Meredith, William M.
Signature as Zachary Taylor’s Treasury Secretary (1849-50)
Autograph ID: 5918
Condition: Very good, mount remnant verso; portrait with some water stains & foxing
Description: “(1799-1873) Philadelphia lawyer and politician, Treasury Secretary under Zachary Taylor. He was admitted to the bar in 1817, and began practicing law. A Federalist, Meredith served in state General Assembly 1824-28. He was Philadelphia City Council president 1834-49 and a delegate to the 1837 Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention. He owned the Wheatland Estate in Lancaster, Penna. from May 1845 to December 1848, selling it to future President James Buchanan. President Zachary Taylor, wanting a Pennsylvania Whig for his Cabinet, appointed Meredith as 19th Secretary of the Treasury, and he took office on March 8, 1849. As Secretary, Meredith strongly opposed the free trade legislation passed in 1848 under his predecessor, Robert J. Walker, believing in the need to protect American workmen competing with poorly paid European labor. His Annual Report of 1849 set forth an elaborate argument for a protective tariff. The increase in public debt due to the Mexican-American War and the acquisition of California gave him additional argument for raising revenue through higher import duties, but no action was taken on the tariff during his term. He also recommended a revision of the Coast Survey Code, not changed since its 1806 implementation. The Coast Survey had seen great expansion and improvement with the introduction of steam-powered ships and was in need of revision. He resigned his office upon President Taylor’s death in 1850. Meredith was elected Pennsylvania Attorney General in 1860 and served to 1867. In 1861, he was a delegate to the Peace Conference, which was unsuccessful in preventing southern states from seceding. Meredith later served as a member of the 1870 Alabama Claims Commission. In 1871, President Grant asked him to serve as US senior counsel in an international arbitration in Geneva, but he declined due to ill health. His last political post was as President of the 1872 Republican National Convention. A Philadelphia school is named for him and he is depicted on the 5th issue 10-cent fractional currency note. He received one of only two 1849 Double Eagles, a pattern coin, while serving as Treasury Secretary. The other coin is displayed at the Smithsonian; his coin was auctioned as part of his estate, its subsequent whereabouts unknown.
1 1/2 x 3 1/4 clipped signature as Treasury Secretary on blue paper, with portrait.”