Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

George Graham (1816–1817): Secretary of War

George Graham was born in Dumfries, Virginia, in 1772, and graduated from Columbia University. Graham began his professional career in the early 1790s, practicing law in his hometown. He entered public service several years later as a delegate from Fairfax County to the General Assembly of Virginia, serving with that body for multiple terms.

Upon the outbreak of war with Great Britain in 1812, Graham joined the American military and recruited the "Fairfax Light-horse" cavalry division, which he commanded from 1812 to 1814. Graham left the Army in 1814 to take an assignment in the War Department, where he worked for two years as chief clerk by appointment of Secretary of War James Monroe (1814-1816). He was also part of the commission that met with the British in 1815 to conclude an appropriate settlement following the war.

In 1816, Graham ascended to the post of secretary of state, serving on an interim basis until 1817, while newly elected President James Monroe looked for a more permanent candidate. After exploring a portion of eastern Texas as a special agent to the War Department in 1818, Graham returned to the nation's capital to become president of the Washington branch of the Bank of the United States (1819-1823). Graham left the bank in 1823 to serve as commissioner of the general land office of the United States. He died in office in 1830.