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John Creswell (National Cyclopaedia)

Reference

“Creswell, John A. J.,” The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: James T. White & Company, 1895), 4: 19.

CRESWELL, John A. J., postmaster-general, was born at Port Deposit, Cecil Co., Md., Nov. 18, 1828. He was thoroughly educated, his parents being wealthy and ambitious for his future prospects. After studying in the schools in his neighborhood he was sent to Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., from which he was graduated with the highest honors in 1848. He at once began to study law, and in 1850 was admitted to practice at the bar of Maryland. Eventually he took rank as one of the foremost lawyers in Maryland. From the time when he cast his first vote as a whig, Mr. Creswell was earnest and enthusiastic in his study of politics, and in his consideration of party relations. He was a nominee from Cecil county, appointed by the whig party, to the general convention which was held in Maryland in 1850, for the purpose of remodeling the constitution of the commonwealth. He was unfortunate, on this occasion, in being obliged to run against the most popular democrat in a peculiarly democratic county, yet he was only defeated by a very small majority. Upon the breaking up of the whig party, and the formation of the republican organization upon its ruins, Mr. Creswell joined the democrats, and continued to vote with them until the outbreak of the civil war, four years later. This situation brought about a secession feeling on the part of the Maryland democrats, and Creswell, who was naturally a Union man, cut loose from them and declared himself in favor of the Union. Meanwhile, he was not at all aggressive, but worked with great earnestness and fidelity in the direction of a peaceful settlement of the troubles which had befallen the nation. In the autumn of 1861 Mr. Creswell was elected as the representative of Cecil county in the legislature of the state, and in the following year was appointed adjutant-general of Maryland. In 1863 he was chosen a member of the U. S. house of representatives. There he made his mark by delivering an eloquent speech, in which he favored the abolition of slavery. In 1865 he was elected a member of the U. S. senate, to fill out the unexpired term of Gov. Thomas II. Hicks, who died in Washington Feb. 13, 1865. While a member of the senate Mr. Creswell was appointed by congress to deliver a eulogy upon the life of Henry Winter Davis, of Maryland, one of the ablest men in the senate. In 1864 he was a delegate to the Baltimore convention. In 1866 he served in the Philadelphia loyalists' convention, and in 1867 he was in the Border States' convention, held in Baltimore. In 1868 he was a member of the national republican convention at Chicago. Mr. Creswell was one of the first members of congress to be engaged in the movement which resulted in the attempt at the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. Mr. Creswell was an ardent admirer of President Lincoln, and also of Gen. Grant, and he was a member of the convention which nominated the latter for the presidency. In May, 1868, he was elected secretary of the U. S. senate, but declined. On March 5, 1869, he was appointed by President Grant postmaster-general, being recommended for the position not only by his political friends in Maryland, but by Vice-President Colfax, Senator Ben Wade and other prominent republicans. Mr. Creswell served in the cabinet for five years and four months, and during his administration succeeded in introducing into that department many valuable reforms. On June 22, 1874, he was appointed counsel of the United States in connection with the court of commissioners sitting on the Alabama claims, and, having resigned the postmaster-generalship a few days later, he continued to serve in that capacity until Dec. 21, 1876. From that time forward Mr. Creswell continued to be viewed as a citizen of reputation and importance, and was frequently employed in responsible positions. He was one of the commissioners entrusted with the closing up of the affairs of the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company, and was also president of the Citizens' National Bank, at Washington, D. C., and at the time of his death was vice-president of the National Bank at Elkton, Md. Mr. Creswell died at Elkton, Dec. 23, 1891.
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