McLean, John


Justice McLean 1840 draft ALS to Harvard President Josiah Quincy accepting an honorary degree


Autograph ID: 4965
Condition: Very good, two folds
Description:“(1785-1861) American jurist, Ohio US Rep. 1813-16, Ohio Supreme Court Justice 1816-22, US General Land Office Commissioner 1822-23. As Postmaster General 1823-29, presided over a massive expansion of the Post Office into the new western states and territories and elevation of the Postmaster Generalship to a cabinet office. US Supreme Court justice 1829-61, associated with every party on the political spectrum, from Jackson Democrat to Anti-Jackson Democrat, Anti-Masonic Party, Whig, Free Soiler, and finally a Republican. Because of his fierce anti-slavery positions, he was considered by the new Republican party as its 1856 presidential candidate but the nomination went to Frémont. In 1860, he won 12 votes on the first ballot at the Chicago Republican Convention which ultimately nominated Lincoln. In Dred Scott v. Sanford, his fierce dissent is believed to have forced Chief Justice Taney into a harsher and more polarizing opinion than he originally planned. McLean wrote the Court’s opinion denying there was a common-law copyright in US law in Wheaton v. Peters. He was the last surviving member of the Monroe & Adams Cabinets.

Good content 10 x 8 draft ALS while Justice, Washington, January 14 1840, to Josiah Quincy, President of Harvard College. Letter has several words crossed through and added new words and phrases. Justice McLean has received President Quincy’s letter “accompanied by evidence of an honorary degree lately conferred on me” and McLean highly appreciates “this distinguished mark of respect by an institution so venerable for its years.” He further states his appreciation of learning of this honor “through one, so favorably known in the civil and literary history of his country.”


Josiah Quincy (1772-1864) Massachusetts US Rep 1805-13, municipal judge, state representative, Mayor of Boston 1823-28, President of Harvard College 1828-45. Graduated Harvard College 1790, admitted to the bar 1793. Practicing lawyer until 1804, income supplemented by inheritance of his paternal grandfather’s estate and successful speculations in Boston real estate, died one of New England’s wealthiest men with a fortune of $750,000. Rose rapidly in the Federalist Party. After a term in the state Senate, served in Congress, where, in 1809, he moved for the impeachment of outgoing President Jefferson, defeated 117-1. Left Washington at 41 and returned to Braintree. He believed social progress would come only if the public-spirited and able few took as their goal the moral and intellectual improvement of the many. As Boston Mayor, he professionalized and modernized employment practices, centralized authority in mayoral office, widened, straightened and cleaned streets, upgraded fire service, and created Department for the Correction and Reformation for Juvenile Offenders. With completion of Faneuil Market (later called Quincy Market), oversaw expensive and successful urban renewal project, one of first of its kind. Coalition of political enemies denied his 1828 re-election. That year, he was chosen President of Harvard College. He expanded and modernized curriculum, stabilized finances, resolved student disorder problems, and greatly enhanced school’s academic reputation. Opposed to slavery and an opponent of the Compromise of 1850, he disciplined faculty members who brought the controversial subject into Harvard yard. Played significant roles in American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Boston Athenaeum, Massachusetts Historical Society and Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture. Trustee of Massachusetts General Hospital and Provident Institution for Savings. Wrote “History of Harvard University” 1836, “A Municipal History of Boston” 1852, “A History of the Boston Athenaeum” 1851, and works on scientific agriculture.”

Type: Letter

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