General Fitzhugh Lee, by Harry Warren Readnour, Chapter 5

General Fitzhugh Lee: A Biographical Study


At noon, January 1, 1886, Fitzhugh Lee was inaugurated as Governor before a packed crowd in the Hall of the House of Delegates. At the close of the ceremony, Governor Lee, other dignitaries, and the spectators quietly departed from the Capitol. Ironically, there was no parade of marching troops, cavalry, and bands–which had characterized the recent campaign–to applaud the triumph of the ex-cavalryman and “cavalcade” political contender. Fearing that it might detract from the dignity of the civil ceremony, the martial hero declined a parade but consented to an inaugural ball and reception in the evening. The Inaugural Ball of 1886 was one of the most notable galas in the history of Virginia. Governor Lee and the gracious Ellen began the Grand Promenade at 9:00 p.m. in the First Regiment Armory before the hundreds of invited guests. From 11:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m., the Lees received best wishes from the thousands of people attending the reception in adjoining Sanger Hall. The occasion was more than a celebration to honor the man who personified the victory of the Virginia Democracy, for ex-Governor Cameron and John S. Wise were among the special guests. It was one of those times when Virginians of myriad backgrounds and conflicting opinions came together in wonder and pride to commemorate all that was glorious and good in the life of the Old Dominion.1 To Lee the traditionalist, the activities were a visible manifestation of Virginia tradition as it was later defined by one historian:

There is the Virginia that was, the Virginia that ought to have been, the Virginia that is, and the Virginia that might have been. What people say and believe about all four is the Virginia tradition.2

The rites augured well for the new administration and would be fondly remembered for years to come. Inauguration Day was probably the most enjoyable and satisfying day Governor Fitzhugh Lee would witness in his four-year term.

An analysis of this extravagantly launched administration is necessary to understand Lee the man; in turn, it is also required to place the biographical subject in his proper perspective in the broad stream of Virginia history. Governor Lee exerted an influence on the times while being swayed by them, his term in office reflected not only his personality and philosophy but also the circumstances of the day. Accordingly, the Lee years from 1886 to 1890 were shaped by their own particular combination of relevant components. The purpose of this chapter is twofold: first, to examine the specific elements which determined the character and the course of his administration and, secondly, to provide further insight into the life of Fitzhugh Lee.

Several factors contributed to the style of operation adopted by the new governor when he assumed office. He naturally turned to the administrations of his immediate predecessors for guidelines in conducting himself as the highest official of the Commonwealth. His predecessors had functioned within a similar executive framework in which Lee was to work, but their tenure did not provide an adequate model for him to follow. Several elements contributed to the differentiations in the general tone of his and the preceding administrations. For example, while Lee could draw from the service of his friend Governor James Lawson Kemper (1874–1878), the latter entered office as a seasoned politician who was thoroughly familiar with most phases of public life at the state level. Moreover, the experiences of Governors Frederick W. M. Holliday (1878–1882) and William E. Cameron (1882–1886) were not entirely relevant for him. The character of their administrations was profoundly affected by disagreements between the executive and the legislature on the debt issue. Both Holliday, the Conservative-Funder, and Cameron, the Readjuster, had suffered the humiliation of seeing the opposition party gain control of the General Assembly.3 In comparison with Kemper, Lee was a political novice, and, in contrast to Holliday and Cameron, he faced a new situation: the governor, other state officers, and a majority of the Assembly were members of the same party and in at least nominal agreement on major policies. The shortage of meaningful precedents and the changes in circumstances from previous administrations—plus his natural temperament—contributed to Lee’s reluctance to attempt dynamic innovation during his gubernatorial term.

The conduct of Fitz in his role as governor was partially influenced by his attitude towards the office. His feeling that a weak executive was the best for the Old Dominion was shared by many of his fellow Virginians and based on attitudes going back to the colonial era. His preference for a relatively powerless chief executive did not detract from the respect he accorded that position however. To Lee, being the highest elected official of the Commonwealth was second only to being President of the United States—and not a poor second, either!4 His almost sacrosanct view of the office complemented his personal lack of interest in politics and directly influenced his official and semi-official activities. The honor and prestige of being governor were sufficient reward for any man. The occupant should remain aloof from the mundane political affairs of the moment and provide detached leadership only on the most important problems of the day. The governor, in Lee’s conception, should enhance the dignity of his office and not grasp for personal power. Governor Lee viewed himself as a visible symbol of the heritage possessed by all Virginians and an emblem of their unity. This concept of the governorship plus his personal taste was the basis for his emphasis on the ceremonial functions of the governor. Although Lee was often practical in handling his official duties, the hardened ex-cavalryman retained much of his romanticism throughout the four years. He was inconsistent at various times and on particular matters, but this aura never completely vanished despite the exigencies of office.5

The Lee concept of the governor as a exalted figurehead also conformed to realities of the state governmental structure in the 1880s. This structure generally bestowed prestige rather than authority on the office of governor. The General Assembly was the true locus of power, both legally and politically. Its members elected the major state officers of the executive department and determined their duties and authority. In contrast, Governor Lee appointed only his personal staff and the boards of he state educational and eleemosynary institutions (the number fluctuated but seldom exceeded ninety) whose appointments were subject to senatorial confirmation.6 In addition the hundred members of he House of Delegates and the forty Senators had closer ties with local officials and politicians in their smaller constituencies. The Assembly elected the county and city court judges, who in turn were leading figures in the “court-house cliques” of local officials. Nominees for these judgeships were usually recommended by the Democratic county chairmen. The political and official ties of legislators and local officials were further cemented by a provision of the Anderson-McCormick election law of 1884 whereby the General Assembly chose the local electoral boards.7 These boards were, of course, instrumental in controlling the machinery of legislative elections and perpetuating a Democratic majority in the Assembly. Officeholders and party officials were tied not to the governor at the state level but rather to the state chairman and other members of the Democratic central committee who gave advice and instructions. This system, with a Democratic governor as an ancillary figure, was only in its infancy during the Lee administration but nonetheless firmly established.8

Despite the limitations imposed by the conditions described in the preceding paragraphs, Governor Lee had many responsibilities and was not completely lacking in power to meet them. How he utilized his resources to meet those responsibilities depended to some extent on his own personality. Lee, hampered by his own ideology, seldom provided continuous dynamic leadership in the initiation and execution of solutions to the major problems of the Commonwealth. In military terms, he all too often viewed himself as a chief of staff, rather than the commander, of that governmental apparatus which should to achieve his goal of promoting “the prosperity of he State.” Both his personal inclination and his awareness of the existing system impelled him to attempt to focus responsibility where the power centered. Consequently, he stated to the General Assembly:

