Robert J. Walker (1845 - 1849)

When Robert J. Walker (1801 - 1869) was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by President James K. Polk in 1845, he had already established himself as a supporter of an independent Treasury System plan and an apostle of free trade. His first concern as Secretary was the establishment of the Independent Treasury System of 1846, whereby the Treasury Department was made solely responsible for the handling of public monies. The new system established subtreasuries for the collection, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement of the public revenue.

Portrait of Robert J. Walker.

Sec. Robert J. Walker
William Garl Browne
Oil on canvas
63 1/2 x 53 1/2 x 4 1/2"

Walker was also committed to free trade and was responsible for the Walker Tariff Bill of 1846, which significantly lowered import duties. He believed that no more money should be collected than was necessary for the needs of the Government and that imports should be free if the country wanted to export its surplus products. The new lower tariff had a positive effect, resulting in an increase in trade and a coincidental increase in revenue for the Government. Domestically Walker was an expansionist and was largely responsible for the establishment of the Department of the Interior in 1849. He retired at the end of Polk's Administration.

About the Artist

The English-born artist William Garl Browne (1823 - 1894) established himself as a portrait painter in Richmond, Virginia in 1846. After traveling to Mexico to paint General Zachary Taylor and other heroes of the Mexican-American War, he concentrated on patrons in the southern states. In North Carolina and the Virginias, he painted portraits of prominent society figures, statesmen, and Confederate officers and their families. Browne's works hang today in the White House, the Treasury Department, and Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art, and he is heavily represented in public and private collections in the South. His portrait of Robert J. Walker painted in 1879, ten years after the subject's death, was probably based on a photograph.