Home » Biography & Memoir » John M. Osborne » Forgotten Abolitionist: John A.J. Creswell of Maryland

June 21 , 2009

Forgotten Abolitionist: John A.J. Creswell of Maryland


This gripping biography from historians John Osborne and Christine Bombaro captures the story of an unlikely political hero who helped destroy American slavery. John A.J. Creswell was a son of the slaveholding South, a native of Maryland who attended Dickinson College in Pennsylvania in the 1840s. Creswell then became a leading Maryland Democrat and conservative businessman before the war. He did not speak out against the peculiar institution until deep into the secession conflict and then only under the pressure of wartime necessity. Yet he became one of the most pivotal abolitionists in the country. In 1864, Creswell helped secure passage of an antislavery constitution in Maryland, the first (and only) popular vote for abolition in any U.S. state. He also led off the final congressional debates for the Thirteenth Amendment in January 1865, with an eloquent address that showcased the changing times. Nor did Creswell stop with this newfound embrace of freedom. After the war, the Marylander also became an unlikely advocate for equality of opportunity. While serving as a Postmaster General during the Grant Administration, Creswell helped to integrate and modernize the federal post office system. Ultimately, John A.J. Creswell proved to be one of the more important American politicians of the nineteenth century, because he embraced the future in ways that many of his contemporaries simply never could. Published by the House Divided Project at Dickinson College.

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