William Lowndes Yancey was an American politician, journalist, and diplomat. He was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Alabama and member Confederate Senate.
William Lowndes was born on August 10, 1814, in Ogeechee, Warren County, Georgia, United States. He was the son of Benjamin Cudworth and Caroline Bird Yancey. His father was a lawyer and a midshipman in the United States Navy. The elder Yancey died when his son was young; the mother remarried.
Yancey attended Mount Zion Academy in Hancock County, Georgia, academies in New York State, and Williams College from 1830 to 1833.
William Lowndes Yancey studied law and, in 1834, was admitted to the bar in Greenville, South Carolina, where he also planted and edited the Greenville Mountaineer from 1834 until 1836.
As a result of a duel over politics, in 1836 Yancey moved to Cahaba, Alabama, where he planted and edited the Cahaba Democrat and the Cahaba Gazette before being admitted to the bar in Wetumpka, Alabama. He was elected to the Alabama state House in 1841 and to the state Senate two years later.
In 1844-1845, he served in the United States House of Representatives. Yancey, who moved to Montgomery in 1846, led the Alabama delegation at the Charleston Democratic convention in 1860. At the Alabama constitutional convention of 1861, he introduced the ordinance to dissolve the Union.
In March 1861 he went to England and France as a commissioner from the Confederate States of America. His mission was ineffective, perhaps because of his passionate defense of slavery, which both countries hated. Upon his return in 1862, he was elected to the Confederate Senate. In 1863, in a noisy debate, Benjamin H. Hill, a senator from Georgia, threw an inkstand at Yancey, hitting him in the face and splattering blood and ink.
Yancey was a rallying point for those radical secessionists who believed that the Davis administration was a hindrance to an effective war effort.
"The anti-slavery sentiment is universal. Uncle Tom's Cabin has been read and believed... I ought never to have come here. This kind of thing does not suit me. I do not understand these people or their ways well enough."
Willia Yancey believed that Southern unity could come only with the disintegration of existing parties and the submergence of partisan hatreds in the face of a common threat. Yancey encouraged the formation of local Southern rights associations and agitated to reopen the African slave trade to spread slavery's blessings to poor white Southerners. Preaching the notion of secession more convincingly than any contemporary, he was later called the "orator of secession."
William married Sarah Caroline Earle on August 13, 1835, they had seven children.