The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVI. Early National Literature, Part II; Later National Literature, Part I.

IV. The New South: Lanier

§ 8. Lamar

The noblest example of this reconciling spirit among antebellum leaders is Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1825–93). Born and reared in Georgia, and a strict disciple of Calhoun, he removed at the age of twenty-four to Mississippi, which eventually became his home. So thoroughly imbued was he with the justice of the extreme Southern attitude that, as chairman of the Committee of Fifteen, he brought in the ordinance of secession for Mississippi. He came out of the ordeal of war with the vision of a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. But the dark years of Reconstruction fell over his soul like a pall. Pondering on the supreme necessity of getting his people into harmonious relations with the Federal Government, he saw no hope except in their going to work to restore their material prosperity and to establish their institutions of education. In 1872 he was elected a representative of Mississippi, the first Democrat of the Old South to enter the halls of Congress. To one object he was consecrated: the perfect reconciliation of the North and the South. The opportunity to remove from the North a wellnigh universal suspicion of the South and to rescue the nation from the perils of an increasing sectional hate came to him sooner than he anticipated. The death of Charles Sumner was the occasion of resolutions in both houses of Congress. On 28 April, 1874, Lamar delivered that Eulogy of Sumner which melted the distinguished audience to tears, which rang through the nation in a day, and which echoes still. Filled with the patriot’s pride and faith, it revealed the Southern people to their better selves and began in the North to mitigate the estrangements of a generation. Yet the loftiness of its sentiment is not the passport to posterity which it should be. The long Southern roll of the eloquence needs the revealing tones of a voice to bring out its majesty. Frequently the sentences become for the average modern reader too far prolonged or too intricately involved to surrender their meaning at once. The same drawback may be found in Lamar’s other deliverances, even the carefully prepared oration at the unveiling of the Calhoun monument at Charleston. But with those who read speeches the Eulogy of Sumner will live as the noble expression of a patriot and a seer, whose gentleness and devotion will win him a bright and quiet niche in the dark and troublous vestibule of Reconstruction.