The post-war economy had expanded so quickly that commercial banks became nervous and began calling in their loans. As a result, in the summer of 1873 the money supply tightened drastically, causing the Panic of 1873. Richardson responded by issuing $26 million in greenbacks to meet the demand. The legality of his action was doubtful, but the Congress did not interfere and the crisis was eased. Such cycles of expansion and panic continued for the next thirty years, however, and were the basis for the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913.
In his last months in office Richardson became embroiled in the "Sanborn Incident."
After leaving the Treasury, Richardson was appointed by Grant to serve as a Justice and Chief Justice of the U.S. Court of Claims in Massachusetts from 1874 until his death in Washington D.C. in 1896.
Hackett, Frank Warren, Sketch of the Life and Public Services of William Adams Richardson, Washington D.C., 1898.
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