The Rise of Lucius Q. C. Lamar

Mississippi, The Heart of the South, Vol. II, Chapter XLIV, pages 754-758, by Dunbar Rowland, LL.D., Director of the Mississippi State Department of Archives and History. Chicago-Jackson: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925.



Younger Photo - Senate Photo


Among the really great men of the South was L.Q.C. Lamar, whose full name was Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar. He was a descendant of an old French family, the American foundation of which was laid in Virginia and Maryland. The Georgia branch was grafted into the family tree by John Lamar who died at his homestead in Putnam County in 1833. The eldest son of the Georgia pioneer, also Lucius Q.C. Lamar, was a leading judge of the State, whose death followed that of his father by a year. The Birds of South Carolina and Georgia intermarried with the Lamars, Judge Lamarís mother being Sarah Bird. He was born at the old Putnam County homestead, September 17, 1825, and was given his fatherís classical name. He seems to have combined all the scholarly, poetic, philosophical and pious traits of his family, on both the paternal and maternal sides. The Lucius Q.C. Lamar who especially honored Mississippi and was so highly honored by the State and Nation, was a quiet, studious, modest boy, and for many years after his fatherís death attended the Georgia Conference Manual Training School and its successor, Emory College. The Lamar family for many generations had been leading members of the Methodist church, and while young Lamar was attending Emory College he came into intimate personal contact with its able president, Judge Augustus B. Longstreet.

The president of Emory College was a Yale graduate, a member of the bar and formerly circuit judge, as well as a man of public affairs, and a year before being placed at the head of that institution had become a Methodist preacher. He still held the presidency of the Georgia College when Lamar graduated from it in 1845. Four years afterward, after serving as president of the Centenary College of Louisiana for a few months, he was unanimously and without solicitation on his part called to head the affairs of the University of Mississippi. His able service in that capacity extended from September, 1849, to July, 1856.

In the meantime, Lamar had abandoned his original intention of becoming a Methodist clergyman; had been admitted to the bar and commenced practice at Columbus, Georgia. He had also married a daughter of Judge Longstreet. When the latter assumed the presidency of the University of Mississippi, Lamar followed, settled in the practice of law at Oxford and also accepted a position on the university faculty as assistant professor in mathematics. The young lawyer and college professor was an ardent States Rights Democrat and was called to the support of his party during the exciting contest between Jefferson Davis and Henry S. Foote for the governorship, in the fall of 1851.

Lamarís rise to prominence in the public life of Mississippi was during that campaign. A committee of the States Rights Democrats waited upon him as a prize collegiate orator to reply to Senator Foote when he came to Oxford. Lamar had had no experience in politics; Foote was a past master. There was no more able campaigner in the South. He had driven John A. Quitman from the canvass and was flushed with his many forensic victories. The contest for the States Rights party in the Oxford district seemed most uneven, if not hopeless; but the University was solidly behind Lamar in his support of Jefferson Davis.

On the appointed day Oxford was packed with exultant Foote followers and Whigs. States Rights Democrats were there in equal numbers; their manner was more subdued and apprehensive. It was proclaimed aloud that Senator Foote, the great gladiator of campaign oratory, would overwhelm the young orator from Georgia with his eloquence, humor, wit, and especially with his satire. At the appointed hour, thousands of admiring partisans of each side were assembled to cheer their champions on to victory.

The debate eagerly awaited was opened by Senator Foote. His speech was brilliant and eloquent, as he dwelt with patriotic fervor on the benefits of the compromise.

When Lamar arose to reply, as he stood before the cheering people there was something in his presence that inspired his friends with confidence in his ability to meet the situation and deal with its heavy responsibility. His bearing was confident, modest and dignified. He was a man of good medium size, with a thoughtful, scholarly face, fine brow, dark, abundant hair, and large gray eyes. The speech he made was logical, scholarly, eloquent and convincing. His exposition and elucidation of governmental principles held much of the power and force of Burkeís, while one can easily believe that his manner towards his opponent was marked with a courtesy as exquisite and natural as that of Raleigh. He was of an age when literary culture took the form of eloquent oratorical speech with which he, like so many other gifted Southerners, combined logic and deep knowledge of the subject.

"The enthusiasm at the close of the debate was so great that the students of the University to show their admiration for their champion took him upon their shoulders and carried him in triumph from the scene amid the wild cheers of the people. The impressions made by the speech marked the beginning of Mr. Lamarís political advancement. (Revised from, an early portrait by the author of Senator Lamar.)

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