- William P. Fessenden
Infobox US Cabinet official
name=William P. Fessenden
United States Secretary of the Treasury
term_start=July 5, 1864
term_end=March 3, 1865
Salmon P. Chase
jr/sr2=United States Senator
term_start2=February 10, 1854
term_end2=July 1, 1864
James W. Bradbury
Nathan A. Farwell
term_start3=March 4, 1865
term_end3=September 8, 1869
Nathan A. Farwell
Lot M. Morrill
Boscawen, New Hampshire, U.S.
death_date=death date and age|1869|9|8|1806|10|16
Portland, Maine, U.S.
party=Whig, Opposition, Republican
William Pitt Fessenden (October 16, 1806 – September 8, 1869) was an American politician from the
U.S. stateof Maine.
Fessenden was a Whig (later a Republican) and member of the Fessenden political family. He served in the
United States House of Representativesand Senate before becoming Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincolnduring the American Civil War.
Fessenden was born in
Boscawen, New Hampshire. He graduated from Bowdoin Collegeand became a lawyer, practicing with his father Samuel Fessenden, who was also a prominent anti-slavery activist. He was a founding member of the Maine Temperance Societyin 1827. [cite book |last=Rolde |first=Neal |title=Maine: A Narrative History |year=1990 |publisher=Harpswell Press |location=Gardiner, ME |id=ISBN 0-88448-069-0 |pages=175 ] He served four non-consecutive terms in the Maine House of Representatives, and he was elected for one term in the United States House of Representatives. He was elected in 1854, with the support of Whigs and Anti-Slavery Democrats, to the U.S. Senate. Upon taking office, he immediately began speaking against the Kansas-Nebraska Actand participated in the organization of the Republican Party, being re-elected to the Senate from that group in 1860.
Abraham Lincolnappointed Fessenden United States Secretary of the Treasuryupon Salmon P. Chase's resignation. He served from July 5, 1864 until March 3, 1865, when he resigned to take a seat in the Senate again.
From 1865 to 1867, he headed the
Joint Committee on Reconstruction, which was responsible for overseeing the readmission of states from the former Confederacy into the Union.
Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial, Fessenden broke party ranks, along with six other Republican senators, and in a courageous act of political suicide, voted for acquittal. These seven Republican senators were disturbed by how the proceedings had been manipulated in order to give a one-sided presentation of the evidence. Senators William P. Fessenden, Joseph S. Fowler, James W. Grimes, John B. Henderson, Lyman Trumbull, Peter G. Van Winkle[ [http://law.jrank.org/pages/13490/Andrew-Johnson-Trial.html "Andrew Johnson Trial: The Consciences of Seven Republicans Save Johnson".] ] , and Edmund G. Rossof Kansas, who provided the decisive vote [ [http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/john.htm "The Trial of Andrew Johnson, 1868".] ] , defied their party and public opinion and voted against conviction. As a result, a 35-19 vote in favor of removing the President from office failed by a single vote of reaching a 2/3rds majority.
He served as chairman of the Finance Committee during the 37th through 39th Congresses, which led to his Cabinet appointment. He also served as a chairman of the Committee on Public Buildings and Grounds during the 40th Congress, the Appropriations Committee during the 41st Congress and the
U.S. Senate Committee on the Library, also during the 41st Congress.
Following the close of the Civil War, which he helped finance on the Union side in cooperation with Lincoln, his predecessor
Salmon P. Chaseand members of the Congress, he was considered a moderate, rather than Radical, Republican.
He died in 1869 and was interred at Evergreen Cemetery in
Two of his brothers,
Samuel C. Fessendenand T. A. D. Fessenden, were also Congressmen. He had three sons who served in the American Civil War: Samuel Fessenden, killed at the Second Battle of Bull Run, and Brigadier-General James D. Fessendenand Major-General Francis Fessenden, the latter of whom wrote a two-volume biography of his father which was published in 1907.
* [http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=11883524 Charles A. Jellison. "Fessenden of Maine, Civil War Senator" (1962)] , the standard biography
* [http://www.mlwh.org/inside.asp?ID=88&subjectID=2 Biography at Lincoln's White House]
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