Richard P. Bland

Richard Parks Bland (August 19, 1835 – June 15, 1899) was an American politician, lawyer, and educator from Missouri. A Democrat, Bland served in the United States House of Representatives from 1873 to 1895 and from 1897 to 1899,[1] representing at various times the Missouri 5th, 8th and 11th congressional districts. Nicknamed "Silver Dick" for his efforts to promote bimetallism, Bland is best known for the Bland–Allison Act.

Born in Kentucky, he established a legal practice in Utah Territory after working as a miner and schoolteacher. He served as the treasurer of Carson County from 1860 to 1864 during the peak years of the Comstock Lode mining rush. He settled in Missouri in 1865 and established a legal practice in Lebanon, Missouri. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1872 and quickly established himself as a leading advocate of the free silver movement. He sponsored the Bland-Allison Act, which required the United States Department of the Treasury to buy a certain amount of silver and put it into circulation as silver dollars.[2] He also established himself as an anti-imperialist. Bland lost re-election in the 1894 election but won his seat back in 1896.

Bland was a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1896, though he expressed reluctance about running for president. His marriage to a Catholic woman engendered opposition from the anti-Catholic elements of the party. Bland received the most votes on the first three ballots of the 1896 Democratic National Convention, but not enough to win the necessary majority. William Jennings Bryan, who also favored bimetallism, won the Democratic nomination on the fifth ballot and went on to lose to Republican William McKinley in the 1896 presidential election. After the convention, Bland served in the House from 1897 to his death in 1899.

Richard P. Bland
Richard P. Bland - Brady-Handy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 8th district
In office
March 4, 1893 – March 3, 1895
Preceded byJohn J. O'Neill
Succeeded byJoel D. Hubbard
In office
March 4, 1897 – June 15, 1899
Preceded byJoel D. Hubbard
Succeeded byDorsey W. Shackleford
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 11th district
In office
March 4, 1883 – March 3, 1893
Preceded byJohn Bullock Clark, Jr.
Succeeded byCharles Frederick Joy
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 5th district
In office
March 4, 1873 – March 3, 1883
Preceded byJohn B. Clark, Jr.
Succeeded byCharles F. Joy
Personal details
Richard Parks Bland

August 19, 1835
Hartford, Kentucky, U.S.
DiedJune 15, 1899 (aged 63)
Lebanon, Missouri, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Virginia Elizabeth Mitchell (1873–1899; his death); 9 children
Alma materHartford College (Kentucky)

Early life and education

Bland was born near Hartford, Ohio County, Kentucky to Stoughton Edward and Mary P. (Nall) Bland.[3] His father was a descendant of one of the First Families of Virginia, including statesman and Continental Congress member Richard Bland.[4] The Blands and Nalls were among the early families to emigrate from Virginia with Daniel Boone into the Kentucky wilderness.[3] Despite the family pedigree and wealth in Virginia, Richard and his three siblings were raised in relative poverty on his parents' small farm.[4] In 1842, when Richard Bland was seven years old, the situation was exacerbated by the unexpected death of his father.[3] His mother's death followed in 1849, leaving the young teenager an orphan and forcing Bland to hire himself out as a farm laborer to survive.[4][5] Despite growing up poor, he was able to attend Hartford College and graduate with a teacher's certificate. Bland then taught school in his hometown for two years before moving to Wayne County, Missouri at age 20, in 1855.

His first time of residence in Missouri was brief, Bland teaching just one term at a school in Patterson, Missouri before heading further west to California. While there he began to study law.[6] He then moved to the western portion of the Utah Territory, part of present-day western Nevada, where he taught school, and tried his hand at prospecting and mining.[5] It appears, from a eulogy delivered in Congress, that while in the West Bland was also involved in conflict with Native Americans on multiple occasions, although few details are known.[4] While teaching school he continued to study law and after passing the bar began practicing in Virginia City and Carson City.[6] It was during his time in California and Nevada he developed a lifelong interest in mining, silver in particular.[4]

Political career

Richard P. Bland's first elected office was treasurer of Carson County, Utah Territory from 1860 to 1864, the height of the Comstock Lode mining rush.[6] Left without a job following Nevada's statehood and government reorganizing, in 1865 Bland returned to Missouri and began the practice of law with his brother Charles in the town of Rolla.[3] The siblings remained in practice together until 1869 when he moved to Lebanon, Missouri, seeing the town as more commercially viable because a predecessor of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad had recently laid track through the town.

