The Count Out Part 1

December 20, 1879 - January 12, 1880

    With tensions still high after a contested presidential election in 1877, as well as contested elections in Southern states like South Carolina and Louisiana, a close election in Maine had potential for igniting all out bloodshed.1
    With no one winning the required number of votes the task of electing a governor would fall on the legislature. The Republicans appeared to have the majority in the legislature, however, the outgoing governor, Alonzo Garcelon, disqualified some votes on technicalities turning the Republican majority into a minority. James G. Blaine, the Republican party boss, while professing to be opposed to using force and arms organized indignation meetings that roused the citizens to want just that. See page 9 - 12 and 48.
   The departing governor fearing mob violence called for guns to be brought to Augusta. The town of Bangor, where the Whig and Courier was published, also housed a state arsenal. The local citizens vehemently protested the weapons being removed, but after a Christmas day standoff the guns were sent on to Augusta.
    In the first days of the crisis while the outgoing governor was still in place Chamberlain stayed out of the affair, his only action was his refusal to hold an indignation meeting in Brunswick despite Blaine's request. Chamberlain replied to Blaine on December 29th in a letter that reads in part,
"As to the indignation meeting proposed here, it was my opinion that demonstrations of that sort had already been sufficient to impress upon the Governor the sate of public feeling; and that what we now need to do is not to add to popular excitement which is likely to result in disorder and violence, but to aid in keeping the peace by inducing our friends to speak and act as sober and law abiding citizens.
    In my opinion there is danger that our friends may take some step which would put them in the wrong. That would be very bad. If wrong is to be done, let the responsibility of it rest with those who do it, and do not let those who are aggrieved seek redress in a way to shift upon themselves the burden of wrongdoing.
    I depreciate all suggestions of bloodshed in the settlement of the question. Not only would that resort be deplorable, but the suggestion of it is demoralizing. I cannot bear to think of our fair and orderly state plunged into the horrors of a civil war.
    I hope you can do all you can to stop the incendiary talk which proposes violent measures, and is doing great harm to our people. I cannot believe that you sympathize with this, and I am sure your great influence can be made to avail much now to preserve peace and respect for the law. 2
For an interview with Chamberlain done by a correspondent from the New York Herald see pages 63 - 66.
    Upon assuming command of the Militia, one of Chamberlain's first actions was sending the weapons safely back into storage. The Whig and Courier, a paper who only months before was attempting to discredit Chamberlain over his Lewiston Address was suddenly wholeheartedly behind him. With a mob of citizens in their office cheering Chamberlain's name as the guns were returned, it is understandable why the paper decided to change its tune.
    Page 111 - 112 an unnamed Republican politician regrets not taking the capital by force when the had the chance and "the force here to do it too." When the Herald corespondent asked "But what would General Chamberlain do?" The politician answered, "Oh, he would be all right."
    Chamberlain would probably not have been all right as Nelson Dingley would recall in his book The Life and Times of Nelson Dingley, Jr. page 169,
"Some of the members of the Republican advisory committee were in favor of the use of force. Mr. Blaine was among them; and he was somewhat out of patience with Gen. Chamberlain because the latter did not use force at the outset. Thomas W. Hyde was sent by Mr. Blaine to Gen. Chamberlain to inform the latter that the Republican leaders had decided to ' pitch the fusionists out the window.'
    'Tom,' said Gen. Chamberlain., 'you are as dear to me as my own son. But I will permit you to do nothing of the kind. I am going to preserve the peace. There is to be no fighting. I want you and Mr. Blaine and the others to keep away from this building.'"


Continue to Count Out Part 2

1www.rbhayes.org
2 Pullen, John J. Joshua Chamberlain: A Hero's Life & Legacy pg. 85 - 86.