All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Jefferson Davis Spends the Summer in Maine

Among the many interesting Maine Stories at ImagineMaine is one about Jefferson Davis' trip to Maine in 1858—three years before he became President of the Confederacy.
During the first week of August, Davis ventured along the midcoast to Brunswick where he was invited to Bowdoin's week long graduation celebration. There, on August 5th, mere yards from the house in which Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote that seminal cause of the Civil War, Uncle Tom's Cabin, the college conferred upon Davis an honorary doctor of laws degree. A second honorary LL.D was awarded to Maine's Senator William Pitt Fessenden. An interesting set of comparisons can be made: both were US Senators, tall, thin, intellectual; one was from Maine and one from the South, one Republican and the other a Democrat, and, of course, one was an abolitionist and the other a slaveowner. Reportedly, the two got along famously. In general, the press loved it, but the Portland Advertiser, a Republican newspaper, took the opportunity to complain about the honors awarded Davis. The paper called it a "prostitution of the honors". [Link]
Brunswick was also, of course, home to Joshua Chamberlain—a Bowdoin professor and, in 1865, the man who would formally accept the surrender of Confederate weapons and colors at Appomattox.

Project Gutenburg has a collection of speeches Davis delivered on his controversial visit.

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