Timothy Pickering, U.S. Postmaster General, Secretary of War and State

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Timothy Pickering

Birthdate: (83)
Birthplace: Salem,Essex,Massachusetts,USA
Death: January 29, 1829 (83)
Place of Burial: Salem, Essex County, MA
Immediate Family:

Son of Timothy Pickering and Mary Pickering
Husband of Rebecca Pickering
Father of John Pickering; Timothy Pickering; Octavius Pickering; Edward R Pickering; Elizabeth Pickering and 5 others
Brother of Sarah Clarke; Amie Pickering; Mary Leavitt; Lydia Williams; Elizabeth Gardner and 4 others

Managed by: Private User
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About Timothy Pickering, U.S. Postmaster General, Secretary of War and State

Timothy Pickering. He was born, July 17, 1745, Salem, Mass., and died Jan. 29, 1829, Salem, Mass. American Revolutionary officer and Federalist politician who served (1795-1800) with distinction in the first two U.S. Cabinets. During the Revolutionary War, Pickering served in several capacities under Gen. George Washington, among them quartermaster general (1780-85). In 1786, after taking up residence in Philadelphia, he helped resolve the dispute with Connecticut settlers over claims to Pennsylvania's Wyoming Valley and helped develop the town of Wilkes-Barre. Pickering served as Indian commissioner (1790-95), postmaster general (1791-95), secretary of war (1795), and secretary of state (1795-1800). He was dismissed from office by Pres. John Adams after a policy dispute. During the administrations of Jefferson and Madison, Pickering led the Federalist opposition in Congress, serving as senator from Massachusetts (1803-11) and as a member of the House of Representatives (1813-17). Remaining friendly to England and fearing the power of Napoleon, he bitterly opposed the War of 1812. After his retirement from Congress, he devoted himself to agricultural experimentation and education.



A Patriot of the American Revolution for MASSACHUSETTS with the rank of COLONEL. DAR Ancestor #: A091047

Timothy Pickering 1745-1829

Parents: Timothy Pickering 1703-1778 and Mary Wingate 1708-1784

Wife Rebecca White 1754-1828


  1. Elizabeth d. 1819
  2. Mary 1793-

The Pickering House (circa 1651) is a Colonial house, owned and occupied by ten successive generations of the Pickering family including Colonel Timothy Pickering. This house is believed to be the oldest house in the United States continuously occupied by one family.

Timothy Pickering:

  • Massachusetts Militia, Continental Army, Revolutionary War
  • United States Senator from Massachusetts March 4, 1809- March 4, 1811
  • Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts, 3rd District March 4, 1813-March 4, 1815
  • Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Massachusetts, 2nd District March 4, 1815-March 4, 1817
  • 2nd U.S. Post Master General
  • 2nd U.S. Secretary of War
  • 3rd U.S. Secretary of State



Timothy Pickering (July 17, 1745 – January 29, 1829) was a politician from Massachusetts who served in a variety of roles, most notably as the third United States Secretary of State, serving in that office from 1795 to 1800 under Presidents George Washington and John Adams.

Early years

Pickering was born in Salem, Massachusetts to Deacon Timothy and Mary Wingate Pickering. He was one of nine children and the younger brother of John Pickering (not to be confused with the New Hampshire judge) who would eventually serve as Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He attended grammar school in Salem and graduated from Harvard University in 1763. Salem minister William Bentley noted on Pickering: "From his youth his townsmen proclaim him assuming, turbulent, & headstrong."

After graduating from Harvard, Pickering returned to Salem where he began working for John Higginson, the town clerk and Essex County register of deeds. Pickering was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1768 and, in 1774, he succeeded Higginson as register of deeds. Soon after, he was elected to represent Salem in the Massachusetts General Court and served as a justice in the Essex County Court of Common Pleas. On April 8, 1776, he married Rebecca White of Salem.

In January 1766, Pickering was commissioned a lieutenant in the Essex County militia. He was promoted to captain three years later. In 1769, he published his ideas on drilling soldiers in the Essex Gazette. These were published in 1775 as "An Easy Plan for a Militia." The manual was used as the Continental Army drill book until replaced by Baron von Steuben's Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.

The American Revolution

In December 1776, he led a well-drilled regiment of the Essex County militia to New York, where General George Washington took notice and offered Pickering the position of adjutant general of the Continental Army in 1777. In this capacity he oversaw the building of the Great chain which was forged at the Stirling Iron Works. The chain blocked the Royal Navy from proceeding up the Hudson River past West Point and protected that important fort from attack for the duration of the conflict. He was widely praised for his work in supplying the troops during the remainder of the conflict. In August 1780, the Continental Congress elected Pickering Quartermaster General.

Rise to power

After the end of the American Revolution, Pickering made several failed attempts at financial success. In 1783, he embarked on a mercantile partnership with Samuel Hodgdon that failed two years later. In 1786, he moved to the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania where he assumed a series of offices at the head of Luzerne County. When he attempted to evict Connecticut settlers living in the area, Pickering was captured and held hostage for nineteen days. In 1787, he was part of the Pennsylvania convention held to consider ratification of the United States Constitution.

After the first of Pickering's two successful attempts to make money speculating in Pennsylvania frontier land, now-President Washington appointed him commissioner to the Iroquois Indians; and Pickering represented the United States in the negotiation of the Treaty of Canandaigua with the Iroquois in 1794.

Cabinet member

Washington brought Pickering into the government, as Postmaster General in 1791. He remained in Washington's cabinet and then that of John Adams for nine years, serving as postmaster general until 1795, Secretary of War for a brief time in 1795, then Secretary of State from 1795 to 1800. As Secretary of State he is most remembered for his strong Federalist Party attachments to British causes, even willingness to wage war with France in service of these causes during the Adams administration. In 1799 Pickering hired Joseph Dennie as his private secretary.

Middle years

After a quarrel with President John Adams over Adams's plan to make peace with France, Pickering was dismissed from office in May 1800. In 1802, Pickering and a band of Federalists, agitated at the lack of support for Federalists, attempted to gain support for the secession of New England from the Jeffersonian United States. The irony of a Federalist moving against the national government was not lost among his dissenters. He was named to the United States Senate as a senator from Massachusetts in 1803 as a member of the Federalist Party. He lost his Senate seat in 1811, and was elected to the United States House of Representatives in U.S. House election, 1812, where he remained until 1817. His congressional career is best remembered for his leadership of the New England secession movement (see Essex Junto and the Hartford Convention).

Later years and afterwards

After Pickering was denied re-election in 1816, he retired to Salem, where he lived as a farmer until his death in 1829, aged 83. In 1942, a United States Liberty ship named the SS Timothy Pickering was launched. She was lost off Sicily in 1945. Until the 1990s, Pickering's ancestral home, the circa 1651 Pickering House, was the oldest house in the United States to be owned by the same family continually.

Revolutionary War General, US congressman, senator, presidential cabinet secretery

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Timothy Pickering, U.S. Postmaster General, Secretary of War and State's Timeline

July 17, 1745
February 7, 1777
Age 31
Salem, Essex, MA, USA
Age 33
September 8, 1791
Age 46
November 21, 1793
Age 48
November 21, 1793
Age 48
Salem, , Massachusetts, USA
Age 71
Wenham, Essex, MA, USA
January 29, 1829
Age 83