John Silva Meehan (February 6, 1790 – April 24, 1863), the fourth Librarian of Congress, served from 1829 to 1861. He was a printer and newspaper publisher.
As mentioned in Part VI, Meehan was a Democrat appointed by Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), President of the United States (1829-1837). Ultimately, Meehan held the office at the pleasure of nine presidents.
Unlike his predecessor, George Watterston (1783-1854), Meehan expressed no interest in fashioning the Library of Congress into a national library and was content for it to serve its original purpose, that of a reference library for the United States Congress. Like most early Librarians of Congress, Meehan was entirely overshadowed by the Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Library.
In his case, it was Senator James A. Pearce (1805-1862) of Maryland, who chaired the Joint Committee from the Twenty-ninth to the Thirty-seventh Congresses, so from 1846 until President Abraham Lincoln replaced Meehan in 1861. A lawyer, Pearce ran for office in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate as a Whig, except for the last time he was re-elected to the Senate in 1861, when he ran as a Democrat. Pearce adamantly refused to allow the Library of Congress to expand, either in terms of the scope of its mission or the comprehensiveness of its collection.
Born and raised in New York City, where he also learnt the printing trade, Meehan left the state to work in New Jersey before the outbreak of the War of 1812. In his biography of Meehan, John Y. Cole, Director of the center for the Book in the Library of Congress notes, “In his biographical article about Meehan, historian John McDonough points out that early records relating to Meehan are ‘few and unreliable.’ It is known, however, that in 1811 or 1812, he was in Burlington, N.J. to help with the printing of Richard S. Coxe's New Critical Pronouncing Dictionary of the English Language.”
Meehan served in the U.S. Navy during War of 1812. In 1815, he was back in New York City and became a midshipman aboard the brig Firefly.
At the conclusion of the war, he was offered a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps, but he declined and resumed his civilian career as a printer, a decision likely motivated at least in part by his having started a family during the war. In 1814, he married Margaret Jones Monington of Burlington.
The next year, she gave birth to their daughter, and subsequently the family moved to Philadelphia, where he formed a partnership with Robert Anderson. In 1818, they began to printer and publish a Baptist journal, the Latter Day Luminary.
Four years later, the firm of Anderson & Meehan moved to Washington. There they became printers and publishers of a Baptist weekly newspaper, The Columbia Star.
This was during the Second Great Awakening, a Protestant revival, when large numbers of American Protestants joined the Baptist and Methodist churches. Their growth came at the expense of the Anglican and Presbyterian churches. During this same period, the Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded, as was the Mormon religion.
In 1826, Meehan moved in a new direction. He became the publisher of a newspaper with a political outlook, the Washington Gazette. This newspaper, supported by Andrew Jackson’s Democrats, was opposed to John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), President of the United States (1825-1829).
In publishing the anti-John Quincy Adams newspaper, at first Meehan enjoyed the support of Senator John Henry Eaton (1790-1856) of Tennessee, who later served as U.S. Secretary of War in the Jackson Administration. The newspaper was soon renamed The United States' Telegraph. Meehan was not sufficiently aggressive for the Jacksonian Democrats, however, and by the end of the year he was forced out as editor to make way for Duff Green.
