Robert Augustus Toombs II

                         Robert Augustus Toombs II was known as an eloquent speaker, a haughty Congressman, a tenderly caring friend, a politically savvy manipulator, an intellectually capable statesman, and a loving family man. Georgians adored him and yearned for his rhetorical messages. Ironically, despite his oratorical prowess, he was a poor writer and speller. Robert’s life was filled with moments of superb statesmanship and strategic passive aggressiveness. For example, after justifying Kansas slavery on the Senate floor, Robert’s opponent, Senator Charles Sumner, rebutted the humanity of Robert’s institutional beliefs. Congressman Preston Brooks took offense to Senator Sumner’s rebuttal and ruthlessly beat him with a cane. Robert passively observed the bludgeoning. Sumner was nearly dead, when New York Congressman Ambrose Murray seized Brooks’ arm and stopped the beating. According to Robert, Senator Sumner deserved it, and Robert approved.


Robert was a wealthy lawyer, prosperous plantation aristocrat, and a humane slave owner. He could stir a riot with his politics and persuade others with constitutional logic. Despite his political brilliance, he was subject to partisanship. Throughout his congressional career, Robert introduced bills but was regularly unable to convince Northerners to support them. It was a sign. A territorial divide manifested itself in Congress, and Robert willingly led the Southern cause. During his years as an antebellum Congressman, Robert became a self-appointed steward over the treasury. Unless requests affected his constituents or supported slavery, he was very frugal. For instance, he was opposed to awarding Mexican War pensions to veteran widows, but he was willing to appropriate millions to acquire Cuba and its 450,000 slaves.


As an adult, Robert Toombs was a popular Southern politician; he had a knack for getting people’s attention; he was outspoken and determined; and he was ambitious. He was not afraid to ridicule political leaders of any party, and he was prone to suffer the consequences. He was also an untidy man, was known to be profane, and liked drinking alcohol.


Robert gained national notoriety with his political abilities, but like all people, he was at times subject to mistaken identity. While Georgians knew of Robert, some did not physically recognize the statesman. He was once chased through his home state of Georgia by a posse. He, his horse, and wagon had raced out of town on a dusty country road. According to the posse leader, Robert was in the act of committing a crime. When the posse finally apprehended Robert, they apologized. He hadn't stolen his own horse and wagon. Robert’s life was not void of humor.


Despite all the complexities of his personality and intellect, Robert maintained one consistency throughout his life. He had a tremendous love for his family. His wife, Julia, and his daughters, Mary and Sarah, motivated his determination and zeal for life.