In 1872, he was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives in the 43rd Congress. From the start of his tenure, silver would be an issue of great importance to Bland. The Panic of 1873 and Coinage Act of 1873 hit Missouri and other Midwestern farmers particularly hard, leading to foreclosures and closing of businesses dependent on agriculture.[7] In 1878, along with Iowa Republican William Allison he sponsored the Bland-Allison Act. This act mandated the use of both gold and silver as U.S. currency and allowed silver to be purchased at market rates, metals to be minted into silver dollars, and required the US Treasury to purchase between $2 million and $4 million of silver each month from western mines.[8] Vetoed by President Rutherford Hayes, Congress voted again on the measure overriding the President. The act stood until President Grover Cleveland repealed the act in 1893.[9]

Bland's nicknames -- "The Great Commoner" and "Silver Dick"— reflected his efforts to help both the common man and the silver miners. His 25-year campaign for a bimetallic standard made him a friend and advocate for agriculture and western miners. However, Bland was far more than a one-issue legislator. He frequently involved himself in debates on tariff issues, government bonds, and taxation of the citizenry. Bland strongly opposed Reconstruction Era electoral commissions and bitterly opposed the use of U.S. Marshals or Federal troops at polling places.[4] In matters of foreign policy Bland was an anti-imperialist.

He was re-elected to the House ten times, narrowly defeated in 1894, regained his seat in 1896, was re-elected in 1898, and died in office in 1899. While a member of the House he was chairman of the Committee on Mines and Mining in the 44th Congress.[6] Bland was chairman of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures in the 48th Congress, 49th Congress, 50th Congress, 52nd Congress, and 53rd Congress.[6]

1915 - 1921 17th Street, N.W.
Former Washington, D.C. residence (center) of Richard P. Bland

Election of 1896

Richard Bland was a strong, if reluctant, candidate for United States President in 1896. He is quoted as saying "I have no desire in this direction. I have no ambition for this nomination and I am afraid my friends, thrusting my personality into this contest may confuse the greater question.".[4] That question of course, like most tied to Bland, was currency and bimetalism. Rather than travel to the Democratic Convention in Chicago, Illinois Bland chose to remain on his 160-acre farm near Lebanon, Missouri as the political drama played out. At first the convention balloting seemed to be going Bland's way. He beat William Jennings Bryan 236 to 137 on the first ballot, 281 to 197 on the second, and 291 to 219 on the third. However, none were of the two-thirds margin to secure the nomination outright. By this time, the full impact of Bryan's Cross of Gold speech began to be felt and understood by the delegates. Bryan took the lead on the fourth ballot 280-241. Bland, not wishing to risk a split party, sent a telegram to his supporters in Chicago throwing his support behind Bryan saying "Put the cause above the man."[4] With that, the fifth ballot was a mere formality, with Bryan claiming a 652 to 11 victory. There still existed the possibility of Bland on the ticket as candidate for Vice-President. He trailed considerably behind on the first ballot, but gained steam to win the second and third balloting, although again by not enough margin to earn the nomination. Bland at this time, never enthralled with the idea in the first place, declined his name being considered in any further balloting, paving the way for Arthur Sewall to become Bryan's ticketmate.


Richard P. Bland died at his home in Lebanon, Missouri on June 15, 1899. He had been in failing health for some years,[4] and in the spring of 1899 returned to Lebanon from Washington, D.C. to recover from a severe throat infection, but his condition only worsened.[5] He is buried in the Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Lebanon, Missouri. A crowd of several thousand flocked to the small Missouri Ozarks town to attend Bland's funeral.[4]

Personal life

Richard Bland married Virginia Elizabeth Mitchell of Rolla on December 19, 1873.[10] Mrs. Bland was the daughter of Confederate General Ewing Young Mitchell.[4] The couple had a total of nine children,[4] six that were still living at the time of his death: Theodric, Ewing, Frances, John, George, and Virginia. The Blands marriage was somewhat unusual for the time period, he being Protestant and son of a trained Presbyterian minister, and she being Catholic.[4] The children were raised in the Catholic faith, something which along with his marriage led to derision and bigotry by opponents during his 1896 bid for the Democratic Presidential nomination.[4] Replying to critics, Bland stated "Yes my wife is a Roman Catholic and I am a Protestant, and shall live and die one; but my regret is that I am not half such a Christian as the woman who bears my name and is the mother of my children."[4]

