Abraham Davenport (1715 – 20 November 1789) was an American politician who served in the Connecticut legislature during the American Revolution, and as a Colonel, in the Connecticut State Militia. He is famous for his response to New England's Dark Day, which many feared was a sign that the Last Judgment was approaching.
- I am against an adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.
- This well may be The Day of Judgment which the world awaits; But be it so or not, I only know my present duty, and my Lord’s command to occupy till He come. So at the post where He hath set me in His providence, I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face, no faithless servant frightened from my task, but ready when the Lord of the harvest calls; and therefore, with all reverence, I would say, let God do His work, we will see to ours. Bring in the candles.
- Several inhabitants have been killed and wounded, and nearly sixty within a short time carried into confinement and robbed of their property, and unless some protection is afforded, those who are of ability and inclination will retire into the country, and others will make their peace. The ardor of the people, (which is to be lamented,) has abated in consequence of their distresses, so that very little opposition is to be expected from them.
- Letter to George Washington, requesting military assistance against British attacks during the American Revolutionary War (August 1781).
Quotes about Davenport
- This section contains some replication of the quotes of Davenport presented above.
- Abraham Davenport was one of those solid men who participated in community, state and national affairs on every level simultaneously, from attending meetings as Selectman of Stamford to meetings of the august Connecticut Council of Safety which, having the powers of life and death and property confiscation, for all practical purposes ran the state on a day-to-day basis during the Revolution.
- J. Robert Bromley in Abraham Davenport, 1715 to 1789: A study of the man (1976) ISBN 087762187X .
- The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkable 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 was under consideration. When the opinion of Colonel 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 of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought."
- Timothy Dwight, in Connecticut Historical Collectons 2d ed (1836) compiled by John Warner Barber, p. 403.
- Colonel Davenport acquired property with diligence, and preserved it with frugality; and was by many persons supposed to regard it with an improper attachment. This, however, was a very erroneous opinion. Of what was merely ornamental, he was, I think, too regardless; but the poor found nowhere a more liberal benefactor nor the stranger a more hospitable host. I say this from personal knowledge acquired by a long continued and intimate acquaintance with him and his family.
- Timothy Dwight, as quoted in Abraham Davenport, 1715 to 1789: A study of the man (1976) by J. Robert Bromley.
- During the American Constitutional Convention, just before the convention, there was in Hartford, Conn., one day a storm which overcast the United States, and in that religious day men fell on their knees and begged a final blessing before the end came. The Connecticut House of Representatives was in session and many of the members clamored for immediate adjournment. The speaker of the house, one Colonel Davenport, came to his feet and he silenced the din with these words: "The day of judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for adjournment. If it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish, therefore, that candles may be brought."
I hope in a dark and uncertain period in our own country that we, too, may bring candles to help light our country's way.
- The famous Dark Day of New England, May 19, 1780, was a physical puzzle for many years to our ancestors, but its occurrence brought something more than philosophical speculation into the minds of those who passed through it. The incident of Colonel Abraham Davenport's sturdy protest is a matter of history.
- Whittier's preface to the poem in The Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf Whittier (1873).
- 'T was on a May-day of the far old year
Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell
Over the bloom and sweet life of the Spring,
Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,
A horror of great darkness, like the night
In day of which the Norland sagas tell, —
The Twilight of the Gods. The low-hung sky
Was black with ominous clouds, save where its rim
Was fringed with a dull glow, like that which climbs
The crater's sides from the red hell below.
Birds ceased to sing, and all the barn-yard fowls
Roosted; the cattle at the pasture bars
Lowed, and looked homeward; bats on leathern wings
Flitted abroad; the sounds of labor died;
Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp
To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter
The black sky, that the dreadful face of Christ
Might look from the rent clouds, not as he looked
A loving guest at Bethany, but stern
As Justice and inexorable Law.
Meanwhile in the old State House, dim as ghosts,
Sat the lawgivers of Connecticut,
Trembling beneath their legislative robes.
"It is the Lord's Great Day! Let us adjourn,"
Some said; and then, as if with one accord,
All eyes were turned to Abraham Davenport.
He rose, slow cleaving with his steady voice
The intolerable hush. "This well may be
The Day of Judgment which the world awaits;
But be it so or not, I only know
My present duty, and my Lord's command
To occupy till He come. So at the post
Where He hath set me in His providence,
I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face, —
No faithless servant frightened from my task,
But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls;
And therefore, with all reverence, I would say,
Let God do His work, we will see to ours.
Bring in the candles." And they brought them in.
- Wisely and well spake Abraham Davenport,
Straight to the question, with no figures of speech
Save the ten Arab signs, yet not without
The shrewd dry humor natural to the man
His awe-struck colleagues listening all the while,
Between the pauses of his argument,
To hear the thunder of the wrath of God
Break from the hollow trumpet of the cloud.
And there he stands in memory to this day,
Erect, self-poised, a rugged face, half seen
Against the background of unnatural dark,
A witness to the ages as they pass,
That simple duty hath no place for fear.