Related by birth,
marriage and association with the leading Scotch families in New York
during the prosperous period which succeeded the American Revolution,
and true to the traditions of Scottish race and character, the
Twenty-third President joined the Saint Andrew's Society soon after his
arrival in this country, and eventually attained the highest offices
within its gift.
David Sproat Kennedy was
the son of Captain John Kennedy, mariner, and Mary Lenox, and was born
in the year 1791, at Kirkcudbright, a small town located on the seacoast
of Scotland. He died on the 2d February, 1853, at his residence on Fifth
avenue, in New York City, aged sixty-two years.
His father doubtless made
frequent voyages to this country, and had been elected an Honorary
Member of Saint Andrew’s Society as early as 1791. His mother was a
daughter of James Lenox and Elizabeth Sproat and sister of Robert Lenox,
the eminent merchant and Fifteenth President of the Society, and Air.
Kennedy thus was of close kin to the Sproat and Lenox families, so well
and widely known during the Revolutionary War.
After receiving a modest
education in the parish school of his native town, Mr. Kennedy decided
to try his fortune in the new land, where his relatives had already
attained a position of influence and wealth, and he sailed for New York
about 1807. Upon his arrival he was cordially received by his kinsfolk
and their friends, who secured for him a clerkship in the rising
commercial house which his uncle, James Lenox, and William Maitland had
founded in 1796. There his interest, energy and devotion to business
soon won the respect and attention of the heads of the house and
ultimately resulted in his admission as a partner in 1812. The firm at
that time was known as Lenox, Maitland & Company, but in 1818 the name
was changed to Kennedy & Maitland, when James Lenox, Mr. Kennedy's
uncle, retired from the business and returned to take up a permanent
residence in Scotland.
At this period the firm
was known as one of the greatest commercial houses in the United States,
and Mr. Kennedy held a commanding position in the financial and social
community, which he strengthened by his marriage with his cousin, the
daughter of Robert Lenox. Thereafter the firm was known as Maitland,
Kennedy & Company, about 1824; later as Maitland, Comrie & Company; as
Maitland, Phelps & Company; and finally at the present time as Maitland,
Coppell & Company. Unfortunately, his firm, “Maitland & Kennedy,” met
with heavy losses and reverse of fortune about 1814, but Mr. Kennedy and
his associates bravely set out to retrieve their position and eventually
retired from business with handsome fortunes.
Upon his father-in-law's
death he succeeded to the management of part of the large estate, and
also inherited a considerable personal property from his uncle, James
Lenox, who died unmarried in Scotland during 1839. In later years Mr.
Kennedy became the agent for the Bank of Montreal and several other
leading banks of Canada, and enjoyed the full confidence of those
British capitalists who had extensive investments in the Dominion of
Canada and the United States. He was identified with many of the leading
financial institutions of his day and took an active interest in the
then religious, charitable and social organizations.
In his will, dated the 3d
March, 1848, and recorded in the New York City Surrogate’s Office on the
12th February, 1853, he calls himself “Banker of the City of New York,”
and mentions after his wife and four children, his “brother, James Lenox
Kennedy,” and his “aunt, Mrs. Margaret Wilson, residing at
He joined the Saint
Andrew’s Society in 1817; served as a Manager from 1823-1824, and from
1825-1826; as Second Vice-President from 1827-1828; and as President
from 1840-1842. He was also a member of the Standing Committee in 1835,
and on the Committee of Accounts in 1845, 1846 and 1847.
He married on the 22nd
May, 1822, his cousin, Rachel Carmer Lenox, daughter of Robert Lenox and
Rachel Carmer, and had issue: (1) Robert Lenox, (2) Rachel Lenox, (3)
Mary Lenox, (4) James Lenox.
His portrait is
reproduced from an oil painting by Trumbull, now in the possession of
his daughter, Miss Mary Lenox Kennedy.