ROBERT A. MAXWELL
THE HON. Robert A. Maxwell, superintendent of the insurance department, was born in Washington county, N. Y. , in 1838. He is a son of Alexander Maxwell, of Jackson, a prominent citizen of the town, and an intelligent and wealthy farmer. Robert was given the advantages of a liberal education by his father. After receiving a thorough instruction at the common schools in his neighborhood, he was sent to the normal school at Albany, where he finished his education at the age of eighteen. His rare qualities as an educator were unfolded while attending this excellent institution, and so he soon became principal of the union school at Greenwich, N. Y. Subsequently he taught school at Kenosha, Wisconsin. Determined to relinquish a professional career for mercantile pursuits, he removed to Chicago and engaged in the commission business – buying and selling grain and produce. For seven years he was an active member of the board of trade in that enterprising city. But too close attention to business, and climatic influences combined to impair his health; and coming east, he settled at Batavia, N. Y. Soon after his settlement in his new home he invested his ready capital in the malt business, and became a successful and public-spirited merchant, closely identifying himself with all those interests which are conducive to the welfare and prosperity of his adopted home. His influence in public affairs steadily increasing, political preferments were at length offered to him, but were repeatedly declined. The New York State Asylum for the Blind was established at Batavia, in 1867. Mr. Maxwell was appointed one of its trustees in 1878; and his careful, systematic and business-like methods were at once appreciably felt in the greatly improved management of the institution. He was soon elected treasurer of the asylum; and a necessarily greater intimacy with the direction of its affairs was followed by much needed reforms, the accomplishment of which won for him the generous, out-spoken approbation of the philanthropists and economists of the state. Shortly after taking up his residence at Batavia, Mr. Maxwell manifested an ardent interest in politics, his affiliation being with the Democratic Party. His sagacity and wisdom displayed in local issues became so marked and widely known, that in 1880 he was chosen a member of the democratic state committee. Here his counsel was sought on all important questions of expediency and candidature, and he gradually rose to conspicuous places in the conferences of party magnates. In 1881 he received the nomination for state treasurer. The memorable “Waterloo” of the democracy followed a bitter and personal canvass; and out of the disaster but one survivor remained, and that was Mr. Maxwell. He had not only been elected, but led his ticket by some 30,000, thereby handsomely defeating his well-known opponent, the Hon. James W. Husted. His official direction of the state treasury was so entirely satisfactory that he was unanimously re-nominated for a second term, and triumphantly elected over the republican candidate, Mr. Pliny W. Sexton, by over 17,000 majority.
Residing at the state capital, in accordance with the requirements of his official position, Mr. Maxwell became most intimate with influential and prominent men, by whom he has been constantly consulted on all important questions regarding the highest interests of the Democratic Party, and the public affair of the country – the administration of a good, sound, honest government.
The state treasury department, under the wise and judicious management of Mr. Maxwell, soon came to be recognized as a model business institution. This fact was especially emphasized by the Albany bankers who expressed their satisfaction with the improvements inaugurated by the competent treasurer, in a set of complimentary resolutions.
No one has been a more firm adherent of Governor David B. Hill than Mr. Maxwell. He was the first to declare himself for the nomination of the governor and was a most zealous and powerful advocate for his election.
The resignation of John A. McCall, Jr., as superintendent of the state insurance department, and the acceptance thereof by the governor, was followed almost immediately, by the appointment, on January 1, 1886, of Mr. Maxwell to fill the vacancy. The news of his selection was received on all sides by marked tokens of approval. His independent integrity, tried ability and high standing as a business man and financier were cordially indorsed by the great insurance companies of New York City in their reiterated approval of the choice made for the chief of a department with which their associations and interests are so closely allied. When the nomination was sent to the senate, the confirmation of Mr. Maxwell was moved and seconded by republican senators (the senate being republican by a large majority), who dwelt at length in their speeches upon his abilities, fitness and integrity for so responsible an office. And as a high mark of universal esteem his confirmation was made unanimous.
Superintendent Maxwell is an example of what can be accomplished, under a popular form of government, toward self-elevation, and the recognition of capacity and honesty by the public at large. Firm in his convictions, nothing has ever prevented, as far as he was concerned individually, the carrying out in practice whatever he believed in as a principle. Successful in early manhood as a teacher, his mercantile ventures in after years brought him a comfortable competency; and thus far, in his services as a state official, he has exercised the prudent carefulness which had ever been bestowed upon his individual interests in private life.
In contemplating publications from a non-partisan stand-point, we shall find that the name of Robert A .Maxwell stands in the first rank among those officials who, for honesty integrity of character and nobleness of purpose, have reflected the brightest lustre upon the empire state.