The Legislature convenes at a propitious period in the history of Virginia, a prosperous future points to peace and progress within her limits, and wise decrees and economic laws will be expected and demanded by the people of their representatives.9

Yet Lee was at times forced to ignore both his romantic conception of the governor’s role and the very real powers and responsibilities of the Assembly when he confronted the problems facing the State. He was, after all, the highest official in the government and his status incurred both legal and moral responsibilities for its function. Moreover, he was continuously in office whereas the Assembly met in brief sixty-day biennial sessions.10 He had an obligation to provide at least a vague supervision over the day-to-day governmental operations and to implement the policies formulated by his Democratic colleagues in the legislature, especially after a law of February 27, 1886, charged him with the function—previously denied his Readjuster predecessor—of both reviewing quarterly reports and demanding special ones from the heads of departments and other demanding special ones from the heads of departments and other state agencies.11

During the Lee administration the chief problem—one which directly or indirectly affected all others—was the debt. Fitz confronted it in the characteristic manner with which he met most burdens imposed on him during his tenure. Although he neither fully understood the debt question nor enjoyed his attempt to resolve it, the Governor noted its true significance in his brief statement to the Assembly:

The vexatious sore on the body politic was the public debt, and it was ulcer tender to the touch of citizens within and without the limits of the State. Political parties were weary with its pain, and a jaded Commonwealth lamented its duration. With the belief that from a sound state of public health would freely flow multiplied blessings, my attention was at once directed to such sanitary measures as would produce results so much to be desired. It was clearly the initial point upon which executive work should begin.12

For four years, Lee struggled with this complex matter and the related problem of insufficient revenues to match the growing costs of governmental operation.

By 1886 several factors made the debt again the most pressing problem in Virginia public affairs, although not on the level that it had been in the late seventies. Much of the burden confronting Governor Lee resulted from the complex debt settlement proposal sponsored by Harrison Holt Riddleberger, the Readjuster leader who became the party’s first United States Senator.13 In enacting the Riddleberger law in 1882, the Readjuster-dominated legislature had adopted a dual approach to scale down the state’s debt from $35 (as of January 1, 1882) to $21 million. First, one-third of the principal as of July 1, 1863, was assigned unilaterally to the new state of West Virginia while the Old Dominion assumed the remaining two-thirds as her equitable portion.14 Secondly, the act contained various provisions which were designed to reduce the specific sum of this two-thirds share. One provision invalidated those bonds issued to meet the interest that had accrued on the total debt during the War and Reconstruction. Another section dealt with those remaining classes of bonds that paid more than three per cent. On these bonds, all prior interest payments in excess of the three per cent rate were to be subtracted from the original principal. The act also authorized the issuance of new bonds, also paying three per cent interest, to meet the state’s acknowledged debt of $21 million. These bonds—to be offered in exchange for the outstanding bonds devalued by the act—and their attached coupons were not exempted from taxation nor were the coupons receivable for tax payments. Finally, in order to make the settlement effective by securing the surrender of the older issues in exchange for the new one, interest payments were forbidden on all bonds except those authorized by the Riddleberger act.15 This settlement alleviated the state’s financial burdens and, after its acceptance by the Democrats in 1883, removed the debt issue as the chief bone of contention in Virginia politics.

Despite Readjsuter claims to the contrary, the Riddleberger act did not bring complete financial relief to the government, and by the beginning of the Lee administration, certain actions of the bondholders threatened to jeopardize state finances. The creditors’ initial reaction to the settlement had been mixed. Some were pleased with the state’s promise to fully honor its debt as funded by the Riddleberger act since the repudiation might have been the alternative, but most hoped that a more favorable agreement might be reached eventually. Unfortunately, the law possessed a serious flaw—no effective means was provided to thwart the tax-receivable feature of coupons from bonds issued under previous debt legislation—which the creditors utilized to vent their dissatisfaction.16 many holders of the various classes of older bonds consistently refused to exchange them for Riddleberger bonds since coupons from the former could be used in tax payments while those of the latter issue could not. Non-Virginia bondholders increasingly discounted their coupons to individual Virginia taxpayers in an effort to receive more return than they could expect from the state for the bonds funded under the Riddleberger law. Coupons from these older bonds continued to be presented in payment of taxes despite the so-called “coupon-killer” legislation, the series of laws passed by the Readjusters to discourage the use of these coupons (in lieu of currency) for tax payments. In the contesting the “coupon-killer” acts, the bondholders lost in the first series of debt cases before the Supreme Court in 1883 but won a limited victory during the second series of cases in 1885. Coupons were to be accepted from taxpayers if prescribed standards could be met.17 The Governor and other officials feared that the whole debt settlement, which had never been accepted by the bondholders, might collapse since cash revenues would be insufficient to meet the Riddleberger obligations. At best, the expected rise in tax payments by coupons would upset the state’s meager cash revenues and impair the fulfillment of basic governmental functions. Since Lee and other Democrats were suspected of being lukewarm in their support of the Riddleberger settlement, many anticipated that it would be discarded owing to these later developments.18 in consequence, the debt controversy might be rekindled.

Governor Lee was a far different man from the “debt-payer” candidate he had been in the 1879 legislative election. He firmly believed that the Democratic party had committed itself to an acceptance of the Riddleberger settlement; therefore, he and his party were obliged to defend it.19 On February 18, 1886, in his first major message to the General Assembly, he reminded the legislature of the past troubles resulting from the debt and outlined possible future ones. His bold statement was a clarion call to rally both the legislature and the people to the state’s defense against its creditors. His tone must have made the most rabid Readjuster happy: “There are duties resting upon the State . . . of a dignity higher than the obligations to her creditors, such as the absolute necessity . . .” to support and maintain “. . . our government, our free schools, our charitable institutions, and the administration of justice.” While Lee made extreme statements—“The funding bill of 1871 mortgaged the life blood of the State”𔃀he was not a repudiator. What worried him was an improbable but by no means impossible action the bondholders might take. Since the face amount of outstanding tax-receivable coupons exceeded the state’s annual cash revenue, the creditors could bring governmental operations to a complete halt if they forced all the coupons upon the treasury in any one year. Lee maintained that while the people were as determined “to preserved their good name as Virginians have always been,” they would not tolerate such a catastrophe. Accordingly, he called upon the General Assembly to appoint a commission to meet formally with the bondholders, explain the reasons for the Riddleberger settlement, and attempt to win their acceptance of it. he further believed that the commission should not be empowered to make compromises; rather, it should emphasize that, in spite of their seemingly successful litigation, the bondholders faced a long and costly effort to overcome the “perfect unanimity among our people of all political parties.” Knowing that the bondholders were already tired of the legal wrangle, Lee hoped to entice them into accepting the settlement by the assurance that “Virginia will act in good faith” and pay her debt when her revenues were sufficient.20

Lee’s proposal of a legislative commission to meet the bondholders of their representatives face to face was the initial step in a final solution of the debt problem. However, the solution was not immediately reached, and Governor Lee was forced to concern himself with the problem throughout his administration. His belief that the bondholders would accept the settlement after a reasonable explanation of it by the commission was ignored by the Assembly.21 Instead, the legislature passed a series of acts designed to reduce the amount of coupons receivable in payment of taxes.22 The well-organized group of foreign bondholders were intransigent, however, and flooded the state with their coupons. Lee’s worst fears were not realized but the amount of coupons forced on the treasury for tax payments rose from $50,164 in 1885 to $258,938 by 1888, while the total annual revenues remained static at less than $2,500,000.23 Since each dollar paid in coupons reduced the state’s meager cash revenues by a corresponding amount, the rise in coupon payments imperiled the general governmental operation while it impaired the state’s ability to meet those debt obligations assumed in the Riddleberger settlement.

