General Fitzhugh Lee, by Harry Warren Readnour, Chapter 6

General Fitzhugh Lee: A Biographical Study


Governor Fitzhugh Lee served as chief executive of the Commonwealth in the middle of the exciting transitional period which began with the defeat of the Readjusters in 1883 and continued until the mid-1890s. In two areas, economics and politics, the developments during this period were reflective of national–or at least Southern–trends, but both have a particular Virginia flavor. Economic activities during this time paralleled the political evolution. For example, in 1893 two events and their results, the Panic of 1893 and the election of a United States senator, made the year a momentous one for Virginians. Indeed, as revealed by the course of developments in subsequent decades, that year proved to be a watershed in both the economic and political history of the Old Dominion. Fitz Lee played a notable role in several economic and political events of this period, both as governor and later as private citizen. These events in turn left a profound impression on him. Lee’s actions and thoughts while governor naturally influenced the man’s life at the time, but these actions also exerted a major effect on the course of his affairs during the immediate post-gubernatorial years. The purpose of this chapter is to examine the role of Governor and former-Governor lee in economic and political matters within the framework of this area.

Lee served as chief executive of his state during a period of great economic growth in the United States. While Virginia and the other Southern states id not participate in this expansion to the extent experienced by the remainder of the nation, the South did undergo a striking advance relative to its status during Reconstruction. This advance heralded a new era for the region, and the participants in what became known as the “New South” movement eagerly stressed the inherent advantages—social, economic, and intellectual—which this New South would possess. According to the New South creed (as Allen Moger has summarized it), Southern prosperity would be achieved “by copying the economy of the North through the diversification of crops, the construction of railroads, and the encouragement of any variety of industry which might come to the section.”1 In particular, New South advocates gained a wider and more receptive audience during the late 1880s for their program of industrial advancement. In the first year of the Lee administration, Henry W. Grady, the most celebrated new South apostle, made his classic speech to the New England Society of New York in which he announced that the Old South had passed away and that a New South was ready for reconciliation and economic regeneration. Although much of the Grady speech consisted of expressions previously made trite by other Southerners (including Fitzhugh Lee), he captured the attention of the national press and caught the popular fancy. By the time of Grady’s death in 1889, the South was gripped by the optimistic movement and the vision of panacea it promised. The publicity generated by the New South advocates permeated the region from Lee’s inaugural to the Panic of 1893.2 In Virginia, long a leading manufacturing state by Southern standards, a renewed emphasis was placed on economic progress, especially industrial growth, by the governor and a host of his contemporaries.3

Lee had been interested in promoting Virginia prosperity in the years prior to his inaugural but chiefly in the general area of agricultural advancement.4 Being a realist, he continued his interest in the promotion of agricultural interests of the Commonwealth since the overwhelming majority of its citizens depended upon the soil for their livelihood. As governor, he noted: “The whole State will at once feel any vigorous increase in its agricultural prosperity.”5 Consequently, he requested the expansion of numerous state services to aid the farmer; in particular, he urged that the Commissioner of Agriculture be delegated increased powers and responsibilities for the collection and dissemination of agricultural statistics and other information. He also expressed the hope that the legislature would pass laws designed to relieve the distress of those farmers, especially grain producers, who suffered from Western competition. He declared to the lawmakers: “Prosperous farmers make a prosperous State, and every suggestion which can promote their interests demands, and I feel will receive, your faithful attention.”6 Yet Lee shared the philosophy of limited government which dominated the Assembly and precluded any massive amount of assistance, even indirectly, to the increasingly hard-pressed farmers. The farmers’ plight was less noticeable in the general prosperity that prevailed during his administration, and Lee was usually considered to be a sympathetic governor by agricultural groups. Agrarian discontent and despair came to a focus after he left office, and Governor Lee consequently escaped the distruptive threat entailed by the Populist revolt of the 1890s.7

While the farmers’ role in state economic prosperity was not ignored, Lee and his contemporaries were far more enthusiastic about the industrialization phase of the New South movement. Publicists might mention the need for diversification of crops and call for the establishment of agricultural experiment stations as Lee did, but the major emphasis centered on encouraging the construction of railroads and the migration of industrial concerns to the state.8 Governor Lee felt that a proliferation of manufacturing enterprises would propel Virginia into the mainstream of American economic life, and he constantly sought during his tenure to entice industry into all areas of the state. Whenever Lee journeyed northward, he spoke not only of the Southern desire for sectional reconciliation but also of its interest in the future. The South, he maintained, cherished its past but was no longer wedded to it and would be an ideal region for Northern investment. Virginia, with her natural resources and man-made facilities, stood ready to receive sincere Northerners—at least those possessing money or special skills—with open arms on mutually advantageous terms.9 When Lee was unable to attend major expositions and economic meetings outside the state, he tried to see that Virginia’s industrial possibilities were properly lauded, and he appointed numerous delegations to represent the state at these gatherings.10 At home, he gave full support to any group which attempted to boost a particular town or locality. The most notable economic exposition held in his term, The Richmond Exposition of 1888, received his warmest praise and encouragement. Exhibits were designed to reveal the Commonwealth’s economic progress and demonstrate the desire of Virginians to move forward into a new phase of economic development.11 Governor Lee, at this and similar affairs, proudly extolled his state’s present achievements while claiming that future accomplishments would be even more spectacular.

Lee’s extravagant boosterism was comparable to that of many of his fellow citizens although a few deplored the attempts to emulate the Northern economy in Virginia. The Reverend Robert L. Dabney, the most notable representative of the latter group, strongly lamented the effects on Virginia’s social values and system of government that he expected to be wrought by industrialism.12 Governor Lee, in spite of his fascination and awe for the heritage of Old Virginia, seems to have been unbothered by qualms that industrial progress might prove a mixed blessing for his beloved state. To Lee, industrial development was the key to Virginia’s prosperous future and the only means to alleviate both the people’s and the government’s financial impoverishment. It was time that Virginia regained her former preeminence in the Union. Industrialization meant more and better jobs for its citizens, and expanded tax base for the state, and numerous other benefits.13

The personal efforts of Governor Lee to attract new industry were a contributing factor to economic advancement. Moreover, he headed a “sage,” conservative, and stable regime which provided an additional attraction to the potential investor. Business and industrial leaders became increasingly influential in his party as the Virginia Democracy’s commitment to commercial interests became more pronounced during the Lee era. It is impossible to determine the exact influence Lee exerted on Virginia’s economic development during the period, but one may not the progress made while he presided over the state government. An estimated $100 million in new capital investment came into the state during his incumbency.14 In manufacturing enterprises alone, capital investment rose from $27 million in 1880 to $63 million by 1890. The number of wage earners, the total wages paid, and the value of products experienced comparable rises.15 The railroads also showed an equally astounding but haphazard growth and total mileage increased from 1,893 in 1880 to 3,360 by 1890. The first two years of Lee’s administration saw less than one hundred miles of new track laid in the state but an acceleration occurred in 1888 and 1889 with the addition of 151 and 289 miles respectively.16

Although these figures reveal that Virginia made a rapid industrial advance during the Lee years, the state economy remained primarily agricultural at the close of his administration. For example, manufacturing gave employment to only 60,000 persons (less than 15 percent of the total work force) and most of these were involved in the processing of agricultural products such as tobacco. Moreover, the rate of increase in Virginia lagged behind the rest of the South because Virginia was already more industrialized than most Southern states. Yet Virginia’s advance was impressive and encouraged many Virginians to entertain hope for the imminent enrichment and continued development of their state.17

One reason that Governor Lee became enraptured by the New South gospel was the manifestations of progress he could easily observe. For example, during his administration the first telephone was installed in the Executive Mansion, an elevator was placed in the Capitol near his office, and his secretary began to use a new machine called the typewriter in handling the official correspondence.18 Once off the Capitol grounds, the Governor could ride down the nation’s first electric street car line and view the physical signs of rapid growth in bustling Richmond. These and other objects provided very tangible evidence of Virginia’s remarkable progress, and the visions of future prosperity caught not only his imagination but also that of countless other Virginians. By 1890 cautious optimism premised on the growth of the preceding years had given way to the contagious fever of a speculative boom. Fitz was thoroughly captured by its spirit. At the close of his term, Lee refused the presidency of Virginia Military Institute in spite of his interest in higher education and love for the military.19 Instead, he accepted the presidency of one of those numerous development companies which hoped to bring the millennium to the Old Dominion.

