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.
1 Early years
3 Political activities
Born in London, Beckley's parents sent him at the age of 14 to the
Colony of Virginia
Colony of Virginia as an indentured servant, working as a scribe for a
mercantile firm. He graduated from the
College of William and Mary
College of William and Mary and
was an early member 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. As the
Librarian of Congress
Librarian of Congress he was paid $2 a day. When the position
of Librarian was established on January 26, 1802, President Thomas
Jefferson asked his friend and political ally John Beckley—who also
was serving as the
Clerk of the House of Representatives—to fill the
post. Beckley served concurrently in both positions until his death in
1807. 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 had started 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.
Alfred Beckley founded the town of Beckley on the western
lands (now in West Virginia), and named it in honor of his father. His
home, Wildwood, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
^ 1948-, Murray, Stuart, (2009). The library : an illustrated
history. New York, NY: Skyhorse Pub. ISBN 1602397066.
^ "John James Beckley - Previous Librarians of Congress Library of
Congress". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 2018-03-09.
^ Cole, John Y. "Jefferson's Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of
Congress - Librarians of Congress". Library of Congress. Retrieved 15
^ Berkeley, Edmund; Berkeley, Dorothy Smith (1973). John Beckley:
Zealous Partisan in a Nation Divided. Philadelphia: American
philosophical society. ISBN 0871691000.
^ Cunningham, Jr., Noble E. (January 1956). "John Beckley: An Early
American Party Manager". William and Mary Quarterly. 13: 40–52.
doi:10.2307/1923388. JSTOR 1923388.
^ Pasley, Jeffrey L. (Winter 1996). "A Journeyman, Either in Law or
Politics': John Beckley and the Social Origins of Political
Campaigning". Journal of the Early Republic. 16 (4): 531–569.
doi:10.2307/3124417. JSTOR 3124417.
National Park Service
National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information
System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park
Clerk of the United States House of Representatives
Jonathan W. Condy
John H. Oswald
Clerk of the United States House of Representatives
Librarians of Congress
John J. Beckley (1802–1807)
Patrick Magruder (1807–1815)
George Watterston (1815–1829)
John Silva Meehan (1829–1861)
John Gould Stephenson (1861–1864)
Ainsworth Rand Spofford (1864–1897)
John Russell Young (1897–1899)
Herbert Putnam (1899–1939)
Archibald MacLeish (1939–1944)
Luther H. Evans (1945–1953)
Lawrence Quincy Mumford (1954–1974)
Daniel J. Boorstin (1975–1987)
James H. Billington (1987–2015)
Carla Hayden (2016–present)