Bland was a Freemason, a member of Lodge 231 in Rolla, Missouri.[11] One of his siblings, brother Charles C. Bland, was also involved with the legal profession, eventually serving as a judge in the Missouri 18th Judicial Circuit.[3] Bland's brother-in-law Ewing Young Mitchell, Jr., with his help became a U.S. Senate page in 1886 and would remain in politics throughout his life, eventually becoming assistant Secretary of Commerce under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.[12]


Richard P. Bland is the namesake of Bland, Missouri.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Honor "Silver Dick" Bland's Memory" (PDF). The New York Times. 8 April 1900. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  2. ^ Ari Arthur Hoogenboom, Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President (1995) pp 96-98
  3. ^ a b c d e "A Reminiscent History of the Ozark Region: comprising a condensed general history, a brief descriptive history of each county, and numerous biographical sketches of prominent citizens of such counties.". Goodspeed Brothers Publishers, 1894. via 6 July 2012. Retrieved 21 February 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Memorial addresses on the life and character of Richard P. Bland". United States 56th Congress via Government Printing Office. 1900. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
  5. ^ a b c Christensen, Lawrence O.,Dictionary of Missouri Biography, University of Missouri Press, 1999
  6. ^ a b c d e "Richard P. Bland Congressional biography". United States Congress via website. 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  7. ^ Irwin Unger, The Greenback Era: A Social and Political History of American Finance, 1865-1879 (1964) pp 356-65
  8. ^ Acts, Bills, and Laws, 1878.U.S. History. March 14th <>
  9. ^ Our large change: The Denominations of the Currency. Quarterly Journal of Economics. 1918. Oxford University Press. JSTOR. March 14th 2011<>
  10. ^ Brown, Frank (26 September 2006). "Virginia Elizabeth Mitchell Bland bio". Find A Retrieved 18 February 2014.
  11. ^ Denslow, William R. (1957). 10,000 Famous Freemasons. Columbia, Missouri, USA: Missouri Lodge of Research.
  12. ^ "Papers of Ewing Y. Mitchell, Jr" (PDF). University of Missouri. 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2014.
  13. ^ Eaton, David Wolfe (1916). How Missouri Counties, Towns and Streams Were Named. The State Historical Society of Missouri. p. 169.

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Samuel Swinfin Burdett
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 5th congressional district

Succeeded by
Alexander Graves
Preceded by
John Bullock Clark, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 11th congressional district

Succeeded by
Charles Frederick Joy
Preceded by
John Joseph O'Neill
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
Joel Douglas Hubbard
Preceded by
Joel Douglas Hubbard
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
Dorsey W. Shackleford
1896 Democratic National Convention

The 1896 Democratic National Convention, held at the Chicago Coliseum from July 7 to July 11, was the scene of William Jennings Bryan's nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate for the 1896 U.S. presidential election.

At age 36, Bryan was the youngest Presidential nominee in American history, only one year older than the constitutional minimum. Bryan's keynote "Cross of Gold" address, delivered prior to his nomination, lambasted Eastern monied classes for supporting the gold standard at the expense of the average worker. This was a repudiation of Cleveland administration's policy, but proved popular with the delegates to the convention.

Bryan secured the nomination on the fifth ballot over Richard P. Bland. Bryan declined to choose a Democratic vice presidential nominee, leaving the choice to his fellow delegates. Arthur Sewall of Maine was nominated on the fifth ballot. Bryan and Sewall ultimately lost to the Republican candidates, William McKinley and Garret Hobart.

