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William M. Meredith (1850–1850) - Secretary of the Treasury

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William Morris Meredith was born in 1799 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, earning a bachelor’s degree (1812) and a master’s degree (1816), both from the University of Pennsylvania. One year later, at the age of eighteen, Meredith was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar.

In 1824, Meredith won election to the Pennsylvania state legislature, where he served four years before returning to the practice of law. From 1834 to 1839, he was president of the Select Council of Philadelphia, also attending the 1837 state constitutional convention as a delegate. In 1840, after campaigning hard for presidential candidate William Henry Harrison, Meredith was named U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

After a failed run for the United States Senate in 1848, Meredith made it to Washington, D.C., as President Zachary Taylor’s secretary of the treasury, a post he held from 1849 to 1850, when he resigned his position following Taylor’s death. After leaving the cabinet, Meredith resumed his law practice in Philadelphia, worked to prevent the South’s secession, and served, until 1867, as attorney general of Pennsylvania.

In 1870, Meredith served briefly, at President Ulysses S. Grant’s request, as a member of a commission negotiating the Alabama Claims settlement. He was also a delegate and chief presiding officer at another state constitutional convention in 1872. Meredith died the following year.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Michael F. Holt

Professor Holt is the Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia. His writings include:

The Civil War and Reconstruction (Co-authored with Jean H. Baker and David Herbert Donald, W.W. Norton, 2001)

The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (Oxford University Press, 1999)

Political Parties and American Political Development from the age of Jackson to the age of Lincoln (Louisiana State University Press, 1992)