Bristow, Benjamin Helm

Bristow, Benjamin Helm

(brĭs`tō), 1832–96, American cabinet officer, b. Elkton, Ky. He was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1853. Bristow, a Union officer in the Civil War, was a state senator (1863–65), U.S. attorney for the Kentucky district (1866–70), and the first U.S. Solicitor General (1870–72). In June, 1874, President Grant appointed him Secretary of the Treasury. He thoroughly reorganized the department after the scandalous administration of William A. RichardsonRichardson, William Adams,
1821–96, American jurist and U.S. secretary of the Treasury, b. Tyngsboro, Mass. Admitted to the bar in 1846, he helped to codify the statute law of Massachusetts in 1855.
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, and he strengthened his growing reputation by a courageous and successful prosecution of the powerful Whiskey RingWhiskey Ring,
in U.S. history, a group of distillers and public officials who defrauded the federal government of liquor taxes. Soon after the Civil War these taxes were raised very high, in some cases to eight times the price of the liquor. Large distillers, chiefly in St.
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. However, he incurred Grant's hostility and was virtually forced to resign in June, 1876. There was a strong movement in the Republican party to run Bristow for President in 1876, but the nomination ultimately went to Rutherford B. Hayes. Moving to New York City in 1878, he spent the remainder of his life as a distinguished and successful lawyer.

Bibliography

See biography by R. A. Webb (1969).

Bristow, Benjamin Helm

(1832–96) lawyer, public official; born in Elkton, Ky. A lawyer's son, he worked for a time for his father, then commanded Kentucky Union troops during the Civil War. As a postwar U.S. attorney for Kentucky, he helped suppress moonshiners and Ku Klux Klan activity. As President Ulysses S. Grant's treasury secretary in 1874, he smashed the notorious Whiskey Ring; but some of the distillers were Grant cronies, and they turned the president against Bristow. Forced from office in 1876, he returned to private practice and became president of the American Bar Association in 1879.