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Christopher G. Memminger Autographs, Memorabilia & Collectibles

Born: January 9, 1803
Died: March 7, 1888
Biography | show moreshow less
Disheartened and facing an empty treasury, Christopher Gustavus Memminger (1803-1888) resigned as Secretary of the Treasury of the Confederate States of America on June 15, 1864, less than a year after signing this letter. In his efforts to correct state banking policies and finance public education, Memminger had acquired a reputation as an impressive financier. His expertise led Confederate President Jefferson Davis to choose him as Secretary of Treasury. As Secretary, he was mainly concerned at this time with the growing financial strain on the Confederacy due to rising inflation and the ever-increasing need of currency backed by bonds and treasury notes, which lacked gold and silver subsidy. Having started with an empty treasury and the immediate need of financing a war, Memminger faced insurmountable odds. Knowing the dangers of money without backing, he attempted to restrain the printing and issuance of currency, while war obligations rose rapidly. However, the Confederate Congress left Memminger little choice but to issue more and more paper currency. As treasury notes depreciated and inflation rose, so too did government costs, forcing Memminger to issue treasury notes that eventually totaled over $1.5 billion. Ultimately, Memminger's likeness appeared on eleven different bonds issued between August 1861 and February 1863. Two months after that, the Confederate Congress passed a variation of his tax bill, but it was already too late. Collectors, such as Boyes in Florida, raised little money because the Union blockade prevented the necessary sale of cotton to keep the South's economy afloat. In the year of this letter, Memminger tried to reduce the amount of currency with compulsory bond funding; however, Congress again delayed his proposals and passed, in February 1864, a widely varied version that worsened the Confederate's financial situation. A young German immigrant boy orphaned in 1807 and raised by future Governor of South Carolina Thomas Bennett, the well-educated Memminger became a lawyer and rose in state politics. In addition to being elected a member of South Carolina's State House of Representatives, he became Charleston's Commissioner of Schools. With secession and war looming in the winter of 1860-1861, Memminger helped draft the provisional Confederate Constitution. Following the Civil War (1861-1865) and a presidential pardon in 1867, Memminger resumed his law practice and public school work in Charleston. The father of eight surviving children, the industrious Memminger also started a manufacturing company (1868) that dealt in such chemicals as sulfuric acid and phosphates.

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