Henig, Gerald S. Henry Winter Davis: Antebellum and Civil War Congressman from Maryland
. New York: Twayne Press, 1973.
Annotations / Notes: A sympathetic biography of a leading Maryland politician who died in 1866 at the early age of forty-eight. A gifted orator and political writer, and a passionate opponent of the Democratic Party, Davis initially associated with the Whig Party, which was popular in the north but less so in the south, just as it was in the throes of disintegration. He then aligned with the newly formed Know Nothing Party, whose primary appeal was nativism and anti-Catholicism, and was elected to Congress in 1855. He was a leading opponent of the Buchanan administration and an early supporter of Abraham Lincoln. Active in trying to stem the tide of secession and to keep Maryland in the Union, he hoped for a Cabinet position, but Montgomery Blair won the appointment. At odds with his constituents, he was defeated for re-election and his political career appeared to be ended. He became gradually disenchanted with Lincoln's leadership, and, after re-election to Congress as a Unconditional Unionist, he led the effort to reassert Congressional leadership over reconstruction policies. When the President pocket-vetoed the Wade-Davis bill, he issued a highly publicized protest manifesto and actively opposed Lincoln's renomination. During the 1864 campaign, however, he decided that the Democratic candidate, McClellan, was a greater threat, so he campaigned for the Republican ticket. Davis also played a decisive role in the writing and ratification of the Maryland constitution of 1864. Once again his radical position eroded his constituent base and he was not renominated for his Congressional seat.