Eliza Lucas was born into a moderately wealthy family in South Carolina. Throughout her life she shrewdly managed her money and greatly added to her family’s wealth. These two letters from an unusually intelligent financial manager offer a glimpse into the commercial revolution and social worlds of the early eighteenth century.
Letter to a friend in London
May 2, 1740
I flatter myself it will be a satisfaction to you to hear I like this part of the world, as my lot has fallen here—which I really do. I prefer England to it, ‘tis true, but think Carolina greatly preferable to the West Indies, as was my Papa here I should be very happy.
We have a very good acquaintance from whom we have received much friendship and civility. Charles Town, the principal one in this province, is a polite, agreeable place. The people live very gentle and very much in the English taste. The country is in general fertile and abounds with venison and wild fowl; the venison is much higher flavored than in England but ‘tis seldom fat.
My Papa and Mama’s great indulgence to me leaves it to me to choose our place of residence either in town or country, but I think it more prudent as well as agreeable to my Mama and self to be in the country during Father’s absence. We are 17 mile by land and 6 y water from Charles Town—where we have about 6 agreeable families around us with whom we live in great harmony.
I have a little library well furnished (for my papa has left me most of his books) in which I spend part of my time. My music and the garden, which I am very fond of, take up the rest of my time that is not employed in business, of which my father has left me a pretty good share—and indeed, ‘twas unavoidable as my Mama’s bad state of health prevents her going through any fatigue.
I have the business of 3 plantations to transact, which requires much writing and more business and fatigue of other sorts than you can imagine. But least you should imagine it too burdensome to a girl at my early time of life, give me leave to answer you; I assure you I think myself happy that I can be useful to so good a father, and by rising very early I find I can go through much business. But least you should think I shall be quite moped with this way of life I am to inform you there is to worthy ladies in Charles Town, Mrs. Pickney and Mrs. Cleland, who are partial enough to me to be always pleased to have me with them, and insist upon making their houses my home when in town and press me to relax, a little much oftener than ’tis my honor to accept of their obliging entreaties. But I sometimes am with one or the other for 3 weeks or a month at a time, and enjoy all the pleasures Charles Town affords, but nothing gives me more than subscribing myself.
Yr. most affectionate and most obliged humble servt.
Letter to her father
June 4, 1741
Never were letters more welcome than yours of Feb. 19th and 20th and March the 15th and 21st, which came almost together. It was near 6 months since we had the pleasure of a line from you. Our fears increased apace and we dreaded some fatal accident befallen, but hearing of your recovery from a dangerous fit of illness has more than equaled, great as it was, our former anxiety. Nor shall we ever think ourselves sufficiently thankful to Almighty God for the continuance of so great a blessing.
I sympathize most sincerely with a calamity as the scarcity of provisions and the want of the necessarys of life to the poorer sort. We shall send all we can get of all sorts of provisions particularly what you write for. I write this day to Starrat for a barrel of butter.
We expect the boat dayly from Garden Hill when I shall be able to give you an account of affairs there. The cotton, guiney corn, and most of the ginger planted here was cut off by a frost. I wrote you a former letter we had a fine crop of indigo seed upon the ground, and since informed you the frost took it before it was dry. I picked out the best of it and had it planted but there is not more than a hundred bushes of it come up—which proves the more unlucky as you have sent a man to make it. I make no doubt indigo will prove a very valuable commodity in time if we could have the seed from the West Indies time enough to plant the latter end of March, that the seed might be dry enough to gather before our frost. I am sorry we lost this season. We can do nothing towards it now but make the works ready for next year. The lucern is yet dwindlering, but Mr. Hunt tells me ‘tis always so here the first year.
The death of my Grandmamma was, as you imagine, very shocking and grievous to my Mama, but I hope the considerations of the miserys that attend so advanced an age will help time to wear it off. I am very much obliged to you for the present you were so good to send me of the fifty pound bill of exchange which I duly received.
We hear Carthagene is taken.
Mr. Wallis is dead. Capt. Norberry was lately killed in a duel by Capt. Dobrusee, whose life was despaired of by the wounds he received. He is much blamed for quarreling with such a brawling man as Norberry who was disregarded by every body. Norberry has a wife and 3 or 4 children in very bad circumstances to lament his rashness.
Mama tenders her affections and Polly joins in duty with.
My Dr. Papa
Your most obedient and ever devoted daughter
Harriott Horry Ravenel, Eliza Pinckney (New York: 1896), 5-6, 8-10.