Creswell, John Andrew Jackson

Life Span
Dickinson Connection
Class of 1848
    Full name
    John Andrew Jackson Creswell
    Place of Birth
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    Death Date Certainty
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    Slave State
    Dickinson (Carlisle College)
    Attorney or Judge
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder
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    Grant Administration (1869-77)
    US Senate
    US House of Representatives
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    Household Size in 1860
    Occupation in 1860
    Attorney at Law
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    Wealth in 1860
    Marital status in 1860

    John Creswell (Congressional Biographical Directory)

    CRESWELL, John Angel James, a Representative and a Senator from Maryland; born at Creswells Ferry (now Port Deposit), Cecil County, Md., November 18, 1828; attended the local academy at Port Deposit; graduated from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa., in 1848; studied law; admitted to the bar in Baltimore in 1850 and commenced practice in Elkton, Md.; unsuccessful candidate for election on the Whig ticket in 1850 to the Reform State Convention; member, State house of delegates 1861; affiliated with the Republican Party in 1861; adjutant general of the State 1862-1863; elected as a Republican to the Thirty-eighth Congress (March 4, 1863-March 3, 1865); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1864; elected to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Thomas H. Hicks and served from March 9, 1865, to March 3, 1867; chairman, Committee on Library (Thirty-ninth Congress); appointed Postmaster General by President Ulysses Grant 1869-1874, when he resigned; served as counsel of the United States before the Alabama Claims Commission 1874-1876; resumed the practice of law; president of two banks; died near Elkton, Cecil County, Md., December 23, 1891; interment in Elkton Presbyterian Cemetery.
    “Creswell, John Angel James,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present,

    John Creswell (Dickinson Chronicles)

    John A. J. Creswell was born on November 18, 1828 at Port Deposit, Maryland, then called Creswell's Ferry. He attended a local academy and then went on to enroll at Dickinson with the class of 1848. He was an excellent student, was elected to the Belles Lettres Society, and delivered the valedictory oration at his commencement.

    He joined the Maryland bar in 1850 and began to practice in Elkton. Entering politics first as a Whig and then as a Democrat, he was a delegate in 1856 to the Democratic National Convention which nominated his fellow alumnus, James Buchanan, as presidential candidate. In 1861 he himself was elected to the Maryland House of Representatives and then in 1862 to the U.S. Congress for his home district of Cecil County, though by now he had affiliated himself with the Republican Party. He rose to prominence with two speeches in support of African American participation in the life of the nation; one supported the enlistment of black soldiers in the service of the Union and the other an eloquent support for the Emancipation Proclamation. Soon after this he was named to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate and served there from 1865 to 1867. In 1866 he was a prominent delegate at the convention of Southern Loyalists in Baltimore where he supported for tactical reasons the opposition to negro suffrage in border states, though he was generally always in support of equal political rights. His name was placed in nomination as Vice President in the Chicago convention of 1868 but he declined and supported Benjamin Wade. He was appointed to President Grant's cabinet as Postmaster General in 1869 and served with distinction until 1874 as the longest serving cabinet member of the two administrations. While responsible for the nation's mails, he ended the franking privilege, reformed letter delivery, and fought unsuccessfully for a system of U.S. Post Office telegraphical delivery. A trusted and close friend of President Grant - Creswell and his wife were at Grant's bedside when he died in 1884 - he served as U.S. Counsel for the Court of Commissioners of Alabama Claims and as one of the commissioners that closed up the dealings of the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company. He then resumed his law practice and served from 1875 as the president of the Citizen's National Bank in Washington D.C..

