William H. Crawford
|7th United States Secretary of the Treasury|
October 22, 1816 – March 6, 1825
|Preceded by||Alexander Dallas|
|Succeeded by||Richard Rush|
|9th United States Secretary of War|
August 1, 1815 – October 22, 1816
|Preceded by||James Monroe|
|Succeeded by||John Calhoun|
|United States Minister to France|
March 23, 1813 – August 1, 1815
|Preceded by||Joel Barlow|
|Succeeded by||Albert Gallatin|
|President pro tempore of the U.S. Senate|
March 24, 1812 – March 23, 1813
|Preceded by||John Pope|
|Succeeded by||Joseph Varnum|
|United States Senator
November 7, 1807 – March 23, 1813
|Preceded by||George Jones|
|Succeeded by||William Bulloch|
|Born||William Harris Crawford
February 24, 1772
Amherst County, Virginia, British America
|Died||September 15, 1834
Crawford, Georgia, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic-Republican (1803–1828)
William Harris Crawford (February 24, 1772 – September 15, 1834) was an American politician and judge during the early 19th century. He served as United States Secretary of War and United States Secretary of the Treasury before running for president in the 1824 election.
Born in Virginia, Crawford moved to Georgia at a young age. After studying law, Crawford won election to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1803. He aligned with the Democratic-Republican Party and U.S. Senator James Jackson. In 1807, the Georgia legislature elected Crawford to the United States Senate. After the death of Vice President George Clinton, Crawford's position as president pro tempore of the Senate made him first in the presidential line of succession for a period. In 1813, President James Madison appointed Crawford as the U.S. 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.
Crawford suffered a severe stroke in 1823, but nonetheless sought to succeed Monroe in the 1824 election. The Democratic-Republican Party splintered into factions as several others also sought the presidency. No candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, so the United States House of Representatives chose the president in a contingent election. Under the terms of the Constitution, the House selected from the three candidates who received the most electoral votes, leaving Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and Crawford in the running. The House selected Adams, who asked Crawford to remain at Treasury. Refusing Adams's offer, Crawford accepted appointment to the Georgia state superior court. He considered running in the 1832 presidential election, either for the presidency or the vice presidency, but ultimately chose not to run.
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. 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.
He influenced Georgia politics for decades. 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 being shattered by a shot from Clark, but he eventually recovered.
In 1807, Crawford joined the 10th United States 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 in 1811. When Vice President George Clinton died on April 20, 1812, Crawford, as President pro tempore, became the first Acting Vice President 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 he supported the entry into the war, but he was ready for peace: "Let it then be the wisdom of this nation to remain at peace, as long as peace is within its option."
Minister to France
In 1813, President James Madison appointed Crawford as the US minister to France during the waning years of the First French Empire; Crawford held that ministerial post until 1815, shortly after the end of the war.
Upon Crawford's return, Madison appointed him as Secretary of War. After slightly more than a year of satisfactory service in that post and after disclaiming interest in the 1816 presidential race as the Democratic-Republican nomination, Crawford moved within the Cabinet to become Secretary of the Treasury. He remained in that position through the rest of Madison's term and James Monroe's entire administration, which ended in 1825.
Crawford was again a leading candidate for the Democratic-Republican presidential nomination in the 1824 election. However, Crawford was put out of the running because of a paralytic stroke he had suffered in 1823 because of a prescription given to him by his physician. The Democratic-Republican Party was now split, and one of the splinter groups nominated Crawford.
Despite Crawford's improved health (and the support of former Presidents Madison and Thomas Jefferson), he finished third in the electoral vote, behind Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson and Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. He thus was still in the nominal running when the Presidential election ended up in the House of Representatives because the Twelfth Amendment allows the House to choose one of the top three candidates. His stroke ended whatever chance he had of winning.
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.
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.
Crawford also served as a Vice President in the American Colonization Society from its formation in 1817 to his death.
Crawford was a descendent 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).
In 1875, Crawford appeared on the 50 cent bill.
The following places are named in his honor:
Cities and towns
- Crawford County, Arkansas
- Crawford County, Georgia
- Crawford County, Illinois
- Crawford County, Indiana
- Crawford County, Iowa
- Crawford County, Michigan
- Crawford County, Missouri
- Crawford County, Wisconsin
- Garraty, John A. and Mark C. Carnes. American National Biography, vol. 5, "Crawford, William Harris". New York : Oxford University Press, 1999.
- Mooney, Chase C. William H. Crawford, 1772-1834. Lexington, KY : University Press of Kentucky, 1974
- Shipp, J.E.D. Giant Days or The Life and Times of William H. Crawford. Americus, GA : Southern Printers, 1909
- "History of a Household". Retrieved 23 March 2017.
- Fair, John D. (2015). "Governor David B. Mitchell and the 'Black Birds' Slave Smuggling Scandal". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 99 (4). Retrieved 24 October 2016.
- Long, Kim. "The Almanac of Political Corruption, Scandals & Dirty Politics, (2008). ISBN 0307481344.
- Green, Philip J. (1942). "William H. Crawford and the War of 1812". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 26 (1): 21. JSTOR 40576819.
- 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 24 October 2016.
- Kaplan, Lawrence S. (1976). "The Paris Mission of William Harris Crawford, 1813-1815". The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 60 (1): 9. JSTOR 40580240.
- They Also Ran, Irving Stone, p. 36
- Rathbun, Richard. 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 2010-06-20.
- Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 95.
- William Harris Crawford papers(Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University, Houston, TX, USA)
- United States Congress. "William H. Crawford (id: C000895)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- William Harris Crawford Collection from the Georgia Historical Society
- Troup-Clarke Political Feud historical marker