William Leggett (April 30, 1801 – May 29, 1839) was an American poet, fiction writer, and journalist. He was a New Yorker who attended Georgetown and then entered the military. His time in the military didn’t agree with him and he was court martialed for “dueling on duty”. Upon leaving the navy, he returned to New York City in 1826 and began writing.
Leggett became a theater critic at the New York Mirror and assistant editor of the short-lived Merchants’ Telegraph. In November 1828, he founded the Critic, a literary journal that lasted only a few months. In the summer of 1829, however, William Cullen Bryant (of Bryant Park fame) invited Leggett to write for the New York Evening Post. He wrote literary and drama reviews and began to write political editorials.
In 1831 he became part owner and co-editor and took over for Bryant when he traveled to Europe in 1834-35. Leggett’s political opinions proved highly controversial, he often took on President Jackson in his editorials. He also became an outspoken opponent of slavery. His opinions and the following controversy proved expensive for the paper and took a toll on his health. When Bryant returned from Europe, Leggett resigned his position and moved to Upstate New York. He continued to write and be involved in politics, a consistent and strong advocate of laissez-faire (an economic system in which transactions between private parties are free from government intervention such as regulation, privileges, tariffs and subsidies.)
While he was in the Navy, Leggett had contracted yellow fever. This had left him in poor health for much of his later civilian life and he died in New Rochelle, New York in 1839 at the age of 38.