Inaugural Address 1867
In this address we see Chamberlain again using the metaphor of a raging sea to describe the war,
"The last surges of the civil war, whose fearful undertow sucked away our youth and strength,
have now subsided."
He perhaps was thinking also of himself when he said "We have looked our sorrows fairly in the face
and found that we could bear them."
The war was over but the recovery had only begun, Chamberlain addresses such issues as the ratification of the 14th Amendment, States Rights,
the war dept, paying for and raising a militia and what to do with returning deserters.
He also brings up the question of the death penalty, finding that other governors before him had failed
to carry out the death sentence ordered by the court, Chamberlain insists the law should be carried out
or repealed. This issue would spark controversy for Chamberlain in his later career as Governor.
While many Republicans were calling for an end to the notion of States Rights Chamberlain believed they had a place as long as
they were not in opposition to the Union.
The theory we have established is not that the nation is all and the States nothing; it is rather this, that on
all questions involving the rights and interests of all the States, we owe a paramount allegiance to the Union, in short
that the ultimate authority of the Government is not the will of each State as such, but in the People of the United States.
When discussing the 14th Amendment Chamberlain reveals that, like Thaddeus Stevens, he was not fully satisfied with it because,
while it gave African American's citizenship, it did not guarantee them the right to vote.
The Constitutional Amendment submitted to the people at the last session of Congress
has been received at the Executive Department, and it will become my duty to lay it before you.
Imperfect as this was, as hazarding one of the very fruits of our victory by placing it in the power of the
South to introduce into the Constitution a disability founded on race and color, still as it was the best wisdom of our
Representatives in Congress, and at least a step in the right direction, at the same time that it smoothed the way for
the returning South, and especially as it was the declared issue in the recent elections, good faith doubtless
requires us to support it.
Chamberlain fully realized that the Southern states would not ratify the Amendment.
Rather than being discouraged by this Chamberlain states hopefully,
"By their rejection of it the question will again become an open one. Our next proposal will not be less regardful of the
rights of humanity."
This appears to be mirroring James Blaine's sentiments from his speech in August the year before,
"I am often asked, during my canvas of the District, what Congress will do if the Southern States refuse to accept this
Fourteenth Amendment as a condition to their restoration to the Union. Of course, I am not in any sense empowered to answer that question:
I can only give you my own opinion, and assure you of my own action. My judgement is that if the Southern States
reject the Fourteenth Amendment and refuse to return to the Union subject to its conditions, they will be kept out until they
accept what to them will be a still harsher condition, but what to our view in Maine would be the more just condition, - of
accepting impartial manhood suffrage, without regard to creed, caste or color, as the basis of their re-admission to representation in Congress."1
Contenting himself with the amendment as written Chamberlain recognized more time would be needed before legislation
could be passed that would give African Americans the right to vote. But, while allowing that the issue would take more time to be
settled, he appears confident that the citizens of Maine will continue to push the issue. "So far as you have power, you will
not permit the issues practically settled by the war to slip back into a state of doubt or question nor that in this delivered
country manhood shall ever again be denied to man."