Robert M. T. Hunter

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For other people named Robert Hunter, see Robert Hunter (disambiguation).
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
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
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 statesman born in Essex County, Virginia.

Life and career[edit]

Hunter was born in Loretto, Virginia, the son of Maria (Garnett) and James Hunter.[1] He is a 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.

From 1837 to 1843, and again from 1845 to 1847, Hunter was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He served as Speaker of the House from 1839 to 1841, and is the youngest person ever to have held that position. From 1847 to 1861 he was in the Senate where he was chairman of the Committee on Finance from 1850 to 1861. He is credited with having brought 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
The $10 Confederate States of America 1864 Banknote with Hunter's portrait on the obverse.
The reverse of that $10 Confederate States of America 1864 Banknote.

At the National Democratic Convention at Charleston, South Carolina in 1860, Hunter was the Virginia delegation's choice as candidate for the presidency of the United States, but was defeated for the nomination by Stephen A. Douglas. Hunter did not regard Lincoln's election as being of itself a sufficient cause for secession, and 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.

From 1861 to 1862 Hunter was the Confederate States Secretary of State; and from 1862 to 1865 he was a member of the Confederate Senate, in which he was, at times, a caustic critic of the Davis administration. He was one of the commissioners to treat at the Hampton Roads Conference in 1865, and after the surrender of General Lee was summoned by President Lincoln to Richmond to confer regarding the restoration of Virginia in the Union. From 1874 to 1880 he was the treasurer of Virginia, and from 1885 until his death near Lloyds, Virginia, was collector of the Port of Tappahannock, Virginia.

Hunter in later life


He was portrayed by Mike Shiflett in the Steven Spielberg film Lincoln as a Confederate delegate, with Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens played by Jackie Earle Haley and Judge John Campbell played by Gregory Itzin.

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]


  1. ^
  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. 
  4. ^ "Legendary Coins and Currency: Confederacy, 10 dollars, 1863". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 2011-08-11. 

Further reading[edit]

  • 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 
  • Hunter, Martha T. (1903). A Memoir of Robert M. T. Hunter. Washington, DC: The Neale Publishing Company. 
  • Hunter, Robert M. T. (1918). Correspondence of Robert M. T. Hunter 1826-1876. Washington: American Historical Association. 
  • Patrick, Rembert W. (1944). Jefferson Davis and His Cabinet. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 90–101. 
  • Simms, Henry Harrison (1935). Life of Robert M. T. Hunter: a study in sectionalism and secession. Richmond, Va.: The William Byrd Press. 

External links[edit]

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

 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.