Publication Date


Document Type


First Page


Last Page



Almost forgotten today, Israel Washburn, Jr. was one of the greatest political leaders to come out of Maine. Washburn was a self-taught country lawyer in Orono. He won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as 11 Whig in 1850 and served four additional terms. In Congress, he challenged southern control of the federal government, especially in matters pertaining to the protection and expansion of slavery. Discouraged by the passage of the K11nsas-Nebraska Bill, he and others sparked the political revolt among northerners and westerners that resulted in the formation of the Republican Party. Washburn was elected governor of Maine in 1860 and when the war broke out, he led an unprecedented effort to support and strengthen the federal government, despite the loss of state power that this entailed. His leadership helped keep his party and his state committed to the cause that saved the Union. Kerck Kelsey is historian for the Washburn-Norlands Living History Center in Livermore. A frequent writer and lecturer about the Washburns, he is author of Israel Washburn, Jr., Maine's Little-Known Giant of the Civil War (2004). He is a great, great, grandson of Israel's brother, Cadwallader. A graduate of Princeton and Harvard, he lives in Freeport, where he is currently working on a new book about all ten of the Washburn siblings.