Retiring as governor, Fitz promptly moved to Lexington and assumed his duties as head of the Rockbridge Company, an enterprise organized in 1887 by local citizens to reap profits from the expected industrial growth of Rockbridge and adjacent counties.20 The boom craze was especially pronounced in the Valley and the Southwest. Those regions had long been a center of iron production, and the dreams for great expansion in the manufacture of iron and steel formed the basis of the boom that captivated the area from the later 1880s to 1893. Several companies were formed to exploit the natural resources and build a huge industrial complex, but the Rockbridge Company was one of the most ambitious and consequently attracted Fitz Lee.21 it was authorized to engage in the mining of any product it desired, to acquire land and lay out a town, to construct railways and waterways, and to hold stocks in any other corporation. When Fitz assumed its leadership, the company was already engaged in various schemes to exercise to the fullest those liberal powers granted in its charter.22

William A. Anderson, the Lexington attorney who was the moving spirit in the enterprise, chose the flamboyant but highly respected general and ex-governor as president in order to enhance the public image of the company. Lee, however, proved to be more than a figurehead, and he and Anderson were soon deeply enmeshed in attempts to achieve the fabulous goals of the corporation.23 In theory, the company’s aims seemed plausible and sound but in practice they were too pretentious for the available financial resources. Nevertheless, the company enjoyed an initial success in the first several months of Lee’s presidency. The key plan, to acquire extensive tracts of land rich in mineral resources and establish a new manufacturing center to exploit them, was instituted. In the eighteen months after Lee joined the company, it acquired an option to buy, or purchased outright, several thousand acres and founded the town of Glasgow on the James River. Lee, Anderson, and the other directors of the Rockbridge Company expected to attract various manufacturing firms to Glasgow by offering favorable terms for locating there, and in time, they hoped to reap profits from rising real estate prices as new immigrants moved to the expanding industrial complex. Additional profits would accrue as the mineral holdings were mined and sold to the industrial concerns of the vicinity.24 Further, the continued growth of Glasgow would be guaranteed when it became a major railway terminal after the construction of the Pittsburg and Virginia Railroad—the town was located at a point where the Chesapeake and Ohio parallels the Norfolk and Western—to provide a direct connection to Pittsburgh and Atlanta.25

From 1890 to mid-1892 the Rockbridge Company generated an aura of fabulous success and Fitzhugh Lee was lauded as the head of “The Grandest Enterprise in the New South.” By July 1891 Glasgow boasted a population of 1,200 residents with several manufacturing establishments (including a rolling mill and an iron foundry) in operation, under construction, or under contract to move there.26 Unfortunately, in spite of its accomplishments, the company lacked sufficient funds to translate the multifold plans into reality. Many of its properties had been acquired on short-term credit and, although they represented a potential source of vast revenues, the company needed constant infusions of new capital to meet its immediate obligations.27

Accordingly, Lee devoted considerable attention to publicity in order to attract investors willing to buy its stock or that of the manufacturing firms in the area and to purchase lots in booming Glasgow. Fitz conducted a widespread and successful advertising campaign by making personal appearances and maintaining an extensive correspondence and favorable relations with the press. Virginia newspapers were joined by the Manufacturer’s Record, the Baltimore publication which was the leading New South organ, in praising the Rockbridge endeavor.28 Investors ranged from Wall Street speculators to English businessmen and prominent members of the nobility, but all too often they were unwilling to wait for future profits and instead hoped for immediate fantastic returns.29 Lee’s flair for public relations contributed immeasurably to attracting the necessary capital to keep the company in operation while Anderson concentrated on finding well-endowed investors who were willing to forgo quick returns and gamble on long-term larger profits in the future.30 To entice this type of capitalist, however, proved to be the most difficult and futile task of the Rockbridge group and similar organizations which promised an impending bonanza. Lack of adequate capital not only precluded any chance of fulfilling the more grandiose alms such as the building of the Pittsburgh and Virginia Railroad—no track was ever laid—but also threatened the achievements at Glasgow.

By the latter part of 1892, the Rockbridge Company was sorely pressed by a shortage of cash reserves, and Fitz and his associates found it imperative to limit their splendid aspirations in order to keep the company solvent. Several of the manufacturing enterprises in Glasgow were financially deficient and solely dependent on Lee’s company in order to stay in business. In addition, certain Northern firms that received Rockbridge money defaulted on their loans or refused to honor their commitments to establish plants in Glasgow. Fitz engaged in frustrating and costly efforts to force these firms to meet their obligations but seldom won more than Pyrrhic victories.31 To compound its fiscal problems, the company’s creditors became increasingly reluctant to extend the loans on the properties acquired before and during the first months of Lee’s presidency.32 Consequently, the company was forced to reduce its grand scale of operation, whereupon the continuous flow of speculative investors attracted by Lee’s advertising campaign dwindled to a trickle. When the Panic of 1893 dealt the boom its death blow, the bubble burst for the Rockbridge and a host of other companies.

General Lee, although disillusioned with the enterprise and involved in a contest for a U.S. Senate seat as well as other activities, stayed on as president until 1894 and helped Anderson and other associates to salvage a portion of the exploded bubble. Most of the properties bought on credit and only partially paid for were surrendered to creditors or the original owners to avoid bankruptcy. Other assets had to be sold at a fraction of their purchase price, and the company’s stock declined to a negligible value. Lee lost over $20,000 of his own capital which he had invested in the Rockbridge and its associated and subsidiary companies.33 For Fitz and many others, the hopes and expectations generated by the New South movement were to remain a will-of-the-wisp.

The political activities of Fitzhugh Lee which paralleled the preceding economic developments showed a marked if ironic similarity in final results. In politics as in economics, his notable achievements in earlier years ended with a surprising catastrophe for the man in 1893. In both areas, Lee participated in affairs for which he lacked the training and aptitude requisite for continuous success. In economics, his avid interest in industrial progress partially compensated for his lack of experience in business and commercial affairs. His sense of duty, his personality, and his former achievements and status were ample assets that guaranteed temporary triumphs in politics, but his aversion to the mechanics of political life precluded his becoming a perennially invincible politician. Consequently, although Fitz possessed sufficient talent and ability to attain initial success, his being out of his metier was a contributing factor to the ultimate disasters he suffered in economic and political affairs.

