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This article is about the United States Secretary of the Treasury. For the Illinois senator, see William Alexander Richardson.
William Adams Richardson

In office
March 17, 1873 – June 3, 1874
President Ulysses S. Grant
Preceded by George S. Boutwell
Succeeded by Benjamin Bristow

Born November 2, 1821(1821-11-02)
Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, U.S.
Died October 19, 1896 (aged 74)
Washington D.C., U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater Harvard University
Profession Politician, lawyer

William Adams Richardson (November 2, 1821 – October 19, 1896) was an American judge and politician.

Born in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, he graduated from Pinkerton Academy, Lawrence Academy at Groton, and attended Harvard University, graduating in 1843.[1] He earned his LL.B. from Harvard in 1846, and was a professor at Georgetown Law School from 1879-1894.[2]

In 1873 he was appointed United States Secretary of the Treasury by President Ulysses S. Grant. He had served as an Assistant Treasury Secretary under his predecessor, George S. Boutwell. He served one year, from 1873 until 1874.

The post-war economy had expanded so quickly that commercial banks became nervous and began calling in their loans. As a result, in the summer of 1873 the money supply tightened drastically, causing the Panic of 1873. Richardson responded by issuing $26 million in greenbacks to meet the demand. The legality of his action was doubtful, but the Congress did not interfere and the crisis was eased. Such cycles of expansion and panic continued for the next thirty years, however, and were the basis for the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.

In his last months in office Richardson became embroiled in the "Sanborn incident."

After leaving the Treasury, Richardson was appointed by Grant to serve as a Justice and Chief Justice of the United States Court of Claims in 1874. He served until his death in Washington, DC, in 1896.


  1. ^ Hackett, Frank W. (1898). A Sketch of the Life and Public Service of William Adams Richardson. Washington: Private. pp. 19.,M1.  
  2. ^ The United States Court of Claims : a history / pt. 1. The judges, 1855-1976 / by Marion T. Bennett / pt. 2. Origin, development, jurisdiction, 1855-1978 / W. Cowen, P. Nichols, M.T. Bennett.. Washington, D.C.: Committee on the Bicentennial of Independence and the Constitution of the Judicial Conference of the United States. 1976.  


External links

Political offices
Preceded by
George S. Boutwell
United States Secretary of the Treasury
Served under: Ulysses S. Grant

Succeeded by
Benjamin H. Bristow


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