William M. Meredith

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This article is about the US Secretary of the Treasury. For the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, see William Morris Meredith, Jr..
For the Director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, see William Morton Meredith.
William M. Meredith
Mathew Brady Daguerreotype of William Meredith taken during the 1840s
19th United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
March 8, 1849 – July 22, 1850
President Zachary Taylor
Preceded by Robert J. Walker
Succeeded by Thomas Corwin
Personal details
Born (1799-06-08)June 8, 1799
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died August 17, 1873(1873-08-17) (aged 74)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Resting place Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Catherine Keppele Meredith
(m. 1834 - 1854, her death)
Children Gertrude Gouverneur Meredith
William Keppele Meredith
Euphemia Ogden Meredith
Elizabeth Caldwell Meredith
Catherine Keppele Meredith
Parents William Tuckey Meredith
Gertrude Gouverneur Meredith (née Ogden)
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
Profession Politician, Lawyer

William Morris Meredith (June 8, 1799 – August 17, 1873) was an American lawyer and politician. He served as the United States Secretary of the Treasury, during President Zachary Taylor's Administration.

Early life[edit]

Born on June 8, 1799 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His father, William Tuckey Meredith (d. 1844), was a banker and an attorney. His mother was, Gertrude Gouverneur Meredith (née Ogden), who died on October 9, 1828. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1812. After he was admitted to the bar in 1817, he began practicing law. On June 17, 1834, at the age of 35, Meredith married the former Catherine Keppele (d. 1854); They had one son and the four daughters:

  • Gertrude Gouverneur Meredith
  • William Keppele Meredith
  • Euphemia Ogden Meredith
  • Elizabeth Caldwell Meredith
  • Catherine Keppele Meredith

Meredith owned the Wheatland Estate in Lancaster, Pennsylvania from May 1845 until December 1848 before selling it to future President James Buchanan.

Political career[edit]

He served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly from 1824 to 1828, and was president of the Philadelphia City Council from 1834 until 1849. He was also United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1841.

The Zachary Taylor Administration, 1849 Daguerreotype by Mathew Brady
From left to right: William B. Preston, Thomas Ewing, John M. Clayton, Zachary Taylor, William M. Meredith, George W. Crawford, Jacob Collamer and Reverdy Johnson, (1849).

President Zachary Taylor, wanting a Pennsylvania Whig for his cabinet, appointed William M. Meredith to be the 19th Secretary of the Treasury. He began his term in office on March 8, 1849.

Meredith strongly opposed the free trade legislation passed the year before under his predecessor Robert J. Walker. He felt that there was a need to protect the American workman, who was subject to competition from poorly paid European labor. Meredith's principal contribution in office was his Annual Report of 1849 in which he set forth an elaborate argument for a protective tariff.

Meredith depicted on the 5th issue 10-cent Fractional currency note.

The increase in the public debt due to the Mexican-American War and the acquisition of California gave Meredith additional argument for raising revenue through higher import duties, but no action was taken on the tariff during Meredith's term. He also recommended a revision of the Coast Survey Code, which had not been changed since its implementation in 1806. The Coast Survey had seen great expansion and improvement with the introduction of steam powered ships and was in need of revision. Meredith resigned from his office as Secretary of the Treasury, upon President Zachary Taylor's death in 1850.


He was to serve as the state attorney general of Pennsylvania from 1861 until 1867. Meredith also served as a member of a commission working out the settlement of the Alabama claims, in 1870.

He died there in August 1873, at the age of 74. His wife, Catherine died in 1854. They are interred at the Christ Church cemetery in Philadelphia.

He was a grandnephew of Gouverneur Morris.

1849 Double Eagle[edit]

Meredith was given one of only two 1849 Double Eagle's while serving as Treasury Secretary. The 1849 Double Eagle is a pattern coin. The other coin is on display at the Smithsonian Institution. The coin was auctioned as part of his estate but its subsequent whereabouts are unknown.[1]


Parts of this article are based on information taken from the official web site of the US Treasury, which is a branch of the US Government, and thus presumed to be in the public domain.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert J. Walker
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: Zachary Taylor

Succeeded by
Thomas Corwin