Notes Concerning the Author:
Edward Mayes (1846-1917) was married to L. Q. C. Lamar’s daughter, giving him much first-hand knowledge of Lucius, his family and his career. Mayes was a lawyer in Mississippi of considerable ability. He was born in Hinds County, Mississippi, in 1846, attended Bethany College, leaving to serve as a private in the War Between the States. He graduated from University of Mississippi in 1868 and then practiced law in Coffeeville and Oxford. In 1877, he taught law at University of Mississippi and served as its Chancellor from 1887 to 1891. He then taught law at Millsaps.
In his introduction to the Lamar biography, Mayes wrote, “My long-continued and intimate association with Mr. Lamar, which began in 1869 and ended only with his life, qualified me especially to collect the facts of his history and to understand and interpret much of his thoughts and designs which to any other who could be induced to assume the labor would be obscure or even incomprehensible.”
Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1825-1893) was born near Eatonton, Putnam County, Georgia. The baby’s grandfather, John Lamar, a prominent Georgia attorney and Judge, had given the same elaborate name to his son. So, technically, our subject was “Lamar, Junior.” But the father died when our subject was only 8 years old, so the boy grew up to be known as L. Q. C. Lamar in official actions and as Lucius among friends and family. By, the way, when our subject was ten years old, his uncle, Mirabeau Lamar, migrated to Spanish Texas and became a leader in the campaign for an independent nation of Texas, both in legal debate and on the battlefield. Like Sam Houston, with whom Mirabeau fought, our subject’s uncle rose to the office of President of the Republic of Texas.
At the age of 16 Lucius Lamar entered Emory College at Oxford, Georgia (not far from Atlanta). The years at Emory, from 1841 to 1845, made a big impact on our subject’s life. Emory was a Methodist school and its President was Rev. A. B. Longstreet, “eminent as a lawyer, judge, polemic, educator, and divine.” It was while Lucius was at Emory that the Methodist Church in America split into Northern and Southern Conferences, the consequence of actions in New England and elsewhere in the northern States by “Wesleyan’s,” who decided to deny membership by anyone who owned a slave. Rev. Longstreet of Emory was a leader in arranging the secession of southern Methodist churches and the formation of a southern Conference. But more important than witnessing first hand this historic event, was our subject’s marriage to Rev. Longstreet’s daughter Virginia in 1847. From this point forward Lamar would be very close to his in-laws and together they would migrate to Mississippi. Rev. Longstreet moved to Oxford, Mississippi first, in 1849, to “take charge of the State University.” A few months later Lucius also moved to Oxford and set up a law office.
In 1857 Lucius Lamar, a Democrat, was elected to the Federal House. He took his seat on December 1. He was re-elected. So he witnessed first-hand the sectional political conflict that led to the secession of Mississippi and 6 other southern States. Realizing that State Secession was appropriate, Lamar resigned his Federal House seat, and on December 12 returned home to Mississippi to be elected as a Delegate to the Mississippi Secession Convention.
Lamar commanded Confederate troops in early battles in Virginia, but poor health so harmed his effectiveness that his was not a successful military career. “On the 19th of November, 1862, he was appointed Special Commissioner of the Confederate States to the Empire of Russia,” made the journey successfully to Europe (by way of Mexico), but, by July 1863, hopes for beneficial negotiations had faded, and his mission was recalled. Accordingly, he sailed to Bermuda and boarded a blockade runner for the trip into Wilmington, North Carolina, arriving safely.
We now move forward to August 1872 when Lucius Lamar was nominated by the Democratic Party to be its candidate for the Federal House seat for the District comprised of Oxford and several counties in north-western Mississippi. Although the Mississippi Republican Party, empowered by Political Reconstruction, held firm power over the State, it had gerrymandered the Federal House representation to ensure all of the other Districts were safe for Republicans. Democrat Lamar was elected and, on December 1, 1873, became one of the first Democrat Representatives from a southern State in the halls of Congress. His “eulogy of the late Charles Sumner” before the House on April 28, 1874, cleverly constructed and powerfully and emotionally delivered, endeared him to men from the northern States and served as a springboard to political leadership over his section of the country.
Representative Lamar campaigned hard and long in the Mississippi State elections of 1875 in hopes of overcoming Political Reconstruction and defeating the Mississippi Republican Party. It was a great success. Democrats again controlled Mississippi. Home Rule was achieved. The Mississippi Legislature elected Lamar to the Federal Senate to fill the next available term, which was to begin in March 1877. So Representative Lamar, a prominent Democrat leader in the Federal House, became a prominent Democrat leader in the Federal Senate.
Upon the election of Democrat Grover Cleveland to Federal President, Senator Lamar was selected to the important Cabinet post of Secretary of the Interior. He worked that job during an important time in American history throughout Cleveland’s first term, March 1885 to January 1888. From that job he rose to be a justice in the Federal Supreme Court, a Cleveland nominee. He died 5 years later, in 1893.
Author Edward Mayes presents his biography of Lucius Lamar within a thorough history of the times in which he lived. This rewards the reader with two prizes: 1), a find history of the southern States, Mississippi, and Washington, from the 1850’s to the 1880’s, and 2), a sensitive and thoughtful biography of a great man who lived through it and helped to shape its events.
Availability of this Book
Originally published in 1896 in Nashville, AMS Press, Inc. of New York reprinted this book as a hardback book in 1974. There are more recent reprints as well. Seek a copy of the AMS hardback or a more recent reprint, or a used paper book. There is no Kindle edition, but you can get the digital book as a scanned Google e-book.