From Timothy Pickering
Philadelphia May 15. 1800
My Dear sir,
I have at this instant received your letter without date, but stamped at the postoffice in NYork May 14. I intended to have done precisely what you suggest, respecting Mr Adams journal &c. (very little of which I had ever read) but there was not time. Last saturday morning I received a summons to resign, and a desire that I would myself name the day. But I did not incline to accept this insid⟨ious⟩ favour. The P. desired my answer on M⟨onday⟩ morning, and I sent it, mentioning that ⟨some⟩ important matters would render my services useful in the office, till about the close of the present quarter: but that “I did not feel it to be my duty to resign.” In an hour I received a peremptory discharge,1 and on Monday Evening I quitted the office, after working hard and completing all the arrangements for the second census pursuant to a law passed in this session.2
Mr. G. Morris3 was to set off this morning for New York: he will communicate an account of recent occurrences. I am always gratified when there happens a coincidence of my thought with yours. I have been contemplating the importance of a bold & frank exposure of A. perhaps I may have it in my power to furnish some facts.
When the chief clerk in the office brought me your letter, he told me that Mr. Lee broke it open, the clerk standing by; but Mr. Lee said he had not read it. It was not addressed to me as Secy. of State. Mr. Lee, when he was going to take charge of the Office,4 voluntarily assured me, that private letters to me should not be opened, or if opened inadvertantly, that the moment they were discovered to be private, they should not be read: but half a minute was enough to read yours: yet I do not think he would act so dishonorably as to read it; or if any expression struck his eye, I hope he has honour enough to conceal it. I shall direct the postmaster immediately, to send letters addressed to me individually, directly to my house.
With great sincerity I am yours
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
2. “An Act providing for the second Census or enumeration of the Inhabitants of the United States” (2 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, I (Boston, 1845); II (Boston, 1850). description ends 11–14 [February 28, 1800]).
3. Gouverneur Morris had been elected as a Federalist to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of James Watson, and he served from April 2, 1800, to March 3, 1803.
4. On May 12, 1800, John Adams nominated John Marshall to be Secretary of State (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 353). On May 13, 1800, Charles Lee, the Attorney General, agreed to act as Secretary of State until a permanent successor for Pickering had been found (LS, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston). The Senate confirmed the appointment of Marshall on May 13, 1800 (Executive Journal, I description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate (Washington, 1828), I. description ends , 354), but it was not until May 28, 1800, that Marshall’s letter accepting the post was received in Philadelphia (Lee to Adams, May 28, 1800 [ALS, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston]; Benjamin Stoddert to Adams, May 28, 1800 [ALS, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston]).