Akers family business papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The majority of this material consists of papers relating to the Akers family business interests in the West Indies, although there is a small amount of more personal material listed under MS999/8. Much of the material was created during the lifetime of the first Aretas Akers, but the annotations found on the majority of the documents demonstrate that the material has been subsequently used and re-used to bring order to the family's financial affairs and to fulfill the demands of Aretas Akers' will.

Administrative / Biographical History

Aretas Akers was born on the island of St Kitts in 1734, the eldest son of Edmund Akers, a man of English descent, who owned land on St Vincent. Akers acquired his own estates on St Kitts, and much later, inherited his father's estates on St Vincent. Akers added to his position of strength and influence in the islands through his marriage to Jean Douglas, the niece of the Governor of the Leeward Islands. He maintained his connections with Great Britain - having his children educated in Scotland and England. Jean Douglas died in 1768, soon after the birth of her seventh child - Akers did not remarry.

As a substantial landowner on St Kitts and St Vincent, Akers played an important role in finance, business, trade and politics of the islands. The influence of his position is demonstrated by the fact that he was appointed Receiver of the Casual Revenue or Droits of Admiralty for the Leeward Carribee Islands by the British government at the outset of the American War of Independence. This meant that he was responsible for the sale of ships and cargo captured during the war and distributed prize money to ships' crews. He was also appointed by Lord Rodney as one of the joint agents responsible for the distribution of prize money after the British conquered the island of St Eustatius in 1779.

Akers was also active in political life on St Kitts. He served as a represntative on the legislative assembly, but resigned from this position in 1769 as a result of a dispute ostensibly over the Governor's attempt to prevent assembly members who also acted for the British Government from voting for new representatives. As a result of this, Akers and his 6 fellow protestors were jailed for more than a month. After his release Akers may have travelled to London to bring the matter before the House of Commons, although it is unclear what the result of this was. In time all seven members of the assembly were re-elected to it. Akers also appears to visited England in 1774 in order to protest against the war with America because of the effect that it would have trade in the West Indies.

Aretas Akers and his family left St Kitts in 1782 when the island was captured by the French. The family settled in England, but Akers travelled to Paris in order to petition the French government concerning a problem with the Stubbs estate on St Vincent. He spent the remaining three years of his life working to bring some order to his financial and business affairs which had been thrown into chaos as a result of British losses in the West Indies. He was in dispute with the British government concerning the sale of ships and cargo in Tortola, where as a result of the lack of availability of currency he had accepted bonds from purchasers rather than cash. The government regarded Akers as been responsible for the subsequent debts. The Government also had a large claim against him for Droits of Admiralty for Greenwich Naval Hospital, which received unclaimed and forfeited shares of prize money. His financial position had been further weakened by the effect that the War and poor weather conditions had had on the management of his estates and trade.

Akers died in 1785, and in his will vested his estate in Alexander Douglas, his two sons, Edmund Fleming Akers and Aretas Akers, and William Forbes in trust for his heirs. Edmund and Aretas Akers then began the long process of ordering their father's tangled affairs so that the terms of the will could be executed. This process continued for more than twenty years, Edmund Akers managing affairs in the West Indies, and Aretas Akers II working from London.

Arrangement

Although this material was tied into bundles, the bundles had no discernable logical arrangement, and have therefore not been maintained. The fact that one of the bundles consisted entirely of wrappers which had been detached from former bundles was also indicative of the fact that original order had been lost. Because the material consists primarily of business papers no attempt has been made to separate material belonging to different family members. Instead, the papers have been arranged to reflect that the family also acted as a corporate entity with specific business, financial and legal concerns.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to the items in the collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the controlled environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Access to archive collections may be restricted under the Freedom of Information Act. Please contact the University Archivist for details.

Acquisition Information

Deposited in 2000 and 2001.

Other Finding Aids

Handlist is available for consultation in the Library's Paleography Room and a word-processed copy can be supplied on request.

Archivist's Note

Separated Material

The Centre for Kentish Studies holds further Akers family correspondence ref: U1157, U564/C571-584

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.