(7:30 pm - Berwick Academy)
James Sullivan, a son of Old Berwick, was an economic visionary, an early supporter of religious freedom, and by 1807, the first Jeffersonian governor of Massachusetts. Yet few historians have given him the recognition he deserves. In this program, Daniel L. Breen will discuss Sullivan's lively and colorful career, and assess his significance in the politics of the early republic.
From the beginning of the Revolution to Jefferson's Embargo, there was hardly a political event in Massachusetts in which James Sullivan did not play a significant part. Dan's lecture will take us on a tour of Sullivan's career, from his youth in Berwick to his early days practicing law in remote Georgetown, Maine, his risky service during the Revolution, his role in the state convention that ratified the Constitution and his long stint as Attorney General, in which he prosecuted some of the most celebrated murder cases in Massachusetts history. Through it all, and despite serious physical disabilities, Sullivan somehow found the time and energy to lead the effort to construct the Middlesex Canal, which marked the beginning of the Transportation Revolution in the United States.
During the gubernatorial campaigns of 1804 to 1807, Sullivan, the Republican nominee in each of those annual elections, endured a withering series of attacks from the Federalist Party press, even as he had to deal with heartbreaking tragedies in his family life. He finally won the governorship in 1807, and while fate gave him little more than a year to enjoy his new-found authority, he ought to stand before us as an inspiring example of what sheer determination, an early appreciation of the value of education, and a knack for discerning public opinion can accomplish in American political life.
While having family roots in Kingfield, Maine, Dan Breen grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and received his BA in History from the University of Wisconsin, before going on to acquire a Ph.D. in American History from Boston College. Having received a law degree from the University of Georgia, he teaches Legal Studies at Brandeis Univ., in addition to teaching History full-time at Newbury College, in Brookline, MA. Dan's primary interest is Massachusetts's politics in the era of the Early Republic. Later this year, he will be publishing an article on the 1806 gubernatorial election in the Journal of the North End Historical Association.
The program will be held on Thursday, November 20, starting at 7:30 pm at Berwick Academy's Jeppesen Science Center on Academy Street. The public is invited, and volunteers will serve refreshments. Donations are welcome. This lecture is one of many 2014 Bicentennial events to be organized by the Old Berwick Historical Society and other community organizations.