    A strong supporter of his old College, Creswell was a trustee of the College from 1865 to 1871, and then was elected again in 1885. Creswell was an active Presbyterian. He had married a Miss Richardson of Elkton but the couple had no children. John A. J. Creswell died suddenly at his home a mile outside Elkton, a victim of heart trouble and a mild pneumonia on the late morning of December 23, 1891. He was sixty-three years old.
    John Osborne and James W. Gerencser, eds.,  “John Andrew Jackson Creswell,” Dickinson Chronicles,

    John Creswell, Career as Postmaster General (American National Biography)

    In 1869 Ulysses S. Grant named Creswell postmaster general--the only Republican from a southern state in Grant's first cabinet. Creswell managed to be effective and to avoid the taint of scandal that touched some of his colleagues. He worked to make the postal service faster and less expensive, especially international mail. He reduced the cost of carrying mail by steam and rail, increased the number of mail routes and postal employees, introduced the penny postal card, and worked with Secretary of State Hamilton Fish to revise postal treaties. His willingness to attack the franking system and his advocacy of a postal telegraph sparked opposition from both congressmen and Western Union. However, he did not play a significant role in the politics of Grant's first term, maintaining a low profile in the intraparty feuds that resulted in the Liberal Republican bolt of 1872. Rather, Creswell administered his charge with an eye to promoting both efficiency and the Republican party's fortunes through the appointment of loyal party supporters as postmasters. With unwavering loyalty to the president, he supported Grant's plan to annex the Dominican Republic and advocated American intervention in Cuba. He reaffirmed his Radical credentials in supporting additional Reconstruction measures. In 1874 he was one of only two cabinet members who advised Grant to veto the so-called Inflation Bill. Leaving Grant's cabinet later that year under circumstances left unclear, Creswell served as the American counsel for the Alabama claims and supervised the closing of the Freedmen's Bank. Returning to private legal practice after December 1876, he served as president of the Citizens National Bank in Maryland. His last notable political activity was on behalf of the effort to nominate Grant for a third term in 1880. He died in Elkton, Maryland.
    Brooks D. Simpson, "Creswell, John Angel James," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

    John Creswell, Wartimes Politics (American National Biography)

    Originally a Whig, when the party broke up Creswell shifted allegiances to the Democratic party for a short while and in 1856 was a delegate to its presidential nominating convention. In the secession winter of 1860-1861, he declared for the Union, and as a member of the House of Delegates, he served to keep Maryland from seceding in 1861. The following year he was appointed assistant adjutant general for the state. In the fall of 1862 he won election as a Republican to Congress, beating incumbent John W. Crisfield. Creswell sided with the Radical Republicans in Maryland as an ally of Henry Winter Davis and played an important role in securing passage of emancipation in that state in 1864. That year he lost his bid for reelection. He served out Thomas Hicks's term in the U.S. Senate starting in 1865 but failed to secure election in his own right in 1867. Supporting congressional Reconstruction measures, he advocated the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. In 1864 and 1868 he served as a delegate to the Republican presidential nominating conventions.
    Brooks D. Simpson, "Creswell, John Angel James," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

    John Creswell (National Cyclopaedia)

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

    John Creswell (Appleton’s)

    CRESWELL, John A. J., statesman, b. in Port Deposit, Cecil co., Md., 18 Nov., 1828. He was graduated at Dickinson college. Pa., in 1848, studied law, and was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1850. He was a member of the state legislature in 1860 and 1862, and assistant adjutant-general for Maryland in 1862-'3. He was elected to congress, and served from 7 Dec., 1863, till 3 March, 1865; and, having distinguished himself as an earnest friend of the Union, was elected as a republican to the U. S. senate in March, 1865, to fill the unexpired term of Thomas H. Hicks. On 22 Feb., 1866, he delivered, at the request of the House of representatives, a memorable eulogy of his friend and colleague, Henry Winter Davis. He was a delegate to the Baltimore convention of 1864, the Philadelphia loyalists' convention of 1866, the Border states convention held in Baltimore in 1867, and the Chicago republican convention of 1868. In May, 1868, he was elected secretary of the U. S. senate, but declined. On 5 March, 1869, he was appointed by President Grant postmaster-general of the United States, and served till 3 July, 1874.
    James Grant Wilson and John Fiske, eds., “Creswell, John A. J,” Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1888), 2: 8.

