Men of Mark in America/Volume 1/Charles Warren Fairbanks

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CHARLES WARREN FAIRBANKS


Fairbanks, charles warren, Vice-President of the United States, is a man whose life and work show the great possibilties for honor and usefulness which are open to the American youth who is intelligent, industrious, persevering, and honorably ambitious. He was born in a log house on a farm near Unionville Center, Ohio, May 11, 1852. His parents were Loriston Monroe and Mary Adelaide (Smith) Fairbanks. His father was a farmer, esteemed for his industry, patriotism and purity of purpose, who in early manhood emigrated from New England to Union county, Ohio, which was then but sparsely settled. His mother was a woman of fine mind and character who exerted a strong influence for good upon the intellectual and moral life of her family. His earliest known ancestor in America was Jonathan Fayerbancke, one of the Puritan settlers in the Massachusetts colony, who with his sons built a house at Dedham in 1636 with timber brought from England. This house still remains, one of the ancient landmarks of that region, and in it the descendants of the builders held a largely attended reunion in August, 1904.

When Charles W. Fairbanks was old enough to work he had the tasks that were common to the boys on a farm in a region that was scarcely redeemed from the wilderness. His health was good and the conditions for its maintenance were favorable. He was faithful in his work on the farm, but inclined to be studious. The school terms were short, but such opportunities as they afforded were carefully improved, and during the long vacations studies were carried on at night after the work in the field for the day had been done. He was anxious to obtain a liberal education, and before he was ready for college he had determined to become a lawyer.

In 1867 he entered the Ohio Wesleyan university at Delaware, Ohio, which was only a few miles from his home. Circumstances were such that economy was necessary, and during his college course a considerable part of his food was taken to him from the farm. When time could be spared from his studies he worked as a carpenter, and it was with money earned in this way that the first law books for the future senator were procured. During his last year at college he was one of the editors of the "Western Collegian" published at the institution. With a good record he was graduated from the classical course in 1872.

At Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, he studied law, earning part of the money to pay his way by acting as agent for the Associated Press, of which one of his uncles, William Henry Smith, was the founder, and at that time the manager. He remained in Pittsburg for nearly a year, then he worked for a short time as a reporter, and studied for one term at a law school in Cleveland, Ohio. At the close of this term, in 1874, he was admitted to the bar by the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the same year he removed to Indianapolis, Indiana, and entered upon the practice of his profession.

From small beginnings his professional income rapidly increased, until his law practice became one of the most important in the middle West. Friends advised him to enter the political field, but, though he was deeply interested in public affairs, his preference was strong for the practice of law. He was a frequent speaker at large meetings in important political campaigns, and thus he became well known to the people of his state before he was a candidate for any office. In the Republican national convention of 1888 he earnestly advocated the selection of Judge Walter Q. Gresham as candidate for President of the United States, but in the ensuing campaign he worked with an equal degree of zeal to secure the election of General Benjamin Harrison who had received the nomination. In 1892, and again in 1898, he served as chairman of the Indiana Republican state convention. In 1893 he received the Republican caucus nomination for United States senator, but was defeated by the Honorable David Turpie, the Democratic candidate, the Democrats having a majority on joint ballot.

Mr. Fairbanks was a delegate-at-large to the Republican national convention at St. Louis in 1896, and was temporary chairman. On January twentieth of the following year he was elected United States senator by a large majority, receiving the unanimous vote of the Republicans in the joint assembly. He was appointed by President McKinley a member of the United States and British Joint High Commission for the consideration of the proposed abrogation of the treaty of 1817, which prohibited the maintenance of war vessels exceeding a certain specified tonnage oh the Great Lakes, and of matters relating to the lake fisheries, to reciprocity with Canada, and to the Alaska boundary. He was chairman of the American Commissioners, and at the meetings of the joint commission at Quebec in 1898, and at Washington, District of Columbia, in 1899, he rendered important service.

In the presidential campaign of 1896 Mr. Fairbanks was leader of the Republican forces in Indiana and labored earnestly to secure the nomination and election of Major William McKinley, with whom he had long been on terms of intimate friendship. In congress he has exerted a strong influence upon legislation relating to the currency and the tariff, has served with great efficiency as chairman of the senate committee on Immigration, and later as chairman of the committee on Public Buildings and Grounds. Until it was evident that peaceful efforts would fail to secure an improvement in the intolerable conditions prevailing in Cuba, Mr. Fairbanks was a strong supporter of President McKinley in his effort to avoid an armed conflict with Spain; but when war seemed to be the only honorable course to pursue he advocated, with the president, its immediate declaration and its vigorous prosecution. He was offered a cabinet position by President McKinley, but believing that he could render the country better service in the senate, he declined the honor. On January 20, 1903, he was reelected to the senate by an increased majority. His present term would have expired March 3, 1909, had he not been elected vice-president. He was a delegate-at-large from Indiana to the Republican national convention at Chicago in June, 1904, and was there nominated by acclamation for vice-president of the United States.

He was married to Miss Cornelia Cole, October 6, 1874. Of their five children all are now living. He has received the degree of LL.D. from Baker university, Kansas, and from Ohio Wesleyan university. In politics he has always been a Republican. He is an effective speaker and his services are in great request in every presidential campaign. Within the past ten years he has addressed important political meetings in nearly every northern state. He has also delivered many addresses at college commencements and other anniversaries. Since his election to the senate he has not practised law. His religious connection is with the Methodist Episcopal church. For many years he has been a trustee of the Ohio Wesleyan university.