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George Sewall Boutwell

Boutwell, George Sewall (sōˈəl boutˈwəl, –wĕl) [key], 1818–1905, American politician, b. Brookline, Mass. He served seven terms in the Massachusetts legislature between 1842 and 1851, was elected governor for the years 1851–52 by a coalition of Free-Soilers and Democrats, and was an organizer (1855) of the Republican party in Massachusetts. As U.S. Representative (1863–69), Boutwell, a leading radical Republican, was for a time chairman of the Committee on Reconstruction. He was one of the managers who handled the impeachment case against President Andrew Johnson, and he delivered one of the final arguments before the Senate. Although he had been (1862–63) the first commissioner of internal revenue, Boutwell knew little about finance. His selection as Secretary of the Treasury (1869–73) was representative of President Grant's many poor appointments. His one absorbing interest was the reduction of the national debt, and he neglected more important problems. His release of government gold defeated the famous attempt to corner the gold market on Black Friday, Sept. 24, 1869, but the conspiracy need never have proceeded so far had he acted more promptly. He was a U.S. Senator from 1873 to 1877.

See his Reminiscences of Sixty Years in Public Affairs (1902); A. Nevins, Hamilton Fish (1936).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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