Toombs, Robert A. (1810–1885)

views updated

TOOMBS, ROBERT A. (1810–1885)

A Georgia attorney educated at Schenectady's Union College, Robert Augustus Toombs was a congressman (1843–1853) and senator (1853–1861) before becoming a secession leader. Initially a conservative whig and an ally of alexander stephens, Toombs became a Democrat, but not a fire-eater, after the compromise of 1850. In 1856 he supported the admission of Kansas without slavery, if the settlers there voted for statehood on that basis. In 1860 Toombs worked for a united Democratic Party, but despite this goal and his previous support for stephen a. douglas in the senate, Toombs opposed Douglas's presidential aspirations. After abraham lincoln's election Toombs supported the Crittenden Compromise, and he also offered his own. When compromise failed, he returned to Georgia as a secession leader, writing a report for the Georgia Secession Convention explaining why dis-union was necessary. Appointed Confederate secretary of state, Toombs resigned after five months to accept a rebel army commission. When he was denied a promotion after Antietam, Toombs left the army and became a critic of jefferson davis's economic inefficiency, confederate violations of civil liberties, and conscription. In 1865 he escaped to England; he returned in 1867 to lead Georgia's anti-reconstruction forces. He dominated Georgia's 1877 constitutional convention, which paved the way for black disfranchisement, and, at Toombs's insistence, severely limited corporate charters and railroad development. Toombs never petitioned for citizenship, and although a successful attorney, never again held public office.

Paul Finkelman


Thompson, Robert Y. 1966 Robert Toombs of Georgia. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.