John P. Kennedy, U.S. Sec'y of the Navy

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John Pendleton Kennedy

Birthdate: (74)
Birthplace: Baltimore, MD
Death: August 18, 1870 (74)
Newport, RI
Immediate Family:

Son of John Kennedy and Ann Nancy Clayton Kennedy
Husband of Mary Kennedy and Elizabeth Kennedy
Brother of Andrew Kennedy; Anthony Kennedy, U.S. Senator and Philip Pendleton Kennedy

Managed by: Private User
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About John P. Kennedy, U.S. Sec'y of the Navy

John Pendleton Kennedy (October 25, 1795 – August 18, 1870) was an American novelist and Whig politician who served as United States Secretary of the Navy from July 26, 1852 to March 4, 1853, during the administration of President Millard Fillmore, and as a U.S. Representative from the Maryland's 4th congressional district. He was the brother of U.S. Senator Anthony Kennedy.


Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 25, 1795, the son of merchant John Kennedy and Nancy Pendleton. Poor investments resulted in his father declaring bankruptcy in 1809. He graduated from Baltimore College in 1812 and fought in the Battles of Bladensburg and North Point in the War of 1812. Although admitted to the bar in 1816, he was much more interested in literature and politics than law.

Literary life

Kennedy's first literary attempt was a fortnightly periodical called the Red Book, publishing anonymously with his roommate Peter Hoffman Cruse from 1819–1820. Kennedy published Swallow Barn, or A Sojourn in the Old Dominion in 1832, which would become his best-known work. Horse-Shoe Robinson was published in 1835 to win a permanent place of respect in the history of American fiction. Also in 1835, he helped introduce Edgar Allan Poe to Thomas Willis White, editor of the Southern Literary Messenger.

While abroad Kennedy became a friend of William Makepeace Thackeray and wrote or outlined the fourth chapter of the second volume of The Virginians, a fact which accounts for the great accuracy of its scenic descriptions. Of his works Horse-Shoe Robinson is the best and ranks high in antebellum fiction. Washington Irving read an advance copy of it and reported he was "so tickled with some parts of it" that he read it aloud to his friends. Kennedy sometimes wrote under the pen name Mark Littleton, especially in his political satires.

Political life

Kennedy was an active Whig. He was appointed Secretary of the Legation in Chile on January 27, 1823, but did not proceed to his post and resigned on June 23 of the same year. He was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1820 and in 1838, he succeeded Isaac McKim in the U.S. House of Representatives, but was defeated in his bid for reelection in November of that year. He was re-elected to Congress in 1840 and 1842; but, because of his strong opposition to the annexation of Texas, he was defeated in 1844. His influence in Congress was largely responsible for the appropriation of $30,000 to test Samuel Morse's telegraph.

President Millard Fillmore appointed Kennedy to the post of Secretary of the Navy in July 1852. During Kennedy's tenure in office, the Navy organized four important naval expeditions including that which sent Commodore Matthew C. Perry to Japan and Lieutenant William Lewis Herndon and Lieutenant Lardner Gibbon to explore the Amazon .

Retirement and death

Kennedy retired from public life in March 1853 when President Fillmore left office, but he retained an active interest in politics and his name was mentioned as one of the vice-presidential prospects on the Republican ticket in 1860 (meaning that Abraham Lincoln might have been paired with a man named "John Kennedy"). At the end of the American Civil War — during which he forcefully supported the Union — he advocated amnesty for the South. He died at Newport, Rhode Island on August 18, 1870,[8] and is buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. The USS John P. Kennedy and USS Kennedy (DD-306) were named for him.

In his will, Kennedy wrote the following:

It is my wish that the manuscript volumes containing my journals, my note or common-place books, and the several volumes of my own letters in press copy, as also all my other letters, such as may possess any interest or value (which I desire to be bound in volumes) that are now in lose sheets, shall be returned to my executors, who are requested to have the same packed away in a strong walnut box, closed and locked, and then delivered to the Peabody Institute, to be preserved by them unopened until the year 1900, when the same shall become the property of the Institute, to be kept among its books and records.


The Red Book (1818–19, two volumes)
Swallow Barn (1832) §
Horse-Shoe Robinson (1835)
Rob of the Bowl (1838) §
Annals of Quodlibet (1840)
Memoirs of the Life of William Wirt (1849, two volumes)
The Border States (1861)
Mr. Ambrose's Letters on the Rebellion (1865)
Collected Works of John Pendleton Kennedy (1870–72, ten volumes)
At Home and Abroad: A Series of Essays: With a Journal in Europe in 1867-68 (1872, essays)

§ Under the name Mark Littleton.

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John P. Kennedy, U.S. Sec'y of the Navy's Timeline

October 25, 1795
Baltimore, MD
August 18, 1870
Age 74
Newport, RI