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U.S. Senator, Minister to France, Secretary of War, Secretary of the Treasury
William Harris Crawford was born in Amherst (now Nelson) County, Virginia, on February 24, 1772. He moved with his father to the Edgefield District of South Carolina in 1779, and to Richmond (now Columbia) County, Georgia, in 1783. He attended Moses Waddel's Carmel Academy in Appling, and the Richmond Academy in Augusta, and then studied law privately; he was subsequently admitted to the bar, and commenced practice in Lexington in 1799. In 1799 he was appointed to help prepare a digest of the laws of Georgia; Digest of the Laws of the State of Georgia, written with Horatio Marbury, was published in 1801. He married Susanna Gerardin in 1804, and ultimately had nine children.
Crawford's political career began in 1803, when he was elected to represent Oglethorpe County in the Georgia House of Representatives; he served until 1807.
In 1807, Crawford was chosen by the Georgia Legislature to fill the U.S. Senate vacancy caused by the death of Abraham Baldwin. He took his seat on November 7, 1807, and served until March 23, 1813. During his tenure, he supported rechartering of the Bank of the United States, and President James Madison's embargo measures against Great Britain.
Crawford declined appointment as President Madison's third Secretary of War in 1813, but accepted the post of Minister to France, in which capacity he served until 1815. Upon his return to America he agreed to become Madison's fourth Secretary of War, and served in that capacity from August 1815 to October 1816.
Crawford ran for President in 1816, but only received 54 votes to James Madison's 65 votes from the Republican congressional caucus. He subsequently agreed to be Madison's Secretary of the Treasury, and ended up serving through James Monroe's term as well. During his tenure as Treasury Secretary, Crawford helped organize the treasury more efficiently, and oversaw the creation of a fort system along the eastern seaboard and construction of the Cumberland Road from Virginia to the Midwest.
In 1824, Crawford was the Democratic Republican candidate for President. He finished third, behind John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Although Jackson received the majority of popular votes, he failed to get a majority of electoral votes, and the election had to be decided by the House of Representatives. On December 1, 1824, the House decided the election in favor of Adams, much to the consternation of Jackson.
President Adams asked Crawford to stay on as Secretary of the Treasury, but he declined because of ill health. Appointed judge of the Northern Circuit Court of Georgia in 1827, Crawford served in that capacity until shortly before his death. He died in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, on September 15, 1834.
Crawford County, the town of Crawford in Oglethorpe County, and the town of Crawfordville in Taliaferro County (all in Georgia) were named for him.
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to the Civil War, 1775/1783-1861
19th Century, 1845-1861
This page was last updated on June 15, 2017.