The partners of The Firm were crabbed little men, however shrewd they may have been and however efficacious as agents of the expansion of the plantation system. Fulwar Skipwith was also important to that movement in American history, but, great of heart and grandly proportioned in body, he served with a panache denied to Panton or Leslie or Forbes. Not a smiling sentence was left to us by any of the three, while Skipwith wrote of dances and songs and antic adventures before he settled down to the tobacco business, the diplomatic service, espionage, cotton planting, and a land office in West Florida.
Having observed the progress of the partners of The Firm from smallscale operations as fur merchants of Charleston to their roles as real estate agents on a continental scale, we will now follow Skipwith through the same time period and much the same terrain, but coming to them with an entirely different perspective. Skipwith took the Whig side of the American Revolution, survived the Quasi War, assisted the Louisiana Purchase, and became President of West Florida, aiding the government of the United States in acquiring that formerly Spanish province and then in bringing Louisiana fully into the slaveholders' territory. He was then asked to revive an American presence in Haiti, infuriated Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans, and found safe haven within the patronage system of his “particular friend” James Monroe.
Skipwith was not clever, nor did he cogitate policy. He was, so to speak, always an iron filing on the surface of the table and seldom conscious of the grand geopolitical and geoeconomic impulses playing upon his life and career. Though he was himself a merchant of tobacco and wine before becoming a diplomat and planter, he did not show much talent for commerce or comprehension of the immense power of the commercial magnets under the table. The partners of The Firm—called by his mentor Jefferson “certain mercantile characters”—were not his sort. He and they were, however, on the same side of things.