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William H. Crawford

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William Crawford
7th United States Secretary of the Treasury
In office
October 22, 1816 – March 6, 1825
PresidentJames Madison
James Monroe
John Quincy Adams
Preceded byAlexander Dallas
Succeeded byRichard Rush
9th United States Secretary of War
In office
August 1, 1815 – October 22, 1816
PresidentJames Madison
Preceded byJames Monroe
Succeeded byJohn C. Calhoun
United States Minister to France
In office
March 23, 1813 – August 1, 1815
PresidentJames Madison
Preceded byJoel Barlow
Succeeded byAlbert Gallatin
President pro tempore of the United States Senate
In office
March 24, 1812 – March 23, 1813
Preceded byJohn Pope
Succeeded byJoseph Varnum
United States Senator
from Georgia
In office
November 7, 1807 – March 23, 1813
Preceded byGeorge Jones
Succeeded byWilliam Bulloch
Personal details
William Harris Crawford

(1772-02-24)February 24, 1772
Amherst County, Virginia, British America
DiedSeptember 15, 1834(1834-09-15) (aged 62)
Lexington Depot, Georgia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic-Republican (1803–1828)
Democratic (1828–1834)
SpouseSusanna Gerardine
Bureau of Engraving and Printing portrait of Crawford as Secretary of the Treasury

William Harris Crawford (February 24, 1772 – September 15, 1834) was an American politician and judge during the early 19th century. He served as US Secretary of War and US Secretary of the Treasury before he ran for US president in the 1824 election.

Born in Virginia, Crawford moved to Georgia with his parents at a young age, and he grew up to become one of the state’s most popular politicians. After studying law, Crawford won election to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1803. He aligned with the Democratic-Republican Party and US Senator James Jackson. In 1807, the Georgia legislature elected Crawford to the US Senate. After the death of US Vice President George Clinton, Crawford's position as president pro tempore of the US Senate made him first in the presidential line of succession from April 1812 to March 1813. In 1813, US President James Madison appointed Crawford as the minister to France, and Crawford held that post for the remainder of the War of 1812. After the war, Madison appointed him to the position of Secretary of War. In October 1816, Madison chose Crawford for the position of Secretary of the Treasury, and Crawford would remain in that office for the remainder of Madison's presidency and for the duration of James Monroe's presidency.

Although Crawford suffered a severe stroke in 1823, he sought to succeed Monroe at the 1824 election. Because of his roots in Virginia, Crawford received the support of the Virginia dynasty, but ongoing concerns about his health along with a changing political landscape made it impossible for him to become the fourth consecutive Virginia native to hold the office of president. The Democratic-Republican Party splintered into factions, as several others also sought the presidency. No candidate won a majority of the electoral vote and so the US House of Representatives chose the president in a contingent election. Under the terms of the US Constitution, the House selected from the three candidates who received the most electoral votes, which left Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and Crawford in the running. The House selected Adams, who asked Crawford to remain as Treasury Secretary. Declining Adams's offer, Crawford returned to Georgia and accepted an appointment to the state superior court.

Crawford considered running in the 1832 presidential election for the presidency or the vice presidency but ultimately chose not to when fellow southerner Andrew Jackson sought a second term.

Early life[edit]

Crawford was born on February 24, 1772, in the portion of Amherst County, Virginia, that later became Nelson County, the son of Joel Crawford and Fanny Harris, but at least one source has given his birthplace as Tusculum, a house whose site remains in Amherst County.[1] He moved with his family to Edgefield County, South Carolina, in 1779 and to Columbia County, Georgia, in 1783. Crawford was educated at private schools in Georgia and at Richmond Academy in Augusta. After his father's death, Crawford became the family's main financial provider, and he worked on the Crawford family farm and taught school. He later studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1799 and began to practice in Lexington. Also in 1799, Crawford was appointed by the state legislature to prepare a digest of Georgia's statutes.

