Daniel Henry Chamberlain

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Date: 1936
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Biography
Length: 613 words
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1180L

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About this Person
Born: June 23, 1835 in West Brookfield, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 13, 1907 in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States
Nationality: American
Occupation: Governor (U.S. state government)
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Chamberlain, Daniel Henry (June 23, 1835 - Apr. 13, 1907), governor of South Carolina, was the ninth child of Eli and Achsah (Forbes) Chamberlain. As a boy he worked on the farm of his birth at West Brookfield, Mass., and attended in desultory fashion the country schools. Later he had fragmentary experiences with several secondary schools, in 1849-50 at Amherst Academy, in 1854 at Phillips Academy, Andover, and for more than one session, at Worcester High School, where he graduated in 1857. The next year he taught, as he had done intermittently since 1852. In 1858 he entered Yale. His diploma, which he received four years later, indicated special distinction in oratory and English composition. At the Harvard Law School, to which he went in the same fall, he was restless, and, withdrawing in November 1863, he received his commission as lieutenant in the 5th Massachusetts, a regiment of colored troops. In December 1865, he was mustered out as captain. Visiting South Carolina in 1866 to settle the affairs of a dead classmate, he thought he saw opportunity to earn money to repay what he had borrowed for his education. Although cottonplanting on John's Island proved unprofitable, he remained in the state. In 1867 he was chosen a member for Berkeley County of the constitutional convention. Before this body opened in January 1868, he had returned North to marry, on Dec. 16, Alice Ingersoll of Bangor. In the motley convention he gained some prominence as a member of the judiciary committee and earned the favor of party leaders. In the April election of 1868 he was chosen attorney-general. Nothing of his record in this office was notable, but in the most corrupt quadrennium of South Carolina history, though an ex-officio member of several thieving boards, he was never charged with personal dishonesty.

After two years of law practise in Columbia, Chamberlain in 1874 won first the nomination and then the election for governor of the state. Immediately undertaking the reforms which he had promised to effect, he reduced public expenditures, revised taxation and assessment laws, eliminated abuse of the pardoning power, and curbed sharply the predatory aspirations of the state boards. His most conspicuous work was his refusal, often in the face of party insistence, to commission corrupt officials. The whites of the state gave for a time indorsement to his administration. Charleston publicly thanked him in 1875 for barring from the bench Whipper and Moses, elected by the legislature.

In the summer of 1876, looking toward renomination, he aligned himself again with the unworthy faction of his party. He also adopted stern measures in connection with racial clashes, especially the Hamburg riot of July. His support among Democrats weakened; and though a minority of the August Democratic convention urged his claim, Wade Hampton was nominated. The contest, unprecedentedly bitter, was marked by charges and counter-charges. Both sides claimed victory. Chamberlain was inaugurated on Dec. 7, and a few days later Hampton was sworn in by a rival government. The issue was not settled until April when President Hayes, having called a conference of the competing governors, withdrew the federal troops. His government having fallen, Chamberlain engaged in law practise in New York. Honored by Cornell with appointment as non-resident professor of constitutional law in 1883, he continued an active life until 1897 when he sought retirement on the old homestead at West Brookfield. The death of a son in 1902 made that residence unhappy. Chamberlain spent a few months in South Carolina, had a year in Europe, returned for a brief stay near Charleston, lived twenty months in Egypt, and in 1906 settled at Charlottesville, Va., where he spent his remaining days.


[Biographical data are found in a prefatory note to Chamberlain's "Some Conclusions of a Free-Thinker," North Am. Rev., Oct. 1907, and in the Allen, Thompson, and Reynolds references below. The standard defense of Chamberlain is Walter Allen, Chamberlain's Administration in S. C. (1888). Less friendly appraisals are: E. L. Godkin, "The Republican Party in S. C.," Nation, Apr. 19, 1877; John S. Reynolds, Reconstruction in S. C. (1905); Henry T. Thompson, Ousting the Carpet-Bagger (1926); and F. A. Porcher, "The Last Chapter in Reconstruction in S. C." in Southern Hist. Soc. Papers, vols. XII, XIII. The Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 1877, had an anonymous résumé, "Political Conditions of S. C."; the same journal for Apr. 1901 carried Chamberlain's "Reconstruction in S. C."]

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Gale Document Number: GALE|BT2310016270