Lee’s initial hope that the Assembly would solve the problems relating to the debt proved futile. After its adjournment on March 6, 1886, the Governor was left to cope with the debt as best he could. Disliking paperwork and financial intricacies, he found himself embroiled in both during the next year. Fitz participated in a laborious and extensive correspondence with the foreign bondholders in an effort to break the impasse with them. In countless letters he pleaded for a reduction in the number of coupons offered in tax payments and their acceptance of the Riddleberger amount of principal and rate of interest.24

His vision of the governor’s office being a pleasant and enjoyable position evaporated during this year, as his frustrating correspondence increased. In a letter to his wife, he complained, “Tonight I am tired, as usual having been in the office until a late hour.”25 There were signs, however, that the bondholders shared with Fitz the same weariness over the debt dispute. In October 1886 he received a significant communication from the Council of Foreign Bondholders, the major representative of those bondholders opposing the Riddleberger settlement. While again asserting its steadfast determination not to accept that settlement, the Council expressed “its willingness to meet the State and entertain a reasonable compromise.” More importantly, the Council seemed to adhere to the general principles of the Riddleberger Act. The compromise was to be based upon a consideration of the present government revenues and an acceptance of the state’s primary obligation to provide essential public services.26 Prior to this, the Council had adamantly maintained that the first priority of the state was to honor its credit obligations in full. The elated Governor fondly hoped that this proposal was a momentous step in resolving the seemingly insoluble dispute.

The dispute with the bondholders was not readily resolved, however. In spite of their expressed desire for a compromise, the bondholders persisted in pressing tax receivable coupons upon the state and continued their successful litigation in the courts.27 governor Lee finally abandoned his expectations of an imminent agreement while becoming increasingly worried about the impact of the creditor’s court victories on state finances. Despairing of his own efforts to solve the frustrating imbroglio, he again turned to the General Assembly for assistance and issued a proclamation on February 25, 1887, calling for a special legislative session.28 In his message to the extra session, he summarized once more the history of the debt and the reasons for the Riddleberger settlement while reiterating his belief that Virginia revenues were insufficient to bear any agreement more favorable to the creditors. The immediate problem, Lee acknowledged, was threefold: the cost of government was increasing, total revenue remained static, and cash revenues were declining as more coupons were redeemed. His dark picture of state finances also embraced the expectation that the situation would further deteriorate as more “coupon-killer” legislation became inoperative owing to the U.S. Supreme Court decisions. A number of tax collectors and other state officials were already threatened with Federal prosecution for trying to comply with state statutes. As a remedy, Lee suggested the enactment of new laws making the redemption of coupons a more complicated, time-consuming process, and, once more, he urged the establishment of a debt commission to deal directly with the bondholders.29

In its brief session, the legislature responded favorably to the basic principles of both gubernatorial suggestions but far exceeded them in content. The Assembly was determined to place insuperable obstacles upon coupon tax payments and force the bondholders to capitulate. Numerous laws were passed, but the most important one in achieving that objective was adopted on May 12, 1887. This act provided that if any tax payer refused to pay in cash and instead presented coupons, the state’s attorney should bring suit in the pertinent state court within ten days. The burden of proving the genuineness of the coupons was placed on the defendant.30 This legal process was expected to be repeated indefinitely. In addition to legislation, the Assembly turned to Lee’s idea of a commission. Since the start of the extra session, the bondholders had pleaded for one and promised to send their representatives to met with a Virginia group.31 A commission was duly authorized with instructions not only to “explain” the settlement but also to open negotiations with the bondholders about the matter. Since the Joint Committee on the Debt was authorized to remain in existence and confer with bondholders during recesses of the legislature, Governor Lee thought he, at least, had escaped from the onerous debt problem.32

Indeed, the actions of he legislature in the special session of 1887 eventually led to a compromise with the bondholders, but the final agreement was not reached until 1892 after a series of new laws, numerous court cases, and complicated negotiations.33 During the remainder of his term, Governor Lee was continually confronted with the debt controversy and its many ramifications—unfortunately, none of his efforts to alleviate the matter was rewarded with success while he was in office.34 Moreover, the inability of the governor and the Assembly to solve the dispute during Lee’s tenure caused the state’s financial condition to remain precarious from 1886 to 1890. These adverse financial circumstances affected both the form and the results of the Lee administration by limiting his and the Assembly’s course of action.

A further brief analytical summary of his approach in confronting the chief problem of his administration reveals several facets of Lee as Governor. He was dynamic at times and suggested innovative solutions, but his disposition for caution usually tempered any proposal sufficiently to avoid the touch of radicalism. Further, his personality and concept of the governor’s position precluded any sustained forceful effort to secure the adoption of his own proposals. He preferred to leave the formulation and implementation of policy to others. As a military man, he was wedded to the idea of responsibility commensurate with authority; consequently, while he proposed measures to the General Assembly, he felt that it was the body that possessed the responsibility and the power to solve the questions of the day. He attempted whenever possible to transfer or consign matters to the legislators and other politicians in his party. This tendency was augmented by his personal inclination to shun tedious paperwork or to become involved with the intricacies of he legislative and administrative processes in government. All too often, Lee was out of his natural element when facing the complexities of government—his background and experience were insufficient in preparing him for office. As one contemporary observed: “He is not a lawyer but a soldier, and it would hardly be fair for us to hope that he could extricate himself from the influence of his education and military life.”35 Both by temperament and as a type of self-defense mechanism, Governor Lee attempted to take an aloof and noncontroversial, even nonpartisan if possible, position on the issues of the day. No governor could exist in a vacuum, of course, and the General found the task of being governor far more burdensome than he had expected.