Lee’s conduct in Virginia politics from 1886 to 1892 was exemplified by his behavior as governor-elect during the Daniel-Barbour senatorial contest. When the Assembly convened three weeks prior to Lee’s inauguration, its first important order of business was to elect a United States senator. Fitz had been intimately involved in certain initial background maneuvers pertaining to that election. Both leading Democratic candidates for the senate seat, John Warwick Daniel and John S. Barbour, realized that Lee’s nomination would affect the subsequent contest since the Virginia Democracy tried to avoid a geographic concentration in selecting important officials. With Barbour and Lee living in the vicinity of Alexandria, Daniel and his allies gave Lee the crucial support he needed to win the gubernatorial nomination. The Lee-Daniel alliance—despite their personal friendship—was a political “marriage of convenience” and Fitz treated it as one. During the gubernatorial campaign, he appeared with Daniel on the stump but cooperated with and followed the advice of Barbour, the party chairman. After his election, he continued his amiable relationship with both men and scrupulously avoided any public indication of a preference for the senatorial nomination. It was in character for Lee to remain aloof from the intraparty struggle. Moreover, by remaining neutral, Lee avoided an awkward predicament. He neither alienated his friends who worked for Barbour, especially his long-time political mentor General William H. Payne, nor opened himself to the charge of treachery from the Daniel partisans. Without any assistance from Lee, Daniel, the most popular politician in the state, won nomination by the party caucus in December. Subsequently, he was easily chosen to succeed William Mahone, the Republican incumbent, by the Democratic-controlled Assembly.34

Lee maintained affable relations with both Daniel and Barbour as governor and continued to avoid irrevocable alliances with any particular politician or group. Conversely, few Democratic politicians felt a special commitment to furthering Lee’s political fortunes. As was stressed in the previous chapter, Governor Lee attempted to remain above party politics and usually left patronage and policy matters to the politicians. Yet Lee was, after all, the party’s highest officeholder in the state from 1886 to 1890, and he was expected to enhance its status whenever possible. Lee preferred to fulfill this obligation to his party by meeting his obligation to the state—that is, by providing good government (at least his conception of it)—but of course he was compelled at times to act as a party leader rather than a state official. In particular, the popular governor was requested to appear before audiences in election campaigns or at party functions.35

Lee presided over the Old Dominion during a period when momentous political developments occurred. During his administration, the Democracy was engaged in the final phase of its struggle to vanquish the Republican coalition led by William Mahone. Lee did not play the most prominent role in the attainment of the Democracy’s ultimate triumph, but he dutifully spoke on behalf of his party’s candidates and policies in the annual electoral contests that culminated in Mahone’s defeat in the gubernatorial race of 1889. Lee’s popularity, his status as governor, and the apparent success of his administration were among the Democratic assets during these years. Moreover, Lee was a sincere advocate of Democratic policies and goals who ardently defended his party and himself when subjected to partisan attacks from the Republicans. 36

It was inevitable that Lee, in his position as a public figure, became involved in the chief issue used by the Democrats to undermine the Republicans as a viable force in politics—the role and status of Negroes in Virginia political life. Lee possessed the conventional attitudes of his class and generation on racial matters, but his paternalistic feelings toward the Negroes precluded intemperate attacks on them comparable to those of some Democratic politicians. As governor, Lee worked for Negro public schools and state-supported colleges, retained the Negro militia units, and tried to maintain a rapport with the Negro community by frequently responding to invitations to attend various functions.37 He had promised the Negroes that their rights would be protected when he took office and later maintained that he fulfilled his commitment. However, Lee did share the common view of most white Democratic Virginians that the Northern press and the Republican party (both national and state) were only using the Negro as a political tool:

The more I see of the North, the more I am convinced that the southern people are the best friends the negroes have. … Now the [Northern] papers that distort my utterances on the race question make it appear that I am hostile to the negro race; whereas, I am particularly friendly, and the negroes themselves admit that I have done more for them in my official capacity than any other governor ever did.38

Consequently, Lee was a proponent of the Southern argument that racial matters should be left to the paternalistic whites in the various states and, in order to bring racial peace, the Negro would have to be removed eventually from politics. Lee bluntly stated the paramount issue in Virginia and Southern politics: “It is the question of Anglo-Saxon supremacy with us and always will be as long as the Negroes seek, through the aid of a few whites, to control affairs.”39 Thus Governor Lee, viewing, the Republicans as a threat to white hegemony, joined his fellow Democrats in their battles to win permanent political control of the state.

In Virginia, Governor Lee became a respected political celebrity but one who seldom exerted a decisive or permanent influence on political affairs. In national political life, he occupied a similar niche for various reasons. He continued his pre-gubernatorial activities on behalf of sectional reconciliation after he became governor. In addition, as a famous Southern governor, his comments on political matters received considerable attention from Northerners. He also became acquainted with several prominent Northern Democratic politicians (especially President Cleveland) who viewed Fitz as an important member of the party’s Southern wing.40 By 1887, in consequence, numerous Southerners were suggesting that Lee would be the logical choice for the vice-presidential nomination in 1888. Lee, however, had little interest in that office and stated his preference to remain as governor of Virginia for a full term. Moreover, Fitz doubted that he or any other Southern man had much chance of capturing the nomination in spite of the flattering press comments on the subject. The vice-presidential boom quickly faded after Lee discouraged it, but his stature with some elements of the national party remained high.41 For example, Lee continued his affable relationship with Cleveland—the President consulted Lee on routine and confidential political matters and even asked the ex-cavalryman for personal advice about horses—and from 1886 to 1896 Lee was generally acknowledged as one of the leading Cleveland supporters and confidants in Virginia.42 This relationship with Cleveland enhanced Lee’s political stature at the moment and eventually proved to be a determining factor in the course of Lee’s public career after 1894.

In the first two years after his gubernatorial term, Fitz devoted little time to politics since he was busily engaged in the affairs of the Rockbridge Company. Nonetheless, he stumped for his party at election time and maintained his contacts with Cleveland.43 However, the death in 1892 of United States Senator John S. Barbour (who had been selected in 1887 to replace Senator Riddleberger, the Readjuster-Republican incumbent, for the 1889–1895 term) started a train of events which once again thrust Lee into the heart of Virginia politics. The contest for Barbour’s successor, in which Fitzhugh Lee was a central figure, proved to be a controversial cause célèbre and later came to be considered one of the most significant events in Virginia’s political annals. The gubernatorial election of 1885 was the most important electoral contest for Lee personally, and it did not lack in significance for the state—Lee’s inauguration in 1886 began uninterrupted Democratic control of the statehouse which lasted until 1970—but the 1893 senatorial contest for Barbour’s successor proved to be of far greater importance for the Old Dominion. Indeed, this senatorial election and its results determined the tone, style, and method of operation of the Virginia political system for the next seven decades.

