William Leggett, an American author, born in New York in 1802, died May 29, 1839. He was educated at the college in Georgetown, D. C, and in 1819 accompanied his father to Illinois. In 1822 he entered the navy as midshipman, but resigned his warrant in 1826. He had in the previous year published a volume of poems, entitled "Leisure Hours at Sea, by a Midshipman of the U. S. Navy " (18mo, New York). In 1828 he became editor of the "Critic," a weekly literary journal, which was soon united with the "New York Mirror." He subsequently collected in a volume some of his contributions to these and other publications, under the title of "Tales by a Country Schoolmaster," followed by one entitled " Sketches at Sea." In the summer of 1829 he became one of the editors of the New York " Evening Post," to which journal he was attached till January, 1836. At the outset he stipulated with his principal, Mr. William C. Bryant, that he should not be required to write on political subjects, as he had no taste for or fixed opinions upon them; but before a year had passed he appeared to have found his true vocation in discussing them. In 1835 the meetings of the abolitionists in New York city were attacked and dispersed by mobs.
Leggett denounced these proceedings, and defended the right of free discussion in regard to slavery as well as all other subjects. Having retired from the "Post," he commenced a weekly journal called the " Plaindealer," which attained a large circulation, but was discontinued in less than a year through the failure of its publisher; after which, his health being greatly enfeebled, he ceased literary labor, and lived in retirement at New Rochelle. In 1839 he was appointed by President Van Bu-ren diplomatic agent to Guatemala, but died suddenly while preparing for his departure.
Soon after his death a collection of his " Political Writings," with a memoir, was published by Theodore Sedgwick (2 vols., New York, 1840). Mr. Leggett was remarkable among the journalists of his day as an unflinching advocate of freedom of opinion for his political opponents as well as for the men of his own party. Mr. Bryant, who has written a poem in his memory, describes him as a person fond of study, one delighting to trace principles to their remotest consequences, and greatly gifted with moral courage, having no fear of public opinion as regarded the expression of his own convictions.