Robert M. T. Hunter

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Robert Hunter
President pro tempore of the Confederate States Senate
In office
February 18, 1862 – May 10, 1865
Preceded by Howell Cobb (President of the Provisional Congress)
Succeeded by Position abolished
Confederate States Senator
from Virginia
In office
February 18, 1862 – May 10, 1865
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
2nd Confederate States Secretary of State
In office
July 25, 1861 – February 18, 1862
President Jefferson Davis
Preceded by Robert Toombs
Succeeded by William Browne (Acting)
United States Senator
from Virginia
In office
March 4, 1847 – March 28, 1861
Preceded by William Archer
Succeeded by John Carlile
14th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
December 16, 1839 – March 4, 1841
Preceded by James Polk
Succeeded by John White
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 8th district
In office
March 4, 1845 – March 4, 1847
Preceded by Willoughby Newton
Succeeded by Richard Beale
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 9th district
In office
March 4, 1837 – March 4, 1843
Preceded by John Roane
Succeeded by Samuel Chilton
Personal details
Born Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter
(1809-04-21)April 21, 1809
Loretto, Virginia, US
Died July 18, 1887(1887-07-18) (aged 78)
Alexandria, Virginia, US
Political party Whig (Before 1844)
Democratic (1844–1887)
Spouse(s) Mary Evelina Dandridge
Alma mater University of Virginia
Winchester Law School

Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter (April 21, 1809 – July 18, 1887) was an American lawyer and politician from Virginia. He was a U.S. Representative (1837-1843, 1845-1847), Speaker of the House (1839-1841), and U.S. Senator (1847-1861). During the American Civil War he was Confederate States Secretary of State (1861-1862) and then a Confederate Senator (1862-1865). After the war, he served as Treasurer of Virginia (1874-80), and customs collector in 1885 until his death.

Life and career

Hunter was born in Loretto, Essex County, Virginia, the son of James Hunter and Maria (Garnett) Hunter.[1] He was a maternal first cousin of both Robert S. Garnett and Richard B. Garnett. He entered the University of Virginia in his seventeenth year and was one of its first graduates.[2] While he was a student, he became a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. He then studied law at the Winchester Law School, and in 1830 was admitted to the bar. From 1835 to 1837 he was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

In 1837, Hunter was elected U.S. Representative as a States Rights Whig. He was re-elected in 1839, and became Speaker of the United States House of Representatives - the youngest person ever to hold that office. He was re-elected again in 1841, but was not chosen Speaker. In 1843 he was defeated for re-election.

He then changed parties, becoming a Democrat. In 1845, he was again elected Representative, and in 1846 was elected U.S. Senator, taking office in 1847. He was re-elected in 1852 and 1858.

In the Senate, he became chairman of the Committee on Finance in 1850. He is credited with bringing about a reduction of the quantity of silver in the smaller coins. He was the author of the Tariff of 1857 and of the bonded-warehouse system, and was one of the first to advocate civil service reform. In 1853 he declined President Millard Fillmore's offer to make him Secretary of State.

Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter
1864 CSA $10 banknote depicting R.M.T. Hunter.

At the first session of 1860 Democratic National Convention in Charleston, South Carolina, Hunter was a contender for the presidential nomination, but received little support except from the Virginia delegation. On seven of the first eight ballots, he was a very distant second to the leader, Stephen A. Douglas, and was third on the remaining 42 ballots. When the convention reconvened in Baltimore, most Southerners withdrew, including Hunter, and the nomination went to Douglas.

Hunter did not regard Lincoln's election as being of itself a sufficient cause for secession. On January 11, 1861, he proposed an elaborate but impracticable scheme for the adjustment of differences between the North and the South. When this and several other efforts to the same end had failed, he quietly urged his own state to pass the ordinance of secession. He was expelled from the Senate for supporting secession.

In July 1861, Hunter was appointed Confederate States Secretary of State. He resigned on February 18, 1862, having been elected a Confederate Senator. He served in the Confederate Senate until the end of the war, and was at times President pro tem.

As a Confederate Senator, he was often a caustic critic of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Despite this friction, he was appointed by Davis as one of three commissioners sent to attempt peace negotiations in 1865, and met with President Lincoln at the Hampton Roads Conference. After Lee's surrender, Hunter was summoned by President Lincoln to confer regarding the restoration of Virginia.

From 1874 to 1880 he was the treasurer of Virginia, and from 1885 until his death was collector of the Port of Tappahannock, Virginia. He died near Lloyds, Virginia, in 1887.

Hunter in later life


Hunter appeared in the 2012 film Lincoln, which included the Hampton Roads Conference. He was portrayed by Mike Shiflett.

Among his works was Origin of the Late War, about the causes of the Civil War.

In 1942, a United States Liberty ship named the SS Robert M. T. Hunter was launched. She was scrapped in 1971.[3]

Hunter was pictured on the Confederate $10 bill.[4]


  2. University of Virginia. A Catalogue of the Officers and Students of the University of Virginia. Second Session, Commencing February 1, 1826. Charlottesville, VA: Chronicle Steam Book Printing House, 1880, p. 10.
  3. "Southeastern Shipbuilding". Retrieved 2009-12-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Legendary Coins and Currency: Confederacy, 10 dollars, 1863". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 2011-08-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Anderson, Dice Robins (1906), "Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter", The John P. Branch historical papers of Randolph-Macon College, vol. 2 no. 2, pp. [4]-77<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hunter, Martha T. (1903). A Memoir of Robert M. T. Hunter. Washington, DC: The Neale Publishing Company.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Hunter, Robert M. T. (1918). Correspondence of Robert M. T. Hunter 1826-1876. Washington: American Historical Association.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Patrick, Rembert W. (1944). Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 90–101.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Simms, Henry Harrison (1935). Life of Robert M. T. Hunter: a study in sectionalism and secession. Richmond, Va.: The William Byrd Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Roane
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 9th congressional district

Succeeded by
Samuel Chilton
Preceded by
Willoughby Newton
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 8th congressional district

Succeeded by
Richard Beale
Political offices
Preceded by
James Polk
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
Succeeded by
John White
Preceded by
Robert Toombs
Confederate States Secretary of State
Succeeded by
William Browne
Preceded by
Howell Cobb
as President of the Provisional Confederate States Congress
President pro tempore of the Confederate States Senate
Position abolished
United States Senate
Preceded by
William Archer
United States Senator (Class 2) from Virginia
Served alongside: James Mason
Succeeded by
John Carlile
Confederate States Senate
New constituency Confederate States Senator (Class 3) from Virginia
Served alongside: William Preston, Allen Caperton
Constituency abolished
  1. REDIRECT Template:US Senate Environment chairs

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 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>