January 7

Robert Toombs

January 7, 1861 - Wilkes County

He stood for saving the Union and he later zealously argued for secession, Robert Toombs was one of the most influential Georgians of the 19th century.

Born in Wilkes County in 1810, Toombs served in the Georgia Legislature before being elected to four terms in the U.S. House and then the U.S. Senate. He was a Falstaffian character, a passionate orator who worked to hold the Union together in the antebellum years. But by 1860 abolitionist fervor made Toombs an outspoken secessionist, and he told his fellow senators in his farewell speech, “We want no negro equality…let us depart in peace.”

Toombs’ drinking denied him the Confederate presidency, but he served briefly as Secretary of State and with distinction on the battlefield before resigning in a huff. He despised Jefferson Davis’s leadership and fled to Europe after the war. He never asked for a pardon and never regained his American citizenship.

Robert Toombs crossed the Rubicon when he delivered his farewell speech to the U.S. Senate on January 7, 1861, Today in Georgia History.