John P. Kennedy

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John P. Kennedy
JohnKennedy.jpg
21st United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
July 26, 1852 – March 4, 1853
Preceded by William A. Graham
Succeeded by James C. Dobbin
Personal details
Born John Pendleton Kennedy
(1795-10-25)October 25, 1795
Baltimore, Maryland, US
Died August 18, 1870(1870-08-18) (aged 74)
Newport, Rhode Island, US
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Gray
Margaret Hughes
Profession Politician, lawyer, writer
Religion Episcopalian
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Battles/wars War of 1812

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. He was also the Speaker of the Maryland State assembly and served several different terms in the assembly.

Kennedy helped to lead the effort to end slavery in Maryland,[1] which, as a non-confederate state, was not affected by the Emancipation Proclamation and required a state law to free slaves within it's borders and to outlaw the furtherance of the practice.[2]

Early Life/Education[edit]

John Pendleton Kennedy born in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 25, 1795,[3] the son of merchant John Kennedy and Nancy Pendleton. Poor investments resulted in his father declaring bankruptcy in 1809.[4] He graduated from Baltimore College in 1812.

After graduating from college, Kennedy fought in the Battle of Bladensburg and the Battle of 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[edit]

Earlier writings[edit]

Kennedy's first literary attempt was a fortnightly periodical called the Red Book, publishing anonymously with his roommate Peter Hoffman Cruse from 1819–1820.[5] Kennedy published Swallow Barn, or A Sojourn in the Old Dominion in 1832, which would become his best-known work.[6] Horse-Shoe Robinson was published in 1835 to win a permanent place of respect in the history of American fiction.

Patronage of Edgar Allen Poe[edit]

While sitting round a back parlor table at the home of noted Baltimore literarist,civic leader and friend John H. B. Latrobe at 11 West Mulberry Street, across from the old Baltimore Cathedral in the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Mount Vernon, Baltimore neighborhood in October 1833, imbibing in some spirits and genial conversation with other friend James H. Miller, they together judged the draft of "MS. Found in a Bottle" from a then unknown aspiring writer Edgar Allan Poe to be worthy of publishing in the Baltimore Sunday Visitor because of its dark and macabre atmosphere and awarded a prize giving the young future author/poet his first publication. Also in 1835, he helped later introduce Edgar Allan Poe to Thomas Willis White, editor of the Southern Literary Messenger.[7]

Later writings[edit]

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.[8] Kennedy sometimes wrote under the pen name Mark Littleton, especially in his political satires.[3]

Political life[edit]

Elective and appointed offices[edit]

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 .

1850 photo of John Pendleton Kennedy at approximately 55 years of age.

Opposition to slavery[edit]

Kennedy's opposition to slavery was first publicly expressed in his writings, and then later, as politician, through his speeches and political initiatives. He had to proceed carefully, though. As Maryland at the time was itself a slave state and many of it's residents had confederate sympathies.

Kennedy was a firm, decades long opponent of slavery in Maryland politics and then later on in the U.S. Congress. He also wrote books and essays critical of slavery and signed his name to a key political pamphlet in Maryland opposing slavery.[9] However he was also prone in his writing to idealizing Southern plantation life. He also, in come cases, used ethnic stereotypes in some of his writing. It is not clear if he did so as a way of preventing bringing violent reactions against him personally, since he lived in a border state where slavery was still practiced and still widely supported.

Kennedy's instances of idealization and stereotyping could also have been his own beliefs, or he could have been playing a balancing act-- speaking the language of the powerful majority in the state at the time in order not to put himself at risk. Historians disagree on this matter of the reasons for his stereotypical language at times, and there is no solid consensus on this. There is however strong consensus among historians that Kennedy was firmly opposed to slavery, strongly opposed to the confederacy and was known to help other minority groups in Maryland as well.

Call for Kennedy to be Abraham Lincoln's Vice-presidential running mate[edit]

John Pendleton Kennedy was proposed as a vice-presidential running mate to Abraham Lincoln when Lincoln first sought the Presidency of the United States,[10] although Pendleton was ultimately not selected. Pendelton became a forceful supporter of the Union during the Civil War, and he supported the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation.[11] And then later, since the proclamation did not free Maryland slaves because the state was not in the confederacy, he also used his influence to push for legislation in Maryland that ultimately ended slavery there in 1864.[11][12]

Kennedy helps lead political effort to end to slavery in Maryland[edit]

On December 16th, 1863, a special meeting of the Central Committee of the Union Party of Maryland was called on the issue of slavery in the state[13] (The Union Party was the most powerful legalized political party in the state at the time). At the meeting, Thomas Swann, a state politician, put forward a motion calling for the party to work for "Immediate emancipation (of all slaves) in Maryland".[14] John Penndleton Kennedy seconded the motion.[15] Since Kennedy was the former speaker of the Maryland General Assembly, as well as being a respected Maryland author, his support carried enormous weight in the party. A vote was taken and the motion passed.[16] However the people of Maryland as a whole were by then divided on the issue, and so twelve months of campaigning and lobbying on the issue followed throughout the state. During this effort, Kennedy signed his name to a party pamphlet, calling for "immediate emancipation" of all slaves[17] that was widely circulated. On November 1, 1864, the Maryland General Assembly voted to end slavery in Maryland.