Although the debt was his chief millstone, Governor Lee was subjected to involvement with a host of other governmental affairs and concerns. The status of public education had been linked to the debt difficulties since “redemption.” The crippling effect on free public schools which resulted from trying to meet the obligations of the Funder Act of 1871 had probably triggered Readjusterism more than any other single factor. Lee’s concern with the debt from 1886 to 1890 was partially related to his interest in preserving and strengthening the public school system.36 Although some Democrats did not cast off their Conservative-Funder legacy of a dislike or disinterest for free schools, Fitzhugh Lee firmly believed that a state-supported system was a key factor in promoting the progress and prosperity of the Old Dominion. He worked to commit all his fellow ex-Conservatives to his belief and, at the close of his term, he could note with pride that one facet of the Readjuster controversy had been buried: “The practicability or expediency of introducing and maintaining a system of popular education is no longer a question.”37 While it is difficult to measure the degree of influence that Lee exerted on the evolution of thought towards that end, it may be noted that he consistently worked to make the state school system more palatable to all Virginians and to increase “the encouragement and moral support accorded it by the people.”38

The Governor felt that the government was obligated to increase school appropriations whenever possible since “the efficacy and general success of a system of popular education depends upon he amount of funds provided by law for its support.”39 In his efforts to increase state expenditure for public schools, he met with mixed success. Annual school expenditures during his term increased only slightly—from $792,342 (1885–86 fiscal year) to $837,673 (fiscal year 1888–89).40 Greater progress was made in other areas during his incumbency:

The estimated value of school property when I came into office and when I go out, is as follows: In 1889 it is $2,208,114; in 1885 it was $1,819,256; increase, $388,858. Number of public schools in 1889, 7,410; in 1885, 6,675; increase, 735. Total number of pupils enrolled in 1889, 336,948; in 1885, 303,343; increase, 33,605; increase of pupils in average daily attendance nearly 20,000.41

Of course, the sole credit for the failures and the successes of the school system during this period cannot be assigned to Lee alone, but perhaps it was an achievement by him and like-minded men that school appropriations did not decline during a period when Virginia finances were precarious. Lee’s public statements and messages to the Assembly helped to avoid that development. Typically, however, the Governor refrained from utilizing any other method in exerting sufficient pressure on the Assembly to win his professed goal of vast increases in school funds.

In addition to seeking increased appropriations from the state legislature, Lee also sought assistance for Virginia’s schools from the national government. He strongly supported the Blair bill, a proposal before Congress to apportion part of the federal surplus among states in the ratio of the illiteracy of their population. 42 Lee and others—including even Senator John W. Daniel, formerly a lukewarm advocate of public education—believed the Blair bill to be an opportune offer of salvation for Virginian’s financially deprived schools. During the first year of his administration, Governor Lee urged the General Assembly to send to Congress resolutions endorsing the measure and the Virginia legislators promptly complied with his request.43 Unfortunately, the actions of Lee and the Virginia legislature had little effect on national politics. The Blair proposal, and federal aid to education in general, was opposed by some Southerners on grounds that national involvement in education would infringe on states’ rights. Other disliked the bill because the idea of utilizing federal funds to improve Southern schools (in particular those for Negroes) rekindled memories of reconstruction. Endorsement of the Blair bill by various negroes also alienated some whites, while other Southerners viewed the measure—especially with its emphasis on the pressing need to overcome the backwardness of the region’s schools and to raise the percentage of literacy among the Southern popluation–as simply an insult to the South.44 Throughout the four years of his administration, Lee retained his hope that the bill would eventually be enacted, but his efforts to secure federal aid for the state’s schools proved fruitless. The determined opposition thwarted the bills’ passage until Senator Blair finally abandoned his proposal in 1891.45 Consequently, the Virginia public schools remained dependent upon the state’s meager resources during Lee’s term.

Fitz Lee strongly espoused higher education as well, perhaps by reason of his own experience at West Point. While he recognized the educational contributions to the Commonwealth by the private colleges, he maintained that state-supported ones should be the capstone of the state public school system. The state should endeavor to provide higher educational opportunities for all Virginians with the requisite intellectual capacity.46 In his entreaties to the legislature and to the people on this subject, Lee made probably the most skillful, persuasive arguments he ever expressed on any subject. In a self-revealing message and his last major communication to the General Assembly, he pleaded for increased aid to the higher educational institutions in an erudite solicitation combining economic, civic, and intellectual advantages with an appeal to Virginia chauvinism:

But the strength and prosperity of a State depend upon . . . a judicious administration of public affairs; upon liberal culture in the various professions; upon directive power in mining, manufacturing, mercantile, and other economic interests. Hence an enlightened policy demands the protection and promotion of literature, science, and art, as contributing to these important ends, and as constituting of themselves, apart from their practical utility, prominent features in an advanced civilization, and hence the value of institutions especially adapted to higher literary, scientific, and technical training.

The conditions of modern life, the progressive and complex nature of modern civilization, demand a wider ranger of special or technical instruction and training than have existed in any previous age; hence, without institutions or means in some form to furnish the higher and general and special training, the State must needs fail in a measure to attain its normal condition of intellectual, social, and material well-being, or send her aspiring youth beyond the borders in quest of the culture not afforded at home, or commit, in a measure, the direction of her affairs and the development of her resources to the educated brain and skilled hand of the stranger.47

Unfortunately, his rhetoric did nothing to improve state finances, and the General Assembly increased appropriations only slightly during his incumbency. He did have some success, however; for example, he worked closely with Lunsford L. Lomax, his old friend since he West Point years and now president of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, in winning the first state appropriation for that institution since 1878.48 Governor Lee was also more actively involved and concerned than his post-war predecessors with the operations of the upper-level institutions. He not only maintained extensive communications with members of the regulatory boards whom he appointed but also with officials at the institutions as well.49 Many of his recommendations to the Assembly and other state officials were derived from this correspondence. Further, the Governor tried to emphasize the importance of these institutions by attending their commencement and other special functions whenever possible.50 Perhaps his efforts contributed in some measure to their continued growth during his gubernatorial tenure.

The third general area of official affairs which occupied a great amount of Governor Lee’s time and effort related to various aspects of maintaining civil order in the state—chiefly his activities involving the militia, his pardoning power, and the penal system. Naturally, the ex-General enjoyed his role in supervising and directing the state militia. Moreover, his qualifications in this concern were superb, consisting not only of his active military performance but also his service from 1881 to 1885 as the commander of a militia brigade. Lee, primarily because of his personal disposition, devoted more energy than other governors to militia affairs. He examined in great detail all reports pertaining to militia activities and reviewed the troops as often as he could. Further, he encouraged the state to enhance its prestige by having its military organizations appear at numerous ceremonies both in and outside the Commonwealth. Lee did not hesitate to use the militia for a more practical purpose, however, since he promptly dispatched the state’s volunteer soldiers to any locality threatened with riots or other manifestations of public disorder.51 Lee, of course, took great personal satisfaction in the peak efficiency and accomplishments of the militia during his tenure.

