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William Pitt Fessenden, Civil War (American National Biography)

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Michael Perman, "Fessenden, William Pitt," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00371.html.

As the new chair of the Finance Committee, Fessenden played a large part in the financing of the war. A conservative in financial matters, he believed in hard money and in a "pay as you go" approach to raising cash for the war effort. Initially he raised the level of duty in the Morrill Tariff of 1860 to generate specie through increased customs receipts. He hoped to increase revenues still further through taxation, especially on personal incomes, but Salmon P. Chase, the secretary of the treasury, preferred to rely on other means…Chase relied on loans financed by government bonds and Treasury bills; on legal tender notes, paper money called "greenbacks"; and on a new national banking system. Fearing that the national banks would destroy the existing state banks and the "greenbacks" and the loans would produce massive inflation, Fessenden nevertheless helped to enact Chase's proposals. He tried constantly to rein in the amounts requested that would be inflationary and encouraged greater reliance on revenue from customs duties and taxation. Meanwhile, on the war itself, Fessenden supported the creation of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War and fretted over the lack of aggressiveness of the administration and its generals. Although he was a member of the Republican caucus delegation that met with Lincoln in December 1862 to complain that he was getting poor military advice from his cabinet, he refused to join the radicals in the party in demanding confiscation and emancipation.
How to Cite This Page: "William Pitt Fessenden, Civil War (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/19018.