History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/John A. Kasson

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JOHN A. KASSON was born at Charlotte, Vermont, January 11, 1822. His father died when he was but six years old and his boyhood days were a struggle to support himself and secure an education. He finally graduated at the State University in 1842, taught school and studied law. In 1851 he went to St. Louis and practiced his profession for six years. Tn 1857 he removed to Des Moines and in 1858 was appointed by Governor Lowe to examine and report upon the condition of the State offices. The same year he was chosen chairman of the Republican State Committee and effected a strong organization of the new party. He was a delegate from Iowa to the famous National Republican Convention held at Chicago in May, 1860, which nominated Abraham Lincoln for President and was selected by the Iowa delegation to act on the committee on resolutions which at that critical time was to frame a platform for the party in the campaign. The committee was made up with great care in view of the momentous issues involved and among its members were some of the most eminent men of the Nation. It consisted of one from each State and upon its organization and comparison of views it was evident that the drafting of a platform must be delegated to a few men to expedite the work. On motion of Mr. Kasson a subcommittee of five was chosen for this purpose. It consisted of Horace Greeley, Carl Schurz, John A. Kasson, Austin Blair and William Jessup. This subcommittee received all resolutions submitted and then proceeded to consider them and agree upon the essential topics to be embraced in the platform. It unanimously indorsed Mr. Kasson's declaration "that the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom." At midnight three of the members retired exhausted, leaving Kasson and Greeley to complete the work. As daylight approached, Mr. Greeley went to the telegraph office to send the substance of the resolutions to the Tribune, while Kasson finished and revised the platform. At nine in the morning Mr. Kasson reported the platform to the general committee and it was approved by a unanimous vote. There was a diversity of opinions on the tariff, which was difficult to reconcile. Mr. Kasson finally drafted a resolution on the subject which all accepted. The New York Tribune, on the 18th, published the following from Mr. Greeley:

“The platform gives great satisfaction and the demonstrations of applause on its adoption were most enthusiastic, lasting several minutes. When the tariff resolution was read there was great rejoicing, more than over any other. Such a platform, so adopted, is a new era in American party politics.”

On the 22d the Tribune said editorially:

“The platform presented, so generally satisfactory as it has proved, is eminently due to John A. Kasson of Iowa, whose efforts to reconcile differences, and to secure the largest liberty of sentiment consistent with fidelity to Republican principles, were most effective and untiring. I think no former platform ever reflected more fairly and fully the average convictions of a great National party.”

This platform, as will be remembered, was made the pretext for the inauguration of the Rebellion, which resulted in the emancipation of 4,000,000 of slaves. Never since Jefferson's immortal Declaration of Independence has a document been framed, fraught with such momentous results as this famous Chicago Platform of 1860, penned by an Iowa statesman. It was with this platform that the Republican party won its first national victory. Mr. Kasson took an active part in that eventful campaign and upon the election of Mr. Lincoln was appointed First Assistant Postmaster General. In the summer of 1863 he was nominated by the Republicans of the Des Moines district for Representative in Congress and elected. The most important measures originated by him in that body, were securing an amendment to the bankrupt laws, saving to the head of the family of the debtor a homestead. He formulated a plan while in the post-office department for securing uniform and cheaper postage with foreign countries. He negotiated postal treaties with the chief nations of Europe. He served in Congress six terms in all, taking rank among its ablest members. He afterwards, as a member of the Iowa Legislature, secured the building of the permanent State House. In diplomacy he has attained the highest rank in the Nation, having served as minister to Austria-Hungary and Germany. He was chairman of the United States Commission at the Samoan Conference at Berlin in 1889. During McKinley's administration he negotiated important reciprocal treaties with many foreign nations in the interest of our commerce. During the forty years of arduous and most valuable public services rendered to the State and Nation Mr. Kasson has found time to contribute to the highest grade of American periodicals and has written a History of Diplomacy, which will have world-wide interest. Among the eminent statesmen who for fifty years have reflected credit upon our State, none have ranked higher in notable achievements and intellectual endowment than John A. Kasson.