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 Posted: Sat Feb 16th, 2013 02:11 pm
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MildMan
Just Testing Ideas
 

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Interesting note. I

During the summer of 1858 Jefferson Davis visited Maine for health reasons and was conferred an Honorary Degree at Bowdoin College. It was common for the most prestigious college in Maine to give such degrees to visiting dignitaries. By many accounts, most Mainers were impressed with Davis. He gave impromptu speeches at the Maine Democratic Convention and at the annual Maine Militia Muster. I have read his speeches, which emphasized the constitutional protection of slavery. Republican newspapers, of course were not so sanguine about his visit, his speeches and his political positions.

Bowdoin was also the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Joshua Chamberlain. To balance those opposed to giving Davis a degree, Maine’s radical republican congressman and abolitionist, William Pitt Fessenden, also received a degree that day. When the confederacy was established there was a public outcry to rescind Davis’s honorary degree. Trustees at Bowdoin, despite their political leanings, refused and took much criticism for this. They argued that the degree was conferred for actions up to the day it was conferred, and once conferred, it could not be rescinded. After the war Davis wrote the college to thank them for their position. Davis’s name is included on a tablet in Memorial Hall with 18 other Bowdoin graduates who fought for the confederacy. Some 25% of graduates fought in the war, obviously mostly for the Union. Although US Grant was conferred a degree on August 1, 1865, he is not listed in Memorial Hall because technically, he was not a Bowdoin graduate until after the war.

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