The preliminaries of the pivotal senatorial election of 1893 began in the week following Barbour’s death on May 14, 1892. At that time, Governor Philip McKinney, who refused on grounds of governmental economy to call a special legislative session, had to choose an interim appointee to serve as Barbour’s replacement until the next regular session of the Assembly in December 1893. McKinney’s problem was complicated by his desire to avoid an appointment that would give special advantage to a potential candidate for the full senatorial term beginning in 1895. He finally settled on seventy-year-old Eppa Hunton, a respected retired Congressman and ex-Confederate brigadier. Hunton’s appointment was widely viewed as a wise compromise, and he was eventually selected by the Assembly, when it met in December 1893, to complete Barbour’s unexpired term (the so-called “short term”). Although Lee was mentioned for the interim appointment and as a possibility for the short term, his major role in Virginia politics from May 1892 until December 1893 centered on the election of the senator who would begin a full term in 1895. This latter Senate contest aroused the interest of most Virginians during these months, and General Fitzhugh Lee and Thomas Staples Martin (an attorney from Albemarle County) promptly emerged as the two major contenders for the Democratic senatorial nomination for the full term.44

Martin, in comparison with Lee, enjoyed little popularity among the masses except with his neighbors. The forty-five-year-old bachelor shunned publicity and had never held public office. However, the shy and unassuming lawyer exhibited an avid, consuming interest in politics. His circle of friends was almost totally confined to the many politicians with whom he was intimately acquainted throughout the state.45 His employment as a district counsel for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad enabled him to devote considerable time to his passion and, moreover, involved him in the dispensation of essential railroad campaign contributions to Democratic candidates.46 Martin, an effective but behind-the-scenes worker, experienced a remarkable rise to the upper echelon of the party hierarchy after 1883. His services as a Barbour lieutenant won him an appointment to the State Central Committee in early 1885. Temporarily breaking with Barbour since he felt Daniel’s nomination would be more appealing to party members, Martin emerged as a masterful politician when he helped to engineer Lee’s nomination as governor and the subsequent election of Senator Daniel.47 After 1885, as a member of the prestigious executive group of the Central Committee, Martin continued to earn the respect of Democratic officeholders and candidates—especially for his talents as a fund raiser with the railroads—and had acquired a considerable credit of political obligations by 1892.48

In the eighteen months between the interim appointment of Hunton and the Democratic caucus of the new legislature elected in November 1893, Lee’s conduct demonstrated several fatal errors which precluded his selection by the party caucus. During the period he possessed most of the same basic political assets and liabilities that had characterized his career as gubernatorial nominee and governor. His noteworthy assets made him a formidable candidate for the senate, but his liabilities left him in a vulnerable position in the contest with Martin. The General professed an unrealistic opinion of his chances for the senate seat. The cheering and applause he received at party functions and public meetings deluded him as to his true status among the politicians.49 He all too often ignored the fact that the politicians, not the people, were the electorate in the senate election. The absence of a formal campaign in which Lee could directly appeal to the people for their votes also seriously handicapped his candidacy.

Bound by his own conventions and those of his party as well, Lee did not openly seek the senate seat. Instead, he depended on his appearances in behalf of the party to reveal his “availability.” His success on the party circuit and the acclaim he received for his efforts were sometimes deceiving. For example, he campaigned for Cleveland and the state Congressional candidates in 1892 and was gratified with the Democratic success. As a strong supporter of Cleveland, Lee felt his fortunes were enhanced by the former President’s return to office; however, the President’s sympathy for Lee’s candidacy was of doubtful value. Since he choice of Senator was a purely state matter, no effort was made to distribute Federal patronage on behalf of Fitz.50 Moreover, Cleveland’s popularity suffered a decline, especially after the Panic of 1893, among the Virginia Democrats as they became more sympathetic to “free silver,” and Cleveland’s pro-gold policy was a burden for the Virginia Democracy in the state elections of 1893.51 Lee’s reliance on his status as a leading Cleveland ally lulled him into a false sense of security and proved to be a serious error in political judgment.

Lee also failed to make an accurate assessment of his adversary owing to his own inflated self-confidence in his ultimate success. For example, he could not fathom the possibility that a former cadet from Virginia Military Institute, especially one who had missed the famed Battle of New Market in 1864 (Martin had a cold and was left behind when the Cadet Corps marched off to war), might be the victor over an ex-Confederate general and the former Governor of Virginia.52 Moreover, he was affected by his knowledge that he had been successful in his prior public career without becoming too deeply involved in the mundane facets and intriguing maneuvers of politics. He relished his aloofness from those matters and his reputation as a political amateur and uncompromised public servant. The reception of the press to his candidacy also augmented his belief in victory. The reports of his activities were well publicized and contained the usual laudatory comments about General Lee’s past achievements and services. Newspapers generally conceded that Fitz was the leading candidate and predicted that he would be elected to the senate. Unfortunately, too few newspapers felt further comment was necessary and saw little need to shower him with ringing endorsements or to actively promote his candidacy. Furthermore, Lee and most of his contemporaries failed to perceive the significance of recurring suggestions made by the Richmond Dispatch, the leading Democratic organ, that Martin too was a viable candidate.53

Lee also exhibited an almost cavalier unconcern for the senate race a great deal of the time. His reasons for wanting to be a senator were comparable to those which encouraged him to be a gubernatorial aspirant, but his desire did not reach the stage of being a sole, all-encompassing one. As usual he exhibited interest in a wide range of activities and, in particular, he was deeply involved in Rockbridge Company affairs during the period. Perhaps the incident that illuminated his preeminent interest in life—military affairs—was his renewed participation in the Gettysburg controversy. During the most crucial time of the Senate campaign, for instance, he devoted much of his attention to refuting Longstreet and preparing a biography of his beloved Uncle Robert.54

The preceding liabilities were compounded by the ex-Governor’s failure to establish an effective organization to promote his candidacy. Lee received endorsements from a few members of the State Central Committee but none worked actively for him.55 His scarcity of dependable skilled political allies at the local level was even more damaging since he had gained few commitments from politicians during his gubernatorial tenure. Consequently, both by choice and necessity, he relied on his friends across the state to promote his candidacy. William A. Anderson, his business partner, offered advice as did General Payne, but Lee paid too little attention to the encouragement and effective direction of his friends’ efforts.56 Most of his supporters shared Fitz’s opinion of an easy victory. The lack of even the semblance of a campaign organization contributed to Lee’s shortage of iron-clad commitments among the hold-over state senators and the newly elected legislators after the November 1893 election. As early as June 1892, Lee began to solicit support for his candidacy among incumbent and potential members of the Assembly, but his attempts to recruit these key individuals were too limited and sporadic.57 He and his friends were content that a majority of legislators seemed to be in sympathy with the lee cause.58

Thomas Staples Martin, the epitome of a shrewd and calculating politician, exhibited a singleness of purpose during the months prior to the legislative caucus. Since his ambition to be senator was overpowering, he used all his considerable political talents to secure that goal. Martin, the intimate of many Assembly members, received initial commitments from a majority of the 1891–92 legislature and resolved to repeat that feat with the 1893–94 session. Lee never seriously challenged the Martin sympathies of many local politicians.59 Leaving nothing to chance, Martin constantly sought to endear himself to possible legislative candidates and professed a flattering interest in their political affairs. Moreover, he perfected a superb campaign apparatus that was headed by Henry D. Flood, a rising young politician and Assembly Delegate from Appomattox. Flood, heavily utilized as a liaison man with a host of party workers, joined Martin in encouraging other allies to devote attention to the most minute details in every legislative district.60 Martin also attended numerous local party meetings and functions but, in contrast to General Lee, avoided expressions of opinion on the money question and other controversial subjects.61 Instead, he and his lieutenants carefully cultivated pro-Martin men and tried to attract neutral legislative candidates by personal appeals and small campaign contributions.62 In his concentration on appeals to the Assembly membership, Martin’s quest for victory pragmatically conformed to the realities of the Virginia political system.

