President James Monroe’s First Cabinet Appointment Document, Signed the Day After His Inauguration, Naming William H. Crawford Secretary of the Treasury

Treasury was one of Monroe’s most important Cabinet appointments, as in Treasury Crawford set policy for the new Second Bank of the United States

This is the second oldest Secretary of the Treasury appointment known to be in private hands, and we obtained it from the Crawford descendants

The inauguration of James Monroe as the fifth President of the United States was held on Tuesday, March 4, 1817, in front of the Old Capitol, where the...

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President James Monroe’s First Cabinet Appointment Document, Signed the Day After His Inauguration, Naming William H. Crawford Secretary of the Treasury

Treasury was one of Monroe’s most important Cabinet appointments, as in Treasury Crawford set policy for the new Second Bank of the United States

This is the second oldest Secretary of the Treasury appointment known to be in private hands, and we obtained it from the Crawford descendants

The inauguration of James Monroe as the fifth President of the United States was held on Tuesday, March 4, 1817, in front of the Old Capitol, where the Supreme Court building now stands. The inauguration marked the commencement of Monroe’s first term as President. Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office, and the President’s inaugural address to the crowd from a platform adjacent to the Old Capitol building was the first to be given outdoors.

The President’s Cabinet at that time consisted of five department heads: the Secretaries of State, War, Treasury, Navy, and the Attorney General. It took Monroe nine months to put his Cabinet together, and during that time period important posts were filled by men temporarily acting as department heads, either until Monroe’s desired appointees could take office, or until someone acceptable would agree to Monroe’s offers of the posts. Specifically, the deplorable state of the War Department in the wake of the War of 1812 led four men to decline Monroe’s offers to accept the office of Secretary of War before John C. Calhoun finally assumed the role in December 1817. Likewise the Attorney General’s post  – which was part time back then – was filled by William Wirt in November. James Madison’s Attorney General, Richard Rush, was held over until then, but really he was also the acting Secretary of State from March 10, 1817 on, so essentially the office of Attorney General was only nominally filled all those months. Rush helped at the State Department from March 10 until John Quincy Adams, Monroe’s desired appointee, took over on September 22. At the Navy Department, Benjamin W. Crowninshield continued over from the Madison administration.

So it was only at the Treasury Department that Monroe was able to install his own choice upon his inauguration. William H. Crawford was U.S. ambassador to France during the War of 1812, and was involved in the peace negotiations with the British at Ghent. He worked closely with Monroe, who was Secretary of State at that time, and Monroe made Crawford responsible for superintending the American consuls in Europe and keeping them informed of developments. Crawford later served as Secretary of War under President Madison. And Crawford was the very man that Monroe wanted as Secretary of the Treasury.

Document signed, Washington, March 5, 1817, the day after his first inauguration, and being his first Cabinet appointment document. “Reposing special trust and confidence in the Patriotism, Integrity and Abilities of William H. Crawford of Georgia, I have nominated, and with the advice and consent of the Senate, do appoint him Secretary of the Treasury of the United States…” There being no Secretary of State, the customary countersignature of that officer is not present.

The Second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816 by President Madison and opened its doors on January 7, 1817, just two months before Crawford took over Treasury. The essential function of the bank was to regulate the public credit issued by private banking institutions, and to restrain uninhibited private bank note issue that threatened to create a credit bubble and carried the risk of a financial collapse. It also performed fiscal duties for the U.S. Treasury, and was tasked to establish a sound and stable national currency. One of Crawford’s chief responsibilities was to set and implement policy for the Bank.

This document was acquired by us from a direct descendant of William H. Crawford, and it has never before been offered for sale.

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