Men of Mark in America/Volume 1/Leslie M. Shaw

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SHAW, LESLIE MORTIMER.The entire range of American biography contains few more inspiring examples of the development of sturdy, self-reliant American manhood than the history of Leslie M. Shaw, twice governor of the state of Iowa and now secretary of the treasury of the United States.

He was born at Morristown, Vermont, November 2, 1848. His parents were Boardman Oscar Shaw and Louisa (Spalding) Shaw. Among his father's ancestors, Ebenezer Shaw was a pioneer and early selectman of Morristown. His mother, Louisa Spalding, a woman of strong character and enduringly beneficent influence, was the daughter of Jason Spalding, an educator of note in Vermont and eastern New York in the early part of the last century.

Leslie M. Shaw spent his minority in his native state, most of the time in the town of Stowe, on a farm where he performed his full part of the burden of rugged farm work. His early education was such as the common schools of the county afforded, supplemented by a term or two at an academy at Morrisville. By working as a farm hand and by teaching school he secured income enough to meet the expenses of his tuition at the academy and to have something left over. With this equipment in health, education and habits of industry, the young man started for the West on attaining his majority in 1869. He had long entertained the desire to own a farm in the Northwest, and he directed his steps toward the state of Iowa. Drawn to Mt. Vernon in that state by the fact that an aunt had made her home at that place, and finding Mt. Vernon the seat of Cornell college, an institution of excellent repute in Iowa, he determined to obtain a collegiate education. As before, he supported himself by his own exertions, working at anything that offered—teaching, selling fruit trees, and toiling at farm work—until he had completed the full four years' course, graduating in 1874. He at once entered the Iowa law school, and was graduated from that institution in 1876. He then settled at the town of Denison and there began the practice of his profession, devoting his time and energies exclusively to the law, and permitting nothing to interfere with the work to be done, until he had built up a practice among the most extensive and important in Western Iowa.

His public spirit served to multiply his interests. He was the largest contributor toward the establishment of an academy and normal school at Denison, and he held the position of President of the Board of Trustees from the outset. At about the same time Mr. Shaw went into the banking business. He was impelled to take this step through noting the difficulty experienced by the Iowa farmers in obtaining loans for the legitimate extension of their operations, although the security afforded was of the very best to be found in the country. He became the president of banks at Denison and Manila, Iowa, and the success of these institutions eloquently attested the soundness of his theories with reference to financial matters.

Ever since he became a voter, Leslie M. Shaw has been identified with the Republican party, and with each recurring campaign he rendered aid in so far as opportunity offered. It was not, however, until the campaign of 1896 that his work began to attract attention outside of his own county. That memorable year found the state of Iowa one of the scenes of fiercest conflict between the advocates of free silver and of the gold standard, respectively, and Mr. Shaw's opportunity came when he was asked to reply to an address delivered by William J. Bryan. His grasp of the whole financial subject, his resistless arguments, and his convincing manner of presenting them caused him to be in great demand for public addresses all over the state.

When in 1897 Governor Drake declined a renomination because of ill health, Mr. Shaw was given the Republican nomination for governor of the state. He made a most remarkable canvass, based almost solely on his championship of the gold standard, and he was elected by a plurality of 29,975 votes. His first election as governor was in 1897, and he was reelected in 1899.

In 1898 Governor Shaw was selected by the Sound Money Commission to preside at the International Monetary Convention at Indianapolis, and his address on that occasion attracted wide attention. In 1900 upon the death of United States Senator John H. Gear, Governor Shaw unhesitatingly appointed Representative Dolliver to the position thus made vacant, although the governor's friends were anxious that he himself should occupy a seat in the upper house of congress, and it would be strange had he not in consequence fostered an ambition which was, of course, made unattainable by his unselfish adherence to the strictest interpretation of duty. Governor Shaw's hold upon the people of Iowa may well be appreciated from the fact that his reelection as governor in 1899 was by nearly twice the plurality and by four times the majority which he had enjoyed when first chosen, being the largest majority ever received, up to that time, by any candidate for governor. He peremptorily declined renomination for a third term, and was planning to return to his law practice and his business interests when, on December 25, 1901, without solicitation or suggestion from himself or his friends, he was tendered by President Roosevelt the position of secretary of the treasury, succeeding Lyman J. Gage, resigned; and he assumed the duties of that office on February 1, 1902.

Secretary Shaw's administration of the affairs of the treasury department has been masterly in many respects, and several of his official acts have been of historic significance, as, for instance, the manner of the payment of the sum of $40,000,000 in consummation of the transfer to the United States Government of the property of the Panama Canal Company.

Mr. Shaw has long been an adherent of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, and was a prominent lay delegate to the general conferences of the church in 1888, 1892, 1896 and 1900. He often addresses audiences in the interest of Christian truth, of the church, and of the Y.M.C.A.

Mr. Shaw has given no attention to athletics or to any modern system of physical culture, and he is not and never has been devoted to any sport or amusement as a mode of relaxation. He has received the honorary degree of LL.D. from three institutions.

Mr. Shaw was married in the year 1877 to Miss Alice Crawshaw, daughter of James Crawshaw, an early settler of Clinton county, Iowa, who came from England while Iowa was yet a territory. They have three children, two daughters and a son, Enid, Earl and Erma, and the home life of the family is ideal.