Lee’s ultimate disadvantage in his contest with Martin involved campaign funds from the railroads. This money was especially important to candidates in a depression year, and Martin profited from his reputation as a man who had secured the financial backing of the railroads for the party in previous campaigns. In addition, two major Martin supporters, John S. Barbour Thompson (a nephew of the late Senator Barbour) and William A. Glasgow, Jr. (former general manager of the Richmond and Danville and attorney for the Norfolk and Western, respectively), were also known as distributors of railroad money.63 Lee tried to counterbalance the Martin connections with the railroads by soliciting a pledge that all railroad funds would flow through the Central Committee and not be used in the interest of a particular Senatorial candidate. In the summer of 1893, Lee and Party Chairman James Taylor Ellyson secured this pledge along with several thousand dollars for the party coffers from various railroad officials.64 However, Glasgow and Thompson distributed other railroad funds to various legislative candidates who pledged their votes to Martin. Perhaps of equal importance was Lee’s inability to destroy the prevalent impression of most politicians that martin controlled the flow of railroad funds. Many candidates, sorely pressed for money in 1893 and thinking of future campaigns as well, contemplated the wisdom of allying themselves with so powerful a person by voting for him.65

The Democratic legislative caucus called for the primary purpose of selecting the U.S. Senator convened on the evening of December 7 in Richmond. As Martin had predicted, he led on the first ballot and the totals boded ill for Lee’s success: Martin, 55; Lee, 46; others, 20. Martin finally emerged as the winner in one of the great upsets of Virginia politics when the sixth ballot was tabulated: Martin, 66; Lee, 55; others (for Governor McKinney), 1.66 the caucus adjourned with jubilant shouts of the Martin supporters providing a marked contrast to the stunned silence of the dazed Lee partisans. Lee and his followers were joined in their amazement at Martin’s victory by a great many other Virginians. However, the Lee defeat was not as great a surprise to Virginia politicians and other keen observers who possessed a knowledge of the internal operation of the Democratic party as it was to the general public.67

The methods used by Thomas Staples Martin in defeating the General were a mater of major concern and controversy to contemporaries, and Martin’s victory has continued to fascinate subsequent political commentators and historians who write about the period. The greatest emphasis has been placed on the use of railroad contributions by Martin to assist candidates in the legislative elections of 1893 and thereby win their commitment to his own candidacy.68 Speculations on the reasons for Lee’s defeat by Martin border on the infinite, however, but include the following: the defeat of older Democrats by the younger men in the party; the defeat of a Cleveland or “gold” man by the “silver” Democrats (Lee was widely viewed as a firm supporter of Cleveland’s policies, but Martin successfully hedged on the currency issue); the loss of the people’s candidate to the one supported by vested interests; the rejection of a famous political amateur in favor of the party’s unknown professional (or the “independents” unsuccessful challenge of the “machine”); the decline of he old ruling elite and the rise of the common man (that is, the symbolic scion of all First Families of Virginia being upstaged by a Horatio Alger); a shift from Old South romanticism to New South realism (despite Lee’s promotional efforts in behalf of economic progress, Martin was alleged to be more attuned to the needs of the railroads and other commercial enterprises); and, finally the overthrow of straightforwardness and honesty by intrigue and corruption. While the preceding analyses contain variable degrees of truth, the principal shortcoming of all accounts of the Lee-Martin conflict is the tendency to ignore Lee’s own contributions to his defeat and to stress Martin’s role in his victory.69

Lee was disappointed with his defeat and shocked by the vote of some of the legislators.70 Since he felt he had been robbed of victory by his opponent’s use of scheming intrigue and clever manipulations of railroad funds, Fitz was amenable to the efforts of some pro-Lee legislators for a thorough investigation of the whole affair.71 The resolution to establish an investigating committee received the unanimous consent of the Assembly on December 15. The committee was empowered to examine both the legislative elections in November and the caucus in order to determine if “any improper methods or means were used in . . . the interest of any candidate or candidates for the United States Senate.”72 The committee (composed of three Lee men, three Martin partisans, and the lone McKinney supporter) reviewed the testimony of Lee, Martin, and their respective adherents over a three-day period. Martin denied any wrongdoing while Glasgow and Thompson refuted the charges that they had used campaign funds from the railroads solely on Martin’s behalf. The Lee supporters had no concrete evidence of their charges against the Martin men, especially their major claim that legislative candidates were offered funds only in return for a pledge to vote for Martin. Moreover, many Lee proponents were reluctant to participate in a public exposure of the railroad-Democratic relationship.73 Martin, duly elected Senator on December 19, was exonerated by the committee on the following day in its conclusion: “That certain practices and acts were proven connected with the election on November 7, 1893, which they do not commend, but such practices and acts were without the assent or approbation of any candidate for the United States Senate, and not different from those resorted to in former campaigns.”74 Thus emerged the man who would dominate Virginia politics for the next quarter of a century.

To Lee personally, his defeat was not a lethal blow—it was rather an added burden to bear alongside the failure of the Rockbridge Company—and certainly of secondary importance to him in comparison with his feelings about the defeat of the Confederacy and the end of his military career. However, Lee never lost his bitterness regarding Martin’s behavior in the senate race. He was conscious of the fact that railroad funds had been used against him and had contributed to his defeat, but Lee was also aware of the tremendous importance of continued railroad contributions to the Democracy’s perpetual dominance of Virginia political life. Consequently, during and after the sessions of the investigating committee, he refrained from a direct public attack of Martin and the use of railroad funds in the contest.75 Moreover, he remained a loyal Democrat and, always a congenial and forgiving man, held few long grudges. In the next several months, he did speak in favor of the direct election of Senators but declined to join those Democrats who continued to bemoan the alleged corruption in their party. Instead, Lee responded to the pleas of Daniel, Claude Swanson (a future Governor and Senator then running for Congress), and other Martin supporters to campaign for Democratic candidates in the Congressional elections of 1894. The recent defeat did not detract from the popularity nor reduce his enthusiastic receptions by the crowds.76 His natural resilience and perpetual optimism contributed to his remarkably quick and painless recovery from any despair over his setback in politics (and in business affairs). By mid-1894 Fitz was not only responding to the cheers at all kinds of meetings but also eagerly awaiting whatever adventures fate held in store for him. At the close of his sixth decade, the old cavalryman had by no means lost his zest for living.


1 Moger, Virginia, 122. For various secondary accounts of the diverse factors involved in the New South Movement, see Paul M. Gaston, Then New South Creed: A Study in Southern Mythmaking (New York, 1970) and also his article, “The ‘New South’,”: in Link and Patrick, Writing Southern History, 316–336; Buck, Road to Reunion, 145–162, 170–195; and Howard B. Clay, “Daniel Augustus Tompkins: The Role of a New South Industrialist in Politics,” in Dept. of History, Studies in the History of the South, 1875–1922, East Carolina College Publications in History, Vol. III (Greenville, N.C., 1966), 85–118.

2 Both Grady, as editor of the Atlanta Constitution, and others had pleaded for more industry long before his New York speech in 1886. For a definitive analysis of the New South rhetoric, including Grady’s role, consult Gaston, The New South Creed, especially 17–18, 45–116.

3 Moger’s Virginia, 122–144, and also his article, “Industrial and Urban Progress in Virginia from 1880 to 1900,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, LXVI, No. 3 (July, 1958), 307–336, provide a detailed account of the New South movement in the state.

4 For example, see Addison Borst to J. L. Kemper, August 16 and 18, 1875, Brock Papers, and “Synopsis of Gen. Fitzhugh Lee’s Address Exhibiting His Plan to Secure Immigration to Virginia,” The Southern Planter and Farmer, XXXVII (February, 1876), 118–122.

