Levi Woodbury

Levi Woodbury, Jackson’s fifth and final and Martin Van Buren’s only Treasury Secretary, was born in Francetown, New Hampshire in 1789 and died in 1851 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He graduated from Dartmouth in 1809 and attended Tapping Reeve Law School in Connecticut in preparation for a career in private practice and public service, first in the New Hampshire state senate, then in its supreme court, then in its statehouse. He served in the US Senate as a dependable Jacksonian from 1825 until 1831, when he joined the Jackson administration as Secretary of the Navy. He served in that capacity until 1834 when he moved to Treasury after the Senate refused to confirm Roger B. Taney as Treasury Secretary.

Like Taney and Jackson, Woodbury was a staunch foe of the Second Bank of the US, but he learned that state banks were a poor alternative for the people’s money. He therefore devised an “independent treasury” system in which the Treasury essentially acted as its own bank. His system was dismantled but revived in 1846 under President James Polk. Upon Joseph Story’s death in September 1845, he was rewarded with a nomination to the US Supreme Court. Confirmed in early 1846, he served until his death. He is one of only three individuals to serve as a state governor and in all three branches of the federal government (legislature, executive, judicial). His name graces several avenues, cities, counties, schools and ships throughout the country.

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