• Radical Abolitionist Theodore Parker Sought Funds For Early Rio Voyage -- John Pickering Archive

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    JOHN PICKERING was an attorney, a senator in Massachusetts and solicitor for the city of Boston. He declined to attend the Constitutional Convention but was crucial in securing its passage in New Hampshire.  In 1795, he was appointed judge of the United States District Court but was impeached in 1804 for failing to perform his duties competently after having a mental breakdown. He also served as secretary to foreign ministers William Smith and Rufus King. He served on the Governor’s Council and represented Salem, MA, in the General Court. Pickering was the eldest son of Timothy Pickering, secretary of state and war under George Washington.


    An eight-piece archive, including 4 ALSs by John Pickering, his signature “Hon. John Pickering” on green paper adhered to a larger sheet, a bond, dated July 13th, 1818, for a payment to his father, a single page transcript of a letter and two large personal bookplates with the Pickering family coat of arms.


    One of the most interesting items is a one-page ALS, 8 x 10, Boston 1829, June 3, writing to Boston attorney William Minot in regard to a “claim for passage money” from THEODORE PARKER (August 24, 1810-May 10, 1860), for a voyage to Rio Janeiro. Parker was a notable Unitarian minister and an avid abolitionist who was part of the clandestine “Secret Six,” the group that secretly and illegally helped finance John Brown’s raid on the Harpers Ferry federal arsenal.   Parker also used his home as a stop along the Underground Railroad and was tried but acquitted for helping to hide two slaves who had fled Georgia. 


    During the voyage referred to in Pickering’s letter, Parker would have been 19, preceding his education in the ministry. The voyage likely would have involved a standard job for the young man. Research indicates that Parker’s petition to be paid for his work aboard the vessel ($75 per month) was presented to the 23rd Congress in March 1832.  He lost the job because he had been subpoenaed over the murder of the captain on the Brig Mentor of Boston.  The Mentor had come into contact with the Brig Orbit and the crew of the Orbit “had killed the captain.”  It appears as though he was allowed $3 a day from March 25 to May 31 for a total of $201. [Research included] A fascinating piece referring to one of the staunchest abolitionists in American history.


    Two letters are directed to PROFESSOR SIMON GREENLEAF, who contributed heavily to the development of Harvard Law School. Greenleaf’s well-known work, A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, is considered a classic of American jurisprudence.  Greenleaf was an important figure in the development of the Christian school of thought known as legal or judicial apologetics. This school is typified by legally trained scholars applying the canons of proof and arguments to the defense of Christian belief.


    In a July 19, 1835, ALS, 5 x 8, Pickering sends a draft of the Judge’s Report to Greenleaf, “which you preferred with some amendments proposed by us all of which are in red ink. One only requires a remark – the part on page 2 opposite to the red line in the margin appears to me not to belong to the case in its present shape. It serves to give a complexion of fraudulent managements, which is not a matter of discussion…I propose, therefore, to strike it all out. If you think otherwise, let the judge (Joseph Story) settle it between us.”



    On July 10, 1840, Boston, ALS, 8 x 10, Pickering writes to Judge Story and Greenleaf regarding a bust of Pickering.  “Your letter…requesting a copy of my bust, by Dexter, to be placed in the Law Institution at Cambridge, was received yesterday while I was absent from town. Though I dare not make any pretensions to the rank which you have been pleased to callow me among our jurists, I cannot refuse to comply with this flattering request on behalf of an Institution, which is so much indebted to you for its celebrity; and I have accordingly made an arrangement with the artist to deliver one of the busts to your order, whenever it shall be convenient for you to send for it.”


    One page, ALS, 8 x 10, April 15, 1844, I have just received the enclosed letter from Prof. Stuart by which you will see that we are to be disappointed of our address at the approaching anniversary from him. I am sorry for it but he has prima facie some apology but it is to be regretted that he did not give us earlier notice. Under these circumstances, you had better notify it to his substitute (Dr. Robinson, if I recollect, but your records will show) that, if practicable, we may have our anniversary meeting…”


    One page partially printed document by Gideon Southworth, 8 x 13, Bridgewater, PA, July 13, 1818, being a bond to Pickering’s father – Timothy—in the amount of $907.42.  TIMOTHY PICKERING was a soldier, a public official and a renowned political leader. He served as Adjutant-General (1777), Quartermaster-General (1780-1785), Postmaster-General (1791-1795) and Secretary of War under George Washington (1795). He was Secretary of State under Washington and continued under Adams (1795-1800) but was dismissed by Adams.  He was a Senator (1803-1811) and a Congressman (1813-1817) from Massachusetts.


    Also included is a separate signature of “Hon. John Pickering” on green paper adhered to a larger sheet with a pasted biography of him and a second pasted signature of “Tho Jackson” of Boston.


    Finally, the archive includes two very fine bookplates with the Pickering family coat of arms and name, 3 ¾ x 5.


    Overall in very good condition with handling marks or expected folds. A very fine Pickering family archive.


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