Governor Edward Kavanagh
A Collection of Biographical Sketches of all the Governors since the formation of the State.
Prepaired under the direction of Henry Chase
Portland, ME.
The Lakeside Press, Publisher

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OF the long line of able men who have honorably discharged the dtities of Chief Magistrate of the State of Maine, none was more worthy the confidence and esteem of the people than Edward Kavanagh, whose life and public services are perhaps less known to the people of this generation than those of any of his contemporaries in political life. James Kavanagh, a native of New Ross in Wexford County, Ireland, married Sarah Jackson of Boston, and about one hundred years ago took up his residence at Damariscotta Mills. Edward, son of Jamds and Sarah Kavanagh, was born April 27, 1795.

Edward Kavanagh was reared in the Roman Catholic faith, was educated at the Jesuit Colleges in Montreal and Georgetown, and was graduated from St. Mary’s College, in Baltimore, in 1813. James Kavanagh came to Maine in co-partnership with Matthew Cottrill, a fellow-countryman, and they conducted a general mercantile, lumbering, and ship-building business at Damariscotta Mills for a little more than twenty years, when the firm of Kavanagh & Cottrill was dissolved, and Kavanagh formed a business connection with his son, Edward, which was styled James Kavanagh & Son. The years immediately following the Napoleonic Wars were not favorable for new business ventures. It was found that the tastes of the son did not incline him to a mercantile life. Upon the establishment of peace in Europe, he visited the Continent and the British Isles. Returning home after an absence of about two years and soon after reaching his majority, he studied law and became a sound and reliable counselor in that profession. He was a member of the School Committee in the town of Newcastle for six years, and served as one of the Selectmen of that town for the years 1824 to 1827, inclusive.

His political career began with his election as a Representative to the Legislature of 1826. He served as Secretary of the Senate of Maine in 1830, and in 1831 Governor Smith appointed him, together with John G. I)eane of Ellsworth, to ascertain, under a resolve of the Legislature passed March 31, 1831, “the number of persons settled on the Public Lands, North of the line running West from the Monument, the manner in which they respectively hold the same.” This duty, which involved a long and toilsome journey from clearing to clearing through the northern wilderness, was performed in August, 1831, and was followed by a very full and valuable report of the settlements in the Madawaska country. Kavanagh was a Democrat in politics, and as such was elected a Representative to the Twenty-second Congress, and re-elected to the Twenty-third Congress by a large majority. In his candidacy for re-election in 1834 he was defeated by the Whig candidate, Jeremiah Bailey of Wiscasset.

President Jackson appointed him Chargé d’ Affairs of the United States at the Court of Her Most Faithful Majesty, the Queen of Portugal, in 1835, and he arrived at the Portuguese capital in July of that year. A more fitting representative at that Court could not well have been desired. Kavanagh was then in the prime of life. His extraordinary powers of mind were enriched by a liberal classical education and a familiarity with the modern languages. He was devoutly attached to his religious faith, which was that of the Court to which he was accredited. He possessed a grave and dignified demeanor and a courtly and polished address. These qualities and attainments, together with the knowledge of the manners and customs of European nations gained in his previous residence abroad and his long experience in public affairs, rendered him eminently worthy the honor conferred. The principal fruits of his labors as the representative of our government were a satisfactory settlement of many of the claims of American citizens, some of which had long been pending, and the conclusion of a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between the United States and Portugal. Close application to the duties of his station resulted in impaired health. He did not return home until 1840, when he had leave of absence for three months. In June, 1841, being again in the United States, he resigned and returned to his home in Maine.

Here, in the third Senatorial District, he was elected to the Senate of Maine fur the year 1842, and re-elected for the following year. The long contested northeastern boundary question came before the Legislature for the last time in 1842. Kavanagh became the chairman of the joint select committee to whom that subject was referred, and at the special session of the Legislature, in May, he was by that body. chosen one of the Commissioners to confer with the authorities of the National Government, at Washington, touching a conventional line between the State of Maine and the British Provinces. The result of that conference was the agreement upon a boundary line as defined in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842. On the resignation of Governor Fairfield, on the 7th of March, 1843, Kavanagh, who had been chosen President of the State Senate, was, by constitutional provision, elevated to the executive chair, the duties pertaining to which Station he discharged with his customary fidelity and conscientious regard for the public interest.

Governor Kavanagh did not marry. His home was the Kavanagh mansion, an elegant and spacious structure erected By his father in 1803, and situated near the foot of Damariscotta Pond. His last year was one of increasing ill health. He passed from this life on the 20th of January, His ashes repose with those of his kindred in St. Patrick’s Church-yard, in Newcastle, under the shadow of the cross that rises above the historic little church in which three generations of his family have worshipped.

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