John J. Beckley

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from John Beckley)
Jump to: navigation, search
John J. Beckley
1st Librarian of Congress
In office
January 29, 1802 – April 8, 1807
Succeeded by Patrick Magruder
1st and 4th Clerk of the United States House of Representatives
In office
March 4, 1801 – April 8, 1807
Preceded by John H. Oswald
Succeeded by Patrick Magruder
In office
April 1, 1789 – May 14, 1797
Succeeded by Jonathan W. Condy
2nd and 7th Mayor of Richmond, Virginia
In office
February 22, 1788 – March 9, 1789
Preceded by Richard Adams, Jr.
Succeeded by Alexander McRoberts
In office
July 1, 1783 – July 6, 1784
Preceded by William Foushee, Sr.
Succeeded by Robert Mitchell
Personal details
Born John James Beckley
(1757-08-04)August 4, 1757
London, England
Died April 8, 1807(1807-04-08) (aged 49)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Democratic-Republican
Alma mater College of William & Mary

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.

Biography[edit]

Born in London, at age fourteen his impoverished parents sent him to Virginia to work as a scribe for a mercantile firm. As an indentured servant he was of low social status, but as a literate and ambitious young man he used politics to move upward in society. He graduated from the College of William and Mary and was one of the early members of Phi Beta Kappa. By 1783 he had amassed 49,000 acres (20,000 ha) of rich, unoccupied land in the west, but it was tied up in litigation. Twice he served as mayor of Richmond, Virginia, from 1783 to 1784 and again from 1788 to 1789.

James Madison sponsored him as Clerk of the House in 1789. He associated with the radicals (especially fellow immigrants) and became an enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution. He wrote frequently for Philip Freneau's National Gazette and Benjamin Bache's General Advertiser becoming known as an articulate exponent of American republicanism. He used the press energetically to denounce Hamilton and the Federalists as crypto-monarchists whose corruption was subversive of American values.

By 1792 he was starting a propaganda machine for the new Republican party that Jefferson and Madison were forming. Thus he told Madison in May 1795, "I enclose eight copies of the 'Political Observations.' I brought two dozen from New York and have distributed them all. I expect 50 more in a day or two, and shall scatter them also—they were bought and dispersed in great numbers there, and are eagerly enquired after by numbers here—it will be republished in Boston, Portsmouth, Vermont, and at Richmond." Also in 1792 he brought to light Alexander Hamilton's relationship with James Reynolds and his wife Maria. This led to James Monroe, Congressmen Muhlenberg (PA)and Venable (VA) confronting the Treasury Secretary on December 15, 1792. Hamilton denied any financial wrongdoing but admitted to an affair with the wife Maria and paying hush money to her husband. The Republicans agreed to keep the matter confidential and it did not become public until 1797.

In 1795 he took the lead in denouncing Jay's Treaty, and had emerged as the most visible spokesman of the new Republican Party. Writing under the sobriquet of "A Calm Observer," in 1796 he charged that, among other heinous offenses, George Washington had stolen public funds and that he richly deserved impeachment.

In 1796 he managed the Jefferson campaign in Pennsylvania, blanketing the state with agents who passed out 30,000 hand-written tickets, naming all 15 electors (printed tickets were not allowed). Thus he told one agent, "In a few days a select republican friend from the City will call upon you with a parcel of tickets to be distributed in your County. Any assistance and advice you can furnish him with, as to suitable districts & characters, will I am sure be rendered. He is one of two republican friends, who have undertaken to ride thro' all the middle & lower counties on this business, and bring with them 6 or 8 thousand tickets." Beckley thus became the first American professional campaign manager. Federalists had him removed as House clerk in 1797. His allies in Pennsylvania soon found him a state job and he became even more active in promoting the Jefferson candidacy in 1800. Jefferson rewarded him with his old post of Clerk of the United States House of Representatives; Beckley got the House to add on the title of Librarian of Congress.

His son Alfred Beckley founded the town of Beckley on the western lands and named it in honor of his father. His home Wildwood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  • John Y. Cole (30 March 2006). "Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress -- Librarians of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2008-12-15. 
  • Edmund Berkeley and Dorothy Smith Berkeley, John Beckley: Zealous Partisan in a Nation Divided, Philadelphia: Am. Phil. Soc., 1973. 312 pp.
  • Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., "John Beckley: An Early American Party Manager," William and Mary Quarterly, 13 (Jan. 1956), 40-52, in JSTOR
  • Jeffrey L. Pasley. "'A Journeyman, Either in Law or Politics': John Beckley and the Social Origins of Political Campaigning" in Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 16, No. 4 (Winter, 1996), 531-569. in JSTOR
Government offices
Preceded by
new office
Clerk of the United States House of Representatives
1789 - 1797
Succeeded by
Jonathan W. Condy
Preceded by
John H. Oswald
Clerk of the United States House of Representatives
1801 – 1807
Succeeded by
Patrick Magruder