The selection of Mr. McCulloch as the first Comptroller of the Currency to organize the Bureau and start the machinery of the national banking system in operation was a most fortunate one, as no man of that time was better equipped to undertake so difficult a task. He cherished to the end of his life an exalted opinion of the dignity and importance of the Comptroller's office, and regarded his work in the Currency Bureau and the launching of the national banking system as his greatest achievement. He was a familiar figure around the Comptroller's office for years after his retirement from public life, and those who served under him always entertained for him the greatest admiration and esteem. He never ceased to take a deep interest in the welfare of the Bureau and the improvement and success of the national banking system, and no one realized or appreciated more than he the responsibilities of the Comptroller.
On one occasion, during a temporary vacancy in the Comp-trollership, he strolled into the office, as he was in the habit of doing every now and then, for the purpose of paying his respects to the Comptroller and seeing some of his old friends. On this occasion the Deputy Comptroller was in charge of the Bureau. Introducing himself, McCulloch said to the Deputy, "Well, young man, you have a very responsible position." "Oh, I don't know," the young Deputy replied, "I don't see anything in the job that a man of ordinary intelligence could not learn in a few days." This inconsiderate remark of the Deputy did not please McCulloch. and was so repugnant to his conception of the importance and responsibilities of the position that he was taken completely aback, and politely wishing the Deputy a good morning, left the room without another word, and thus ended the interview.
Mr. McCulloch was a sturdy character, a practical and experienced banker and financier; broad-minded and conservative in all things, but positive and tenacious in his views, especially on banking and finance; a close student of the problems of government and of all public questions that affected the welfare of the nation.
The closing chapter of his "Men and Measures of a Half Century," written many years ago, contains views that are well worth reading by all thoughtful men in their application to the conditions which prevail at the present time. He devoted considerable thought to the subject of unrestricted suffrage, the laxity of our laws relating to the elective franchise; the steadily increasing hostility between the poorer classes and the rich and between capital and labor; the growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few whose gains have not been wholly the result of legitimate business, but through monopolies and combinations of various kinds, which were then fast becoming the controlling power.
Mr. McCulloch retired from active public life in March, 1885, at the close of President Arthur's administration, and died at his country home near Washington, D. C, where he passed a large part of the last years of his life, May 24, 1895, at the ripe age of nearly eighty-seven years.
FREEMAN CLARKE Comptroller of the Currency, 1865-1866.