arose involving George Crawford, the Secretary of War,
and William Meredith the Secretary of the Treasury ,
both important members of
Zachary Taylor's cabinet.
Galphin Affair for kids: Who was George Galphin?
(1708–1780) was a businessman and Native Indian trader who operated
as an Indian Commissioner with the Creek tribes. The
government licensed traders to have some control in Indian
territories and gain a share of this area of highly profitable trade
and George Galphin was owner of the Silver Bluff trading post in
South Carolina where he also owned other substantial amounts of
property including a large plantation. George Galphin rose to
political prominence when he loaned the Continental Congress $20,000
towards equipping the fleet of Captain John Paul Jones during the
Revolutionary War (1775–1783). George Galphin died a wealthy man in
1780 owning over 40,000 acres of land in South Carolina and Georgia,
a large number of farm animals, and 128 slaves.
Galphin Affair for kids: Claim for Compensation for Services
Following the death of George Galphin in 1780, his
estate became involved in protracted litigation (legal proceedings).
Due to his trading activities prior to the Revolutionary War,
George Galphin was owed money by the Creek Indians. The British had
promised to settle these debts but before they could do so war with
the United States erupted. There was no chance this type of debt
would be paid by the British and Congress therefore took the
responsibility of settling such claims. On November 23, 1792
the executor of his estate, William Dunbar, petitioned Congress, on
behalf of the Galphin estate, for compensation for debts owed to
him. The Senate declined to refer the petition to committee and the
claim for compensation was unresolved.
Galphin Affair for kids: Zachary Taylor Administration and the Spoils System
Zachary Taylor served
in office from March 4, 1849 to July 9, 1850. Like other previous
presidential administrations, it had became custom and practice to
operate the 'Spoils System' offering
loyal supporters occupational rewards. The problem was that the
Spoils System bred corruption.
Galphin Affair for kids: The Galphin Claim is settled
The Galphin claim was
still outstanding and was reviewed by congress who passed an act
that required the Treasury Secretary who was then William Walker to
pay the amount of the original debt. The question of interest that
had accrued on the original claim was raised - it amounted to
$191,000. William Walker was then replaced by
William Meredith as the Secretary
of the Treasury who decided that the interest should be paid.
The Controller advised against the payment of interest but it was
then brought before Attorney General Reverdy Johnson who recommended
payment of the interest. It then transpired that Judge Joseph
Bryant, the Galphin family's attorney, worked for George Crawford
Secretary of War. Judge Joseph Bryant was to receive 50% of any
claim settlement against the government and he would provide George
Crawford with a share of the money.
Galphin Affair for kids: The Scandal
The amount to be paid
by the Treasury in settlement of the Galphin claim
soon raised angry questions in Congress. Were other
members aware of the settlement? Did the President
know? Did they know about the involvement of such
influential people and if so, when did they know?
The scandal broke and became subject to a
congressional investigation. The whole cabinet was
questioned. George Crawford testified that President
Taylor knew about his stake in the claim. In the
midst of the Galphin scandal, President Zachary died
on July 9, 1850 and
was replaced by vice president Millard Fillmore.
Galphin Affair: Millard Fillmore
immediately replaced members of the cabinet involved
in the scandal (William
M. Meredith, George W. Crawford and Reverdy Johnson)
with new appointments (see
Presidential Cabinet of Millard Fillmore).
Congress later enacted a law in 1853 prohibiting
either members of Congress or government employees
from receiving payments for helping to settle claims
against the government.