State politics[edit]

He influenced Georgia politics for decades.[2] In 1803, Crawford was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, and he served until 1807. He allied himself with Senator James Jackson. Their enemies were the Clarkites, led by John Clark. In 1802, he shot and killed Peter Lawrence Van Alen, a Clark ally, in a duel. Four years later, on December 16, 1806, Crawford faced Clark himself in a duel, and Crawford's left wrist was shattered by a shot from Clark, but he eventually recovered.[3]

U.S. Senate[edit]

In 1807, Crawford joined the 10th Congress as the junior U.S. senator from Georgia when the Georgia legislature elected him to replace George Jones, who had held the office for a few months after the death of Abraham Baldwin.

Crawford was elected President pro tempore of the Senate in March 1812 and, following the April 20, 1812, death of Vice President George Clinton, served as the permanent Presiding Officer of the Senate until March 4, 1813.

In 1811, Crawford declined to serve as Secretary of War in the Madison administration. In the Senate, he voted for several acts leading up to the War of 1812 and supported the entry into the war, but he was ready for peace:[4] "Let it then be the wisdom of this nation to remain at peace, as long as peace is within its option."[5]

Throughout his service in the Senate, Crawford was described as a member of the older more traditional wing of the Democratic-Republican Party, and he often focused on issues such as states' rights, which he supported.[6]

Minister to France[edit]

In 1813, President James Madison appointed Crawford as the US minister to France during the waning years of Napoleon's First French Empire. Crawford served until 1815, shortly after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.[7]


Upon Crawford's return, Madison appointed him as Secretary of War on 1 August 1815. Crawford served more than a year in that post. He sought but narrowly failed to win the Democratic-Republican nomination for the 1816 presidential race. Madison appointed him Treasury Secretary on 22 October 1816. He remained in that post for the rest of Madison's term and both terms of President James Monroe, until 6 March 1825. While Treasury Secretary he initiated the Reform Bill of 1817.[8]

1824 election[edit]

The Congressional Caucus nominated Crawford for the 1824 election. However, Crawford had suffered a stroke in 1823 as a result of a lobelia prescription given to him by his physician.[9] The Democratic-Republican Party was now split, and one of the splinter groups nominated Crawford. Despite improved health and the support of former Presidents Madison and Thomas Jefferson, he finished third in the electoral vote, behind Senator and General Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans, and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. In the subsequent contingent election, the House elected Adams President.

Later life[edit]

Refusing Adams's request for him to remain at the Treasury, Crawford then returned to Georgia, where he was appointed as a state superior court judge. Crawford remained an active judge until his death, a decade later.

Crawford was nominated for vice president by the Georgia legislature in 1828 but withdrew after support from other states was not forthcoming. Crawford also considered running for vice president in 1832 but decided against it, in favor of Martin Van Buren. Crawford also considered running for president again in 1832 but dropped the idea when Jackson decided to seek a second term.[10]

Crawford is buried at the site of his home, about half a mile west of the current Crawford city limit.


During the 1820s, Crawford was a member of the prestigious society Columbian Institute for the Promotion of Arts and Sciences, which had among its members former Presidents Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams.[11]

Crawford also served as a Vice President in the American Colonization Society from its formation in 1817 to his death.


Crawford was a descendant of John Crawford (1600–1676), who had come to Virginia in 1643, but participated and died in Bacon's Rebellion. John's son David Crawford I (1625–1698), was the father of David Crawford II (1662–1762), and the grandfather of David Crawford III (1697–1766). David Crawford III married Ann Anderson in 1727 and had 13 children, including Joel Crawford (1736–1788).

His cousin, George W. Crawford, served as Secretary of War under President Zachary Taylor.


Crawford depicted on United States fractional currency

In 1875, Crawford appeared on the 50 cents bill.

