Fessenden, William Pitt (1806–1869)

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A Maine lawyer, congressman (1841–1843; 1853–1854), senator (1854–1864; 1865–1869), and secretary of the treasury (1864–1865), William Pitt Fessenden chaired the Senate Finance Committee during the civil war and later the Joint Committee on Reconstruction. Although sympathetic to many radical goals, Fessenden always demanded strict adherence to constitutional principles. Thus, he opposed aspects of the emancipation proclamation, the legal tender acts, the confiscation acts, and the tenure of office act. Although Senate majority leader, he voted to acquit andrew johnson in his 1867 impeachment trial, because he did not believe the President had committed an impeachable offense within the meaning of the Constitution.

Paul Finkelman


Jellison, Charles Albert 1962 Fessenden of Maine, Civil War Senator. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press.