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William A. Richardson (1873–1874) - Secretary of the Treasury

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William Adams Richardson was born in 1821, in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College in 1843, studied the law, was admitted to the state bar in 1846, and established a law practice in Lowell, Massachusetts.

As he practiced law, Richardson also pursued politics, first as a Whig and then as a Republican. He was a member of city council, worked as a judge for the Middlesex County probate court, and served as co-compiler and publisher of the Massachusetts state statutes, a project he completed in 1855 and revised in 1873.

From 1874 to 1896, Richardson worked on issuing his Supplements of U.S. congressional legislation. At the request of Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Richardson assistant secretary of the treasury in 1869. When Boutwell resigned in 1873, Grant appointed Richardson to the vacancy. Richardson served into the following year until he resigned amidst scandal.

Despite his inglorious departure, William Adams Richardson recovered politically and served as associate justice on the United States Court of Claims (1874-1885) before becoming chief justice of the court in 1885, a post he held until his death in 1896.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Joan Waugh

Professor Waugh is a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her writings include:

U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

Wars within a War: Controversy and Conflict over the American Civil War (editor with Gary W. Gallagher, University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture (editor with Alice Fahs, University of North Carolina Press, 2004)

Unsentimental Reformer: The Life of Josephine Shaw Lowell (Harvard University Press, 1998)