Timothy Pickering

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Portrait of U.S. Secretary of State Timothy Pickering

Timothy Pickering (July 17, 1745January 29, 1829) was the third United States Secretary of State, serving in that office from 1795 to 1800 under Presidents George Washington and John Adams.

Pickering was born in Salem, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard University in 1763. He opposed the patriot cause early in the American Revolutionary War, but in 1777 he accepted General George Washington's offer to be adjutant general of the American army, and was widely praised for his work in supplying the troops during the remainder of the conflict.

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

Washington also brought Pickering into his cabinet, as Postmaster General in 1791. He remained in the cabinet 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.

After a quarrel with President John Adams over Adams's plan to make peace with France, Pickering was dismissed from office in May 1800. 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 1812, where he remained until 1816. His congressional career is best remembered for his leadership of the New England secession movement (see Essex Junto and the Hartford Convention).

After Pickering was denied re-election in 1816, he retired to Salem, where he lived as a farmer until his death in 1829. His ancestral home, the circa 1651 Pickering House, is now sometimes open to the public.


  • Clarfield, Gerard. Timothy Pickering and the American Republic. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980.
  • Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes. American National Biography, vol. 17, "Pickering, Timothy". New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Preceded by:
Samuel Osgood
United States Postmaster General
Succeeded by:
Joseph Habersham
Preceded by:
Henry Knox
United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by:
James McHenry
Preceded by:
Edmund Randolph
United States Secretary of State
December 10, 1795May 12, 1800
Succeeded by:
John Marshall

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