Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Levi Woodbury (1837–1841): Secretary of the Treasury

Levi Woodbury was born in 1789 in Francestown, New Hampshire. He attended the local Atkinson Academy and graduated from Dartmouth College, with honors, in 1809. He then studied the law and was admitted to the New Hampshire state bar in 1812.

After four years of practicing law, Woodbury became clerk to the New Hampshire State Senate. After only a year in that position, the governor, a personal friend, appointed him to the New Hampshire state supreme court, where he remained until he was elected governor in 1823. A Democrat, Woodbury served only one one-year term before losing in 1824. A year later, however, he was back in politics, this time as a state representative. That same year, the state senate elected Woodbury to the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1825 to 1831.

Following his term in the Senate, Woodbury chose not to seek reelection but remained in politics, having been elected to the New Hampshire State Senate. He did not remain in the state legislature for long, however, as President Andrew Jackson tapped Woodbury in 1831 to be his secretary of the Navy.

Woodbury remained in this position until 1834, when Jackson shifted him to the Department of the Treasury. Woodbury served as secretary of the treasury until 1841, holding the position in both the Jackson and Van Buren administrations. After leaving the Treasury, Woodbury assumed his old United States Senate seat and served in Congress from 1841 to 1845.

Although appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1845 by President James K. Polk, Woodbury had his sights set on the presidency. He failed, however, in both 1844 and in 1848 to secure his party's nomination. Levi Woodbury died in 1851.

For further reading:

Cole, Donald B. Jacksonian Democracy in New Hampshire, 1800-1851. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970.

Woodbury, Levi. "Levi Woodbury's 'Intimate Memoranda' of the Jackson Administration." Edited by Ari Hoogenboom and Herbert Ershkowitz. Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 92 (1968): 507-15.