George W. Campbell (1814)

Born in Scotland, George W. Campbell (1769 - 1848) moved with his family to North Carolina in 1772. When President Madison appointed him Secretary of the Treasury in 1814, he became the first Cabinet member from a region west of the Appalachian Mountains.

Portrait of George W. Campbell.

Sec. George W. Campbell
Freeman Thorp
Oil on canvas
65 1/4 x 56 1/4 x 5 1/8"

Campbell entered office during the War of 1812 and the state of the Nation's finances was in serious disorder. Congress had failed to recharter the First Bank of the United States after its charter expired in 1811 and had not made appropriations to finance the War of 1812.

Campbell's most perplexing problem was convincing the American people to buy government bonds to pay for the war. Much of the Nation's money was concentrated in New England, which was opposed to the war, and though Campbell put up bonds for sale and begged northern bankers to subscribe, he could not inspire their confidence. He was forced to meet to lenders terms, selling government bonds at exorbitant interest rates. In September 1814 the British occupied Washington and the credit of the Government was lowered even further. Campbell was unsuccessful in his efforts to raise money through additional bond sales and he resigned that October after only eight months in office, disillusioned and in bad health.

About the Artist

Freeman Thorp (1844 - 1922) was born in Geneva, Ohio in 1844 and was determined at an early age to become a portrait painter. He sketched a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in February 1861 when Lincoln stopped for a speech in Geneva on route to his inauguration in Washington, D.C. Thorp followed Lincoln to Washington where he painted several life portraits of the President in addition to painting later presidents and many other political figures. His 1880 portrait of George W. Campbell, painted long after Campbell's death, was based on available graphic documentation such as engravings and earlier paintings.