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

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

9 Lee’s vetoes of two agricultural bills were on grounds that they would prove ineffective and did not cost him farmer support; Lee to House of Delegates, March 3, 1888, printed in House Journal, 1887–88, 505–506; Richmond Times, February 8, 1888; William D. Sheldon, Populism in the Old Dominion: Virginia Farm Politics, 1885–1900 (Princeton, 1935), 62 and also 76–114.

8 Acts of the Assembly, 1887–88, 581–582; Sheldon, Populism, 62.

9 New York Times, May 1, 1889; Richmond Dispatch, July 20, September 21, and October 14, 1887; undated newspaper clippings (ca. 1886—1890), Opie Papers; George Hoadly to Lee, May 29, 1886, and C. R. Boyd to Lee, June 14, 1886, Brock Papers.

10 Certificate appointing Thomas Nelson Page “A Commissioner to represent Virginia at the universal Exposition of Paris, 1889,” March 16, 1889, Thomas Nelson Page Papers, University of Virginia Library; “Executive Journal, Commonwealth of Virginia,” Virginia State Library, entry for October 1, 1889; Richmond Dispatch, September 17, 1887.

11 Manufacturer’s Record, February 23, 1889; Richmond Dispatch, September 23, October 3 and 30, November 1, 2, 15, and 22, 1888.

12 Speech of Robert L. Dabney at Hampden-Sydney College, Virginia, 1882, entitled “The New South,” in Rare Virginia Pamphlets, XIX, University of Virginia.

13 Although Lee was later in advocating industrialization than many other proponents of the New South, his inertia resulted primarily from personal circumstances rather than from any philosophical objections. He engaged in farming afer 1865 and continued to be a planer until the 1880s. Consequently, he was more interested in agricultural improvements than in industrial advancement prior to his election as governor. Unlike the vehement opponents of an industrial society implied by the New South, Lee did not subscribe to the argument that advocacy of industrialism meant a rejection of the region’s heritage. Indeed, he considered himself a pillar of the Old Order and supported industrial growth on grounds that it would lead to Southern revival. See Gaston, The New South Creed, 153–160, for the principal figures who joined Dabney in claiming that industrialization would warp or destroy all that was best in Southern society.

14 Moger, Virginia, 64.

15 McFarland, “The Extension of Democracy in Virginia,” 62.

16 Allen W. Moger, “Railroad Practices and Policies in Virginia after the Civil War,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, LIX, No. 4 (October, 1951), 448.

17 As a supplement to the employment statistics found in McFarland, “The Extension of Democracy in Virginia,” 62, consult the following for comparisons of Virginia and the South with the nation: Moger, “Industrial and Urban Progress in Virginia,” 307–336; Gaston, The New South Creed, 275; and Woodward, Origins of the New South, 107–141.

18 This progress was not without its problems, however. In addition to the technical difficulties of installing the elevator, Lee was criticized by the Republicans for its installation: William Mahone, “Virginia—Campaign of 1887—Address of the Republican State Committee,” Broadside, 1887.

19 Richmond Dispatch, July 4, 6, 9, 14, and 18, 1889.

20 Richmond Times, February 25, 1890; William A. Anderson to Lee, November 23, 1890, Opie Papers; Contract between the Rockbridge Company and F. G. Fuller, February 7, 1890, John W. Daniel to John D. Long, May 6, 1889, and Hugh R. Garden to Lee, November 27, 1889, William A. Anderson Papers, University of Virginia. (Anderson, Vice-President of the Company, retained its records and his Papers contain hundreds of letters, contracts, and memoradums pertaining to its affairs.)

21 For an account by a contemporary observer, see Hugh A. White, “Personal Recollections of the Rockbridge Land Boom,” Lexington, va., Rockbridge County News, April 21 and 18, 1938; see also Moger, The Rebuilding of the Old Dominion, 31–42.

22 Acts of the Assembly (Extra Session), 1887, 192–195; The Rockbridge Company, “Memorandum in Relation to the Rockbridge Company” Broadside, 1890. Typical acquisitions of property and contracts with other companies are revealed in the following: Jed Hotchkiss to W. A. Anderson, July 17, 1890; Lee to Anderson, October 1, 1890; and agreements with the George L. Squier Mfg. Co., October 18, 1889, and F. H. Foster, October 4, 1890, Anderson Papers.

23 Anderson to Lee, November 23, 1889, Opie Papers; Anderson to Lee, August 27, 1890 and Lee to Anderson, September 11, 1890; Rockbridge Company contracts with H. O. Lochner and Company, and with the Glasgow Construction and Improvement Company, September 29, 1890, and March 22, 1890, respectively; all in Anderson Papers.

24 The Rockbridge Company, “Prospectus” Broadside, 1889. The Anderson Papers contain documents and letters revealing the plan and its implementation: see the Company documents labeled “Schedule of properties to be included in Mortgage to secure Loan of $500,000” (1890) and “Memorandum on Income” (1890); also R. h. Catlett to W. A. Anderson, September 12, 1890, E. K. Talcott to Lee, October 8, 1890, D. R. Eggleston to Rockbridge Company, November 18, 1890, Trezevant Williams to Anderson, March 14, 1891 and the Company’s agreement with A. D. Exall and J. A. Ede, December 1, 1891.

25 Richmond Times, February 25, 1890; Moger, “Railroad Practices and Policies,” 451; Lee to J. K. Edmondson, September 4, 1890 (with enclosed expanse account against Pittsburgh and Virginia Railroad) and December 4, 1891, Holmes Conrad to Lee, December 5, 1890, and R. P. Chew to Anderson, December, 1890, Anderson Papers.

26 Glasgow Herald, May 21, 1891; “Glasgow (Virginia) Town Lands, Limited” (printed circular dated October 24, 1890), Anderson Papers.

27 The Company’s original cash assets of $200,000 were woefully inadequate since an estimated minimum of $5 million was needed to successfully accomplish its objectives. See “Statement of Assets and Liabilities” (printed Company document dated July 1, 1891) and Resolutions of the Board of Directors, Numbers 2–4 (1890), in the Anderson Papers.

28 For example, see Manufacturer’s Record, March 29, 1890. (Page 10 contains editorial praise of the Glasgow endeavor while a full-page Rockbridge Company advertisement is found on page 63). R. H. Edmonds, the editor (and a former Virginian), was willing to accept town lots in Glasgow in lieu of cash payments for advertising, contract dated March 7, 1890, Anderson Papers. For other advertising matters, see F. Hamilton to Rockbridge Company, December 19, 1890, and the dated bills or contracts with the following: The Rockbridge County News, February 21, 1890; the Richmond State, October 13, 1890; the Roanoke Herald, September 26, 1890; and the Virginia Official Railway Guide, September 30, 1890, all found in the Anderson Papers.

29 As a typical case, one Wall Street attorney told Lee: “I am thinking of pulling up stakes here, temporarily at least, and going down to Glasgow to make a fortune,” Francis T. Jenkins to Lee, April 29, 1890, Opie Papers.

30 Lee and Anderson sought to tap the larger English investment concerns but met with limited success despite Anderson’s sojourn of several months in London; Lee to Anderson, September 1 and 11, 1890; R. H. Catlett to Anderson, September 12, 1890; Morris Word to Anderson, September 25, 1890, and February 21, 1891, Anderson Papers, Lee was also unable to secure commitments from major American financiers; see August Belmont to Lee, August 25, 1890, ibid.

