Beriah Magoffin, 1815-1885
Born in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, on April 18, 1815, Beriah Magoffin was governor of Kentucky during the secession crisis of 1860-1861. Beginning in the 1830s, after graduating from Centre College and Transylvania University, Magoffin pursued a legal career, which led him to politics. Throughout the 1850s, he was prominent in Democratic politics, and in 1859, he was elected governor of Kentucky. Although a supporter of slavery and states' rights, Magoffin rejected both the Union and the Confederacy during the secession crisis. Instead, he led Kentucky into a policy of armed neutrality. In April 1861, following the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter and Lincoln's call for volunteers, Magoffin famously telegraphed the president that Kentucky would not support "the wicked purpose of subduing my sister Southern states." In September 1861, the Confederate army invaded southwestern Kentucky and the Unionist state legislature repealed neutrality, siding with the North. For nearly a year, Magoffin attempted to govern the state, but he had little power, as the Unionist majority in the legislature had enough support to override his vetoes on most issues. Embattled and ineffective, Magoffin resigned the governorship on August 18, 1862. After the war, Magoffin served in the Kentucky House of Representatives and urged the state to accept the effects of the war, including civil rights for blacks. Magoffin died on February 28, 1885.
Lowell H. Harrison, "Beriah Magoffin," in The Kentucky Encyclopedia, ed. John E. Kleber (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1992), 603-4.