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Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter

Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter, American senator, Confederate official. member Virginia House of Delegates 1833, Virginia Senate, 1835-1837; member United States House of Representatives 47, speaker, 1839-1841; member United States Senate from Virginia, 1847-1861; member Confederate Senate from Virginia, 1862-1865.


  • HUNTER, Robert Mercer Taliafaro was born on April 21, 1809 in Essex County, Virginia, United States, United States. Son of James and Maria (Garnett) Hunter.

  • Education

    • Private school, southern university, law school.


    • He was privately tutored. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1829 and from the Winchester Law School in 1830, the same year that he was admitted to the Virginia bar. He and his wife, the former Mary Evelina Dandridge, were married on October 4, 1836.

      They had eight children. Hunter, who began his career as a states’ rights Whig, was elected to the state House in 1833 and served in the state Senate from 1835 to 1837. He represented Essex County as a Democrat in theU.S. House from 1837 to 1843 and from 1845 to 1847, but he was a consistent Democrat only in 1840.

      From 1839 to 1841, Hunter was the speaker of the House. As U. S. senator from 1847 to 1861, he was a moderate. He favored the annexation of Texas, the Tariff Act of 1857, and the Lecompton Constitution.

      From 1850 to 1861, he was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He declined offers to become secretary of state in the administrations of Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. In 1860, he was a candidate for the presidency.

      He favored the secession of Virginia, and he resigned from the U.S. Senate in March 1861. He represented Virginia in the provisional Confederate Congress and in both terms of the Confederate Senate, where he served as president pro tern. In the provisional Congress, he served on the Finance Committee and supported moving the capital to Richmond.

      Hunter also served as Confederate secretary of state after Robert E. Toombs resigned. Hunter sought to align Spain with the Confederacy, wrote principles of self-government into diplomatic correspondence, was a consistent Davis administration supporter, but resigned in February 1862 in order to return to the Confederate Senate. In February 1865, he was a member of the peace commission, along with John A. Campbell and Alexander Stephens.

      He served on the Conference, Finance, and Foreign Affairs Committees, and finally broke with Davis over the issue of freeing the slaves. In 1865, he advised the government to surrender. When the Confederate government collapsed, he surrendered and was imprisoned for seven months.

      Upon his release, he returned to his ruined lands in Essex County and began to practice law. He lost a race for the U.S. Senate in 1874. From 1877 to 1880, he was the state treasurer of Virginia, and in 1886, he was collector of customs at the port of Rappahannock.


    Stands for preserving slavery, states' rights, and political liberty for whites. Every individual state is sovereign, even to the point of secession.


    "Peculiar institution" of slavery was not only expedient but also ordained by God and upheld in Holy Scripture.


    Member Virginia House of Delegates 1833, Virginia Senate, 1835-1837. Member United States House of Representatives 47, speaker, 1839-1841. Member United States Senate from Virginia, 1847-1861.

    Member Confederate Senate from Virginia, 1862-1865.


    • Married Mary Evelina Dandridge, October 4, 1836, 8 children including Martha T. Admitted to Virginia.
    • father: James Hunter
    • mother: Maria (Garnett) Hunter
    • spouse: Mary Evelina Dandridge
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    Died July 18, 1887
    (aged 78)


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