Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 691

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 691

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This is the grave of William Duane, Jr.

Born in 1780 in Clonmel County, Ireland, Duane immigrated with his parents to Philadelphia in 1796. His father, the radical Jeffersonian newspaper editor William Duane, Sr., was most known for being the main target of the Alien and Sedition Acts to shut down criticism of the Federalists. William, Jr., was at his side in this, helping his father publish his paper.

Duane became an important Jeffersonian elite of his own and then a Democrat when the Democratic Party started. He was a lawyer and then a powerful state level politician, one of the leaders of the state legislature. He married the daughter of former Postmaster General Richard Bache, which meant his mother-in-law was Benjamin Franklin’s daughter. Can’t get much more Early Republic elite than that. He ran for Congress in 1815 but lost. Instead, he became the prosecuting attorney for the mayor’s court in Philadelphia. He was an early supporter of Andrew Jackson’s presidential run in 1824 and then again in 1828.

Jackson wanted to reward him and thought Duane was on board with his anti-banking positions. He offered Duane the position of director of the Bank of the United States and then as U.S. District Attorney. But Duane declined both. However, when Jackson offered Duane the position of Secretary of the Treasury in 1833, he couldn’t turn that down. But this was when Jackson was trying to kill the BUS by removing the federal deposits from it. This was terrible financial policy. But he wanted his man to see this through. He moved Louis McLane to State to open up the position. But then Duane refused Jackson’s demand to remove the deposits. They fought over the summer over it. And then Jackson fired him too, replacing him with Roger Taney, who you know was going to remove those deposits. The Senate rejected the nomination, but Taney had already done it and gave the money to the disastrous “pet banks” of the states.

Duane defended himself in a book titled Narrative and Correspondence Concerning the Removal of the Deposites, and Occurrences Connected Therewith. After that, he seems to have gone back to his law practice and mostly stayed out of public life. In any case, he mostly falls out of the easily accessible historical record. He died in 1865 at the age of 85.

William Duane is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This grave visit was sponsored by LGM readers. Thanks again! If you would like this series to visit other people who have been Secretary of the Treasury, you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Roger Taney is in Frederick, Maryland and Thomas Ewing (Harrison’s appointee) is in Lancaster, Ohio. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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