Lot M. Morrill (1812 - 1883) earned the reputation of an accomplished financier in the Senate (1861 - 1876) as the first Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations. In 1862 he played a major role in emancipating the slaves of the
Sec. Lot M. Morrill
Albion Harris Bicknell
Oil on canvas
64 1/8 x 54 x 3 1/2"
District of Columbia and in gaining them suffrage. President Grant appointed Morrill Secretary of the Treasury in 1876 upon Secretary Benjamin Bristow's resignation. The prominent concern at the time was the redemption of all Civil War issue greenbacks and the return to a currency backed by gold, specified by Congress to occur in 1879.
Like Bristow, Morrill advocated a currency backed by gold and considered "irredeemable and inconvertible paper currency... essentially repugnant to the principles of the Constitution." This was unpopular in the South and West, areas that required capital for expansion and therefore preferred cheap paper money. Though he was not in office long enough to effect major legislation, Morrill suggested in his Annual Report of 1876 that the Secretary of the Treasury begin accumulating gold in anticipation of the eventual adoption of a gold backed currency in 1879. He resigned at the end of Grant's term, but the currency debate was to continue for years to come.
About the Artist
Albion Harris Bicknell (1837 - 1915) was born in Malden, Massachusetts in 1837 and spent much of his professional life in nearby Boston. He was an esteemed member of the Boston artistic fraternity that included William Morris Hunt, Elihu Vedder, and John La Farge. Active as a portrait painter in the 1860's and 1870's, Bicknell enjoyed a reputation which, if not national, was acknowledged throughout New England. In the late 1870's and early 1880's he spent much of his time on two large history paintings: Lincoln at Gettysburg and The Battle of Lexington. Bicknell's portrait of Lot M. Morrill, painted in 1880, was probably based on a photograph.