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Pickering, Timothy (1745-1829) to John Jay

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00570 Author/Creator: Pickering, Timothy (1745-1829) Place Written: Salem, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 23 September 1824 Pagination: 3 p. : address : docket ; 40 x 26 cm.

A long letter on politics, foreign relations, Pickering's relationship with John Adams and others, and attacks on him in print. Extensively discusses the politics surrounding his "Review of the Adams & Cunningham Correspondence." Comments on the relationship of his review to the writing of his memoirs. Also goes into detail about the personal attacks made against him in the newspapers. Discusses the political ambitions of Edward Everett, then a professor at Harvard. Among the prominent figures discussed are Jefferson and Adams, John Quincy Adams, Alexander Everett, and Edward Everett. A post script asks what the Marquis de Lafayette and Nathanael Greene would think of the idolatry of the national celebrations.

Notes: Pickering had been a member of the extreme Federalists known as the "Essex Junto." He was a friend of Harrison G. Otis (see Alexander Hamilton letter to Otis, GLC 496.030). The private correspondence from John Adams to William Cunningham in 1804 had included some acerbic comments on Jefferson; these were published without permission by Cunningham's son in order to embarrass Adams and jeopardize the presidential candidacy of John Quincy Adams; Lester J. Cappon, Ed., The Adams-Jefferson Letters, 2: 555. Pickering's Salem remarks on the Declaration of Independence were published as Observations introductory to reading the Declaration of independence, at Salem, July 4, 1823. ([Salem]: [Wm. Palfrey, Jr.], 1823).

Salem Sept. 23. 1824
Dear Sir,
I received your letter of June 8th, relating to my Review of the Adams & Cunningham Corrispondince, a copy of which I sent you. I had before recieved one from Chief Justice Marshall, to whom also I had sent a copy, exprissing sentiments, concerning Mr. Adams & me, similar to yours; both manifesting all the regard & esteem for me which I could desire. He said "it gave him no small satisfaction that I did not consider my sucessor as my enemy". Nothing, indeed, would have been more adverse to my disposition. Eminent talents and distinguished visitors [inserted above: have always won] [struck-out: own] my heart: in him they were united: while I am not conscious of envy or ill-will towards any human being; tho' I freely expose his faults. Even to Mr. Jefferson I can cordially say "farewell" -- sincerely wishing he might become a better man; while for many years I have thought him a political impostor, as well as, in part, a visionary politician.
My Review put in motion many electioneering pens, devoted to John Quincy Adams; from whom, in case of his gaining the Presidency, The writers expect patronage and office: reviling me, of course. This draws out numbers on the other side, in my defense. But of all my calumnations, whose writings have come to my knowledge, not one has surpassed Robert Walsh junr. the Editor of the National Gazette, at Philadelphia. His printed letter of January 1. 1810, written soon after his return from Europe, where he had [inserted: passed] two years in France and one in England, -- gave me a very high idea of his ability, learning and worth. Not long afterwards my acquaintance with him commenced. Afflicted with ill health, he knows the solicitude I uniformly manifested for his restoration. I looked forward to the time when he might be the able and faithful Historian of our country. -- In 1821-2, I passed some months in Philadelphia. He treated me with all the civility and attention of a respectful friend. I had, during several of the preceding years; been urged by several persons in Massachusetts, to write memoirs of my own time: but I shrunk from the task, as a work of too much labour for me, as so late a period in life, to encounter; if I could hope to write what might be acceptable to the public. But when at Philadelphia, as above mentioned, Mr. Walsh, of his own accord, proposed the same thing to me: and he was the first person to whom I answered - "I will do it." In the succeeding winter, I, commenced preparing some materials: but in the following summer, renewed my labours on my little farm in Wenham : and in September appeared, to my utter astonishment, the Adams & Cunningham letters. I, however, continued my husbandry labours thro' the season; [2] and afterwards, at my leisure, set about looking up and collecting the materials which I thought necessary towards my vindication. The result you have seen. I went further, in a few things, than I had originally intended, in order to exhibit some facts & observations which might have entered into my Memoirs, but which I doubted whether I should ever prosecute; being then seventy eight years old*.

*I was born July 6.1745, old style. On the change of style, I called my birth day the 17th of that month.

