William Harris Crawford was one of the first national politicians from the state of Georgia. Although born in Virginia, he moved to Augusta in 1796, attracted to the large school (Carmel Academy) where he taught. In 1798 he was admitted to the Georgia bar and became a lawyer in rural Oglethorpe County
the following year.
At the time the Georgia political process was factional at best. Crawford aligned himself with James Jackson, who reformed the state government following the Yazoo Land Fraud. It was Crawford's asssociation with Jackson that shaped many of his political viewpoints.
In 1802 Crawford completed a digest of Georgia Laws. From 1803 to 1807 he served in the Georgia legislature, being appointed to the U. S. Senate upon the death of Abraham Baldwin. Known for his financially conservative philosophy, Crawford was a strong supporter of the First Bank of the United States when its charter came up for renewal in 1811. The rechartering was defeated.
He served as president pro tem and declined an offer to be Secretary of War in 1813, instead accepting the position of minister to France. Upon his return from France, Crawford accepted the position of Secretary of War and ran for President in 1816 against James Monroe.
President Monroe offered Crawford the position of Secretary of the Treasury in his cabinet, a position that William Crawford accepted in 1817. He began an aggressive reorganization of the department, starting with the Reform Bill of 1817, which gave the Treasury financial oversight responsibility for all federal departments. During his term at Treasury he advocated extensive infrastructure investment including federal funding of selective roads and canals and the building of coastal defenses.
As Secretary of Treasury Crawford had more political appointments to make than all the other Secretaries combined, but removing old appointtees had become a problem, which Crawford solved by proposing a four year tenure for political appointees. Congress liked the idea so much it quickly passed the Tenure of Office Act, limiting political appointments to four years. Crawford promptly used his new power to build up a strong political machine in the Treasury Department, devoted to his personal advancement. He was nominated for the presidency by a Congressional caucus and became the "regular" candidate.
During the campaign for President in 1824 Crawford was incapacitated by severe paralysis. He finished third in the Electoral voting behind Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams. Crawford returned to Georgia where he served as a judge until his death in 1834.