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George S. Boutwell: Wikis


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George Sewall Boutwell

In office
January 11, 1851 – January 14, 1853
Lieutenant Henry W. Cushman
Preceded by George N. Briggs
Succeeded by John H. Clifford

In office
March 4, 1863 – March 12, 1869
Preceded by Daniel W. Gooch
Succeeded by George M. Brooks

In office
March 12, 1869 – March 16, 1873
President Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by Hugh McCulloch
Succeeded by William A. Richardson

In office
March 17, 1873 – March 3, 1877
Preceded by Henry Wilson
Succeeded by George F. Hoar

Born January 28, 1818(1818-01-28)
Brookline, Massachusetts
Died February 27, 1905 (aged 87)
Groton, Massachusetts
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Harriet Briggs
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Teacher

George Sewall Boutwell (January 28, 1818 – February 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. In 1836 he began by himself to study law, and was admitted to the bar, but did not enter into active practice for many years. He also began a course of reading, by which he hoped to make up for his want of a college education.[1] 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 [2], 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 accept 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. As Secretary, he opposed diminution of taxation and favored a large reduction of the national debt. In 1870 Congress, at his recommendation, passed an act providing for the funding of the national debt and authorizing the selling of certain bonds, but not authorizing an increase of the debt. Secretary Boutwell attempted to implement the legislation by means of a syndicate, but expended more than half of one per cent, for which he was accused of violating the law. The House Committee of Ways and Means afterward absolved him from this charge.[1]

George S. Boutwell

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 international and patent law in Boston and 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.[3]

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, built in 1851 while he was governor, was given to the Groton Historical Society by his daughter, Georgianna. It now serves as the society's headquarters and is opened in the summer as a museum.


  • Educational Topics and Institutions (Boston, 1859)
  • Manual of the United States Direct and Revenue Tax (1863)
  • Decisions on the Tax Law (New York, 1863)
  • Tax-Payer's Manual (Boston, 1865)
  • Speeches and Papers (1867)
  • Why I am a Republican (Hartford, Conn., 1884)
  • The Constitution of the United States at the End of the First Century (1895) * Reminiscences of Sixty Years in Public Affairs (2 vols., New York, 1902)


  1. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg " Boutwell, George Sewall". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. 1900.  
  2. ^ "Massachusetts--Election of Gov. Boutwell" (PDF). New York Times. January 14, 1852.  
  3. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Boutwell, George Sewall". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.  
Political offices
Preceded by
George N. Briggs
Governor of Massachusetts
January 11, 1851 – January 14, 1853
Succeeded by
John H. Clifford
Preceded by
Hugh McCulloch
United States Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: Ulysses S. Grant

March 12, 1869 – March 16, 1873
Succeeded by
William A. Richardson
Government offices
Preceded by
Commissioner of Internal Revenue
July 17, 1862 – March 4, 1863
Succeeded by
Joseph J. Lewis
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Daniel W. Gooch
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Massachusetts's 7th congressional district

March 4, 1863 – March 12, 1869
Succeeded by
George M. Brooks
United States Senate
Preceded by
Henry Wilson
United States Senator (Class 2) from Massachusetts
March 17, 1873 – March 3, 1877
Served alongside: Charles Sumner, William B. Washburn and Henry L. Dawes
Succeeded by
George F. Hoar


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