His exercise of the pardoning powers was a far less enjoyable prerogative of office. The Governor was involved in hundreds of cases pertaining to the granting of pardons, reprieves, and commutations of punishment. Although the decisions in most were matter-of-course, Lee’s examination of each request was a time-consuming process.52 Controversial and disputed judgments involving capital offenses placed Lee in an especially unenviable position and imposed one of the heaviest burdens of office upon him. The most celebrated and controversial case in Lee’s administration was that of Thomas J. Cluverius, who was convicted of murder in 1885 and finally sentenced to be hanged on December 19, 1886. Lee granted a thirty-five day respite in order to thoroughly examine all aspects of the case. During this stay the newspapers devoted extensive coverage to the matter while the public debated it.53 Lee was subjected to intense pressure not only from speculations and suggestions by the press and the public at large but also from the heartsick appeals of the criminal and his relatives.54 After much anguish, the Governor accepted the verdict of the court and refused to grant clemency. While there were no winners in the emotional affair, Fitz at least earned the respect of both sides for his conscientious treatment of the matter.55

Governor Lee was also required to devote considerable attention to the penal system. The state penitentiary, housing the black and white prisoners of both sexes, was filled to nearly twice its capacity by 1886 and, as usual, suffered from a chronic shortage of funds. As a means of alleviating both problems, it was customary to hire out some convicts to local governmental units and private enterprises. This practice was vastly expanded by a new law passed at the beginning of Lee’s administration.56 Since the governor was charged with initiating contracts with employers of convict labor, Fitz engaged in numerous negotiations in an effort to fulfill that responsibility. Moreover, he suffered under an additional amount of despised paperwork since he was required to review all complaints arising from the system.57 His problems pertaining to the penitentiary itself were compounded when a fire in January 1888 destroyed the large shoe factory there. Under the control of a private contractor, the shoe manufacturing enterprise had rendered a sorely needed profit to the state, and its loss imposed the additional task of Lee of seeing that it was restored to operation as quickly as possible.58 The Governor recommended reforms in the penal system but without success. Although he pointed out that the state lost money on the expanded convict-hire system, the General Assembly refused his request to revise the practice. The vested interests of the counties and the railroads in obtaining a cheap labor forces were too much to overcome.59 Lee also professed a humanitarian interest in the general welfare of the prisoners and especially sought the latest information on the subject of rehabilitation. His innovative proposals—chiefly, the establishment of a reformatory school for youthful offenders under the age of eighteen years and the separation of criminals under twenty-one years from the older and more hardened ones—were ignored by the legislature.60

In contrast to his limited achievements in coping with the preceding and other problems of his tenure, Governor Lee was more successful in maintaining what he considered to be the proper relationship between himself and the General Assembly. His personal view of the governorship plus his natural amiability contributed to the harmonious relationship that prevailed throughout his term. While he did not hesitate to suggest quite strongly the enactment of a host of measures, the Governor felt compelled for a combination of reasons to abstain from any further attempt to influence the legislature’s actions. Members of the Assembly, after all, were more skilled in policy-making and closer to the people. In addition, since the Assembly was overwhelmingly Democratic, he declined to contest decisions of his fellow party members. Finally, Fitz remained firmly wedded to his idea that the governor possessed relatively little power to effectively direct the operations of the government in general and especially those of the legislature.61 Although he refrained from slavishly catering to the Assembly, he did avoid gubernatorial challenges—which would only be futile in his opinion—to the legislative will. His personal distaste for political strife supplemented this view of the governor’s position. Lee preferred to maintain a distant, aloof but cordial relationship with the legislators. A careful reading of the Governor’s executive papers and the Richmond Dispatch (1886 to 1890) reveals no major confrontation between him and the Assembly.

In addition to Lee’s lack of success in seeing his legislative proposals enacted into law, the domination of the executive branch by the legislature—and, consequently, by the leading Democratic politicians whether they were members of the Assembly or not—was revealed in several other areas. The Governor’s exercise of his limited patronage powers disclosed no attempt to enhance his personal influence. He usually acquiesced in the suggestions for appointments made by his fellow Democrats. In addition, he scrupulously avoided any effort to influence the election by the Assembly of personnel in the various executive departments. This behavior resulted both from his personal dislike of being involved in patronage matters and his feeling that he possessed insufficient authority to interfere in them.62 Lee’s cautious use of his veto power also reflected his reluctance to oppose the Assembly. His vetoes—of only three minor bills on grounds that the measures would be inoperative or entail too much expense—were noncontroversial, and the legislators made no serious attempt to override them.63 Assembly control over the organization and function of the various executive departments was exemplified by the fate of Lee’s recommendations to abolish the Register of Land Office. The Governor suggested, as one response to the perennial legislative demands for economy and retrenchment, that its functions could be taken over by the Second Auditor. The Assembly had no intention of dissolving a juicy Democratic patronage plum, however, and soundly rejected the advice.64 In a sense, Lee’s “success” in maintaining harmonious relations with the legislature was at the expense of securing the adoption of gubernatorial proposals. It should be pointed out that this phenomenon was not confined to the Lee administration.

The major triumph of Governor Lee—and the principal redeeming feature of his administration—was in the broad area of public relations, particularly in the public image he projected. His achievements in this facet of the gubernatorial office amply satisfied the great hopes and expectations that had been expressed at his glittering inaugural. As previously mentioned, Lee felt his principal function as governor was to serve as the visible symbol of the Commonwealth. Consequently, it was in character that as governor he put great emphasis on his performance in the official and quasi-official public activities relating to the office. His achievement in this area was his criterion (and that of many of his contemporaries as well) whereby the success or failure of his stewardship might be judged. Moreover, Lee’s view of the proper function of the governor—to avoid strenuous efforts to exert a dynamic influence on governmental policies and practices, and instead, to concentrate on the ceremonial and public role—pleased most Virginians. In the government sphere, Lee’s ego was satisfied while the politicians were content to exercise power and let the Governor have the publicity; in the public sphere, the masses enjoyed immensely the conduct of the Confederate hero who served as the formal head of their state.

