John Sherman (1823 - 1900) had enjoyed an illustrious career in Congress (1855 - 1877) before President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed him Secretary of the Treasury in 1877. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee he had led
Sec. John Sherman
Albion Harris Bicknell
Oil on canvas
65 x 55 1/2 x 5"
the planning of Secretary Salmon P. Chase's National Banking System. Later, as Chairman of that committee, he oversaw national policy on the postwar banking system, dominated by the debate over the inflationary greenback. Champions of reconstruction and westward expansion wanted to continue use of the plentiful greenback while conservative financiers wanted to control inflation and use a currency backed by gold.
This matter grew complicated and became a sectional issue when Westerners advocated a currency based on both gold and the cheaper and more readily available Western silver. Although he was faced with business failures and inflation which magnified public opposition to "hard money," Secretary Sherman advocated a gold standard and built up the Nation's gold reserves. He also recommended in 1880 that sweeping changes be made in public service in order to retain valuable employees. This recommendation resulted in the Civil Service Act of 1883. At the end of Hayes' presidency, Sherman returned to the Senate where he continued his fight against currency backed by silver.
About the Artist
Born in Boston, George P.A. Healy (1813 - 1894) was one of America's most prolific and talented portrait painters. He left a visual record of the famous, rich, and powerful people who guided the young nation through its' first century. Healy was educated in France under Baron Gros and painted a series of portraits of American statesmen for King Louis Philippe of France. When he returned to the United States in 1844, his reputation as a portraitist was already well established, and he fulfilled many commissions in Washington, D.C., Chicago and in the southern states. Healy painted John Sherman from life for the Treasury Department in 1881.