual acquaintances. The tone of Strachey's letters is frequently affectionate; on December 2, 1776, he requested locks of hair from her and the children, but intimated that he felt "silly" and "embarrassed" doing so. In his letters, Strachey responded to his wife's curiosity about the colonies. On May 13, 1776, he recommended that she read Andrew Burnaby's and Peter Kalm's books on North America. He also provided rich details of his own experiences, as in his letter of March 24, 1778, in which he wrote a long description of daily life in Philadelphia, including elaborate "Tea drinkings," plays put on by soldiers, unchaperoned balls, and the respect accorded William Howe, who "is King here." Occasionally, Strachey's letters to his wife allude to political events taking place; on December 8, 1777, he mentioned the burning of the Augusta at the Battle of Red Bank, and directed her on how to use a cipher if the necessity arose. Jane Strachey's letters contain primarily family news, descriptions of her daily events, expressions of concern for her husband's health, and her thoughts on running the household.

Approximately 30 letters in the collection, and all 35 letters in the letterbook, relate to Beauclerc Bluff, Strachey's plantation in eastern Florida. The correspondence is both incoming and outgoing, and Strachey's correspondents include East Florida Governor Patrick Tonyn, lawyers Edward and James Penman, and plantation managers Alexander Gray and John Ross. These letters span 1771-1802 and document Strachey's increasing dissatisfaction with the plantation's poor returns and its eventual sale. Approximately 10 letters relate to the sale of Strachey's slaves, including accounts of their prices, and a reference to a male and female slave escaping and joining the Creek Nation (September 29, 1784). Several letters between Strachey and Thomas Bee concern Bee’s purchase of slaves and his failure to pay for them. Letters concerning Beauclerc Bluff also provide details on the struggle to introduce indigo to Florida (January 2, 1777) and on Strachey's waning confidence in the British ability to hold the country. On September 4, 1782, Strachey expressed these concerns to Tonyn and urged him to prepare for this in order to avoid "thinking of such Essentials when all may be hurry & Confusion."

Several letters in the collection focus on politics in England and America. In a letter to Strachey of March 14, 1774, Edward Clive mentioned Alexander Wedderburn's speech criticizing Benjamin Franklin, and congratulated Strachey on a victory over the "Bloomshbury gang" [sic]. Two additional items from Strachey to politician Christopher D'Oyly regard the prospects for restoring peace (August 11, 1776). Also present is a signed copy of a letter from General George Washington to Brigadier General Jared Irwin, requesting his opinion on the advisability of attacking Philadelphia during the winter (December 3, 1777).

The Documents and Financial Records series contains 10 items relating to Strachey's commissions and finances, and some additional miscellany, including an excerpt from the will of John Allen. Also present is a document tracking the number and prices of Strachey's slaves, 1770-1779, and other papers relating to the plantation. The items cover the years 1770 to 1791.

The Dartmouth Volumes series contains two bound vellum volumes of copies of replies and reports from the governors of British colonies in answer to the circular of William Legge, 2nd earl of Dartmouth (1731-1801). On July 5, 1773, Dartmouth, then Secretary of State for the colonies, sent out a circular letter with 22 questions to the governors of various British colonies. He collected their responses and accompanying records in two volumes. Around the time that he was appointed to the Howe peace commission, Strachey had copies of the volumes made for his own use.

The first volume contains Dartmouth's circular letter and questionnaires for the mainland colonies, island colonies, and Senegambia (pp. 1-11). They raise such questions as the number and attitudes of Native Americans, quantities of imports and exports, size of the militia, the characteristics of the population, and the geography and resources of each colony. These are followed by the responses of various governors and colonial officials: Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts Bay (pp. 12-30), Francis Legge of Nova Scotia (35-48), Walter Patterson of St. John's Island (now Prince Edward Island) (53-68), John Wentworth of New Hampshire (73-104), Jonathan Trumbull of Connecticut (107-120), William Tryon of New York (123-207), William Franklin of New Jersey (219-242), John Murray of Virginia (249-268), Thomas Penn of Pennsylvania (269-303), James Wright of Georgia (315-358), and Peter Chester of West Florida (363-373).

The answers are lengthy, and provide both quantitative and qualitative information on many aspects of each colony. In his response to the question, "What number of Indians have you and how are they inclined," Governor Trumbull of Connecticut answered, "There are 1,363, many of them dwell in English Families, the rest in small Tribes in various places in Peace, good order, and inclined to Idleness." (p. 115). Several colonies included appendices giving further details; New York included a 1771 list of inhabitants, a surveyor's report, a table of salaries and other records. New Jersey appended an account of marriages, birth, and burials between 1771 and 1772. Pennsylvania provided additional information on imports and exports, 1769-1773. The last item in the volume is copy of a three-page document (433-435), signed by Attorney General William de Grey, and entitled "Case," in which de Grey gave the opinion that Commander-in-Chief Thomas Gage's power over troops in New York superseded the power of the Governor of New York. The document is dated May 16, 1770.

The second volume contains the responses from Jamaica (pp. 29-65), Barbados (67-100), the Leeward Islands (101-158), the Virgin Islands, Grenada (185-226), Carriouacou (227-234), Tobago (263-314), St. Vincent (315-364), Dominica (373-397), the Bahamas (399-433), and Bermuda (435-447). In addition to responses to Dartmouth's questions, the reply from Jamaica contains accounts of "Ordinary Expenses" and "Extraordinary Expenses," and tax information. Barbados' portion of the volume contains a thorough description of numbers of cavalry and infantry and their organization into companies. Concerning the population, the report noted that "[t]he Blacks have decreased considerably within the last five Years…a Decrease that probably has proceeded from the Settlement of the late neutral Islands by the English…." (p. 77-78). Grenada's account includes a list of public and military officers, and of 1772 imports and exports, as well as several other appendices. The two volumes are a very rich source of information on the demographics, geography, and government of the British colonies just before the American Revolution.

The Maps series contains three maps: "Virgin Islands surveyed in 1774," "A chart of Tibee Inlet in Georgia" (1776), and a map of Fort Nassau, Bahamas (1775). These items are located in the Map Division.

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