Governor Lee possessed several additional advantages in fulfilling his chosen task of bringing prestige and honor to the office, and indirectly to the state, by the use of publicity. He enjoyed public appearances of all kinds and relished addressing and talking with his fellow citizens. Although he begrudged the hours spent on administrative tasks of the governor, he was willing to devote an inordinate amount of time to planning for and attending public functions.65 The quantity of appearance did not detract from their quality since the self-assured Governor, jovial but dignified, consciously exhibited the proper poise suitable to the particular occasion.66 In addition to his personal ability as an orator who could warm the hearts of his fellow Virginians, Lee’s adeptness in the publicity field was bolstered by another valuable asset. The Governor’s attractive family presented an appealing portrait. Mrs. Lee, gifted with all the social graces, demonstrated her hospitality according to the finest Virginia traditions at numerous receptions in the Executive Mansion. The four Lee children were much liked, but the fifth and last child became the idol of the state—all the Commonwealth thrilled to the birth of this baby, appropriately named Virginia, at the governor’s official residence in 1886.67

Perhaps Lee’s greatest success in publicity was his personification of the Confederate “cult” in Virginia. The cult reached its peak during his tenure as countless monuments to “The Lost Cause” were erected throughout the state. With his impeccable Confederate credentials, the Governor’s presence at dedications, memorial services, reunions, and similar affairs was demanded by the people. In his speeches, Lee idolized the past and expressed his hopes of a glorious future for Virginia and the South while the audiences, in response to the spell-binding orations and caught up with the emotion of the occasion, hailed him—“Our Fitz,” “Our Gallant Fitz,” “General Fitz”—as one of their favorite heroes.68 Fitz was intimately involved with the erection of the famous equestrian statue of general Robert Edward lee in Richmond. This monument was to be the ultimate in Confederate memorials, and the Governor devoted considerable effort to bring the project to fruition. No other monument sparked the attention that this one received, and its protracted execution only whetted public interest. The governor of Virginia was automatically the President of the Lee Monument Association, and Fitz energetically plunged into his duties.69 His goal was to complete the work of the Association, which had been concerned with the project since the 1870s, during his administration. He stimulated public interest—and the corresponding rise in contributions—by his heavy correspondence and numerous speeches. Finally, the first round of ceremonies, consisting of the dedication of the site and the laying of the cornerstone, was held amid much pomp and pageantry in October 1887.70 After this initial success, the Governor renewed his exertions to bring the endeavor to a dramatic conclusion before the close of his term. Unfortunately for Le, the sculptor (Jean Antoine Mercie) could not be hurried.71 Five months after Lee left office, the unveiling of the statue finally took place in one of the most impressive and colorful pageants ever witnessed in the Old Dominion. Fitz, of course, was a prominent participant in the unveiling and served as Grand Marshall of the ceremonies. His labors on behalf of the equestrian monument and other Confederate memorials were lauded by speakers and observers at the emotional rites of May 29, 1890.72 In this phase of his gubernatorial tenure, General Fitzhugh Lee was truly a man who benefited from the circumstances of the era.

During his term Governor Lee was constantly in the public eye owing to his conscious efforts to catch the public’s imagination. Although Lee won the praise of many Virginians for his previously mentioned activities, he did not seek acclaim for purely selfish reasons. For example, his character precluded an attempt to use his popularity as a tool for increasing his personal influence on the operation of the state government. He naturally enjoyed the commendation and prestige accorded him, but his ultimate goals were to instill additional pride in Virginians for their state and to enhance the respect of non-Virginians for the Old Dominion. He tried to be nonpartisan—most of his public activities were nonpolitical in nature although the democrats tended to monopolize the Confederate functions—in order to be governor of all the people. His successes in public relations rather than his administrative achievements were the basis of the following contemporary judgment on the administration of Fitzhugh Lee: “‘Our Fitz’ retires to private life with the assurance that Virginia never had a governor who was more beloved or who tried more conscientiously to do his duty.”73 Indeed, Virginians would long remember the Lee tenure and contrast its social sparkle with other lackluster gubernatorial administrations.

Despite the scarcity of notable administrative achievements during his term, Lee’s record compares favorably with both the service of other Virginia governors since 1865 and the performances of his contemporaries during the 1880s in other states. Naturally, no two gubernatorial terms have been identical, since events, personalities, problems, issues, and other factors interact to give distinguishing features to each. Nonetheless, as he first of an unbroken line of twenty-one Democratic governors of Virginia (from 1886 to 1970), Lee unconsciously initiated the basic pattern of service from which his successors seldom deviated. He was typical of most governors since 1865—of course, Governor Harry Flood Byrd (1926–1930) was a glaring exception—in that he left little permanent imprint on the civil and political annals of the Old Dominion.74 Lee’s tenure also conformed to the general mold of executive performance prevalent in other states during the Gilded Age. Since the executive power was widely diffused among other officials, contemporary governors were often the chief executive only in a formal rather than in a real sense. A governor who exercised the dominant voice in a state’s public affairs rarely emerged, since the limitations imposed on the office by the governmental machinery were difficult to overcome.75 Consequently, Lee’s general administrative performance met the accepted standards of the nation at the time. Moreover, his colorful activities in public relations, especially his use of publicity as a means not only to honor Virginia’s heritage but also to improve the state’s economic and political status, made him a noteworthy figure among contemporary governors.


1 This account of the inauguration and subsequent festivities is based primarily on the following: Richmond Dispatch, January 2, 1886; Robert B. Munford, Jr., Richmond Homes and Memories (Richmond, 1936), 110–112; Elizabeth H. Hancock (ed.), Autobiography of John E. Massey (New York and Washington, 1909), 266; Virginia W. Davis, “Virginia Inaugurals: Only the Title is the Same,” Virginia and the Virginia Record, LXXVI, No. 4 (January, 1954), 26–29, 104–106; Senate Journal, 1885–86, 136. (Full titles for official publications of the state during the Lee administration are given in the bibliography.)

2 Marshall W. Fishwick, Virginia: A New Look at the Old Dominion (New York, 1959), x.

3 For the respective careers of Kemper and Holliday, consult Jones, “Conservative Virginian,” and Porter, “Holliday.” For Cameron’s administration, see Moger, Virginia, 39–59, and Pearson, Readjuster Movement, 142–174.

4 In 1887–1888 when Southerners called for his selection as the vice-presidential nominee, Lee claimed he preferred to be Governor of Virginia. (This matter is discussed further in Chapter VI.)

5 Perhaps some of the respect he accorded to the office resulted from the fact that Governor Henry Lee (1791–1794) was his grandfather and Thomas Lee, President of the Council from 1749 to 1751, was another kinsman. This information was frequently mentioned in contemporary newspapers; see also Smith, Virginia: A History of the Executives, 162–164, 287–293, 399–402.

6 The limitations of the governor’s patronage and supervisory powers concerning state officials, as opposed to those of the assembly, are revealed in the following: Acts of the Assembly, 1885–86, 456–457; House Journal, 1887–88, 107–112, 322–324; Senate Journal,1885–86, 131–136, 485; C. E. Mason to Fitz Lee, March 27, 1888, Brock Papers, Huntington Library; “Executive Journal, Commonwealth of Virginia,” 1886–1890, Virginia State Library.

