Wealth of Earlier U.S. Statesmen; Several Died Broke

This article originally appeared in the May/June 1972 issue of Pioneer Magazine

The Eastern Texan
San Augustine, Texas
Saturday, July 3, 1858

Thomas Jefferson died comparatively poor. Indeed, if Congress had not purchased his library and given for it five times its value, he would with difficulty have kept the wolf from his door.

James Madison saved money and was comparatively rich. To add to his fortunes, however, or rather to those of his widow, Congress purchased his manuscript papers.

James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States, died so poor that his remains found a resting place through the charity of one of the citizens.

John Quincy Adams left $150,000, the result of industry, prudence and inheritance. He was a man of method and economy.

Martin Van Buren was very rich. Throughout his political life he studiously looked out for his own interest. It was not believed that he ever spent thirty shillings in politics. His party shook the bush, and he caught the bird.

Daniel Webster squandered some millions in his lifetime, the product of his profession and his political speculations. He died, leaving his property to his and his debts to his friends. The former sold for less than $20,000—the latter exceeded $250,000.

Henry Clay left a very handsome estate. It probably exceeded $100,000. He was a prudent manager and a scrupulously honest man.

James K. Polk left about $150,000— $50,000 of which he saved from his presidency of four years.

John Tyler was worth $50,000. Before he reached the presidency he was a bankrupt. In office he husbanded his means, and then married a rich wife.

Zachary Taylor left $150,000.

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