Fessenden of Maine, Civil War Senator

Fessenden of Maine, Civil War Senator

Fessenden of Maine, Civil War Senator

Fessenden of Maine, Civil War Senator

Excerpt

Among the national statesmen of the middle years of the past century, few played a more significant role than William Pitt Fessenden of Maine. Entering the United States Senate in February of 1854 during the convulsive Kansas-Nebraska debate, he almost at once rose to a place of leadership among that small band of anti-Nebraska Congressmen who soon after swung their support to the infant Republican party. From that time until his death in 1869 Senator Fessenden occupied a commanding position in national councils, where his powerful intellect, his mastery in debate, and his unquestioned integrity caused him to be considered by many of his colleagues as the foremost legislator of his day.

Despite the high standing he claimed among his contemporaries, however, Fessenden has been relegated by time to an undeserved obscurity. Even the most dedicated historians of the Civil War period have tended to give him only meagre attention, with the result that no satisfactory account of Fessenden's life and political activities has ever been prepared, save for a valuable but in many respects inadequate biography of the Senator written by his son some fifty years ago. It is the purpose of this book, then, to assuage this lack and to sketch within the limits of restricted space and time the outlines of the private and public life of Fessenden of Maine. To accomplish this, primary reliance has been placed upon manuscript materials, most especially upon the Senator's private papers, which have hitherto remained largely inaccessible to historians.

The story of Fessenden is the story of integrity and ability in politics. Reared and educated in a strongly Federalist and puritanical . . .

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