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Garret Davis (American National Biography)

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Robert M. Ireland, "Davis, Garret," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00296.html.

In December 1861 Davis's passionate nature paid off when the Kentucky legislature elected him to the U.S. Senate, in part because of his energetic activities on behalf of the Union. In the spring of 1861 he had served as Abraham Lincoln's agent in the distribution of rifles to Union partisans in Kentucky. During the early stages of his senatorial career, he continued his spirited embrace of Lincoln and the Union. However, as the conflict grew more radical in nature and came to encompass emancipation as an objective, Davis, a slave owner, abandoned his commitment to the president and his policies. In early 1864 he introduced resolutions in the Senate that described Lincoln and his supporters as destroyers of the Constitution who were violating civil liberties, plundering the treasury, and perpetuating the spoils system. So intemperate were these resolutions that they nearly resulted in Davis's expulsion from the Senate. His bigotry and sarcasm also were in evidence when he offered an amendment to the proposed Thirteenth Amendment, which, if adopted, would have denied U.S. citizenship to African Americans and consolidated the states of New England into two states, East and West New England (the latter proposal doubtless being a tongue-in-cheek attempt to reduce the political power of a region of "radical" Yankees). He likewise strenuously opposed the involvement of the Union army in state elections, a growing controversy in his home state.

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