Biography by the Chamberlain Association of America
This sketch has some similarities to the 1890 autobiography
that Chamberlain drafted but never published.
It is likely that it is that autobiography that is referred to as the materials provided by Chamberlain in the opening note.
This account however leaves out Chamberlain's descriptions of overcoming stuttering as a child,
as well as his account of nearly being expelled from Bowdoin when he refused to give up the names of students who had been drinking.
The rest of this biography was gathered from sources other than Chamberlain, as the 1903 meeting notes explain:
"For the present we are obliged to pass by an account of the military career of our president, Major-General
Joshua L. Chamberlain, -he having absolutely refused to furnish any information for the purpose, as he pleases to call it,
of 'booming' himself. He will not however be able to escape a future notice; for his record is already read the world over."
Another intentional omission in this sketch is explained in the pamphlet The Twelve Days at Augusta.
"As no authentic account has hitherto been given of General Chamberlain's part in securing a peaceful settlement of the political disturbances at the time of
the lapse of civil government in Maine at the opening of the year 1880, the article prepared for the sketch of him in the recently published
report of the Chamberlain Association of America contained some details of this point which had been carefully gathered from original records
and testimony. These however, where found to require so much space that the article was shorn of much of this matter before it was used. "1
One slight error occurs on page 9, where it is stated that Chamberlain was injured after Gettysburg, he in fact was sick.
This biography raises some questions on how Chamberlain felt towards the notion of suffrage.
It states, "He was in some disfavor with his party because he did not approve the policy of conferring the privilege of the suffrage on
the lately liberated slaves."
This statement is strange for in his first inaugural address as Governor of Maine
Chamberlain is apparently displeased with the 14th Amendment for not giving African American's the right to vote.2
And in 1869 he compliments his party on staying strong to their mission "for the enfranchisement of man."3
It appears from the line, "best minds of the South" that the author uses Chamberlain's speech "Loyalty"
(mentioned on page 80) as a source.
It is possible that it was also this speech that aroused suspicions of Chamberlain's beliefs on reconstruction among his own party before he was
elected governor, this may be the "disfavor" author is referring to.
The doubt raised in people's minds about Chamberlain's stand on reconstruction prompted him to write a letter clarifying his views. See: Gubernatorial Race Clippings.
This letter along with testimony by political party leaders that Chamberlain had voted faithfully with the Republican party since 1856
- in spite of his father's strong Democratic party sentiments - led the Republican party to fully embrase him as a gubernatorial candidate.
It also led Republican party leader James Blaine to declare, "We can influence the public opinion of Maine; can send a united Republican delegation to Congress;
we can give a lage popular majority to our gallant candidate for Governor [General Chamberlain],
who represents the aggregate Republican opinion of the State on all the issues involved."4
At the time this sketch was published the Dunning School of thought was taking hold. William Dunning, a historian and professor at Columbia, wrote several papers on reconstruction,
in one, "The Undoing of Reconstruction" that appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in 1901, Dunning states, "But exploitation of the poverty, ignorance, credulity, and general
childishness of the blacks was supplemented, on occasion, by deliberate and high handed fraud."5
His belief that reconstruction governments were corrupt and giving blacks the vote had been a serious error would become a popular view well into the 1950s.
The author of the sketch possibly wished to portray Chamberlain as having opposed suffrage because of the popular views of that time.
While Chamberlain always suggets he believes in suffrage and cheered its cause on, we do know however, that Chamberlain disagreed with his party on
the legality of enforcing suffrage after Reconstruction had ended, as
we can see here: The Old Flag
This biography also states, "He encountered still stronger denunciations by his support of Senator Fessenden's course in the
impeachment of President Johnson."
There is evidence that Chamberlain was opposed to censuring
Fessenden for voting against impeachment. Fessenden a strong anti-slavery man was not motivated by concerns about reconstruction in the South,
but rather opposed the Tenure of Office Act and stood behind the president.
Regardless of his opinion on the impeachment, Chamberlain made it clear before he was elected governor that
he sided with Congress and not Johnson on the issue of reconstruction in the South, and after his election he continued to meet with
Governors and politicians who opposed Johnson.6
After Fessenden's death in 1869 Chamberlain gave a brief eulogy of him in his 1870 inaugural address where he praised
Fessenden for his stand.7
Perhaps it was this act that fueled a hatred of Chamberlain in his own party,
if this is true, that ill will did not spill out into public view.
Whether or not these statements were true, they both made it into President Hyde's Eulogy
for Chamberlain which was most likely
written from information in this sketch.8