31 The most troublesome case involved W. S. Witman, an Ohio stove manufacturer who failed to repay his loans from the Company or to establish a foundry at Glasgow; see Lee to Judge William McLaughlin, September 26, 1890, to W. S. Witman, September 3, 1891, and to the First National Bank, Ironton, Ohio, October 2, 1891; David K. Watson to James E. Campbell, November 14, 1891; W. S. Witman to Lee, September 2, 1891, and to Rockbridge Company, July 14, 1891, ibid.

32 J. D. H. Ross to W. A. Anderson, December 28, 1891; W. A. Glasgow, et al., to the President and Board of Directors, April 27, 1892; Anderson to Lee, April 2, 1892; W. A. Anderson et al., to the President and Board of Directors, February 19, 1892, ibid.

33 Lee also accepted his salary in company shares and persuaded several relatives to invest in the enterprise. See Robert C. Lee to Lee, May 3, 1890; W. J. Madden to Lee, February 27, 1892; Lee to J. Preston Carson, March 22, 1892, Opie papers. For Anderson’s management of the Company’s surviving assets after 1894, see Charles W. Mayer to Anderson, March 2, 1897, and an agreement signed by Frank T. Glasgow, September 30, 1898, Anderson Papers.

34 Doss, “John W. Daniel,” 85–98; see also J. W. Daniel to Richard M. Conway, August 18, November 16 and 23, 1885; Thomas S. Martin to Daniel, December 8 and 15, 1885; and the Letterbook on election to U.S. Senate, December 15, 1885, John W. Daniel Papers, University of Virginia Library. Besides his popularity, Daniel was supported by some Democrats who resented Barbour’s diligent but chafing efforts to maintain a tight party organization. See Robert Yancy to Daniel, December 10, 1885, ibid., and also Quinn, “Barbour,” 66–67.

35 J. W. Daniel to Lee, August 14, 1887, and April 3, 1889, Opie Papers. Each November saw a statewide election with state and local contests in the odd-numbered years and the Federal elections in the even-numbered ones.

36 For a brief account of Republican activities during Lee’s administration, see Blake, William Mahone, 235–251; for typical attacks on Fitz and his replies, see Mahone, “Campaign of 1887,” and Richmond Dispatch, August 25 and September 1, 1887. Lee and his administration were defended by the Democratic State Central Committee in its 1889 broadsides entitled “A Reply to Sundry Charges Brought by General William Mahone against the Democratic Party of Virginia,” and “Characteristic Facts in the Business and Political Career of General William Mahone.”

37 For examples of his personal rapport with various Negro individuals and groups, see the Richmond Dispatch, July 16 and October 1, 1887, and October 5 and 6, 1889. In addition to his personal rapport with individuals, Lee received some gratitude from Negroes for his advocacy of economic and educational advancement for the race. For example, he was completely unreceptive to the arguments of Frank G. Ruffin. The latter voiced the dislike of some Democrats for Negro public schools in his “Cost and Outcome of Negro Education in Virginia, Respectfully Addressed to the White people of the State,” Rare Virginia Pamphlets, University of Virginia Library.

38 Richmond Dispatch, March 1, 1889; see also Lee to Magnus L. Robinson, December 12, 1885, printed in the Roanoke Leader, January 2, 1886. For Lee’s reaction to an editorial in the New York Herald, March 3, 1889, about his statements on the Negro, see his letter to the editor of the Herald, March 3, printed in the Dispatch, March 5.

39 Richmond Dispatch, March 24, 1888 (for quotation) and also April 19, 1889. Lee’s administration was the last in which Negroes served in the General Assembly, but the majority of laws providing for rigid segregation were not passed until the 1890s.

40 Lee’s acquaintance with New York Governor David B. Hill, for example, is revealed in his letter to Hill, February 23, 1887, Fitzhugh Lee Papers, University of Virginia Library.

41 New York Times, March 6, 1887; John T. Pleasants to Lee, November 21, 1887, and numerous unidentified newspaper clippings, 1887–1888, Opie Papers; Brock, Virginia and Virginians, II, 549. Lee continued to be considered a possible vice-presidential candidate into the 1890s; see Richmond Times, April 7, 1895.

42 Cleveland to Lee, October 23 and November 18, 1886, Opie Papers: Cleveland to Lee, April 15, 1888, and Lee to Cleveland, October 29 and November 29, 1886, April 18, June 5 and 21, August 23, and November 11, 1888, Grover Cleveland Papers, Library of Congress.

43 Cleveland to Lee, September 12, 1892, Opie Papers; Lee to Cleveland, September 7 and 16, 1892, Grover Cleveland Papers.

44 Richmond Dispatch, May 17 and 19, 1892; New York Times, May 16, 17, 19, and 29, 1892; John H. Wright to William A. Jones, August 18, 1911, William A. Jones Papers, University of Virginia Library; Eppa Hunton, Autobiography of Eppa Hunton (Richmond, 1933), 214–218; Eppa Hunton, Jr., to Francis Lassiter, June 24 and 29, 1893, Francis R. Lassiter Papers, Duke University Library, Durham, North Carolina. The United States Senator had to be chosen during the session of the Assembly elected in 1893 (which run from December 6, 1893, to March 4, 1894) since Barbour’s term expired on March 3, 1895, and the next session would not begin until December 4, 1895.

45 Martin to Walter A. Watson, October 3 and December 3, 1894, Walter A. Watson Papers, Virginia Historical Society.

46 During this period, the railroads formed the largest single commercial group in Virginia. Their involvement in Democratic politics resulted from a desire to avoid stringent state regulation and to keep their low tax assessments. Although their tax payments averaged less than five percent of the total tax revenues (since the latter included individual property taxes), they paid over ninety percent of the state corporation taxes. See Burton, “Taxation in Virginia, 1870–1901,” 97, 103.

47 Martin to Daniel, December 8 and 15, 1885, and D. S. Peirce to Daniel, December 8, 1885, Daniel Papers; Richmond Times, December 12, 1885. Martin’s ironic support for Lee in 1885 resulted only from the exigencies of the Lee-Daniel alliance (which was discussed in Chapter IV) rather than from any particular commitment to Lee.

48 For Martin’s political role prior to 1892, see the following: Bear, “Thomas S. Martin: Committee Statesman,” Virginia magazine of History and Biography, LXVIII, No. 3 (July, 1960), 344–351; and Biographical Sketch of T. S. Martin, S. Bassett-French Collection, Virginia State Library.

49 For example, at the state Democratic convention in August 1893, while Lee and Senator Daniel received rousing ovations from the mass of delegates, the professional politicians of the “organization” busily engaged in the more important task of selecting the gubernatorial nominee. See New York Times, August 18 and 19, 1893, and Charles E. Wynes, “Charles T. O’Ferrall and the Virginia Gubernatorial Election of 1893,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, LXIV, No. 4 (October, 1956), 457–453.

50 Cleveland to Lee, September 12, 1892, and September 6, 1893, and Henry T. Thurber, April 10, 1893, Opie Papers; Lee to Cleveland, September 7 and November 9, 1892, April 7, September 13, October 19, and November 9, 1893, and Lee to Thurber, April 17 and June 5, 1893, Cleveland Papers; Lee to William A. Jones, January 9, 1894, Jones Papers; Lee to L. L. Lomax, May 5, 1993, Lomax Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society.