1896 United States elections

The 1896 United States elections elected the 55th United States Congress. Republicans won control of the Presidency and maintained control of both houses of Congress. The election marked the end of the Third Party System and the start of the Fourth Party System, as Republicans would generally dominate politics until the 1930 elections. Political scientists such as V.O. Key, Jr. argue that this election was a realigning election, while James Reichley argues against this idea on the basis that the Republican victory in this election merely continued the party's post-Civil War dominance. The election took place in the aftermath of the Panic of 1893, and featured a fierce debate between advocates of bimetallism ("free silver") and supporters of the gold standard.In the Presidential election, Republican former Governor William McKinley of Ohio defeated Democratic former Representative William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska. McKinley took the Republican nomination on the first ballot, while Bryan took the Democratic nomination on the fifth ballot (at age 36, he became youngest presidential nominee of a major party), defeating former Missouri Representative Richard P. Bland and several other candidates. Bryan's Cross of Gold speech, in which he advocated for "free silver," helped deliver him the Democratic nomination, and also attracted the support of the Populist Party and the Silver Republican Party. Though Bryan carried most of the South and the West, McKinley won a comfortable margin in both the electoral college and the popular vote by carrying the Northeast and the Great Lakes region.

Democrats won major gains in the House, but Republicans continued to command a large majority in the chamber. The Populists also won several seats, holding more seats in the House than any third party since the Civil War.In the Senate, the Republicans maintained their plurality, keeping control of the same number of seats. The Democrats lost several seats, while the Silver Republicans established themselves for the first time with five seats. Republican William P. Frye won election as President pro tempore.

1896 United States presidential election

The United States presidential election of 1896 was the 28th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 3, 1896. Former Governor William McKinley, the Republican candidate, defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan. The 1896 campaign, which took place during an economic depression known as the Panic of 1893, was a realigning election that ended the old Third Party System and began the Fourth Party System.Incumbent Democratic President Grover Cleveland did not seek election to a second consecutive term, leaving the Democratic nomination open. Bryan, an attorney and former Congressman, galvanized support with his Cross of Gold speech, which called for a reform of the monetary system and attacked business leaders as the cause of ongoing economic depression. The 1896 Democratic National Convention repudiated the Cleveland administration and nominated Bryan on the fifth presidential ballot. Bryan then won the nomination of the Populist Party, which had won several states in 1892 and shared many of Bryan's policies. In opposition to Bryan, some conservative Bourbon Democrats formed the National Democratic Party and nominated Senator John M. Palmer. McKinley prevailed by a wide margin on the first ballot of the 1896 Republican National Convention.

Since the onset of the Panic of 1893, the nation had been mired in a deep economic depression, marked by low prices, low profits, high unemployment, and violent strikes. Economic issues, especially tariff policy and the question of whether the gold standard should be preserved for the money supply, were central issues. McKinley forged a conservative coalition in which businessmen, professionals, and prosperous farmers, and skilled factory workers turned off by Bryan's agrarian policies were heavily represented. McKinley was strongest in cities and in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Coast. Republican campaign manager Mark Hanna pioneered many modern campaign techniques, facilitated by a $3.5 million budget. Bryan presented his campaign as a crusade of the working man against the rich, who impoverished America by limiting the money supply. Silver, he said, was in ample supply and if coined into money would restore prosperity while undermining the illicit power of the money trust. Bryan was strongest in the South, rural Midwest, and Rocky Mountain states. Bryan's moralistic rhetoric and crusade for inflation (to be generated by the institution of bimetallism) alienated conservatives.

Bryan campaigned vigorously throughout the swing states of the Midwest, while McKinley conducted a "front porch" campaign. At the end of an intensely heated contest, McKinley won a majority of the popular and electoral vote. Bryan won 46.7% of the popular vote, while Palmer won just under 1% of the vote. Turnout was very high, passing 90% of the eligible voters in many places. The Democratic Party's repudiation of its Bourbon faction largely gave Bryan and his supporters control of the Democratic Party until the 1920s, and set the stage for Republican domination of the Fourth Party System.

56th United States Congress

The Fifty-sixth United States Congress was a meeting of the legislative branch of the United States federal government, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives. It met in Washington, DC from March 4, 1899, to March 4, 1901, during the third and fourth years of William McKinley's presidency. The apportionment of seats in this House of Representatives was based on the Eleventh Census of the United States in 1890. Both chambers had a Republican majority. There was one African-American member, George Henry White of North Carolina, who served his second and final term as a Representative in this Congress, and would be the last black member of Congress until 1928, and the last black member of Congress from the South until 1972.

