John C. Spencer (1843 - 1844)

John C. Spencer (1788 - 1855), formerly President Tyler's Secretary of War, became Tyler's Secretary of the Treasury in 1843 following Walter Forward's resignation. Like his predecessor, Spencer was preoccupied with the tariff and believed that the deficit and other federal expenditures should be funded by duties on imports rather than by internal taxation. When he assumed office he was forced to announce this plan for the fiscal year 1843. The expenditures of the Treasury had exceeded its receipts, and Secretary Spencer advocated additional import duties on certain articles such as coffee and tea. He also continued to develop a plan, initiated by Forward, for a Board of Exchequer to keep and disburse public funds raised by duties.

Portrait of John C. Spencer.

Sec. John C. Spencer
Imogene Robinson Morrell
Oil on canvas
64 x 54 x 4"

The Exchequer Bill, which reflected the Government's continuing interest in some form of Independent Treasury System, failed due to a political conflict in Congress. As the only Northerner in a Cabinet dominated by Southern interests, Spencer found it increasingly difficult to serve under President Tyler and finally resigned in 1844 in opposition to Tyler's annexation of Texas.

About the Artist

Born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, Imogene Robinson Morrell (? - 1908) began her study of art at the age of sixteen in Newark, New Jersey. In 1856 she traveled to Dusseldorf to study with Guillaume Camphausen, and from 1864 to 1874 she was in Paris painting in the studio of Thomas Couture. She moved to Washington D.C. in 1877. A painter of portraits and historical and genre subjects, Morrell was a successful artist and she established the National Academy of Fine Arts in Washington. Like many other Washington artists, Morrell painted portraits for the Federal Government. She is represented at the Capitol by her portrait of General John A. Dix (also a Secretary of the Treasury) and at Treasury by this portrait of John C. Spencer copied in 1885 from an unknown source.