Tobias Lear papers  1791-1817
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Biography

Tobias Lear (1762-1816), private secretary to George Washington and consular officer, was the son of Mary Stilson and Tobias Lear, Sr., of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Lear graduated from Harvard in 1783, and in 1785 became the private secretary to George Washington during his retirement at Mount Vernon. Lear served as Washington's aid for seven years and remained his close associate until Washington's death in 1799. In 1801, Lear was appointed consul to Saint Domingue, where he witnessed the turbulent assent of Toussaint L'Ouverture's regime. In 1802, he left Hispaniola and, shortly after, was appointed consul general to Algiers. Lear succeeded in establishing peaceful relations with Morocco, Tunis, and Algeria, ending the 1st Barbary War (1801-1805), which, although favorable to the United States, required payment of ransom for Americans held prisoner. Lear remained in Algeria until the outbreak of the War of 1812. The political controversy surrounding the Tripolitan treaty, however, ended his diplomatic career. James Madison appointed Lear as an accountant in the War Department, and in 1814, Lear successfully negotiated an exchange of prisoners with the British in New York.

Lear married three times: first to Mary Long in 1790 (d. 1793), then to Frances Bassett Washington in 1795 (1767-1796), and finally to Frances Dandridge Henley in 1803. Lear committed suicide in 1816.