Saturday, December 04, 2010

Doing My Duty


Without a great deal of formal law training, [Abraham Davenport] was many times appointed judge of the Fairfield County Court, the Maritime Court of Fairfield County and as Stamford’s Judge of Probate. Throughout the American Revolution he served on Governor Jonathan Trumbull’s Council of Safety, “which for all practical purposes ran … [Connecticut] … on a day-to-day basis.” He was both a state and local leader with a gift of forming laws. Abraham’s character was firm, even stern, constant in his dedication to his responsibilities concerning all of community and church life, which at this time were a single entity. Nothing embodies this better than his role during New England’s famous Dark Day—a day where the skies of the Northeast, for no explicable reason remained almost completely dim. Davenport’s resolve during this troubling time is described by Timothy Dwight of Yale in his Travels in New England and New York, published 1822.
“The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkably dark day. Candles were lighted in many houses; the birds were silent and disappeared; and the fowls retired to roost. The legislature of Connecticut was then in session at Hartford. A very general opinion prevailed that the Day of Judgment was at hand. The House of Representatives, being unable to transact their business, adjourned. A proposal to adjourn the Council [Senate or Upper House] was under consideration. When the opinion of Col. Davenport was asked, he answered, ‘I am against an adjournment. The Day of Judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”
 And so the State Senate continued working on legislation by candlelight until later in the afternoon, when the darkness eventually dissipated, permitting sunlight to return. The cause of this strange occurrence has never been conclusively determined by scholars, but the theory of smoke emerging from a vast forest fire in Canada has been suggested. Over the years Abraham Davenport’s example of calmness and fortitude during a period of uncertainty and darkness has inspired many on local, state and national levels of public life.

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