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A portrait of Lucius Q.C. Lamar

Summary of Lucius Lamar (Chapter VII) from Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy

Lucius Lamar, Democrat from Mississippi, gave a eulogy on the House floor as a freshman Representative in 1874 upon the death of Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts. Sumner was hated by most Southerners because of his opposition to slavery and his vehemence in denouncing slaveholders. In 1856 Sumner was brutally caned on the Senate floor by Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina. Later in his career Sumner's views towards the South became more moderate. Lamar's eulogy, which praised Sumner's desire for unity between North and South, was a sensation and many in the South felt it a betrayal. In 1876, Lamar was elected to the Senate and once again acted in opposition to his constituents and his party when he agreed to the findings of an election commission that gave the presidency to Republican Rutherford Hayes. The commission's findings were controversial, but Lamar felt that acquiescing to them would stave off another sectional controversy that might have meant more bloodshed. He further alienated the people of Mississippi when he voted against free silver measures that would have enriched the state in the short run. However, Lamar kept his Senate seat until 1885, when he resigned to become secretary of the interior and finally, a justice of the Supreme Court.

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