Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

William J. Duane (1833 -1833): Secretary of the Treasury

William John Duane was born in 1780 in Clonmel, Ireland. In 1796, Duane's family emigrated to the United States, and he got a job as a compositor for Philadelphia's True Believer newspaper. Two years later, his father became the editor of the Aurora, and Duane worked as a compositor on that paper until 1806. During this time, he followed the political debates covered by the newspaper and developed an interest in political issues.

In 1809, Duane won a bid to become a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as a Republican, but he failed to secure reelection in 1810. Two years later, Duane left the newspaper business and began to pursue legal studies while also serving as a member in the state house of representatives, having been elected in 1812.

By 1815, Duane had been admitted to the bar but had lost both his race for the United States Congress and his seat in the state legislature. An attempt to regain his state seat two years later was also unsuccessful, but he prevailed in 1819 and returned to the state legislature. A year later, he became the prosecuting attorney for the mayor's court of Philadelphia.

In 1824, Duane refused to consider another run for the United States Congress, choosing instead to join the Philadelphia Democratic Committee of Correspondence in 1828. After joining the Select Council of Philadelphia in 1829, President Andrew Jackson made Duane his commissioner to Denmark. When conflict over the efficacy of a national bank arose during Jackson's administration, the President appointed Duane -- who agreed with Jackson that a national bank should not be a strong presence in the United States -- secretary of the treasury.

The new cabinet member did not hold his post for long; though Duane agreed with the President about a weakened national bank, he did not believe that public funds should be transferred to state banks. Because of the disagreement, Duane resigned his position after only three months in office and returned to his law practice. William John Duane died in 1865.