Bland–Allison Act

The Bland–Allison Act, also referred to as the Grand Bland Plan of 1878, was an act of United States Congress requiring the U.S. Treasury to buy a certain amount of silver and put it into circulation as silver dollars. Though the bill was vetoed by President Rutherford B. Hayes, the Congress overrode Hayes's veto on February 28, 1878 to enact the law.

Dorsey W. Shackleford

Dorsey William Shackleford (August 27, 1853 – July 15, 1936) was a United States Representative from Missouri.

Born near Sweet Springs, Missouri, Shackleford attended public schools and William Jewell College, Liberty, Missouri.

He taught school from 1877 to 1879.

He studied law.

He was admitted to the bar in 1878 and commenced practice in Boonville, Missouri.

He served as prosecuting attorney of Cooper County, Missouri from 1882 to 1886 and from 1890 to 1892.

He served as judge of the fourteenth judicial circuit of Missouri from June 1, 1892, until his resignation on September 9, 1899, having been elected to Congress.

Shackleford was elected as a Democratic Representative to the Fifty-sixth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Richard P. Bland.

He was re-elected to the Fifty-seventh and to the eight succeeding Congresses and served from August 29, 1899, to March 3, 1919.

He served as chairman of the Committee on Roads (sixty-third to sixty-fifth Congresses) and introduced legislation that would ultimately be enacted as the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916. On April 5, 1917, he voted against declaring war on Germany.

He was an unsuccessful candidate for renomination in 1918 to the Sixty-sixth Congress.

He moved to Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1919 and continued the practice of law.

He died in Jefferson City, Missouri, July 15, 1936.

He was interred in Walnut Grove Cemetery, Boonville, Missouri.

Joel Douglas Hubbard

Joel Douglas Hubbard (November 6, 1860 – May 26, 1919) was a U.S. Representative from Missouri.

Born near Marshall, Missouri, Hubbard attended the public schools and Central College, Fayette, Missouri.

He graduated from the Missouri Medical College at St. Louis in 1882 and practiced medicine in Syracuse, Missouri until 1886.

Hubbard was a County clerk from 1886-1894.

Hubbard was elected as a Republican to the Fifty-fourth Congress (March 4, 1895 – March 4, 1897).

However, he was an unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1896 to the Fifty-fifth Congress.

Having studied law Hubbard was admitted to the Missouri bar in 1899 and commenced practice in Versailles, Missouri.

He also engaged in the banking business.

He practiced medicine in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1904 and 1905.

He returned to Versailles and resumed the practice of law and his banking interests.

He moved to El Paso, Texas, in 1917 and continued the practice of law.

He died in Tampa, Florida, on May 26, 1919.

He was interred in Versailles Cemetery, Versailles, Missouri.

John Bullock Clark Jr.

John Bullock Clark Jr. (January 14, 1831 – September 7, 1903) was a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War and a postbellum five-term U.S. Congressman from Missouri.

Lebanon, Missouri

Lebanon is a city in Laclede County, Missouri, United States. The population was 14,474 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Laclede County. The Lebanon Micropolitan Statistical Area consists of Laclede County.

Missouri's 11th congressional district

The 11th Congressional District of Missouri was a congressional district for the United States House of Representatives in Missouri from 1873 to 1963.

Missouri's 5th congressional district

Missouri's 5th Congressional District has been represented in the United States House of Representatives by Democrat Emanuel Cleaver, the former Mayor of Kansas City, since 2005.

The district primarily consists of the inner ring of the Kansas City metropolitan area, including nearly all of Kansas City south of the Missouri River. The district stretches east to Marshall.

Morgan dollar

The Morgan dollar was a United States dollar coin minted from 1878 to 1904, and again in 1921. It was the first standard silver dollar minted since production of the previous design, the Seated Liberty dollar, ceased due to the passage of the Coinage Act of 1873, which also ended the free coining of silver. The coin is named after its designer, United States Mint Assistant Engraver George T. Morgan. The obverse depicts a profile portrait representing Liberty, while the reverse depicts an eagle with wings outstretched. The mint mark, if any, appears on the reverse above the "o" in "Dollar".

