Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar

Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1825-1893) was an American politician of the Confederate South. He later became a member of President Grover Cleveland's Cabinet and a Supreme Court justice.

Born in Putnam County, Ga., on Sept. 17, 1825, Lucius Q.C. Lamar was reared by his mother after his father committed suicide. He attended Emory College in Oxford, Ga., and married Virginia Longstreet, the college president's daughter. After studying law for 2 years, he taught mathematics at the University of Mississippi.

In 1852 Lamar returned to Covington, Ga., to practice law. He was elected to the state legislature as a Democrat. In Mississippi in 1855, he bought a large plantation with many slaves. He was elected to Congress in 1857, where he criticized Stephen Douglas's concept of "territorial sovereignty" as too compromising of the rights of slaveholders. However, with Jefferson Davis he counseled Southern extremists not to bolt the deadlocked 1860 Democratic convention.

In November 1860, following Abraham Lincoln's election as president, Lamar fought secession until the secession convention proved determined to leave the Union; thereafter, Lamar urged a strong Confederacy. He resigned from Congress in January 1861, and he fought for the Confederacy until he became ill. After his recovery he went to Europe to lobby for the Confederate cause.

When the war was over, Lamar reentered politics in order to "redeem" peacefully his state from integrated rule and to gain national support for this effort. With some blacks supporting his benign paternalism, Lamar won election to Congress in 1872 and spoke widely in the North in favor of ending sectional strife. His eulogy of Senator Charles Sumner and his politeness toward a black senator allowed him to lull Northerners, apprehensive of the white supremacists, into entrusting the blacks to Southern whites.

In Congress, Lamar played a leading role in the Compromise of 1877, by which the disputed Hayes-Tilden election was settled. Rutherford B. Hayes was made president in return for the promise of aid for the Texas and Pacific Railroad (linking the South and West) and the end of Northern involvement in securing rights for Southern blacks. It was this role that gained Lamar his fame in American history. Though the Civil War ended slavery, during Reconstruction the nation failed to define a satisfactory role for the freed slaves. The problem was referred to white conservative leaders of the South like Lamar, who were determined to maintain white supremacy. Thus the hopes of African Americans for equality were deferred, and the fears of another war over sectional racial disagreements were allayed.

Elected to the Senate in 1876, Lamar served until 1885, when he became President Grover Cleveland's secretary of the interior. In 1887 Cleveland appointed him to the Supreme Court—the first former Confederate named since the Civil War. Though Lamar's work on the court reflected high scholarly standards, it was not of major consequence. A widower in 1884, Lamar married Henrietta Dean Holt in 1887. He died in Macon, Ga., on January 23, 1893.

Further Reading on Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar

A judicious sketch of Lamar by Arnold Paul is in Fred L. Israel, The Justices of the United States Supreme Court, 1789-1969, vol. 2 (1969). See also Edward Mayes, Lucius Q.C. Lamar: His Life, Times, and Speeches (1896; rev. ed. 1974), and W.A. Cate, Lucius Q.C. Lamar: Secession and Reunion (1935). On the Compromise of 1877, C. Vann Woodward, Reunion and Reaction (1951; rev. ed. 1956), is recommended.