The following places are named in his honor:[12]

Cities and towns[edit]




  1. ^ "History of a Household". Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  2. ^ Fair, John D. (2015). "Governor David B. Mitchell and the 'Black Birds' Slave Smuggling Scandal". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 99 (4). Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  3. ^ Long, Kim. "The Almanac of Political Corruption, Scandals & Dirty Politics, (2008). ISBN 0307481344.
  4. ^ Green, Philip J. (1942). "William H. Crawford and the War of 1812". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 26 (1): 21. JSTOR 40576819.
  5. ^ Gales, Joseph (1853). The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, Eleventh Congress, First and Second Sessions [volume 1]. Washington, D.C.: Gales and Seaton. p. 543. Retrieved October 24, 2016.
  6. ^ "William Harris Crawford | Encyclopedia.com". www.encyclopedia.com. Retrieved January 15, 2024.
  7. ^ Kaplan, Lawrence S. (1976). "The Paris Mission of William Harris Crawford, 1813–1815". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 60 (1): 9–22. JSTOR 40580240.
  8. ^ "William H. Crawford (1816 - 1825)". U.S. Department of the Treasury. March 5, 2024. Retrieved March 7, 2024.
  9. ^ Irving Stone, They Also Ran, p.36, (Doubleday, Doran & Co. 1944) (retrieved Jun. 29, 2024); Claude G. Bowers, The Party Battles of the Jackson Period, pp.108-109 (Houghton Mifflin Co. 1922) (retrieved Jun. 29, 2024)
  10. ^ Mooney, Chase C. (1974). William H. Crawford: 1772-1834. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 308–313, 315–318.
  11. ^ Rathbun, Richard (1904). The Columbian institute for the promotion of arts and sciences: A Washington Society of 1816–1838. Bulletin of the United States National Museum, October 18, 1917. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  12. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 95.
  13. ^ a b Krakow, Kenneth K. (1975). Georgia Place-Names: Their History and Origins (PDF). Macon, GA: Winship Press. p. 54. ISBN 0-915430-00-2.
  14. ^ SavannahBest.com's ‘’Squares of Savannah’‘, accessed June 16, 2007

Further reading[edit]

  • Cunningham, Noble (1996). The Presidency of James Monroe. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-0728-5.
  • Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes. American National Biography, vol. 5, "Crawford, William Harris". New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Green, Philip Jackson (1965). The life of William Harris Crawford. University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
  • Green, Philip J. (1942). "William H. Crawford and the War of 1812". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 26 (1): 16–39. JSTOR 40576819.
  • Howe, Daniel Walker (2007). What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848. Oxford History of the United States. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-507894-7.
  • Kahan, Paul (2016). The Bank War: Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Biddle, and the Fight for American Finance. Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing. pp. 23–46. ISBN 978-1594162343.
  • Kaplan, Lawrence S. (1976). "The Paris Mission of William Harris Crawford, 1813–1815". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 60 (1): 9–22. JSTOR 40580240.
  • Mooney, Chase C. (1974). William H. Crawford: 1772-1834. University Press of Kentucky.
  • Morgan, William G. (1972). "The Congressional Nominating Caucus of 1816: The Struggle against the Virginia Dynasty". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 80 (4): 461–475. JSTOR 4247750.
  • Remini, Robert V. (1991). Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 68–273. ISBN 978-0393030044.
  • Shipp, J.E.D. (1909). Giant days, or The life and times of William H. Crawford. Southern Printers.
  • Skeen, C. Edward (1972). "Calhoun, Crawford, and the Politics of Retrenchment". The South Carolina Historical Magazine. 73 (3): 141–155. JSTOR 27567133.
  • Stone, Irving (1966). They Also Ran: The Story of the Men Who Were Defeated for the Presidency (Revised ed.). Doubleday. ISBN 978-0385074094.

External links[edit]

U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Georgia
Served alongside: John Milledge, Charles Tait
Succeeded by
Honorary titles
Preceded by Baby of the Senate
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of War
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of the Treasury
Succeeded by
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Minister to France
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic-Republican nominee for President of the United States¹
Served alongside: John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson
Party abolished
Notes and references
1. The Democratic-Republican Party split in the 1824 election, fielding four separate candidates.