William B. Lewis

An associate and advisor of Andrew Jackson, William B. Lewis was born in Virginia, but moved to Nashville in 1809. Little else is known of his earliest years except that he received a good education and developed a strong friendship with Jackson, who appointed him as quartermaster for the 1813 Creek Indian War campaign. In the 1820s Lewis became one of the earliest advocates of Jackson's presidential candidacy and played a crucial role in securing the general's election to the Senate in 1823 and in the 1928 election by answering charges regarding the candidate's marriage. Once elected president, Jackson appointed Lewis as second auditor of the Treasury and invited him to reside in the White House.

During Jackson's first term, Lewis stood as an important member of the president's “Kitchen Cabinet” and helped promote Martin Van Buren's claims as Jackson's heir apparent. His disagreement with Jackson over the spoils system and the Bank of the United States, however, weakened his influence. Lewis never openly opposed the president, and their friendship remained intact, but he was only a minor figure in Jackson's second administration. He retained his office after Jackson's retirement, but subsequent presidents, including Van Buren, largely ignored him until President James K. Polk, over Jackson's objections, fired him shortly after Polk's inauguration. Lewis then retired to his Davidson County plantation, from whence he provided information to James Parton for use in his biography of Jackson. During the Civil War Lewis supported the Union, but after his election to the state House of Representatives in 1865, he became part of the Conservative opposition to Governor William G. Brownlow's harsh treatment of former Confederates. He died in 1866.

Suggested Reading

Louis R. Harlan, “The Public Career of William Berkeley Lewis,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 7 (1948): 3-37, 118-51

Citation Information

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  • Article Title William B. Lewis
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  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date June 21, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018