Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 894

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 894


This is the grave of George Graham.

Born in 1770 in Dumfries, Virginia, Graham was a descendant of the Catholics who had migrated to Maryland for religious freedom. But let’s be clear, their religious freedom by no means would get in the way of enslaving Africans to steal their labor for tobacco production. Graham grew up in this slaving milieu, a member of the not-quite Virginia elite. After all, by this time they were only quasi-Protestant, so you know, not quite able to hang with the Jeffersons and the like. But this was definitely an upwardly mobile family. Graham’s aunt married George Mason and she took her 10 year old nephew with her to get an education in the Mason household. He was educated with Mason’s sons from his previous marriage, then went on to Columbia for higher education.

Graham passed the bar and opened a practice in Dumfries. Like any good Virginian elite of the time, including George Washington, he was deeply involved in land speculation west of the Blue Ridge, where mostly everyone lost money. He had his plantation, he had his slaves, he was a guy, basically. A Virginia rich dude. Nothing too exciting. A good Jeffersonian, of course. Capable, but nothing special. He fought in the War of 1812, raising a company, normal for a man of his class and place. Madison gave him a position in the Department of War. Then, in October 1816, Madison named the Secretary of War William Crawford Secretary of the Treasury. With Madison soon leaving office and James Monroe taking over, there was a gap. So Madison named Graham Acting Secretary of War. Was he really qualified for this? I dunno, he certainly wasn’t over-qualified for it. I guess there wasn’t that much to do with the war over. Anyway, Monroe named John C. Calhoun but he didn’t show up until October 1817. So Graham was there for a full year. Did he do anything that mattered? Not really. This is the kind of grave I take a picture of because it is chatty. I like chatty graves. Sometimes they are useful. Sometimes they are ridiculously braggy. This is one of the latter.

Anyway, after he left his temporary office, Graham sailed to Texas in an early attempt to extend American claims there. He became president of the Washington branch of the Bank of the United States in 1819 and held that position for the next four years, leaving it in 1823. Then, when Monroe named John McLean, head of the General Land Office and later a Supreme Court justice to Postmaster General, Graham got the nod to head the GLO. Adams kept him and he didn’t leave that position until after Andrew Jackson had become president, in 1830. And that’s because he died that year, at the age of 60.

George Graham is buried on the confiscated lands of the traitor Lee, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. I’m not sure when he was moved here or why anyone cared enough about him that they would move him here decades later. Was there a desire to get some slavers in there? Dunno.

I know this was an exciting window into early 19th century minor federal officeholders. Please, hold back your applause and thanks and donations. If you would like this series to visit other heads of the General Land Office–PLEASE DON’T DONATE TOO MUCH MONEY FOR THIS, THE ORPHANS COULD ALSO USE SOME–you can donate to cover the required expenses here. Elijah Hayward, who replaced Graham, is in McConnelsville, Ohio and Ethan Allen Brown, who replaced Hayward, is in Rising Sun, Indiana, which is a town name that amuses me for some reason. Previous posts in this series are archived here.

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