The dollar was authorized by the Bland–Allison Act. Following the passage of the 1873 act, mining interests lobbied to restore free silver, which would require the Mint to accept all silver presented to it and return it, struck into coin. Instead, the Bland–Allison Act was passed, which required the Treasury to purchase between two and four million dollars' worth of silver at market value to be coined into dollars each month. In 1890, the Bland–Allison Act was repealed by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which required the Treasury to purchase 4,500,000 troy ounces (140,000 kg) of silver each month, but only required further silver dollar production for one year. This act, once again, was repealed in 1893.

In 1898, Congress approved a bill that required all remaining bullion purchased under the Sherman Silver Purchase Act to be coined into silver dollars. When those silver reserves were depleted in 1904, the Mint ceased to strike the Morgan dollar. The Pittman Act, passed in 1918, authorized the melting and recoining of millions of silver dollars. Pursuant to the act, Morgan dollars resumed mintage for one year in 1921. The design was replaced by the Peace dollar later the same year.

In the early 1960s, a large quantity of uncirculated Morgan dollars in their original bags were discovered in the Treasury vaults, including issues once thought rare. Individuals began purchasing large quantities of the pieces at face value, and eventually the Treasury ceased exchanging silver certificates for silver coin. Beginning in the 1970s, the Treasury conducted a sale of silver dollars minted at the Carson City Mint through the General Services Administration. In 2006, Morgan's reverse design was used on a silver dollar issued to commemorate the old San Francisco Mint building.

Patterson, Missouri

Patterson is an unincorporated community in Wayne County, Missouri, United States. It is located about seven miles east of Piedmont on Route 34.

Richard Bland (disambiguation)

Richard Bland (1710–1776) was an American planter and statesman.

Richard Bland may also refer to:

Richard Bland (burgess) (1665–1720), member of the Virginia House of Burgess

Richard P. Bland (1835–1899), American Democratic Congressman

Richard Bland (golfer) (born 1973), English professional golfer

Samuel Swinfin Burdett

Samuel Swinfin Burdett (February 21, 1836 – September 24, 1914) was a U.S. Representative from Missouri.

United States House Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures

The Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures (established as the Committee on a Uniform System of Coinage, Weights, and Measures) was a standing committee of the United States House of Representatives from 1864 to 1946.

United States House Committee on Mines and Mining

The United States House Committee on Mines and Mining is a defunct committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Committee on Mines and Mining was created on December 19, 1865, for consideration of subjects relating to mining interests. It exercised jurisdiction over the Geological Survey, the Bureau of Mines, the establishment of mining schools and mining experimental stations, mineral land laws, the welfare of men working in mines, mining debris, relief in cases of mineral contracts connected with the prosecution of war, the mining of radium ore, and the Government's fuel yards in the District of Columbia.

In 1947, the committee was abolished and its duties were transferred to the United States House Committee on Public Lands.

United States congressional delegations from Missouri

These are tables of congressional delegations from Missouri to the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

William B. Allison

William Boyd Allison (March 2, 1829 – August 4, 1908) was an early leader of the Iowa Republican Party, who represented northeastern Iowa in the United States House of Representatives before representing his state in the United States Senate. By the 1890s, Allison had become one of the "big four" key Republicans who largely controlled the Senate, along with Orville H. Platt of Connecticut, John Coit Spooner of Wisconsin and Nelson W. Aldrich of Rhode Island.

Born in Perry, Ohio, Allison established a legal practice in Dubuque, Iowa and became a prominent member of the nascent Iowa Republican Party. He was a delegate to the 1860 Republican National Convention and won election to the House of Representatives in 1862. He served four terms in the House and won election to the Senate in 1872. He became chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, serving for all but two years between 1881 and 1908. Three different Republican presidents asked Allison to join their Cabinet, but Allison declined each offer. A significant number of delegates supported his presidential nomination at the 1888 and 1896 Republican National Conventions.

Allison emerged as a centrist and pragmatic leader in the Senate, and he helped pass several important bills. The Bland–Allison Act of 1878 restored bimetallism, but in a less inflationary manner than had been sought by Congressman Richard P. Bland. A prominent advocate of higher tariffs, Allison played a major role in the passage of the McKinley Tariff and the Dingley Act. He also helped pass the Hepburn Act by offering the Allison amendment, which granted courts the power to review the Interstate Commerce Commission's railroad rate-setting. Allison sought a record seventh term in the 1908, but died shortly after winning the Republican primary against progressive leader Albert B. Cummins.

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