Louis McLane

Louis McLane, the second of Jackson’s five Treasury Secretaries, was born in 1786 in Smyrna, Delaware and died in 1857 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was well educated and well heeled in part because his father, a Federalist federal tax collector, was friends with powerful Delaware politician James A. Bayard, in whose law office McLane apprenticed. In addition to practicing law and siring 13 children with his wife Kitty Milligan, McLane served with the Wilmington Artillery Company during the War of 1812, a unit that saw no combat.

After the War, McLane served Delaware in the House of Representatives from 1817 until 1827 and, despite being a Federalist, was named Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He also served two years in the Senate before resigning in 1829.

During his time in Washington, McLane became friends with William H. Crawford and Martin Van Buren. The latter affiliations led him into the camp of Andrew Jackson, who he vigorously supported in the 1828 election. Jackson lost Delaware anyway and McLane ended up with the relatively minor post, ambassador to England. After Samuel D. Ingham resigned due to the Eaton Affair, Jackson recalled him and at Van Buren’s urging nominated him for Treasury Secretary. Like Ingham, McLane sought to broker a deal on the Second Bank issue but was rebuffed by attorney general Roger B. Taney, who reminded Jackson of McLane’s Federalist background.

After he vetoed a bill that would have re-chartered the Second Bank, Jackson sought to financially eviscerate the institution by removing the government’s deposits from it. McLane refused to do so and was moved to Secretary of State, a post that he resigned in June 1834 after a bitter dispute with Van Buren. His political career in shambles, McLane moved to the nation’s burgeoning corporate sector, serving first as president of the Morris Canal and Banking Company and then as president of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. After a brief reprise as ambassador to England under James Polk, he retired from business in 1848.

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