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Mr. Yancey, Commissioner of the Confederate States

The Illustrated London News, vol. 40, no. 1128, p. 95.

January 25, 1862


The Hon. Wm. Lowndes Yancey is a native of the State of South Carolina, where he was born in 1815. For many years past he has resided in the great Cotton State of Alabama. Mr. Yancey is a cotton-planter, and until the date of secession of Alabama was a member of the Bar of that State.

Though exercising a strong influence upon the politics of the South during the last twenty years Mr. Yancey has but rarely been a candidate for political honours. He has, however, served as a member of the House of Representatives and of the Senate of Alabama, and has also been a member of the Federal Congress at Washington. While in Congress he took a prominent part in the annexation of Texas and in the settlement of the difficulties between England and the United States with reference to the disputed territory of Oregon. He was the first in Congress to denounce the party in that body who desired to repeal the convention for the joint occupancy of Oregon, entered into in 1818, contending that such a repeal under the circumstances would lead to a war with Great Britain, which he strongly disapproved of. He also voted for the extension of the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific Ocean, his object being to withdraw the slavery question from Congress, if possible, and thus to lessen the causes of irritation between the North and South. The Northern vote, however, defeated the measure.

Mr. Yancey's chief claim to public notice rests in his early recognition of the ineradicable differences existing between the North and South, and which time, instead of diminishing, extended and strengthened. In his opinion these differences were fast sectionalising the people of the North and the South, and he predicted that the Union would be dissolved whenever they stood arrayed as sections, the one against the other.

In a public letter, written several years since, which excited great attention at the time, he gave it as his opinion that the South would no longer submit to further compromise of what she considered to be her constitutional rights, that neither parties nor compromises could save the Union, that its dissolution was but a question of time, and that it would first take place in the Cotton States, and thence would spread into the Border States—a prediction that has been signally verified within the last few months.

The events in progress in the Northern States, showing that the North would present a candidate for the Presidency upon an avowed sectional basis in 1860, induced Mr. Yancey in 1859 to urge upon the Legislature of Alabama the passing of an Act making it the duty of the Governor to call a convention of the people of that State to consider so serious an event. When, in 1860, Mr. Lincoln was elected as an exponent of Northern, and an enemy of Southern, interests, the convention of Alabama was immediately called, followed by those of all the other Cotton States, the whole of which deliberately withdrew from the Union, and, on the 11th of March, 1861, formed the Government of the Confederate States of America. Mr. Yancey was at this time a leading member of the convention of Alabama, and reported the ordinance of secession.

In selecting three gentlemen to form a commission to the Powers of Europe to present the claims of the Confederate States to recognition and friendly commercial relations, President Davis considered it an occasion to recognise the long persistent services of Mr. Yancey in the cause of the South; and, as he had been the first to urge and obtain the consent of the South to secede and form an independent Confederacy, it was felt that he should be the first in a commission to obtain recognition of the new Power from the elder nations of the earth, and especially from Great Britain and France. Hence Mr. Yancey was appointed to be the senior or chief of the commission to Europe, and has been in this country and in France in that capacity since May last.

In November last Alabama elected Mr.Yancey to represent her in the Senate of the Confederate States, which will be organised on the 17th of February next, the day when the permanent supersedes the present provisional Government of the South.

Our Portrait is from a photograph by Mayall.

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