Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

William A. Richardson (1873–1874): Secretary of the Treasury

William Adams Richardson was born in 1821, in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard College in 1843, studied the law, was admitted to the state bar in 1846, and established a law practice in Lowell, Massachusetts.

As he practiced law, Richardson also pursued politics, first as a Whig and then as a Republican. He was a member of city council, worked as a judge for the Middlesex County probate court, and served as co-compiler and publisher of the Massachusetts state statutes, a project he completed in 1855 and revised in 1873.

From 1874 to 1896, Richardson worked on issuing his Supplements of U.S. congressional legislation. At the request of Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell, President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Richardson assistant secretary of the treasury in 1869. When Boutwell resigned in 1873, Grant appointed Richardson to the vacancy. Richardson served into the following year until he resigned amidst scandal.

Despite his inglorious departure, William Adams Richardson recovered politically and served as associate justice on the United States Court of Claims (1874-1885) before becoming chief justice of the court in 1885, a post he held until his death in 1896.