Hugh McCulloch

Hugh McCulloch was the third and final Treasury Secretary appointed by Abraham Lincoln. Born in Kennebunk, Maine and educated at Bowdoin, McCulloch studied law in Boston before moving to Fort Wayne, Indiana to practice. He soon moved into banking and was president of the Bank of Indiana from 1857 to 1863. He opposed the National Banking Act of 1863 but accepted Chase’s invitation to serve as the first comptroller of the currency and was instrumental in reforming the new system in 1864. Following Lincoln’s assassination, he stayed on as Andrew Johnson’s only Treasury Secretary and pushed for a rapid retirement of greenbacks and a return to the gold standard. That monetary policy was reversed after causing deflation (declining prices) of 2.5% in 1866 and almost 7% in 1867. His policies for integrating the Southern states into the federal government’s new revenue system and paying off the national debt, however, were largely implemented.

Upon his replacement by the new President, U.S. Grant, McCulloch joined in partnership with investment banker Jay Cooke and set up an office in London. Later, McCulloch briefly served as Treasury Secretary under President Chester Arthur during which time he continued to press for a return to the gold standard. He died in 1895 near Washington, DC and is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery there. Several small ships and a residence hall at Harvard are named for him.

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