7 Acts of Assembly (Extra Session) 1884, 146–151; the electoral board appointed officials for each precinct, thus solidifying the system from the top to the lowest level.

8 The system survived with few modifications well into the twentieth century as Herman L. Horn revealed in his “The Growth and Development of the Democratic Party in Virginia since 1890” (Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University, 1949), 360–61, 369.

9 House Journal, 1887–88, 16.

10 Three regular sessions met during Lee’s turn as follows: December 2, 1885–March 6, 1886, December 7, 1887–March 5, 1888, and December 4, 1889–March 6, 1890; In addition, Lee called one extra session, March 16–May 24, 1887. Only the 1887–88 and the extra session were totally within the Lee administration.

11 Acts of Assembly, 1885–86, 311–312.

12 “Message of the Governor,” December 7, 1887, House Journal, 1887–88, 17. Lee frankly admitted that he knew little about the Riddleberger bill and the debt problem prior to his incumbency; newspaper clippings (1887), Opie Papers.

13 Cole, “Riddleberer,” 84–85.

14 West Virginia entered the Union on June 20, 1863. Litigation between the two states finally ended in 1918 with the United States Supreme Court ruled that West Virginia was liable for one-third of the debt. See Ratchford, American State Debts, 209–218.

15 For the complete statute, which became law on February 14, 1882, see Acts of the Assembly, 1881–82, 99–98. Since the incentive to surrender pre-Riddleberger bonds was deprivation of interest payments, the optimistic legislators felt a more extreme provision—one which specifically declared a refusal to exchange old bonds for the new ones to be illegal—was unnecessary.

16 Both the Funding Act of 1871 and the McCulloch Act of 1878 contained the tax-receivable feature for coupons. This feature was especially liked by the bondholders since some return was readily available from their investment, even if the state lapsed on the repayment schedule.

17 Ratchford, American State Debts, 209–212.

18 George m. McFarland, “Extension of Democracy in Virginia from 1850 to 1895” (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1934), 152–153. McFarland notes that Lee “turned out a real liberal” on the debt question but inaccurately states that the Governor threatened the bondholders with complete repudiation.

19 The Democratic-controlled Assembly had also passed several anti-coupon acts in 1884 to bolster the earlier settlement; Robert C. Burton, “The History of Taxation in Virginia: 1870–1901” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1962), 170.

20 “messages of the Governor,” February 18, 1886, House Journal, 1885–86, 420–423.

21 Senate Journal, 1887–88, 13.

22 Acts of the Assembly, 1885–86, 37, 40, 312, 384.

23 Ratchford, American State Debts, 215; Burton, “Taxation in Virginia: 1870–1901,” 97, 168.

24 Frank G. Ruffin, the Second Auditor, especially helped to impress on lee the gravity of the situation; see for example Ruffin’s handwritten report labeled “Settlement of the Debt” (undated), Lee Executive Papers

25 November 20, 1886, Opie Papers.

26 Charles O’Leary, Secretary of the Council of Foreign Bondholders, to Lee, October 8, 1886, Lee Executive Papers.

27 McGrane, Foreign Bondholders, 370.

28 House Journal (Extra Session), 1887, 3.

29 “Message from the Governor,” March 16, 1887, Senate Journal (Extra Session), 1887, 4–15.

30 Acts of Assembly (Extra Session), 1887, 257–260.

31 Pleydell Bouverie, Chairman, Council of Foreign Bondholders, to Lee, march 16 and April 4, 1887; Lee to Bouverie, April 5, 1887; Edward Thornton and S. N. Braithwaite to Lee, April 24, 1887; and “Proclamation of the Governor,” April 5, 1887; Lee Executive Papers.

32 Senate Journal (Extra Session), 1887, 73–75, 87–89, and Senate Document No. XII; Acts of the Assembly (Extra Session), 1887, 66.

33 The agreement, known as the “Olcott settlement,” was enacted into law on February 20, 1892, Acts of Assembly, 1891–92, 533–542. Provision was made for funding the entire debt. The principal named in the Riddleberger Act was raised by $3 million, but the repayment terms were more favorable to the state than under the earlier law.

34 E. P. Bouverie to Lee, December 18, 1887; Fred R. Scott to Lee, January 5 and 9, February 9, 1888 (all with printed enclosures); John Clough to Phillip W. McKinney, December 31, 1889; Lee executive Papers; “Message of he Governor,” December 4, 1889, Senate Journal, 1889–90, 15–30.

35 William E. Hatcher to B. Johnson Barbour, January 20, 1887, James Barbour Papers, University of Virginia Library.

36 “Message of the Governor,” February 18, 1886, House Journal, 1885–86, 420–424.

37 “Message of he Governor,” December 4, 1889, Senate Journal, 1889–90, 15–30.

38 “Message of he Governor,” December 7, 1887, Senate Journal, 1887–88, 12–33.

39 Ibid.; the Governor also noted the importance of how the funds were spent as well as the role of administrators and teachers in bringing success.

40 “Reports of he Superintendents of Public Instruction,” 1885–1889, printed in the respective Annual Reports.

41 “Message of the Governor,” December 4, 1889, Senate Journal, 1889–90, 22.

42 The Blair bill, actually a series of bills with minor variations was pressed upon Congress from 1881 to 1891 by Senator Henry W. Blair of New Hampshire, the chairman of the Senate Education and Labor Committee during the period. The bills, aimed principally at the South, were designed to eradicate the regions educational deficiencies by giving large sums of federal money to the schools.

43 Senate Journal, 1885–86, 21, 37.

44 The Blair proposals and federal aid to Southern schools are discussed in Stanley P. Hirshson, Farewell to the Bloody Shirt: Northern Republicans and the Southern Negro, 1877–1893 (Bloomington, Ind., 1962), 86–94, 192–200, and C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877–1913 (Baton Rouge, La., 1951), 61–64, 498–400. See also Daniel W. Crofts, “The Black Response to the Blair Education Bill,– The Journal of Southern History, XXXVII (February, 1971), 41–65.

45 Congressmen from the Deep South were the most active opponents of the proposal. Although Lee and Daniel helped to secure acceptance of the Blair bill by a majority of the state’s Congressional delegation, that commitment was never unanimous among Virginia Congressmen. See Doss, “John W. Daniel,” 122–123.

46 “Message of the Governor,” December 7, 1887, Senate Journal, 1887–88, 12–33.

47 “Message of the Governor,” December 4, 1889, Senate journal, 1889–90, 23.

48 Ibid., 22–23, and Lomax to Lee, November 18, 1887, printed in House Journal, 1887–88, 37.

49 Lee also became embroiled in quarrels between school officials and board members; for example, see: Francis H. Smith to Lee, September 25, 1886; General T. T. Munford to Smith, August 22, 1886; Smith to Munford, September 6, 1886; Lee Executive Papers.

