Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich (November 6, 1841 - April 16, 1915) was an American politician. He was born in Foster, Rhode Island in 1841. Aldrich was a direct descendant of Rhode Island founder, Roger Williams. Aldrich was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1878 for a single two-year term, after which he was elected to the United States Senate. He was in the Senate from 1881 to 1911 as an influential Republican who was responsible for most of the financial legislation of the early 20th century, including the Payne Aldrich Tariff of 1910 and the Federal Reserve system of 1913.
Aldrich had a major effect on state politics, even before his election to the United States Congress. He served as the president of the Providence city council and Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, before being elected to Congress. Because of his impact on national politics, he was referred to as the "general manager of the United States". He dominated all tariff and monetary policies in the first decade of the 20th century, and was the author of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1910.
In 1908, Aldrich introduced a constitutional amendment to establish an income tax, although he had declared it "communistic" a decade earlier. In 1908 he became the chief sponsor of the Aldrich-Vreeland Act which created the National Monetary Commission, later the Federal Reserve. He also served as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. During his Senate tenure he chaired the committees on Transportation Routes to the Seaboard, Rules, Corporations Organized in the District of Columbia, and Finance
A deep believer in the progressive themes of efficiency and scientific expertise, Aldrich led a team of experts to study the European national banks, discovering that Britain, Germany and France had a much superior central banking system. He worked with his experts to design a plan for an American central bank in 1911. In 1913 Woodrow Wilson adopted Aldrich's plan and implemented it as the Federal Reserve system.
Because of his control of the Senate (and his daughter Abby Greene Aldrich's marriage to John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) Aldrich is considered to have been one of the most powerful politicians at the time. His grandson and namesake Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller became one of the most powerful politicians of a later era. He died in 1915.