Kennedy, although prone to oversimplifying and idealizing Maryland history as well as even sometimes stereotyping ethnic groups, nevertheless paradoxically had a longstanding record of defending minority rights.[18] Earlier, when he was in the Maryland state legislature he was instrumental in repealing a law that discriminated against Jewish people in court and trial procedures in Maryland.[19] He firmly opposed slavery in the Maryland legislature for decades, and later on in Congress, and he also helped to lead private charitable efforts to aid Irish Catholic immigrants, who were experiencing a great deal of discrimination in the state at the time. However he did also advocate setting limits on overall foreign national immigration into Maryland beginning in the 1850's, stating that he felt that the sheer number of new immigrants might overwhelm the economy.

Role in founding cultural and educational institutions[edit]

Peabody Library and Peabody Conservatory of Music[edit]

Kennedy was instrumental in the establishment of the Peabody Institute, which later evolved and split into the Peabody Library and the Peabody Conservatory of Music, which are now both part of Johns Hopkins University. He also served on the first board of trustees for the institute and did the first writing that outlined it's mission. He also recorded minutes for the board's earliest meetings.

St. Mary's College of Maryland[edit]

Kennedy also played key roles in the establishment of St. Mary's Female Seminary which is now known as St. Mary's College of Maryland, the state's public honors college. The school was established with Kennedy's political support and his reputation as a respected Maryland author, as the state's "Living Monument to religious freedom", memorializing it's location on the site of Maryland's first colony, which was also considered to be the birthplace of religious freedom in America as well.

The school continues to have this designation to this day. The original concept of memorializing religious freedom was Kennedy's idea.

Historic St. Mary's City[edit]

Kennedy was the primary initial impetus and was also pivotal in gaining early state recognition of it's responsibility for protecting and memorializing St. Mary's City, Maryland as a key state historic area, placing historical research and preservation mandates under the original auspices of the new state-sponsored St. Mary's Female Seminary, located on the same site. This planted the early seeds of what would eventually become Historic St. Mary's City, a state-run archeological research and historic interpretation area that exists today on the site of Maryland's original colonial settlement.

Historic St. Mary's City also co-runs (jointly, along with St. Mary's College of Maryland) the now internationally recognized Historical Archaeology Field School, a descendent of Kennedy's idea that a school should be involved in researching and preserving the remains of colonial St. Mary's City.

Role in science and technology[edit]

Federal study and acceptance of the telegraph[edit]

While serving in the United States Congress, John Pendleton Kennedy was the primary and decisive force in Congress in securing 30,000 dollars (an enormous sum at the time) for testing Samuel Morse's telegraph communications system. The first electronic means of long distance communication in human history. The government tests corroborated Morse's invention and led to federal adoption of the technology and the subsequent establishment of the American telegraph communications system, which revolutionized communications and the economic development of the United States. Federal acceptance of the telegraph had a major impact on Abraham Lincoln's management of the Civil War as well.

Retirement and death[edit]

Kennedy retired from public life in March 1853 when President Fillmore left office, but he retained an active interest in politics, supporting Fillmore in 1856, when Fillmore won Maryland's electoral votes and Kennedy's brother Anthony won a U.S. Senate seat. His name was mentioned as one of the vice-presidential prospects on the Republican ticket in 1860[20] (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,[21] and is buried in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. The USS John P. Kennedy and USS Kennedy (DD-306) were named for him. He lived in a summer home overlooking the south branch of the Patapsco River upstream near Orange Grove-Avalon-Ilchester off the main western line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad now in the area of Patapsco Valley State Park which was devastated by a disastrous flood in 1868.

Commission of his papers to protected archive[edit]

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 loose 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.[1]

Writings[edit]

