Robert B. Elliott

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Robert Brown Elliott
Robert B. Elliott.jpg
South Carolina Attorney General
In office
December 14, 1876 – May 29, 1877
Governor Contested between Daniel Henry Chamberlain and Wade Hampton III
Preceded by Samuel W. Melton
Succeeded by James Conner
28th Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives
In office
November 24, 1874 – April 14, 1876
Governor Franklin I. Moses, Jr.
Daniel Henry Chamberlain
Preceded by Samuel J. Lee
Succeeded by William Henry Wallace
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Aiken County
In office
November 24, 1874 – April 14, 1876
Member of the South Carolina House of Representatives from Barnwell County
In office
November 24, 1868 – March 1, 1870
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd district
In office
March 4, 1871 – November 1, 1874
Preceded by Solomon L. Hoge
Succeeded by Lewis C. Carpenter
Personal details
Born (1842-08-11)August 11, 1842
Liverpool, United Kingdom (claimed)
Died August 9, 1884(1884-08-09) (aged 41)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Resting place St. Louis Cemetery No. 2
Political party Republican
Profession lawyer, civil servant
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch South Carolina National Guard
Years of service 1869–1871
Rank Commanding General
Battles/wars Reconstruction

Robert Brown Elliott (August 11, 1842 – August 9, 1884) was an African-American member of the United States House of Representatives from South Carolina, serving from 1871 to 1874.

Early life and education[edit]

Not much is known for sure about Elliott's early life.[1] He claimed to have been born in Boston, but was likely born in Liverpool, United Kingdom to West Indian parents. In England, he received a basic education and learned to be a typesetter. He may have served in the British Navy before coming to America, and he claimed to have served in the U.S. Navy during the U.S. Civil War.[2]


Elliott arrived in South Carolina in 1867 at the age of 25, where he established a law practice. Elliott helped organize the local Republican Party and served in the state constitutional convention in 1868 as a delegate from the Edgefield district.[2] In the late 1860s he was hired by AME bishop and fellow future congressman Richard H. Cain to be an associate editor of the paper, the South Carolina Leader (renamed the Missionary Record in 1868), along with another future congressman, Alonzo J. Ransier[3]

In 1868 he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. The next year he was appointed assistant adjutant-general; he was the first African-American commanding general of the South Carolina National Guard. As part of his job, he helped form a state militia to fight the Ku Klux Klan.[2]

Elliott was elected as a Republican to the Forty-second, defeating Democrat John E. Bacon, and Forty-third United States Congress, defeating Democrat William H. McCann. In Congress in April 1871 he gave a notable speech on the "Bill to Enforce the Provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution", also known as the "Ku Klux Bill".[4] He again "delivered a celebrated speech" in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1875.[5] He resigned on November 1, 1874, to serve as sheriff fight political corruption in South Carolina. He served again in the South Carolina House of Representatives, where he was elected as Speaker of the House.[2]

He ran successfully for South Carolina Attorney General in 1876. In the state elections that year, white Democrats regained dominance of the state legislature. The following year, 1877, when the last of the federal troops were withdrawn from South Carolina, he was forced out of office.[2] In 1878 he formed a law partnership with D. Augustus Straker and T. McCants Stewart.[6]

He continued to be involved in politics, working on then Treasury Secretary John Sherman’s campaign for President in 1880, and was a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention. In January 1881 he was part of a black delegation that met with President James Garfield to protest the lack of civil and political rights in the South. However, his law practice faltered. In 1879, he was appointed a customs inspector for the Treasury Department in Charleston, South Carolina. He contracted malaria while working in that capacity on a trip to Florida. In 1881, he was transferred to New Orleans, and in 1882 he was dismissed. In New Orleans he again attempted to practice law, but found few clients. Impoverished, he died in New Orleans on August 9, 1884.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Elliott’s background is discussed by his chief biographer. See Peggy Lamson The Glorious Failure: Black Representative Robert Brown Elliott and the Reconstruction in South Carolina (New York: Norton, 1973): 22–33. See also Peggy Lamson “Elliott, Robert Brown,” Dictionary ofAmerican Negro Biography (New York: Norton, 1982): 210–211 (hereinafter referred to as DANB). The most recent scholarship accepts Lamson’s evidence of Elliott’s background. See Stephen Middleton ed., Black Congressmen During Reconstruction:A Documentary Sourcebook (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002): 85–86. see also: Black Americans in Congress - Robert Brown Elliott: Representative, 1871–1874, Republican from South Carolina,-Robert-Brown-(E000128)/
  2. ^ a b c d e f Black Americans in Congress - Robert Brown Elliott: Representative, 1871–1874, Republican from South Carolina,-Robert-Brown-(E000128)/
  3. ^ CAIN, Richard Harvey. History, Art & Archives, United States House of Representatives. [1]
  4. ^ Simmons, William J., and Henry McNeal Turner. Men of Mark: Eminent, Progressive and Rising. GM Rewell & Company, 1887. p466-473
  5. ^ "Biographical Sidebar: Robert B. Elliott". America's Reconstruction - People and Politics After the Civil War. University of Houston. Archived from the original on 2008-09-05. Retrieved 2009-08-27. 
  6. ^ Simmons 1887, p744-751

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Solomon L. Hoge
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 3rd congressional district

Succeeded by
Lewis C. Carpenter