50 James Huge Johnston to Lee, May 7, 1888, Ibid.: the Richmond Dispatch, March 19, June 11, 23, and 24, July 1 and 3, 1886, contains accounts of typical Lee visits.

51 John J. Williams to Lee, May 27 and June 3, 1886; Williams to Joseph A. Nulton, June 3, 1886; Lee to Nulton, undated (ca. June 1886); Joseph Lane Stern to Lee, June 16, 1887; William H. Palmer to Lee, September 12, 1887; J. Thompson Baird to Lee, September 29, 1887; James McDonald to Lee, September 23, 1887; Edward W. Gould to Lee, November 9, 1887; Lee Executive Papers. Richmond Dispatch, January 13, 1887; “Reports of the Adjutant General,” 1886–1889, printed in the respective Annual Reports. One of the militia units proudly bore the name “The Fitz Lee Troop.”

52 “A Communication from the Governor of Virginia Transmitting a List of Pardons,” March 1, 1888, House Doc. No. VIII, House Journal, 1887–88.

53 Richmond Dispatch, December 7, 1886, January 4, 6, 7, 8, 15, 19, and 20, 1887. Since the victim was a woman, the crime had sexual overtones (but no racial ones since the two principals were white).

54 Thomas J. Cluverius to Lee, December 8, 1886, and W. B. Cluverius to Lee, January 12, 1887, Opie Papers.

55 Richmond Dispatch, January 15 and 20, 1887; but see also William E. Hatcher to B. Johnson Barbour, January 27, 1887, James Barbour Papers, University of Virginia Library.

56 Acts of the Assembly, 1885–86, 539–540; “Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Penitentiary,” in Annual Reports, 1886.

57 John W. Carter to Lee, March 20, 1886; F. J. Chapman to Lee, June 10, 1886; C. G. Holland to Lee, July 15, August 30, and September 17, 1886; Abraham Fulkerson to Lee, May 15, 1886; printed petition of B. D. Triller to Lee, February 26, 1886; Lee to Triller, March 7, 1887 (a copy), Lee Executive papers. The Governor’s Papers contain numerous requests for convict labor and copies of the contracts. The convicts were naturally most desired in the spring and summer months, and the competition for them was heaviest during that period.

58 “Communication from the Governor of Virginia in Relation to the Destruction of a Portion of the Penitentiary by Fire,” House Journal, 1887–88, House Doc. No. VII. The demands for convict labor increased sharply after the fire since many felt the former shoe shop workers would be available for work on internal improvement projects throughout the state; see J. M. Vernon to Lee, January 17, 1888; J. M. Bailey to Lee, March 7, 1888; George E. Penn to Lee, March 10 and August 28, 1888; J. D. Imboden, November 30, 1887, and March 10, 1888; Lee Executive Papers.

59 “Message of the Governor,” December 4, 1889, Senate Journal, 1889–90, 15–30; “Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Virginia Penitentiary,” in Annual Reports, 1889.

60 Robert T. Devlin, Secretary of the California State Penological Commission, to Lee, April 13, 1886, Brock Papers; “Message of the Governor, ” December 7, 1887, Senate Journal, 1887–88.

61 Lee to B. Johnson Barbour, February 11, 1886, Barbour Family Papers, University of Virginia Library; S. E. Mason to Lee, March 27, 1888, Brock Papers.

62 Ibid.; also, Lee to B. Johnson Barbour, February 23, 1888, Barbour Family Papers. Lee especially disliked the numerous requests from personal acquaintances and Assembly members; see W. H. Payne to Lee, February 18, 1889 and Bernard P. Green to Lee, February 19, 1889.

63 House Journal, 1887–88, 289–290, 505–506; Senate Journal, 1887–88, 12–33; House Journal, 1887–88, 67–69.

64 “Message of the Governor,” December 7, 1887, Senate Journal, 1887–88, 12–33; House Journal, 1887–88, 67–69.

65 An analysis of the “Executive Journals, Commonwealth of Virginia,” 1886–1890 (Virginia State Library), and the Richmond Dispatch, 1886–1890, revealed that Lee averaged over ten appearances or meetings of this nature per month.

66 Although Lee was portly, he remained a striking, commanding figure. Moreover, he continued to be a fine horseman, and one contemporary fondly recalled “the occasions when we would see General Fitzhugh Lee on horseback, or starting from the mansion in his high-seated trap drawn by two spirited black horses. . . . The General himself, whether riding or driving, was a very impressive figure of the gentleman and the soldier.” See Munford, Richmond Homes and Memories, 111.

67 Ibid., 111–112; Richmond Dispatch, July 23, 1886, January 1, 1887; J. W. Jones, “Biographical Sketch of Lee,” April 22, 1898, Opie Papers.

68 For examples, see Lee to Confederate Veterans Camp at Alexandria, August 22, 1887, and the copy of his speech at Alexandria’s Confederate Monument, May 24, 1889, Opie Papers; Richmond Dispatch, May 18, 1888, and November 14, 1889.

69 Jubal A. Early to Lee, April 8, 9, and May 27, 1886; Sarah N. Randolph to Lee, April 1, June 7, July 27, and August 6, 1886; Archer Anderson to lee, June 10, 1886; Snowden Andrews to Lee, July 31, 1886; and Charles Niehaus to Lee, August 2, 1886, Lee Executive Papers.

70 Richmond Dispatch, August 7, 10, 17, September 24, and October 25–29, 1887.

71 Ibid., October 29, 1887; Paul Pujol to Lee, July 2, 1888, Lee Executive Papers.

72 Richmond Times, May 28–30, 1890; Richmond Dispatch, May 29–30, 1890.

73 Richmond Dispatch, December 31, 1889.

74 Despite their efforts to achieve post-gubernatorial political careers, J. Hoge Tyler (1898–1902), A. J. Montague (1902–1906), and Westmoreland Davis (1918–1922) were relegated—in company with Lee—to political oblivion after their terms of office, partly owing to the essential features of the political system discussed in this and the subsequent chapter.

75 A few exceptions to the general rule of ineffective governors during the period included Lee’s wartime associate, Wade Hampton (governor of South Carolina, 1877–1881), as well as John Peter Altgeld (Illinois, 1892–1896) and David B. Hill (New York, 1885–1891). However, even these men suffered defeats at the hands of legislatures or the electorate. For an account of the gubernatorial office and its development, see Coleman B. Ransone, Jr., The Office of Governor in the United States (University of Alabama, 1956). An informative review of the period’s state governmental framework is found in Allan R. Richards, “The Heritage of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries,” in The 50 States and Their Local Governments, ed. by James W. Fesler (New York, 1967), 45–70.

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