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William H. Crawford

William H. Crawford: 1772--1834

Chase C. Mooney
Copyright Date: 1974
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    William H. Crawford
    Book Description:

    Senator from Georgia, minister to France, cabinet officer, and unsuccessful presidential candidate, William Harris Crawford was one of the major figures of the early republic. Because most of his papers were destroyed by fire during the Civil War period, however, estimates of Crawford's abilities and accomplishments have usually been based on the papers of his political adversaries -- notably John Quincy Adams -- and few men of his stature have received so little attention from historians.

    This first full biographical study, drawing on hundreds of documentary collections, many never used in biographies and monographs of the period, throws new light on Crawford's career and his relationships with his contemporaries.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6383-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 The Early Georgia Years
    (pp. 1-16)

    Soon after the inauguration of John Quincy Adams in March 1825, an uncommonly large man, emaciated and enfeebled from long illness, left Washington, D.C., for a 600-mile carriage trip to the South. He had traveled the same route many times in the preceding eighteen years, sometimes as senator, others as minister to France, and still others as secretary of war or of the treasury. This time the defeated presidential candidate was making his last journey from the capital to his beloved “Woodlawn,” a few miles from Lexington, Georgia. He had seriously thought of retiring from national office ten years earlier;...

  5. 2 In the Senate: Defender of the Bank
    (pp. 17-28)

    When Crawford became a senator in late 1807, both the United States and the Republican party were divided. Beset by persisting commercial and diplomatic difficulties which periodically reached crisis proportions in the succeeding five years, Congress reflected acute sectional differences, interparty struggle, and intraparty strife. The war among the European powers—especially between England and France—had permitted the American shipping interests to engage in a lucrative wartime, or mushroom, commerce with the colonies of those countries, but the normal commerce of the United States—particularly in cotton and other heavy products—had suffered a great decline because it was...

  6. 3 In the Senate: Embargo or War
    (pp. 29-51)

    When Crawford took his seat in the Senate on December 9, 1807, the United States was sharply divided over response to the violations by France and Great Britain of her neutral rights and national honor. Napoleon’s Berlin decree of 1806 and Milan decree of 1807 declared the British Isles blockaded and subjected merchant ships bound to or from England to seizure and confiscation by French warships and privateers; British orders in council authorized the same treatment for vessels of any nation at war with Britain or vessels trading with any port under Napoleon’s domination. That same year, 1807, the commercial...

  7. 4 Minister to France
    (pp. 52-77)

    March and April 1813 were busy months of preparation for Crawford: a fatiguing nineteen-day trip to Woodlawn, resignation from his Senate seat, selection of Henry Jackson, a professor at Athens, as secretary of legation, attention to his personal affairs, and taking leave of friends and family. About the first of May he began the trip back to Washington, and early on June 4 he and Jackson set out for New York. To lessen the possibility of capture on the ocean voyage, his departure time from the capital had been kept secret, and to protect his anonymity Crawford did not register...

  8. 5 Secretary of War
    (pp. 78-92)

    While the United States and England remained at war, Crawford anticipated resuming an elective office when he returned home. But, in February 1815, shortly after the war ended, he seemed to have little expectation of remaining in public service; the needs of his family and of his farm would determine whether he returned to the practice of law.¹ Exactly one week after Crawford expressed these sentiments, the Senate confirmed him as secretary of war, replacing Monroe who had resigned.² Before he left Paris, Crawford received unofficial news of this action from Gallatin in London, but no one in Washington wrote...

  9. 6 The Treasury: Organization and Administration
    (pp. 93-126)

    Crawford had resisted transferring to the treasury, and he was not happy with the organization and distribution of functions in the largest of the departments in Washington. His duties as secretary of war had been numerous, but those of secretary of treasury were myriad. The department was a potpourri of agencies, commissions, organizations, services, and institutions over which the chief officer exercised direct, indirect, intermediate, joint, or only nominal supervision. Among these were the customs service (with its collectors, inspectors, weighers, gaugers, and other functionaries), the land offices (under the register and the receiver of the public monies, but with...

