Report of the President
In the annual report to the trustees and overseers of Bowdoin College the president gave this brief eulogy to Chamberlain. It can also be seen in the Bowdoin Orient
President Hyde states,
"When leaders of his party advocated the impeachment of the President; the protracted agitation of sectional differences; and immediate suffrage for the emancipated negroes, he stood firmly,
sagaciously and self-sacrificingly for more moderate and pacific measures..."
In 1867 Chamberlain had been elected to office on the grounds that he aligned himself with Congress against the President. His party platform "declared for equal civil and political rights for
all men, favored the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment and highly praised the Union Republican majority in Congress."1
James Blaine even made mention of Chamberlain's suport for the party platform in an 1866 speech calling him "our gallant candidate for Governor.2
In all of the available documents there does not appear to be evidence of Chamberlain coming out against suffrage.
On the contrary in his first inaugural address
it is seen that the only displeasure he had for the 14th Amendment was that it did not go far enough and give
African Americans the vote.
Hyde goes on to say,
"...measures which subsequent history has shown to be far more beneficent than those which in the flush of military victory, the head of
party strife, and the fire of personal ambition unfortunately prevailed."
At the time of Hyde's eulogy the Dunning School of thought had taken hold. Historians of the day believed that conferring suffrage on the
African Americans had been a mistake. Showing Chamberlain as against his party on that issue was intended to be a complement to Chamberlain.
Hyde most likely used the 1905 Biography
when composing this eulogy and the notion that
Chamberlain was against suffrage could have come from that.
Aside from that biography there are two speeches Chamberlain wrote
after the Compromise of 1877 that mention suffrage. In The Old Flag
"But some say we cannot have peace here because the negroes do not have good treatment in the South, and because the Rebels are back again in Congress.
The negroes are abused in the South, it is true, but so are the Chinese in California, so are 40,000 poor girls in London, so are the Indians. We must do the best we can
for the negroes. While I am sorry that they cannot vote without interruption, I want to ask if that is the thing for which all that toil and sacrifice was given, for which the best blood in all
the land made those mountains and rivers and fields immortal, that the negroes might have no one to stop them in going to the polls. For my part - if I am to die for it - I think it was something else,
something a long way before that..."
and then he goes on to say,
"But there are some who seem not willing to have peace unless they can have their way with it; nor even victory,
unless the spoils of victory are theirs. And for that and no noble end, they are willing to stir up the dregs of anguish in the nation's soul and rouse the beast in man,
that he would feign outgrow. Let us not assist at such a spectacle. If the Kings of death and terror have finished their awful banquet I will not wait to see the
court fools' mockery. The great tragedy that has run our hearts, let it close without a farce."
In his Boothbay speech
a year latter he appears a bit more soft spoken on the issue but still urges, "The change must come not chiefly through the Federal armies but the courts. The juries I know
full well are prejudiced but we must be patient and time will do the work."
So it can be seen that Chamberlain did not believe he fought a war for the enfranchisement of African Americans, not a cause, but as he called it in his inaugural address "a fruit of our victory."
And it can be seen that he did not want to start a new war over the issue several years later.