William J. Duane

William J. Duane, the third of Jackson’s five Treasury Secretaries, was born in Ireland in 1780, emigrated to Pennsylvania with his parents in 1796 and died in Philadelphia in 1865. He helped his father, William, publish the scurrilous, pro-Republican, anti-Federalist newspaper Aurora before marrying Deborah Franklin Bache, granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin and daughter of merchant and insurer Richard Bache, and becoming an influential lawyer and politician in his own right in his late 1820s and 1830s.

When Treasury Secretary Louis McLane refused to remove the government’s deposits from the Second Bank and place them in state “pet banks,” Jackson moved him to the State department and recalled Duane from a diplomatic post in Denmark. The appointment, which McLane urged on Jackson, proved ill-advised. Duane agreed with Jackson that the Second Bank needed to be curbed but believed that removal of the deposits was illegal and likely to cause a financial panic that would hurt the common man, Jackson’s main constituency. Duane defended his view in a book, titled Narrative and Correspondence Concerning the Removal of the Deposits, and Occurrences Connected Therewith and published in 1838, well after he had been cashiered and the Second Bank allowed to expire. Jackson called him “either the weakest mortal, or the most strange composition I have ever met with.”

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