  10. 7 The Second Bank and the Currency
    (pp. 127-146)

    Some of the problems with which Crawford had to deal would never have been present—or certainly would have been less severe—had his efforts for rechartering the first Bank of the United States been successful in 1811. War heightened the financial chaos resulting from the removal of the restraining influence of the national bank: wildcat banks and worthless paper money increased with amazing rapidity and specie payment was suspended in most parts of the country by late summer of 1814. A first recharter attempt failed in 1815, but under John C. Calhoun’s guidance the Second Bank of the United...

  11. 8 The Treasury Secretary and the Budget
    (pp. 147-172)

    Annually the secretary of treasury reported directly to Congress on the receipts and expenditures of the government and on the estimated income and expenses for the coming year, making such remarks as he saw fit on the tax structure, the economic conditions of the country, government proposals for reducing or increasing the revenue, and such other matters as he deemed pertinent. In preparation for the report, the register of the treasury gathered projected expenditures and other materials for the secretary, who then furnished a brief statement for the President’s annual message. Soon thereafter the treasury report (without general cabinet consideration)...

  12. 9 Presidential Adviser
    (pp. 173-212)

    Crawford had been uncertain about remaining in the government beyond Madison’s term until Monroe visited him in January 1817. The President-elect wanted Crawford to continue in the treasury and advanced political reasons (unspecified by Monroe or Crawford) for not moving the Georgian to the State Department, which was then thought of as the heir-apparent position. Crawford decided then to sacrifice personal interests, but he conditioned his remaining as secretary of treasury on congressional acceptance of the recommendations of the four secretaries concerning accounts and accounting procedures and on compensation to Georgia for claims connected with cession of her western lands...

  13. 10 One-Party Presidential Politics
    (pp. 213-248)

    Crawford’s record as senator from 1807 to 1813 had placed him high in the party hierarchy, and his appointment as secretary of war, upon his return from France, had again called him to public attention. Few people, however, thought of him in 1815 as Madison’s successor, though he was sometimes linked, as the vice-presidential candidate, with Governor Daniel Tompkins of New York. James Monroe, secretary of state since 1811 and also secretary of war at the end of the conflict with England, was most often mentioned as heir apparent. Though Monroe had opposed Madison’s election in 1808, the key Republican...

  14. 11 The Last Congressional Nominating Caucus
    (pp. 249-268)

    In the latter stages of the campaign of 1824 Crawford’s candidacy was adversely affected by the rather general revolt against the caucus method of nomination, by the allegation that he was the candidate of the “managing” politicians rather than the candidate of the people, and by contradictory reports concerning the state of his health. The emphasis placed upon the will and the sovereignty of the people indicated widespread dissatisfaction with existing political processes and methods, and the caucus had for years been denounced as an infringement on the people’s rights and as an attempt to lead rather than reflect public...

  15. 12 The Election of 1824
    (pp. 269-301)

    Long before Crawford was nominated by the caucus it was apparent that each of the candidates had a sectional backing corresponding to his place of residence, but since there were two hopefuls from the Southeast and two from the West, support was divided in those areas. The middle area was uncommitted, with “managing,” continued control of state political machinery, personalities, and the slight divergencies of the candidates’ views on the supposed issues playing roles in the outcome. Crawford’s greatest strength was known to be in the Southeast, and the long established political machinery was expected to bring him rewards in...

  16. 13 The Last Georgia Years
    (pp. 302-346)

    Most historians have either said nothing about Crawford after the choice of Adams as President or have contented themselves with the statement that he returned to Georgia to die. One recent scholar of the period, writing of Van Buren’s visit to Crawford in early 1827, states that “at the bedside of the dying Crawford it had been agreed that, in return for Crawford’s influence, Van Buren would accomplish the ruin of John Caldwell Calhoun.”¹ Crawford by 1827 was quite well restored to health; he lived to witness, and to participate in, the ruin of Calhoun; he retained a hard core...

  17. Note on Sources
    (pp. 347-354)
  18. Index
    (pp. 355-364)