    John Creswell (Boston Advertiser)

    He Was President Grant’s Postmaster-General for Five Years – Congressman, U.S. Senator and Important State Officer

    ELKTON, MD., Dec. 23- J. A. J. Creswell who died here today, was born at Port Deposit, Md., Nov. 18, 1828. He graduated at Dickinson College in 1848, and was admitted to the bar of Maryland in 1850. He was appointed postmaster-general by President Grant in 1869 and served five years and four months. During his administration many important reforms were introduced.

    He resigned from the cabinet June 24, 1874. On the 22 of the same month he was appointed counsel for the United States before the court commissioners of Alabama claims, and continued in that capacity until Dec. 31, 1876. At the time of his death he was actively engaged in the practice of his profession.

    In 1860 and 1861 he served in the Maryland house of delegates. From August, 1862, to April, 1863, he was assistant adjutant general of the State, after which he was elected to the 38th congress. In 1864 he was a delegate to the Baltimore convention and in the following year he was chosen to be U.S. senator for the unexpired term of T. H. Hicks. By request of the house of representatives, he delivered a eulogy in 1886 on H. W. Davis. He was a delegate to the Philadelphia loyalists’ convention, the Border States convention in Baltimore, and the Chicago convention of 1868. Having been elected to the post of secretary of the U.S. senate, he declined the position.
    “J. A. J Creswell Dead.,” Boston (MA) Advertiser, December 24, 1891, p. 2: 4.

    John Creswell (New York Times)

    John A. J. Creswell died yesterday morning at Elkton, Md.  He was on of Maryland’s most distinguished sons; was born in Port Deposit in that State March 18, 1828.  In his early youth he enjoyed all of the educational advantages that money could procure in the vicinity of his home, his parents being possessed of abundant means.  He was graduated at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Penn., in 1848, and bore off the highest honors of his class.  At the age twenty years he entered upon the study of the law, and two years later was admitted to the bar.  He was an energetic as well as capable practitioner and it was not long before he had built up a practice which gave him rank as one of the foremost lawyers in Maryland.
    With the casting of his first vote Mr. Creswell began and earnest and enthusiastic study of politics.  His first votes were cast for the Whig Party, with which he continued to act until that organization’s dissolution.  He was nominated by the Whigs of Cecil County as a delegate to the General Convention held in Maryland in 1850 for the purpose of remodeling the Constitution held in Maryland in 1850 for the purpose of remodeling the Constitution of that Commonwealth.  Although he ran against the most popular Democrat in a Democratic county, he was defeated only by a very small majority.  Upon the breaking up of the Whig Party, young Creswell voted with the Democratic Party until the breaking out of the war of the rebellion.  When he saw the Maryland Democrats were in favor of secession, he promptly cut loose from them and declared himself in favor of the Union.  He labored earnestly in behalf of a peaceful settlement of the national troubles.
    In the Fall of 1861 Mr. Creswell was elected to represent his native county in the Legislature of the State, and in 1862 he was appointed Adjutant General of the State of Maryland.  In the following year he was chosen a member of the House of Representatives, where he made his mark by an eloquent speech in favor of the abolition of slavery.  He was elected United States Senator in 1864, to fill the unexpired term of Gov. Hicks.  While in the Senate he was selected by Congress to deliver a eulogy upon the life of Henry Winter Davis.  He was once of the first members of Congress to resist the attempts of President Johnson to defy the will of the people.  Mr. Creswell was an ardent admirer of President Lincoln, and he was a member of the National Republican Convention in Baltimore which renominated Lincoln.  He was also a member of the national Convention that nominated Gen. Grant for the Presidency.
    After General Grant became President Mr. Creswell’s political friends in Maryland put him forward for a Cabinet place, and listening to the advice of ex-Vice President Hamlin, Vice President Colfex, Senator Ben Wade, and other distinguished Republicans, President Grant appointed him Postmaster General, and he filled the office acceptably.
    “John A. J. Creswell,” New York Times, December 24, 1891, p. 5: 2
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