Sunday, October 6, 2013

John Sherman, causer of Government Shutdowns

The Honorable John Sherman, Ohio (photo by Mathew Brady, ca. 1860-1865, National Archives)

John Sherman (1823–1900) was an American Republican representative and senator from Mansfield, Ohio.  In 1864-1865 and 1867-1877 he served as chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, where he played a major role in decisions related to financing the Civil War and the post-Civil War years.

In 1869-1870 he sponsored the Currency Act and the Funding Act. The US government had a long history of spending their entire budget within a matter of months and then returning to the Congress for additional funding. Many agencies, particularly the military, would intentionally run out of money, obligating Congress to provide additional funds to avoid breaching contracts.

Such behavior was unacceptable to the Congress; which responded in 1870 by passing a statute that simply stated: "It shall not be lawful for any department of the government to expend in any one fiscal year any sum in excess of appropriations made by Congress for that fiscal year, or to involve the government for the future payment of money in excess of such appropriations". This statute has evolved into what we now refer to as the Antideficiency Act causing the current Government Shutdown. 

 John Sherman at a younger age (National Archives) 

Later he also served as both Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of State. Sherman ran for the Republican presidential nomination three times, coming closest in 1888, but never winning. Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman was his older brother.

Senator John Sherman in his office (ca. 1894)

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2 comments:

  1. Rob, a timely and informative backstory to the federal government shutdown here. The current episode is kind of embarrassing.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting history. He was handsome young man.

    ReplyDelete

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