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History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century/4/William B. Allison

WILLIAM B. ALLISON was born in Wayne County, Ohio, March 2, 1829. He worked on his father's farm summers and attended school winters until the age of sixteen when he entered the Academy at Wooster. Later he spent a year in Meadville College and one at Western Reserve College at Hudson, Ohio. He then studied law and in 1852 was admitted to the bar of Wayne County and began practice in Ashland. In April, 1857, he came to Iowa, locating at Dubuque, and two years later was a delegate to the Republican State Convention which nominated Samuel J. Kirkwood for Governor. In 1860 he was a delegate to the National Republican Convention which nominated Abraham Lincoln for President, acting as one of the secretaries. When the War of the Rebellion began, Mr. Allison was appointed a member of Governor Kirkwood's staff to assist in organizing the volunteer service. In 1862 he was elected to Congress in the Third District and was three times reflected, serving until 1871. In 1865 he became a member of the committee of ways and means and entered upon a career which eventually made him authority on financial legislation. In 1870 he was a prominent candidate for United States Senator but was not successful. In 1872 he was again a candidate, was nominated over Senator Harlan and elected, taking his seat in the Senate March 4, 1873. Mr. Allison was appointed on the committee on appropriations of which he became chairman in 1881. He was chairman of the committee on Indian affairs from 1875 to 1881, and chairman of the joint committee of investigation of the affairs of the District of Columbia, in which capacity he wrote a report which was embodied in a bill that has since constituted the municipal government. He has been a member of the Senate finance committee since 1877 and was largely instrumental in perfecting the act of Congress known as the Bland-Allison bill, which was a compromise between the advocates of a single gold standard and free coinage of silver. The bill, after a long discussion, passed both houses of Congress but was vetoed by President Hayes. It was passed over the veto, and under its provisions 370,000,000 silver dollars were coined before it was changed by the act of 1890. When our Government made provision for an international conference in 1892, Senator Allison was chosen by President Harrison as chairman on behalf of the United States. When the legislation of 1900 on the currency was under consideration by Congress, Senator Allison took a prominent part in the debates and the formulation of the law known as the Currency Act of March 14th, which provided for a permanent reserve sufficient to make certain the convertibility of all forms of money into gold at the will of the holder. Senator Allison had a large share in shaping the tariff legislation since 1877, and especially the revision of the tariff which followed the report of the Tariff Commission of 1882. He has long been at the head of the committee on appropriations and all expenditures of money made by Congress pass under his scrutiny. No Senator now a member of that body has served so long continuously as the senior Senator from Iowa, and no member of either branch of Congress has done so much to shape National legislation for the last quarter of a century as William B. Allison. Iowa has wisely retained the services of one so influential in the councils of the country, and has reëlected him in 1878, 1884, 1890, 1896 and again in 1902. He was strongly urged by President Garfleld to accept the position of Secretary of the Treasury, and again tendered the position by President Harrison and was offered the position of Secretary of State by President McKinley, but has wisely chosen to hold his place in the Senate. He has been frequently mentioned as an available candidate for President, and in 1888 was as near a nomination as any candidate who was unsuccessful. Senator Hoar of Massachusetts tells the story of that convention in Scribner's Magazine for February, 1899. In brief he says:

“After several ineffectual ballots, the Convention took a recess. A meeting was held by a number of gentlemen representing different delegations to see if we could agree upon a candidate. Among these was James S. Clarkson, representing Mr. Allison. Platt, Miller, Bepew and Hiscock represented the different shades of opinion in New York, and all were present except Depew. Several names were discussed, and I made a very earnest speech in favor of Mr. Allison. Finally all agreed that their States should vote for Allison when the Convention assembled. I suppose everybody in that room when he left it felt as certain as of any event in the future that Mr. Allison would be nominated in the Convention. When Mr. Depew was informed of our action he said that he had been compelled to withdraw as a candidate owing to the strong opposition of the northwest from which Allison's chief support was derived. He protested against allowing that section to name the candidate for the Republican party. The three other New York men therefore withdrew from the support of Allison. But for this New York, Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Iowa, California and Missouri would have cast their unanimous votes for Allison and his nomination would have been assured. I think no other person ever came so near the Presidency of the United States and missed it.”