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William Kennedy papers (1752-1753)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Shannon Wait
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: William Kennedy papers
Creator: Kennedy, William
Inclusive dates: 1752-1753
Extent: 1 volume
The William Kennedy papers consist of contemporary copies of three legal documents related to a mid-18th century dispute between Oliver and William Kennedy and John Gay Alleyne over a sugar cane plantation and slaves in the parish of St. Michael, Barbados.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1928. M-19 .

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation

William Kennedy Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The three documents that make up the William Kennedy papers are contained in one volume. The two documents dating from 1752 are bound together, and the 1753 document is enclosed within the covers of the volume.


Little is known of William Kennedy’s early life, except that he was the brother of Oliver Kennedy, and that by the 1710s, the Kennedy brothers were living in the parish of St. Michael, Barbados.

In 1725, the Court of Common Pleas of Barbados declared that George Nicholas owed Oliver Kennedy a sum of over £1100. Nicholas also owed money to a number of other creditors. Although he was wealthy enough to own a 316-acre sugar plantation (now known as St. Nicholas’ Abbey) and 130 slaves, Nicholas took great pains to avoid paying his debts, eventually leaving Barbados, having been accused of carrying out a fraudulent scheme with “one Joseph Dottin (“To the Kings most Excellent Majesty in Council,” p. 5).

According to testimony by William Kennedy, Nicholas avoided paying his debts to Oliver Kennedy and others, and enriched Joseph Dottin. The case was further complicated by William Kennedy’s appointment, sometime before 1727, to the position of Deputy Provost Marshal General of Barbados and Deputy Marshal of the Common Plea Courts, which opened Kennedy up to the charge of tampering with records concerning the case, though formal charges were not made until 1748. Dottin died in 1735, and the plantation and slaves eventually passed to his daughter Christian, the wife of John Gay Alleyne (1724-1801), a notable planter and politician. William Kennedy maintained that the Kennedys had not been satisfactorily compensated for the debt, and that Dottin’s heirs, the Alleynes, now owed them money.

The conflict was renewed when, in 1748, Alleyne formally accused William Kennedy of destroying records concerning the case during his tenure as the Deputy Provost Marshal of Barbados, which had ended in 1730. Alleyne alleged that in that year, Kennedy “had either destroyed or concealed” bills of sale for Nicholas’ slaves, which would allegedly have been in his office. Kennedy claimed that such records had never existed. The case was decided in favor of Alleyne in 1752, a decision which William Kennedy appealed to the British Privy Council in 1753. However, the outcome of his appeal is unknown, as is further information on William and Oliver Kennedy after the conclusion of the case.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The William Kennedy papers contain three legal documents within a single volume, all of which relate to a prolonged dispute over an allegedly unpaid debt between landowners in 18th-century Barbados and the possible destruction of documents relevant to the case. The William Kennedy papers are contemporary manuscript copies of court documents. The first document, dated October 26, 1752, prefaces the second by briefly describing its contents.

The second document describes in detail numerous aspects of the Alleyne v. Kennedy case, in which John Gay Alleyne accused William Kennedy of destroying evidence of payment that his brother, Oliver Kennedy, allegedly received from Joseph Dottin, whose estate Alleyne inherited. Dated 1752, it spans approximately 240 pages, and contains multiple descriptions of the Alleyne plantation, now known as St. Nicholas Abbey, the 130 slaves that worked it, and accompanying household goods. It also contains sets of interrogatories, and depositions of 21 witnesses.

The third document, dated February 7, 1753, is William Kennedy’s appeal against the 1752 ruling in favor of Alleyne. In the 38-page document, Kennedy outlines the “fraudulent scheme” between Nicholas and Dottin and defends his actions as Deputy Provost Marshall.

Subject Terms

  • Alleyne, John Gay, 1724-1801.
  • Collecting of accounts.
  • St. Nicholas Abbey (Barbados)
  • Sugar plantations--Barbados.
  • Trials (Fraud)--Barbados.
  • Trials (Misconduct in office)--Barbados.

Contents List

Container / Location Title
Volume   1  
William Kennedy papers,  1752-1753 [series]
Preface,  1752 October 26
Alleyne v. Kennedy document,  1752
Petition and Appeal of William Kennedy to the British Privy Council,  1753 February 7

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

The William Petty, Earl of Shelburne papers contain three letters written by Sir John Gay Alleyne:
  • To Samuel Eastwick, April 23, 1782
  • To Samuel Eastwick, July 18, 1782
  • To the Earl of Shelburne, July 6, 1782


The Clements Library holds the following book by John Alleyne:

Gardiner, Richard, and John Gay Alleyne. A Defence of the Conduct of Barbadoes, During the Late Expedition to Martinique And Guadaloupe: In a Letter to the Right Hon. Gen. Barrington. London: Printed for R. and J. Dodsley..., 1760.