Tuesday, January 29, 2008

George S. Boutwell
George Sewall Boutwell (January 28, 1818February 27, 1905) was an American statesman who served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Ulysses S. Grant, Governor of Massachusetts, a Senator and Representative from Massachusetts and the first Commissioner of Internal Revenue under President Abraham Lincoln.
Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, Boutwell was raised on his family's farm and attended the public schools as a child. He worked as a schoolteacher in Shirley, Massachusetts and as a clerk and shopkeeper in Groton, Massachusetts. Entering politics as a Democrat and supporter of Martin Van Buren, he was appointed postmaster of Groton in 1841 and served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1842 to 1844 and from 1847 to 1850. He made three unsuccessful runs for the United States House of Representatives in 1844, 1846 and 1848 and two unsuccessful runs for the governorship in 1849 and 1850. He served as state bank commissioner from 1849 to 1851, was a member of the Harvard University Board of Overseers from 1850 to 1860 and was elected twice Governor of Massachusetts in 1851 and 1852, serving from 1851 to 1853. He was a member of the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1853, helped in founding the Republican Party in 1854 and was secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education from 1855 to 1861.
Boutwell attended the Peace Conference of 1861 in Washington, D.C. which attempted to devise means to prevent the impending American Civil War. He switched party affiliations to the Republican Party and served on the military commission in the Department of War in 1862 before being appointed the first Commissioner of Internal Revenue by President Abraham Lincoln the same year. He served as commissioner until his election to the United States House of Representatives where he served from 1863 to 1869. In 1868, as a congressman, he served as one of the special prosecutors in the impeachment trials of President Andrew Johnson.
Boutwell resigned from the House in 1869 to except the appointment of Secretary of the Treasury from President Ulysses S. Grant in 1869. As Treasury Secretary, his primary achievements were reorganizing the Treasury Department, improving bookkeeping by customs houses, incorporating the United States Mint into the Treasury and reducing the national debt. He also managed the Black Friday crisis of September 23, 1869, warding off gold speculators by flooding the market with Treasury gold.
In 1873, when Massachusetts Senator Henry Wilson was elected to the vice presidency, Boutwell was elected to Wilson's Senate seat and resigned as Treasury Secretary. In the Senate, he served as chairman of the Committee on the Revision of the Laws in the 44th Congress. After leaving the Senate, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him commissioner to codify and edit the Revised Statutes of the United States in 1877 and was the United States counsel before the French and American Claims Commission in 1880.
Boutwell practiced law in Washington, D.C. and turned down the appointment of Secretary of the Treasury from President Chester A. Arthur in 1884.
He opposed the acquisition by the United States of the Philippines, became president of the American Anti-Imperialist League, and was a presidential elector on the William Jennings Bryan ticket in 1900.
He published several books on education, taxation and political economy. His book The Constitution of the United States at the End of the First Century was considered particularly significant.
Boutwell died in Groton, Massachusetts, and is buried at Groton Cemetery. His house in the center of Groton is now headquarters of the Groton Historical Society.

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