Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Leckie Family Papers, 1794-1808

Finding aid created by
Shannon Wait, April 2010

Summary Information
Title: Leckie family papers
Creator: Leckie family
Inclusive dates: 1794-1808
Extent: 50 items
The Leckie family papers document the business activities and relationships of Alexander Leckie and his sons, who traded dry goods between England, the United States, and the Caribbean around 1800.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1993. M-2933.

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:

Leckie Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The Leckie family papers are arranged chronologically.


Little is known about the early life of Alexander Leckie (also Lackie), except that he married a woman named Margaret and they had at least three children: George (b. 1760), William (b. 1765), and Alexander (b. 1768). All were baptized in Swallow Street Scotch Church in Westminster, London. By the 1790s, father and sons had set up a successful business trading dry goods between England, the United States, and several Caribbean islands. Alexander, Sr., and Alexander, Jr., settled in Portsmouth, Virginia, while George remained in London, and William primarily resided in Kingston, Jamaica. In this way, they were able to oversee the many aspects of the large-scale operation. Alexander Leckie, Sr., intended to return to England in 1800, but died in September, before he could make the voyage. The younger Leckies continued to run the business until at least 1808.

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."

Subject Terms

    • Commerce--History.
    • Family-owned business enterprises.
    • Fathers and sons.
    • Great Britain--Commerce.
    • Haiti--Commerce.
    • International trade.
    • Jamaica--Commerce.
    • Kingston (Jamaica)
    • London (England)
    • Mercantile system.
    • Merchant ships.
    • Merchant ships--United States.
    • New York (N.Y.)
    • Norfolk (Va.)
    • Port-au-Prince (Haiti)
    • Portsmouth (Va.)
    • Privateering.
    • Slavery.
    • United States--Commerce.
    • Washington (D.C.)
    • Washington (D.C.)--Description and travel.
    • West Indies--History.
    • Leckie, Alexander, d. 1800.
    • Leckie, Alexander, Jr., b. 1768.
    • Leckie, George, b. 1760.
    • Leckie, William, b. 1765.
    Genre Terms:
    • Correspondence.
    • Inventories.
    • Receipts.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   13, Small Collections  
    Leckie family papers [series]
    Folder   22  
     October 28, 1794-August 31, 1797
    Folder   23  
     August 31, 1797-January 24, 1798
    Folder   24  
     February 17, 1798-June 16, 1798
    Folder   25  
      July 26, 1798-August 31, 1799
    Folder   26  
     May 25, 1800-February 4, 1802
    Folder   27  
     February 4, 1802-September 12, 1808,  undated
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    Related Collections:

    The Patrick White letterbook contains letters to Alexander Leckie (March 15, 1794; August 5, 1794; July 31, 1794; March 18, 1794).

    The Ewing Family papers contain a letter from William Leckie (October 31, 1799).

    The Tailyour papers contain two letters from Alexander Leckie (October 20, 1793; January 7, 1794) and one letter from George Leckie (December 30, 1793) .