1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Whitney, William Collins

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WHITNEY, WILLIAM COLLINS (1841-1904), American political leader and financier, was born at Conway, Massachusetts, on the 15th of July 1841, of Puritan stock. He graduated at Yale in 1863, studied law at Harvard, and practised with success in New York City. He was an aggressive opponent of the “Tweed Ring,” and was actively allied with the anti-Tammany organizations, the “Irving Hall Democracy” of 1875-1890, and the “County Democracy” of 1880-1890, but upon the dissolution of the latter he became identified with Tammany. In 1875-1882 he was corporation counsel of New York, and as such brought about a codification of the laws relating to the city, and successfully contested a large part of certain claims, largely fraudulent, against the city, amounting to about $20,000,000, and a heritage from the Tweed regime. During President Cleveland's first administration (1885-1889), Whitney was secretary of the navy department and did much to develop the navy, especially by encouraging the domestic manufacture of armour plate. In 1892 he was instrumental in bringing about the third nomination of Mr Cleveland, and took an influential part in the ensuing presidential campaign; but in 1896, disapproving of the “free-silver” agitation, he refused to support his party's candidate, Mr W. J. Bryan. Whitney took an active interest in the development of urban transit in New York, and was one of the organizers of the Metropolitan Street Railway Company. He was also interested in horse-racing, and in 1901 won the English Derby with Volodyovski, leased by him from Lady Meux. He died in New York City on the 2nd of February 1904.