Beriah Magoffin was born on April 18, 1815 in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, the son of Beriah and Jane (McAfee) Magoffin. His father was a merchant and an immigrant from County Down, Ireland, and his mother was the daughter of Samuel McAfee, a prominent pioneer in early Kentucky.
Magoffin's early education was obtained in the common schools of Harrodsburg. In 1835, he graduated from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky.
Magoffin returned to Kentucky in 1839 due to an illness. He continued his legal practice in Harrodsburg, and was appointed police judge by Governor Robert Letcher in 1840.
On April 21, 1840, he married Anna Nelson Shelby. Shelby was the granddaughter of Kentucky's first and fifth governor, Isaac Shelby. Ten of the couple's children survived infancy.
- a constitutional amendment repealing any state law that interfered with enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act,
- passage of amendments to the Fugitive Slave Act ensuring that any state that would not return a fugitive slave or obstructed a slave's return would compensate the owner of the slave,
- passage of a law requiring extradition of anyone indicted by a grand jury for enticing the escape of a slave,
- passage of an amendment to the constitution guaranteeing slavery in all current and future territories south of 36 degrees north latitude,
- passage of an amendment to the constitution guaranteeing all states the right of using the Mississippi River,
- and provide protection for southern states in the U.S. Senate from oppressive slavery legislation.
|Cartoon about Magoffin's Neutrality|
Frankfort Aug 19 1861
From the commencement of the unhappy hostilities now pending in the country, the people of Kentucky, have indicated an earnest desire and purpose, as far as lay in their power, while maintaining their original political status, to do nothing by which to involve themselves in the war. Up to this time they have succeeded in securing to themselves and to the state peace and tranquility as the fruits of the policy they adopted-- My single object now is to promote the continuance of those blessings to the people of this State.
Until within a brief period, the people of Kentucky were quiet and tranquil, free from domestic strife and undisturbed by internal commotion. They have resisted no law, rebelled against no authority, engaged in no revolution, but constantly proclaimed their firm determination to pursue their peaceful avocations, earnestly hoping that their own soil would be spared the presence of armed troops, and that the scene of conflict would be kept removed from beyond the borders of their state. By thus avoiding all occasions for the introduction of bodies of armed soldiers and offering no provocations for the presence of military force the people of Kentucky have sincerely striven to preserve in this state domestic peace and avert the calamities of sanguinary engagements.
Recently a large body of soldiers have been enlisted in the United States Army and collected in military camps in the central portions of Kentucky. This movement was preceded by the active organization of companies, Regiments &c, consisting of men sworn into the United States service under officers holding commissions from yourself. Ordnance arms, and munitions and supplies of war are being transported into the state and placed in large quantities in these camps In a word an Army is now being organized and quartered within this state supplied with all the appliances of war, without the advice or consent of the Authorities of the State and without consultation of with those most prominently known and recognized as loyal citizens. This movement now imperils that peace and tranquility, which from the beginning of our pending difficulties, have been the paramount desire of this people and which up to this time they have secured to the state.
Within Kentucky there has been and is likely to be no occasion for the presence of military force. The people are quiet and tranquil, feeling no apprehension of any occasion arising to invoke protection from the Federal arm. They have asked that their soil territory be left free from military occupation, and the present tranquility of their communities left uninvaded by soldiers. They do not desire that Kentucky shall be required to supply the battle-fields for the contending Armies or become the theatre of the war.
Now there fore, as Governor of the State of Kentucky and in the name of the people whom I have the honor to represent and with the single and earnest desire to avert from their peaceful homes the horrors of war, I urge the removal from the limits of Kentucky of the military forces now organized and in camp within the state. If such action as is hereby urged, be promptly taken, I firmly believe, the peace of the people of Kentucky will be preserved and the horror of a bloody war will be averted from a people now peaceful and tranquil.
I am very Respectfully.Your obedient servant.
|Magoffin's Letter to Lincoln|
In early September 1861, both federal and Confederate troops entered Kentucky. Magoffin declared both sides equally guilty of violating Kentucky's neutrality and demanded that both sides withdraw. A resolution calling for immediate withdrawal by both Union and Confederate forces was defeated in the legislature. Instead, the legislature passed a resolution ordering only the Confederate troops out of the state. Magoffin vetoed the resolution, but his veto was overridden. He issued the order for the Confederates to withdraw.
Magoffin and the legislature continued to clash throughout the remainder of 1861 and into 1862. They found agreement only on the most menial of legislation, such as a bill to allow the common schools to continue the sessions that had been interrupted by the outbreak of hostilities in 1861. He found particularly onerous a bill forfeiting the citizenship of anyone who fought for or aided the Confederacy, but in March 1862, his veto of the bill was overridden. Magoffin also opposed the military rule of General Jeremiah Boyle, who he believed was violating the civil rights of states' rights advocates, even if they did not advocate secession.
Calls by the legislature for Magoffin's resignation had begun as early as September 1861. On August 16, 1862, Magoffin declared his willingness to resign on the condition that he be allowed to choose his successor. Because Lieutenant Governor Linn Boyd had died in office in 1859, Speaker of the Senate John F. Fisk was next in line for the governorship. Magoffin refused to accept Fisk as his successor, so Fisk resigned as speaker and the senate elevated Magoffin's choice, James F. Robinson, to speaker. Magoffin resigned as governor on August 18, 1862, and Robinson assumed the office of governor for the remainder of Magoffin's term.
“WHAT ATTITUDE SHALL KENTUCKY OCCUPY IN THIS DEPLORABLE CONFLICT. LOOKING TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES, THE NATURE OF OUR INSTITUTIONS AND THE CAUSE OF THIS WAR, I THINK KENTUCKY HAS A RIGHT TO ASSUME A NEUTRAL POSITION.”
|3rd Side of Monument|