Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar

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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

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. □

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Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar served as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1888 to 1893. Lamar's public service, spanning almost fifty years, included both houses of Congress, the executive branch, and the Confederacy.

Lamar was born September 17, 1825, in Eatonton, Georgia, the son of a wealthy plantation owner. He graduated from Emory College in 1845 and then apprenticed in the law. He was admitted to the Georgia bar in 1847. In 1849 he moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where he taught mathematics at the University of Mississippi.

He briefly returned to Georgia, where he served in the Georgia House of Representatives in 1853. He relocated to Mississippi in 1855 and began building his political career. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served from 1857 to 1860, relinquishing his seat with the secession of the southern states in 1861.

Lamar played an important role in the 1861 Mississippi Secession Convention. Although he had doubts about the theory of secession from the Union, he was influenced by his fatherinlaw, Augustus Longstreet, an avowed separatist. At the convention Lamar drafted the ordinance of secession, which declared Mississippi no longer a part of the Union. He joined the Confederate militia and served as a colonel in the Mississippi regiment. He also acted in various diplomatic capacities for the Confederacy, and from 1864 to 1865, he served as judge advocate of the Army of Virginia.

Following the war Lamar resumed his law practice and teaching career in Oxford. His teaching duties expanded to the University of Mississippi law school. In 1873 Lamar was again elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1877 he was elected to the U.S. Senate. In 1885 President grover cleveland appointed Lamar secretary of the interior.

In 1887 President Cleveland nominated Lamar to the U.S. Supreme Court. Republican opponents fought the nomination, arguing that Lamar lacked legal experience and that he was too old. The Senate narrowly approved his nomination, by a vote of 42–38, making Lamar the first southerner to join the Court since john a. campbell in 1853, and the first Democrat since stephen j. field in 1862. He served on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1888 to 1893.

Lamar's tenure on the Court was spent under the leadership of Chief Justice melville w. fuller. The Fuller Court reviewed the efforts of the federal government to regulate interstate commerce and curtail the power of monopolies and trusts. In most cases it agreed with business that the federal government had limited constitutional

authority to regulate industry. Lamar concurred, adhering to a belief in the doctrine of federalism. This doctrine has many facets, including a fundamental assumption that the national government must not intrude on the power of the states to handle their affairs.

Lamar did not author any landmark majority opinions, as he generally received inconsequential cases. He joined in the dissent of Justice joseph p. bradley in Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Co. v. Minnesota, 134 U.S. 418, 10 S. Ct. 462, 33 L. Ed. 970 (1890), which stated that legislatures, not courts, should determine the reasonableness of railroad rates and other public policy matters.

Lamar died January 23, 1893, in Macon, Georgia.

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