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Elbridge Gerry Spaulding (February 24, 1809 Summer Hillmarker, Cayuga County, New Yorkmarker - May 5, 1897 Buffalomarker, Erie County, New Yorkmarker) was an American lawyer and politician.

Life

He was the first of nine children of Edward Spaulding and Mehitable Spaulding. In 1829, he began the study of law in the office of Fitch & Dibble at Batavia, New Yorkmarker. During this time he served as recording clerk in the county clerk's office to meet his expenses. In 1832, he completed his studies in Attica, New York with Harvey Putnam. Later that year he was admitted to the bar in Genesee County, New Yorkmarker. In 1834, he moved to Buffalo, and became a clerk in the office of Potter & Babcock, leading attorneys in the city.

In March 1836, he was appointed City Clerk of Buffalo. On September 5, 1837, he married Antoinette Rich (d. 1841). In 1841, Spaulding was elected Alderman of the Third Ward, and served as Chairman of the Executive Committee. On September 5, 1842, he married Nancy Selden Strong (d. 1852), and they had three children. He was one of the original men that helped to get the University at Buffalo established in 1846. He was a member of the original council of the university, and was still a member till he died in 1897.

He was Mayor of Buffalo in 1847, and was a member of the New York State Assembly in 1848. While in the Assembly, he secured passage of a law authorizing the formation of gas light corporations in the State. The Buffalo Gas Light Company was the first such created, and he became a director and stockholder of it.

He was elected as a Whig to the 31st United States Congress, serving from 1849 to 1851.

He was New York State Treasurer from 1854 to 1855, and was elected again to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican, serving in the 36th and 37th United States Congresses from 1859 to 1863. Spaulding was a congressman who saw a problem coming and had a solution ready. It was he who figured out that the American government needed to print money to pay for the Civil War. It was regarded as economic heresy then, but without it the country might not have survived. Such an idea was then dismissed by some as “fiat money,” money that is money not because it is backed by gold or silver, but because some government says it is money. He was chairman of a House Ways and Means subcommittee when the government was in danger of running out of money to pay for the war. He wrote a law that allowed the government to print money and declare it had to be accepted as legal tender.

T. J. Stiles wrote in his biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, “The First Tycoon”, that Spaulding “performed a true miracle: he conjured money out of nothing, and so contributed more toward the Union victory (and the future of New York’s financial sector) than any single battlefield victory.” “If Wall Street had saints," he wrote, "then the college of financial cardinals would surely canonize Elbridge G. Spaulding.”

In 1862, he drafted the Legal Tender Act, and the National Currency Bank Bill.

At the time, the only circulating paper money was notes issued by banks. Those notes were supposed to be convertible into gold, although the banks had been forced to suspend such conversions at the end of 1861. There was no central bank. The bill passed Congress not because it was thought to be good policy absent a crisis, but because it was necessary. “It was at once a loan to the government without interest and a national currency, which was so much needed for disbursement in small sums during the pressing exigencies of the war,” Spaulding wrote years later in his book, “History of the Legal Tender Paper Money.”

In 1864, he organized the move of the Farmers & Mechanics' National Bank from Attica, N.Y., to Buffalo. On May 2, 1864, he married Delia Strong, his second wife's sister. In 1869, he published History of the Legal Tender Paper Money Issued During the Great Rebellion. The boathouse he constructed on his "River Lawn" estate on Grand Islandmarker, known as the Spaulding-Sidway Boathousemarker, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

He was buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalomarker.

Spaulding has a dormitory named for him at the University of Buffalo.

References



External links

  • Retrieved on 2009-04-11



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