THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR QUITMAN.
Source: Lowry, Robert and McCardle, William H. A History of Mississippi, from the Discovery of the Great River by Hernando DeSoto, Including the Earliest Settlement Made by the French Under Iberville, to the Death of Jefferson Davis [1541-1889]. Jackson, Miss.: R. H. Henry & Co., 1891. Pages 320-322.
John A. Quitman, born in the village of Rhinebeck, on the Hudson river, in the empire State of New York, as the son of an able and scholarly minister of the Lutheran church, and became the twelfth Governor of the commonwealth, and the seventh chosen under the Constitution of 1832, which he largely aided in framing.
After completing his education young Quitman studied law and removed to Ohio, but soon growing tired of life in the West he resolved to remove to Mississippi. He arrived at Natchez in 1821, and soon formed a partnership with a distinguished lawyer, and laid the foundation of a large fortune. He was elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1832, as a delegate from Adams county, and later he was elected to the State Senate from Adams county, and becoming president of that body, the duties of the executive were devolved upon him for a few weeks in 185. Subsequently he became a candidate for chancellor, and although he had opposed the election of judges by the popular voice, he was soon afterwards elected chancellor of the State, which position he filled for several years to the entire satisfaction of the members of the bar and the people.
In 1849, after returning from Mexico, where he had gained much distinction as a major-general in the army of the United States, he became the nominee of the Democratic party for Governor. With the halo of fame which he had earned in Mexico, he was without difficulty elected, and was inducted into office in January, 1859.
The first Legislature during the administration of Governor Quitman took strong grounds in favor of "resistance" to the compromise measures, and called a Convention of delegates to be chosen by the people in every county to meet in September, 1851, to take measures for the "redress of grievances." The admission of California with a Constitution excluding slavery from her territory produced intense excitement in several Southern States, but in no quarter was the excitement greater than in the commonwealth of Mississippi.
Few people cared to take their slave property to California, perhaps, but they were irritated beyond measure by the denial of what they considered an irrefragible [sic] right. Meantime, a convention composed of delegates from sundry Southern States had been held in Nashville, Tennessee, where inflammatory resolutions were adopted in the years 1850 and 1851. Excitement continued to grow and spread in Mississippi. Parties were disrupted and new combinations were formed. Governor Quitman having, with many other gentlemen, been indicted by the grand jury of the Federal Court for the district of Louisiana, for his alleged complicity with the Lopez expedition against Cuba, laid down his official robes, and resigned the position of Governor, and appeared before the United States Court to answer to the indictment against him in his individual capacity, as John A. Quitman, a private citizen of Mississippi. He was tried, and of course, was acquitted.
By the resignation of Governor Quitman the duties of the Executive were devolved upon John Isaac Guion, then representing Hinds county in the State Senate, and the president of that body. Judge Guion was a native of Mississippi, a profound lawyer, a graceful speaker, and a genial, honorable gentleman. He continued to exercise the duties of the Executive until the expiration of his term as Senator, when he retired, and gave way for James Whitfield, who represented Lowndes county in the Senate, and was made president of that body as the successor of Judge Guion. Mr. Whitfield continued in the performance of all Executive duties until his legally elected successor was installed, early in January, 1852. Thus was the strange spectacle presented to the people of Mississippi, of four gentlemen discharging the duties of Governor in less than one year.
General Quitman had been re-nominated for election as Governor, and his opponents, composed in large part of the old Whig party, reinforced by a considerable contingent of Democrats, and calling themselves the "Union party," placed in nomination for the Chief Magistracy of the State, Henry S. Foote, then representing the State in the Senate of the United States. The canvass was bitter and exciting. Each party had its candidates for the Convention and the Legislature in the field in every county in the State. The election for delegates occurred in August, 1851, and resulted in an overwhelming triumph of the Union party. General Quitman promptly abandoned the contest, frankly declaring that the people had decided against the views held by him, and that having no personal purpose to subserve in remaining any longer in the position of a candidate for Governor, he declined at once.
This left the resisters without a leader, and all eyes were turned to Col. Jefferson Davis, in the hope that he could repeat his tactics at Buena Vista, stem the tide of opposition, turn defeat into triumph, and drive back their exulting opponents, as he drove the Mexican lancers from the fields in a more deadly encounter. It was not to be, however. Colonel Davis reluctantly accepted the leadership, and entered upon the canvass, and though the Union party had obtained a majority of nearly seven thousand at the August election for delegates to the Convention, at the general election in November, Senator Foote was elected Governor by the meagre [sic] majority of nine hundred and ninety-nine votes.
In the September previous, the Convention called by the Legislature had assembled. Mr. Carmack, of Tishomingo, was elected president, and that body, after being in session a week or ten days, adjourned sine die, after declaring its unalterable fealty to the Union.
In November, 1855, General Quitman was elected a Representative in Congress, and in 1857, he was re-elected, and died at his home near Natchez, July 7th, 1858.
General Quitman was universally esteemed and honored by the people of Mississippi, for his courage, his high and honorable character, the great purity of his life, and for the kind and genial heart he possessed. His death was widely lamented, and the people of nearly every county in the State paid fitting tributes to his worth.
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