John J. Beckley, Librarian of Congress

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John James Beckley

Birthdate: (49)
Birthplace: UK
Death: April 8, 1807 (49)
Washington, DC, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Bickley and Elizabeth Bickley
Husband of Maria Beckley
Father of Brig. Gen. Alfred Beckley (CSA)

Occupation: Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives/Librarian of Congress
Managed by: Jonathan William Truax
Last Updated:

About John J. Beckley, Librarian of Congress

John James Beckley (August 4, 1757 – April 8, 1807) was an American political campaign manager and the first Librarian of the United States Congress, from 1802 to 1807. He is credited with being the first political campaign manager in the United States, and for setting the standards for the First Party System.

Born in Exeter/London, England.

Married 16 Oct 1790 in New York City.

His signature appears on the Bill of Rights. John served as the first clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives and as the first Librarian of Congress. There is a scholarly book published about his life and work.

For a complete history on John James Beckley, please refer to the following publication:

"John Beckley: Zealous Partisan in a Nation Divided."

Berkley, Edmund and Dorothy

pub. 1973 by American Philosophical Society

L.C. #73-86616

Other Documentation:

"History of Charleston and Kanawha County, West Virginia, and Representative Citizens", by W.S. Laidley: Reprint by WVGS, Don Mills, Inc.

"Justifying Jefferson: The Political Writings of John James Beckley" edited by Gerard W. Gawalt, Library of Congress, 1995.

Virginia 1810 Census, compiled by Madeline W. Crickard, published by McClain Printing Co., Parsons, W.V. 1971.

1782 Inhabitants of Richmond, Va.

1783 Inhabitants of Amherst Co., Va.

Page 55 of the above publication lists Tithables of Kanawha County of 1792. It includes the name of John Beckley.

John James Beckley is believed to have been born in Exeter, England. At the age of 12, in 1769, he was indentured to an internationally known horticulturalist named John Clayton. John Clayton was the owner of a large tobacco plantation in Henrico County, Virginia. Beckley was indentured as a scribe to help Clayton keep records for his plantation, his research in horticulture, and the management of his plantation.

Clayton died in late December of 1773, thus breaking Beckley's indenture and releasing him. At the young age of 15, Beckley struck out on his own. Over the next few years he was hired for numerous jobs in a number of counties of Virginia as clerks of various committees and courts. He studied law and was mayor of Richmond, Virginia. He patented land in Greenbrier County, Virginia, and in the area where Beckley, West Virginia, is now situated.

Eventually, after the colonies declared their independence, he was made clerk of both the houses of the government of the state of Virginia. This was during the time that Thomas Jefferson was governor of the state.

When the new government of the United States of America was organized in 1789, Beckley was elected Clerk of the first House of Representatives of Congress.

He was present at Washington's inaugural in New York. Over the years, he had made close friends with Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Edmund Pendleton, and many other outstanding patriots and government leaders.

Beckley was highly instrumental in helping Thomas Jefferson to be elected to the Presidency of the United States, working feverishly and tirelessly behind the political scenes. He was well-known for his ability to write and as a speaker of note.

For a detailed history of Beckley, read the Berkeley book referenced above in the documentation note.

He graduated from the College of William and Mary and was one of the early members of Phi Beta Kappa. Freemason: Member of Williamsburg Lodge No. 6, Williamsburg, Virginia.

Virginia 1810 Census lists a John Beckley living in Elizabeth City County. If this enumeration is correct, it could not be the same John Beckley since he died on 8 April 1807.

1782 Inhabitants of Richmond, Va. Wardship #1 lists John Beckley as 26 years old and as attorney at law. In his household are 4 slaves "titheable" and 2 slaves "not titheable". Probably meaning that 2 were actual slaves and 4 were free blacks hired by him.

1783 Amherst County, Va. listing shows a John Beckley as head of household with 4 whites and 5 blacks.

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John J. Beckley, Librarian of Congress's Timeline

August 4, 1757
May 26, 1802
Age 44
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, United States
April 8, 1807
Age 49
Washington, DC, United States