  • The Red Book (1818–19, two volumes)
  • Swallow Barn (1832) §
  • Horse-Shoe Robinson (1835)
  • Rob of the Bowl: The Legend of St. Inigoes (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.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Immediate emancipation in Maryland. Proceedings of the Union State Central Committee, at a meeting held in Temperance Temple, Baltimore, Wednesday, December 16, 1863", 24 pages, Publisher: Cornell University Library (January 1, 1863), ISBN 1429753242, ISBN 978-1429753241
  2. ^ "Immediate emancipation in Maryland. Proceedings of the Union State Central Committee, at a meeting held in Temperance Temple, Baltimore, Wednesday, December 16, 1863", 24 pages, Publisher: Cornell University Library (January 1, 1863), ISBN 1429753242, ISBN 978-1429753241
  3. ^ a b Ehrlich, Eugene and Gorton Carruth. The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982: 218. ISBN 0-19-503186-5
  4. ^ Hubbell, Jay B. The South in American Literature: 1607–1900. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1954: 483.
  5. ^ Hubbell, Jay B. The South in American Literature: 1607–1900. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1954: 484.
  6. ^ Hubbell, Jay B. The South in American Literature: 1607–1900. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1954: 485.
  7. ^ Meyers, Jeffrey. Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy. New York: Cooper Square Press, 1992: 70. ISBN 0-8154-1038-7
  8. ^ Burstein, Andrew. Original Knickerbocker: The Life of Washington Irving. New York: Basic Books, 2007: 280. ISBN 978-0-465-00853-7
  9. ^ "Immediate emancipation in Maryland. Proceedings of the Union State Central Committee, at a meeting held in Temperance Temple, Baltimore, Wednesday, December 16, 1863", 24 pages, Publisher: Cornell University Library (January 1, 1863), ISBN 1429753242, ISBN 978-1429753241
  10. ^ The Magazine of American History, Vol. 29, 1893, 282–283
  11. ^ a b Barbara Jeanne Fields, "Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland During the Nineteenth Century (Yale Historical Publications Series)", Publisher: Univ Tennessee Press; (July 30, 2012), ISBN 1572338512, ISBN 978-1572338517
  12. ^ "Immediate emancipation in Maryland. Proceedings of the Union State Central Committee, at a meeting held in Temperance Temple, Baltimore, Wednesday, December 16, 1863", 24 pages, Publisher: Cornell University Library (January 1, 1863), ISBN 1429753242, ISBN 978-1429753241
  13. ^ "Immediate emancipation in Maryland. Proceedings of the Union State Central Committee, at a meeting held in Temperance Temple, Baltimore, Wednesday, December 16, 1863", 24 pages, Publisher: Cornell University Library (January 1, 1863), ISBN 1429753242, ISBN 978-1429753241
  14. ^ "Immediate emancipation in Maryland. Proceedings of the Union State Central Committee, at a meeting held in Temperance Temple, Baltimore, Wednesday, December 16, 1863", 24 pages, Publisher: Cornell University Library (January 1, 1863), ISBN 1429753242, ISBN 978-1429753241
  15. ^ "Immediate emancipation in Maryland. Proceedings of the Union State Central Committee, at a meeting held in Temperance Temple, Baltimore, Wednesday, December 16, 1863", 24 pages, Publisher: Cornell University Library (January 1, 1863), ISBN 1429753242, ISBN 978-1429753241
  16. ^ "Immediate emancipation in Maryland. Proceedings of the Union State Central Committee, at a meeting held in Temperance Temple, Baltimore, Wednesday, December 16, 1863", 24 pages, Publisher: Cornell University Library (January 1, 1863), ISBN 1429753242, ISBN 978-1429753241
  17. ^ "Immediate emancipation in Maryland. Proceedings of the Union State Central Committee, at a meeting held in Temperance Temple, Baltimore, Wednesday, December 16, 1863", 24 pages, Publisher: Cornell University Library (January 1, 1863), ISBN 1429753242, ISBN 978-1429753241
  18. ^ "The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia: 1825", JewishEncyclopedia.com, PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT "KENNEDYS" MENTIONED IN THIS SECTION, 1) THOMAS KENNEDY, FOLLOWED LATER BY 2) JOHN PENDLETON KENNEDY, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10455-maryland
  19. ^ "The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia: 1825", JewishEncyclopedia.com, PLEASE NOTE: THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT "KENNEDYS" MENTIONED IN THIS SECTION, 1) THOMAS KENNEDY, FOLLOWED LATER BY 2) JOHN PENDLETON KENNEDY, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10455-maryland
  20. ^ The Magazine of American History, Vol. 29, 1893, 282–283
  21. ^ Ehrlich, Eugene and Gorton Carruth. The Oxford Illustrated Literary Guide to the United States. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982: 71. ISBN 0-19-503186-5

Further reading[edit]

  • Collected works of Henry Theodore Tuckerman, tenth volume, (New York, 1870–72)
  • Tuckerman, Henry Theodore, The Life of John Pendleton Kennedy, (1871)
  • Gwathmey, Edward, John Pendleton Kennedy, (1931)
  • Bohner, Charles H., John Pendleton Kennedy, Gentleman from Baltimore, (1961)
  • Ridgely, J.V., John Pendleton Kennedy, (1966)

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Isaac McKim
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th congressional district

April 25, 1838 – March 3, 1839
Succeeded by
James Carroll, Solomon Hillen, Jr.
Preceded by
James Carroll, Solomon Hillen, Jr.
and Alexander Randall
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Maryland's 4th congressional district

March 4, 1841 – March 3, 1845
Succeeded by
William F. Giles
Political offices
Preceded by
William S. Waters
Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates
1846
Succeeded by
William J. Blakistone
Government offices
Preceded by
William A. Graham
United States Secretary of the Navy
July 26, 1852 – March 4, 1853
Succeeded by
James C. Dobbin