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John A. J. Creswell (1869–1874) - Postmaster General

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John Angel James Creswell was born in 1828 at Creswell’s Ferry (now Fort Deposit), Maryland. He graduated first in his class from Dickinson College in 1848, studied the law, and was admitted to the state bar in 1850.

From 1850 to 1861, Creswell underwent several political transformations, running unsuccessfully as a Whig in 1850 for election to the Reform State Convention in Maryland, serving as a Democratic delegate to the 1856 presidential convention, and finally winning election, as a Republican, to the Maryland state house of delegates in 1861. He ultimately became a staunch supporter of the Lincoln administration and in 1862, served the assistant adjutant-general in charge of contributing Maryland troops to the Union’s efforts in the Civil War. Also in 1862, Creswell won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served one term before being defeated in his reelection campaign.

Creswell returned to Congress in 1865, however, having been elected to fill a vacancy in the U.S. Senate. He served until 1867 and was elected one year later as secretary of the United States Senate, though he declined to serve.

In 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant tapped Creswell to become his postmaster general, a position Creswell held until he suddenly resigned in 1874. His resignation was a surprise and was the source of much discussion; Creswell pled fatigue, but historians theorize that the postmaster was aware of impending scandals and did not want to be associated with them.

Following his stint in the Grant cabinet, John Angel James Creswell worked as a lawyer and headed two Maryland banks before his death in 1891.

Citation Information

Consulting Editor

Joan Waugh

Professor Waugh is a professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her writings include:

U.S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth (University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

Wars within a War: Controversy and Conflict over the American Civil War (editor with Gary W. Gallagher, University of North Carolina Press, 2009)

The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture (editor with Alice Fahs, University of North Carolina Press, 2004)

Unsentimental Reformer: The Life of Josephine Shaw Lowell (Harvard University Press, 1998)