51 Wynes, “O’Ferrall and the Election of 1893,” 437–453.

52 Bear, “Thomas S. Martin,” 20–21, and Reeves, “Thomas S. Martin,” 346. Martin did see action in the last year of the war as a member of the Cadet Corps, however, and thus had some claim to have been a fighting Confederate veteran.

53 Richmond Dispatch, May 17, 19, and 22, 1892; New York Times, September 12, 1893; Richmond Times, October 11 and 13; November 1, 1893; Harrisonburg, Va., Rockingham Register, November 20 and 24, December 1 and 8, 1893; William A. Anderson to Joseph Bryan, April 27, 1893, John Stewart Bryan Papers, Virginia Historical Society. An argument that Martin received respectable support from the press is presented in William G. Ray, “Public Opinion and Thomas S. Martin: The Role of the Virginia Press in the Senatorial Campaign of 1892–1893” (unpublished session paper for History 207–208, University of Virginia, 1965).

54 For a typical letter exemplifying Lee’s continued interest in the Gettysburg dispute, see John P. Bachelder to Lee, December (no day given) 1892, in reply to Lee’s letter of December 15, Opie Papers.

55 Members of the important Executive Committee who endorsed by remained inactive on behalf of the Lee candidacy—and who were shocked by the caucus result—included Rufus Ayers (Lee’s attorney-general), Joseph Bryan (publisher of Richmond Times), and Congressman William A. Jones, Lee supporters retained a majority on the Executive Committee in 1894; see Henry C. Ferrall, “Claude A. Swanson of Virginia” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1964), 66.

56 William A. Anderson to Joseph Bryan, April 27, 1893, Anderson Papers; Bear, “Thomas Staples Martin,” 147, and Glass, Virginia Democracy, I, 263, list various Lee supporters who worked sometime during the contest.

57 William A. Watson to Francis R. Lassiter, June 4 and 9, 1892, Lassiter Papers; Thomas S. Martin to William E. Bibb, June 20, 1892, William E. Bibb Papers, University of Virginia Library; Lee to John L. Hurt, July 7, 1893 (and also April 21 and May 3, 1895), John L. Hurt Papers, ibid.

58 Unfortunately, most of his friends who worked actively for him were not candidates fro the 1893–1894 General Assembly. William Payne (of Warrenton) and B. O. James (Goochland County) had served an earlier term in the House of Delegates, but Henry C. Stuart (Russell County), C. V. Meredith (Richmond), and Rufus Ayers (Lee’s attorney general from Wise County) never served in the Assembly. However, the latter three were elected to the 1901–1902 Constitutional Convention and were generally familiar with Virginia politics.

59 Bear, “Thomas Staples Martin,” 106–113, 117; Martin to W. E. Bibb, June 20, 1892, Bibb Papers; Martin to William A. Glasgow, Jr., June 24, November 22, 27, and 28, 1893. Jones Papers; W. A. Watson to F. R. Lassiter, May 25, 1892, Martin to Lassiter, September 26 and 30, 1893, and J. S. B. Thompson to Lassiter, September 27, 1893, Lassiter Papers.

60 Martin to Flood, June 2, 1892, July 2, 4, and 28, August 23, November 2 and 11, 1893, Henry D. Flood Papers, Library of Congress.

61 Bear, “Thomas Staples Martin,” 121–122.

62 J. R. Wingfield to W. A. Jones, February 2, 1893, Jones Papers; Martin to Flood, September 4, 9, and 11, 1893, John D. Horsley to Flood, February 24, 1893, William M. Murrell to Flood, R. S. Byrd to Flood, October 26, 1893, Flood Papers.

63 Reeves, “Thomas Staples Martin,” 350–351.

64 Bear, “Thomas Staples Martin,” 126–128; Lee to Bradley Johnson, December 22, 1893, Fitzhugh Lee Papers, University of Virginia Library; Lee to Edmund Berkeley, January 20, 1894, Berkeley Papers, ibid.

65 Martin to F. R. Lassiter, October 24, 1892, Lassiter Papers; J. S. B. Thompson to Flood, November 1, 1893, Flood Papers; Martin to Glasgow, June 24, 1893, Jones Papers. The full extent of the widespread use of railroad funds in both the 1891 and 1893 campaigns by Martin, Glasgow, and Thompson, did not become public until 1911 when Congressman Jones challenged Senator Martin. Jones received numerous letters written by the trio from Malcolm Griffin. Griffin’s letter to Jones (August 29, 1911) and the other letters are in the Jones Papers but several were also reprinted in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 11 and 19, August 8 and 30, 1911.

66 Norfolk Virginian, December 9, 1893; Richmond Dispatch, December 8, 9, and 12, 1893.

67 Joseph Bryan’s Richmond Times attacked the decision in several editorials and emphasized that most Virginians were surprised with the outcome of the Lee-Martin contest; see its editions of December 13, 19–21, and 23, 1893. John S. Wise, in an interview reprinted in the Richmond State, January 30, 1894, maintained that Lee’s defeat was the natural result of the increasing power of railroads and the wholesale electoral frauds practiced by the Democrats in Virginia since the 1880s; see Scarpbook, James Alston Cabell Papers, University of Virginia Library.

68 The importance of railroad funds in securing Martin’s election is stressed in the excellent biographical study by James A. Bear, Jr., “Thomas Staples Martin: A Study in Virginia Politics, 1883–1896” (M.A. thesis, University of Virginia, 1952). Bear devotes considerable space to the election since it was the crucial event in Martin’s life; see especially pages 90–169. See also Moger, Virginia, 111–121, 209–211, 225–226, and Pulley, Old Virginia Restored, 50–54.

69 In this biographical study, the role of Lee in the election is emphasized especially since it is often ignored by students of the period. The author is trying to correct this imbalance but makes no claim of presenting the definitive study of the Lee-Martin confrontation and its significance for Virginia political history. thorough history of the matter would entail the production of a thick but invaluable volume since the contest deserves a lengthy synthesis of the political, social, and economic developments in post-reconstruction Virginia as well as a detailed analysis of the major and secondary political personalities of the era. In addition to the accounts of the election contained in the scholarly works of James Bear, Allen Moger, and Ray Pulley (all previously cited), a popular survey is found in Marshall Fishwick, Gentlemen of Virginia (New York, 1961), 194–209.

70 For example, John L. Hurt, president pro tempore of the state senate from 1884 to 1894, later explained his vote on grounds that “the combine” (or Martin group) had proved unexpectedly to be too powerful for him to support Lee. See Lee to Hurt, May 3, 1895, Hurt Papers.

171 Lee to Johnson, December 22, 1893, Lee Papers (University of Virginia) and Lee to Berkeley, January 20, 1894, Berkeley Papers.

72 House Journal, 1893–94, 106.

73 Ham Shepperd (a Lee caucus leader) to Eppa Hunton, Jr., December 15, 1893 (a verbatim copy certified by John A. Faulkner), Opie Papers. The complete report of the investigation appeared in the Richmond Times, December 17–20, 1893.

74 House Journal, 1893–94, 131 and 129.

75 Richmond Times, December 17–20, 1893; Moger, Virginia, 118–121.

76 Ferrall, “Claude Swanson,” 66; Richmond Times, April 25, May 31, September 8, October 10, 17, 20, 24, 28, and 31, November 1 and 2, 1894. Lee was disappointed that the popular Senator Daniel had not supported him but their friendship soon revived.

Return to General Fitzhugh Lee