PICKERING, TIMOTHY (1745-1829), American politician, was born at Salem, Massachusetts, on the 17th of July 1745. He graduated from Harvard College in 1763 and was admitted to the bar in 1768. In the pre-revolutionary controversies he identified himself with the American Whigs; in 1773 he prepared for Salem a paper entitled Slate of the Rights of the Colonists; in 1775 he drafted a memorial protesting against the Boston Port Bill; and in 1776 he was a representative from Salem in the General Court of Massachusetts. In 1766 he had been commissioned lieutenant and in 1769 captain in the Essex county militia; early in 1775 he published An Easy Plan of Discipline for a Militia, adopted in May 1776 by the General Court for use by the militia of Massachusetts, and he was elected colonel of his regiment. In the same year he became judge of the court of common pleas for Essex county, and sole judge of the maritime court for the counties of Suffolk, Essex and Middlesex. In the winter of 1776-1777 he led an Essex regiment of volunteers to New York, and he subsequently served as adjutant-general (June 1777-Jan. 1778) and later as quartermaster-general (1780-1785); he was also a member of the board of war from the 7th of November 1777 until its abolition. With the aid of some officers he drew up, in April 1783, a plan for the settlement of the North- West territory, which provided for the exclusion of slavery. In 1785 he became a commission merchant in Philadelphia; but in October 1786, soon after the legislature of Pennsylvania had passed a bill for erecting Wyoming district into the county of Luzerne, he was appointed prothonotary and a judge of the court of common pleas and clerk of the court of sessions and orphans' court for the new county, and was commissioned to organize the county. He offered to purchase for himself the Connecticut title to a farm, and in the following year he was appointed a member of a commission to settle claims according to the terms of an act, of which he was the author, confirming the Connecticut titles (see WYOMING VALLEY and WILKES-BARRE). Pickering was a member of the Pennsylvania convention of 1787 which ratified the Federal constitution, and of the Pennsylvania constitutional convention of 1789-1790. In November 1790 he negotiated a peace with the Seneca Indians, and he concluded treaties with the Six Nations in July 1791, in March 1792 and in November 1794. Under Washington he was postmaster-general (1791-1795), secretary of war (1795), and after December 1795 secretary of state, to which position he was reappointed (1797) by Adams. In 1783, while he was quartermaster-general, he had presented a plan for a military academy at West Point, and now, as secretary of war, he supervised the West Point military post with a view to its conversion into a military academy. As head of the state department he soon came into conflict with Adams. His hatred of France made it impossible for him to sympathize with the president's efforts to settle the differences with that country on a peaceable basis. He used all his influence to hamper the president and to advance the political interests of Alexander Hamilton, until he was dismissed, after refusing to resign, in May 1800. Returning to Massachusetts, he served as chief justice of the court of common pleas of Essex county in 1802-1803. He was a United States senator in 1803-1811 and a member of the Federal House of Representatives in 1813-1817. As an ultra Federalist he was a prominent member of the group known as the Essex Junto he strongly opposed the purchase of Louisiana and the War of 1812. He died at Salem, Massachusetts, on the 29th of January 1829.
The standard biography is that by his son, Octavius Pickering (1791-1868), and C. W. Upham, The Life of Timothy Pickering (4 vols., Boston, 1867-1873). In the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society at Boston, there are sixty-two manuscript volumes of the Pickering papers, an index to which was published in the Collections of the society, 6th series, vol. viii. (Boston, 1896).
His son, JOHN PICKERING (1777-1846), graduated at Harvard in 1796, studied law and was private secretary to William Smith, United States minister to Portugal, in 1797-1799, and to Rufus King, minister to Great Britain, in 1799-1801. He practised law in Salem and (after 1827) in Boston, where he was city solicitor in 1827-1846, and wrote much on law and especially on the languages of the North-American Indians. He was a founder of the American Oriental Society and published an excellent Comprehensive Dictionary of the Greek Language (1826).
See Mary O. Pickering (his daughter), Life of John Pickering (Boston, 1887).
Timothy Pickering's grandson, CHARLES PICKERING (1805- 1878), graduated at Harvard College in 1823 and at the Harvard Medical School in 1826, practised medicine in Philadelphia, was naturalist to the Wilkes exploring expedition of 1838-1842, and in 1843-1845 travelled in East Africa and India. He wrote The Races of Man and their Geographical Distribution (1848), Geographical Distribution of Animals and Man (1854), Geographical Distribution of Plants (1861) and Chronological History of Plants (1879).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)