C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis surrounded himself with an interesting and eclectic group of Cabinet officials. His Secretary of the Treasury was Christopher Gustavus (C. G.) Memminger.
Memminger was German born. His father died when he was one month old. His mother, who came to the United States following her husband’s death and lived in Charleston, SC, died when he was four. He ended up as an orphan living in the Charleston Orphan House. The young boy was fortunate to have been taken care of by attorney Thomas Bennett (who later became Governor of South Carolina). Bennett enrolled Memminger into South Carolina College at age 12. Memminger graduated four years later second in his class academically.
He passed the bar exam in 1825 and became a successful attorney. He ran for the state legislature of South Carolina, and upon election, served almost twenty years, heading up the state finance committee during much of his tenure. Memminger was a supporter of education and was commissioner of Charleston’s very successful public school system.
When the war was eminent, Memminger was asked to write the paper outlining the reasons for South Carolina to Secede. His paper was called “Declaration of the immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union”. He also was chairman of the committee to write the Confederate States of America Constitution.
Memminger struggled following his appointment as Secretary of the Treasury due mostly to the devaluation of the South’s currency. He served in his position until July of 1864 when he resigned under pressure as the Confederate financial system had completely collapsed. Upon his return to Charleston, Memminger returned to his home (Flat Rock) and to his law practice. He continued his work to insure quality education in the public school system.
C. G. Memminger died in 1888 at the age of 85.
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