Antecedent to the appearing of the Adams & Cunningham Correspondence, to wit, April 23. 1823, Mr. Walsh sent me his printed prospectus of a New Work, to be entitled, "American Biography or Historical Dictionary of Eminent Americans." Annexed to the prospectus was his letter to me, requesting "materials for a biographical notice of myself, or an indication of the sources whence they might be drawn;" &c adding, "your name must of course be introduced into a dictionary of the kind. To do justice to your life will not be possible within the limits to which I shall be confined, but it is my duty to be accurate in the outline; A correct sketch, however brief, may be useful to future historians."
Undetermined whether to comply or not, with his request, Mr. Walsh's letter remained unanswered, until the following August; when again opening his batteries against the English Nation, because some of its travellers and periodical works had spoken disrespectfully and reproachfully of Our Country, he expressed his warm approbation of the spirit, full of enmity to the English, with which the 4th of July had been usually celebrated: at the same time evidently squinting at least, at some remarks I had made on that day, in the preceding month (sketches of which had been published) prefactory to my reading the declaration of independence, before a very large assembly in Salem; a reading to which I had consented on the condition, and on my part solely for the purpose, of showing the proper object of such a public reading -- to exhibit to the present generation an important historical fact; while the instrument itself enjoined, what policy as well as duty required, that we should "hold them, as we held the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends." -- I then wrote a letter to Mr. Walsh, reminding him of his celebrated letter of January 1810, full of the praises of England & the English Nation; and in which he at length rapturously exclaimed -- applying the sentiments to England --
Salve magnum parens frugam, Saturnia tellus,
magna virum.
I then mentioned another book (his Appeal), subsequently written, which, I remarked, I had not read; but which, on the best authority, I was warranted in saying, exhibited a very different opinion and spirit concerning England. -- I did not expect an answer: none was received. -- Before closing it, I acknowledged the receipt of his [3] letter of April 23d; and said I should consider of his request: but added that I had never thought myself of consequence enough to become the subject of a special article in Biography.
So the matter rested until my Review was published; and then he commenced, and for many months [inserted: he] continued, and has not yet ceased, to vent his own bad passions, in ascribing my review (not, I am persuaded, believing his own words) to envy, malice, hatred and revenge; and as a principal motive, to a desire to defeat the claim of John Quincy Adams to presidency of the United States. -- The Salem Gazette, which I shall address to you to-morrow, will contain my first mention of Mr. Walsh's editorial calumnies concerning myself. I was willing he should "get to the end of his tether," before I noticed him. If I should do it, it will beless on his account, then for the occasion it will furnish to give additional facts and observations in relation to some of the subjects in my Review. My information from Philadelphia, where I lived so many years, & where I am so well known, assures me, that his virulent slanders and scurrilities, have sensibly affected his reputation.
The first time I appeared for myself, in the pending controversy, since the publication of my Review, was in the Brief Remarks on John Q. Adams's Appendix (dated July 27th of the present year) to his letter of 1808 to H.G. Otis, on Mr. Jefferson's embargo. The anonymous essay in the Boston Patriot of the 14th instant, has called me out a second time. Its author I suppose to be Alexander Everett, a man of considerable talent; the same who going secretary of legation [struck-out: with] to the Netherlands, with Dr. Eustis, remained there, as chargé des affaires, after Eustis's return. He is now in Boston; and should Mr. Adams gain the President's chair, Everett undoubtedly expects to be sent back to Brussels & the Hague, advanced to the rank of minister plenipotentiary. Tho' a married man, he remains childless; & being also without a fortune, a foreign mission, while it provides for his support, will gratify his present ambition. His brother, professor Everett, of Harvard University, of higher talents, and of very extensive erudition, is not less ambitious -- too ambitious to remain much longer within the walls of a college -- even if, I believe, at its head. He also is married; and to a daughter of a very worthy man, Peter C. Brooks Esqr. who will be able to leave to each of his ten or a dozen children, 150, or 200 thousand dollars. Mr. Brooks (as I have understood) has hitherto put a curb on Everett's ambition, & retained him in his professorship: but I have just heard that he is talked of for a Middlesex representative to Congress. To this, perhaps, Mr. Brooks may be persuaded to give way. -- The character of Alexander may be inferred from the calumnies, well understood to be his, against Govr. Strong, when, at a critical period, this excellent man was the federal candidate for governor of Massachusetts.
The interest, I cannot but feel, on the subject of this letter, to be correctly understood by you who have given me so many proofs of your esteem, will, I trust, apologize for its length. I do not ask you to give yourself the trouble to return an answer. When I sent you my review, I purposely avoided writing to you, lest courtesy should seem to call on you for an answer; which I had no right to claim, & which it might be inconvenient for you to give. -- I observed the same course toward Judge Marshall.
With unfeigned respect & esteem,
I remain, Dear Sir,
your most obedt. Servant
T. Pickering.

P.S. My farm is now in a tenant's hand: My home is Salem--the place of my birth.
[Pointing hand:] The poet Cowper, referring to [inserted: the jubilees in honour of] Shakespeare, Handel, &c. calls their votaries "commemoration mad." What is our Nation in regard to La Fayette? He is entitled to the lasting gratitude and respect of Our Country, for his extraordinary zeal, bravery and sacrifice in our cause: He was a valuable officer. Greene, however, also a major general, was as much superior, for talents and important services, as can well be conceived. What, were he living, would he think of the current National celebrations? -- The apotheoses of heroes in ancient times, when, too, idolatry was the public religion, must cease to excite our wonder. But all mankind seem prone to idolatry; only varying in its objects. Now the excess springs evidently from rival ambition in our great towns.
The Honble John Jay.

[4] [address leaf]
(a single letter)
The Honourable
John Jay
State of New York

Recd. 2d Octr. 1824
Honle. Timothy Pickering
23 Septr. 1824
answd 12 October

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