Benjamin Bristow

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Benjamin H. Bristow (around 1875)

Benjamin Helm Bristow (born June 20, 1832 in Elkton , Todd County , Kentucky , † June 22, 1896 in New York City ) was an American politician, first United States Solicitor General and Treasury Secretary .

Studies, civil war and professional career

The son of lawyer and Congressman Francis Bristow graduated from law . After being admitted to the bar in 1853, he worked in his father's office.

At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861 he joined the 25th Kentucky Infantry Regiment of the Army of the Confederate States of America as a lieutenant colonel . After being seriously wounded during the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862, he helped recruit the 8th Cavalry Regiment, in which he subsequently served as a lieutenant colonel and later as a colonel . In this capacity he accompanied General John Hunt Morgan in July 1863 in his attack on Indiana and Ohio .

After the war he continued his professional career and in 1865 was initially assistant attorney (Assistant US Attorney). He was then from 1866 to 1870 federal attorney for the district of Kentucky. During this time he was particularly committed to strengthening civil rights .

Between 1872 and 1874 he was legal counsel for the Texas and Pacific Railroad .

Political career

State Senator and First Solicitor General

He began his political career by being elected to the Kentucky Senate from 1863 to 1865.

After a brief activity as a lawyer in a joint law firm with the future federal judge John Marshall Harlan , he was on October 10, 1870 by President Ulysses S. Grant to the first United States Solicitor General . With that he took fourth place in the hierarchy of the Ministry of Justice. He held this office until November 1872. In 1873, President also saw him succeed George H. Williams as attorney general, so that he could become President of the Supreme Court . These appointments, however, did not come back after a change in Grant's mind.

Finance minister under grant and investigation of corruption scandals

Portrait of BH Bristow in the Treasury

On June 4, 1874, President Grant named him to succeed William Adams Richardson as Treasury Secretary . In this function he initiated the overdue internal restructuring of the ministry. In particular, he dismissed the Treasury's Second Inspector for inefficiency, changed the investigative service and merged the customs and tax service districts.

During his tenure there were also 253 charges against members of the so-called " Whiskey Ring ". This criminal organization, made up of still owners and tax officials in St. Louis , Milwaukee , Cincinnati, and other cities, defrauded the tax authorities in St. Louis alone of more than $ 2,500,000 in the years 1870-1876 , which the entrepreneurs and Officials shared among themselves. Among the accused was the President's private secretary, who used the money he had evaded to support President Grant's campaign fund for his planned re-election in 1876. The President was charged with interfering with the charges. After some defendants were pardoned after a few months, Bristow resigned on June 20, 1876, also because of differences of opinion from his office as finance minister. Lot M. Morrill succeeded him in this position .

In 1876 he ran unsuccessfully for the Republican Party nomination as a presidential candidate. After the defeat, however, he supported Rutherford B. Hayes, who was subsequently elected president, in his election campaign. However, he turned down his offers to take over both a ministerial office and a judicial office at the Supreme Court.

After retiring from political life in 1878, he settled as a lawyer in New York City . A year later, he became vice president of the American Bar Association.


Web links

Commons : Benjamin Bristow  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files