John Fairfield

John Fairfield

Saco, York County, Maine, USA
Death 24 Dec 1847 (aged 50)
Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA
Burial Saco, York County, Maine, USA
Memorial ID 7186565 · View Source
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Governor of Maine, US Congressman and Senator. Born in Saco, Maine, he attended Thorton Academy and Bowdoin College, was admitted to the bar in 1826, and returned to his hometown to set up law practice. In 1832 he was appointed Reporter of the State Supreme Court. Fairfield was an eloquent and popular member of the local Democratic Party and the rise of his political career was swift. He was elected to the Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth US Congresses, representing Maine's 1st District, and served from 1835 to 1838. Towards the end of his second term, his friend Congressman Jonathan Cilley was killed in a duel with William Graves, a Representative from Kentucky. Although it was considered bad form (not to mention dangerous) to bring such an incident before Congress, Fairfield demanded a full investigation of Cilley's death; the controversy led to the passage, in February 1839, of a Congressional law that prohibited dueling in the District of Columbia. By then Fairfield had resigned after winning election to the first of four terms as Maine Governor (1838 to 1841, 1842 to 1843). The key event of his administration was the Aroostook War, a bloodless confrontation between the US and Great Britain over territory claimed by Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. In January 1839 Fairfield authorized a posse to arrest Canadian timberers in the disputed Aroostook area, and when the posse leader was captured he ordered the State Milita to secure the region. The New Brunswick government responded by mobilizing an army to the north, with neighboring Quebec offering support, and Fairfield began construction of Fort Fairfield (now a town) to defend against a possible invasion. With the arrival of regular US troops under General Winfield Scott in May 1839, the Governor was persuaded to negotiate a truce with the British Canadians until a settlement was reached. The result was the Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842), which went beyond Maine to establish most of the US-Canada border. The incident made Fairfield nationally famous. In 1843 he ran for the US Senate to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Reuel Williams, and resigned the governorship upon his election; he was then reelected to a full term. During his time in the Senate he was Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs. Fairfield's death at 50 is believed to have resulted from medical error. Undergoing treatment for a chronic knee ailment, he was injected with a chemical solution that proved fatally toxic. His body was brought back to his native Saco for burial; there is also a cenotaph in his memory at Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 15 Feb 2003
  • Find a Grave Memorial 7186565
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for John Fairfield (30 Jan 1797–24 Dec 1847), Find a Grave Memorial no. 7186565, citing Laurel Hill Cemetery, Saco, York County, Maine, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .