Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Pickering, 22 September 1819

To John Pickering

Monticello Sep. 22. 19.

Th: Jefferson presents his compliments & his thanks to mr Pickering for the copy he has been so kind as to send him of his essay on the pronunciation of the Greek language. he had had the pleasure of perusing it before thro’ the kindness of mr Adams, in a letter to whom he expressed his sense of it’s merit, which letter, communicated (as he understands) to mr Pickering, will have informed him of his high estimation of it. he salutes mr Pickering with assurances of great esteem & respect.

PoC (ViW: TC-JP); on verso of address cover of otherwise unlocated letter from TJ to de Bure Frères, 9 Feb. 1819 (see note to TJ to James H. McCulloch, 9 Feb. 1819); endorsed by TJ.

John Pickering (1777–1846), attorney and linguist, was the eldest son of the Federalist leader Timothy Pickering, of Salem, Massachusetts. The younger Pickering graduated from Harvard University in 1796 and, after a brief period studying law in Philadelphia, departed for Europe, where he served first as secretary to William Loughton Smith, the American minister to Portugal, and then as secretary to Rufus King, the American minister to the court of Saint James in London. Returning to Massachusetts in 1801, Pickering resumed the study of law and was admitted to the Essex County bar in 1804. He became city solicitor for Boston in 1829 and held that position until just before his death. Pickering was elected to a series of local political offices and represented Suffolk County in the state senate in 1829. He corresponded regularly with TJ during the latter’s last decade on their shared interest in linguistics, and his articles and monographs in the field included works on the Chinese, Greek, Latin, and Native American languages, as well as a compilation of words and phrases originating in the United States. Between 1818 and 1842 Pickering was an overseer at Harvard, which awarded him an LL.D. in 1835. He was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 1820, and at the time of his death in Boston he was the president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Oriental Society (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; William H. Prescott, “Memoir of Hon. John Pickering, LL. D.,” Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, 3d ser., 10 [1849]: 204–24; Mary Orne Pickering, Life of John Pickering [1887]; MaSaPEM: Pickering Family Papers; Harvard Catalogue description begins Harvard University Quinquennial Catalogue of the Officers and Graduates, 1636–1925, 1925 description ends , 179, 962; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Minutes, 20 Oct. 1820 [MS in PPAmP]; Boston Daily Atlas, 7, 9 May 1846).

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; sends works to TJ search
  • An Essay on the Pronunciation of the Greek Language (J. Pickering) search
  • Greek language; pronunciation of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives works search
  • Pickering, John; identified search
  • Pickering, John; letter to search
  • Pickering, John; TJ’s letter on Greek pronunciation sent to search