 Born in Waxhaw Settlement in South Carolina, as a boy Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) participated in the Battle of Hanging Rock during the American War of Independence. He was captured by the British and imprisoned. Jackson worked in a saddle shop and became a school teacher. He studied law in Salisbury, North Carolina and was admitted to the bar in 1787 and the next year moved to Tennessee. That same year, he was appointed solicitor for the western district of North Carolina (which is now Tennessee), and he helped write the Tennessee State Constitution in 1796. As a Democratic-Republican, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He resigned from the Senate to serve on the Tennessee State Supreme Court from 1797 to 1804. A planter, Jackson also became involved in mercantile interests. He commanded Tennessee’s militia forces in the Creek War of 1813, which led to his being commissioned into the U.S. Army as a major general in May of 1814. In January of 1815, he led American forces to victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans. [Three British armies invaded the United States during the War of 1812. In addition, British spies encouraged Indian allies to wage war against the U.S. with promise they would gain or retain sovereignty over the Old Northwest (now the Midwest), but the British abandoned their Indian allies while negotiating the Treat of Ghent.] In 1817, he led an American expedition that conquered Florida, a Spanish colony. He served as territorial governor of Florida in 1821. As a Democratic-Republic, he was re-elected to the U.S. Senate and served from March to October of 1823, when he resigned. He won the popular vote in the presidential election of 1824, but did not have enough voters in the Electoral College to win, and the next year the U.S. House of Representatives (as called for in the U.S. Constitution) decided the outcome. They elected John Quincy Adams. This led to the breakup of the Democratic-Republican Party. As a Democrat, Jackson was elected President of the United States in 1832 and re-elected in 1836. He retired to his Hermitage estate outside Nashville, where he died in 1845, and was buried.
 The son of one of the Founding Fathers, John Adams (1735-1826), and Abigail Adams (1744-1818), John Quincy Adams served as a senator and diplomat before he was elected president. Back when the U.S. Government referred to American ambassadors as ministers, he served appointed U.S. Minister to the Netherlands in 1794, U.S. Minister to Portugal in 1796, and U.S. Minister to Prussia 1797. He negotiated a commercial treaty with the Kingdom of Sweden in 1798. As a Federalist, he was elected Massachusetts State Senator in 1802 and U.S. Senator for Massachusetts in 1803. He resigned the latter post in 1808 after he left the Federalist Party. Adams served as U.S. Minister to Russia from 1809 to 1814. He helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent (1814), which ended the War of 1812, and was ratified by Parliament in 1814 and by Congress in 1815. In an era when people were unable to communicate complex information faster than they could physically travel, Major-General Andrew Jackson triumphed in the Battle of New Orleans after the war was officially over. The treaty restored the prewar borders of the United States, including American claims to the Old Northwest (more familiar to us today as the Midwest). Adams served as U.S. Minister to the Court of St. James (The Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland) from 1815 to 1817. During the Monroe Administration, Adams served as U.S. Secretary of State from 1817 to 1825. As Secretary of State, Adams negotiated two treaties with the British Empire in 1817 and 1818 to establish the American-Canadian border in the Pacific Northwest in the Oregon Boundary Dispute. Adams also enforced the Monroe Doctrine, introduced by James Monroe (1758-1831), President of the United States (1817-1825), when the Kingdom of Spain tried to regain control of her former colonies in South America, and other European powers sought to dominate them. As a Democratic-Republican, the only viable national party at the time, Adams ran for president in 1824. In the presidential election of 1824, Jackson won the popular vote, but lacked enough votes in the Electoral College to carry the day. With the support of a third candidate, Representative Henry Clay, Senior (1777-1852) of Kentucky, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the House of Representatives elected Adams President of the United States in 1825. Subsequently, Adams appointed Clay Secretary of State, a position which Adams and more than one of his predecessors had used as a springboard to the presidency. Jackson and his supporters called this a “corrupt bargain.” The Democratic-Republican Party broke in two. The followers of Jackson formed the Democratic Party, while the followers of Adams formed the National Republican Party (not to be confused with the later Republican Party), and later evolved into the Whig Party. Democrats in Congress undercut Adams at every opportunity. Like his father, John Adams, John Quincy Adams served one term. Afterwards, he served in the House of Representatives for seventeen years, from 1830 to 1848, first as a member of the National Republican Party, and then as a Whig. A committed abolitionist, he is the only former president to have served in the House of Representatives after he left the White House. He was played by Sir Anthony Hopkins in Amistad (1997). He helped ensure James Smithson’s money as used to create the Smithsonian Institution and not appropriated for other purposes.
 This was a reference to the optical telegraph, also known as the semaphore, not the electric telegraph, which Samuel Morse (1791-1872), had not yet invented.