Henry Stuart Foote (February 28, 1804 – May 20, 1880) was a United States Senator from Mississippi from 1847 to 1852 and Governor of Mississippi from 1852 to 1854. His emotional leadership on the Senate floor helped secure passage of the Compromise of 1850, which for a time averted a civil war in the United States.
Henry S. Foote was born in Fauquier County, Virginia. He pursued classical studies in 1819 but did not graduate from Washington College (now Washington and Lee University), to his regret. He later studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1823, and commenced practice in Tuscumbia, Alabama, in 1825. In Tuscumbia, Foote established a newspaper, frequently lent books from his personal library, and was one of 21 local trustees who founded in 1830 LaGrange College, now the University of North Alabama. LaGrange was the first college to open its doors in Alabama and gain a charter from the state legislature.
Foote moved to Mississippi and practiced law in Jackson, Natchez, Vicksburg, and Raymond. After visiting Texas, he wrote the two-volume Texas and the Texans; or, Advance of the Anglo-Americans to the South-west; Including a History of Leading Events in Mexico, from the Conquest by Fernando Cortes to the Termination of the Texan Revolution (1841).
United States Senate
Foote was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate, where he played a key role in securing the Compromise of 1850. During Senate debates over the projected compromise resolutions, he drew a pistol on Senator Thomas Hart Benton. He was wrestled to the floor; the gun was taken from his hands and locked in a drawer. The incident created a brouhaha that required investigation by a Senate committee.
Foote served in the Senate from March 4, 1847, until January 8, 1852, when he resigned to become governor after defeating Jefferson Davis in the election of 1851. Foote was elected on a Unionist platform. Because of Foote's distress with rising anti-Union fervor in Mississippi, he moved to California in 1854 after his term as governor.
On the eve of the Civil War, Foote returned to Vicksburg. In 1859 he was a member of the Southern convention held at Knoxville. He moved to Tennessee and settled at Nashville, where he was elected to the First and Second Confederate Congresses.
As a member of the Confederate House of Representatives, he mercilessly assailed Confederate President Davis's war policies, and in one debate attacked Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, displaying virulent antisemitism.
Early in 1865, Foote attempted to cross to Union lines and travel to Washington, D.C., but was arrested by Confederates before he could do so. The Confederate House of Representatives voted on January 24, 1865, to expel him, but the vote failed to garner the necessary two-thirds majority. Later, he was appointed a Mississippi Commissioner for Confederate POWs being held by the North (his own son among them). He moved to Washington and sought a meeting with President Lincoln but was refused. Given the choice of leaving the country or being sent back to the Confederacy, Foote fled again, first to Canada and later to London.
After Robert E. Lee's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, Foote moved to Washington, D.C., and practiced law. He wrote two memoirs, War of the Rebellion (1866) and Casket of Reminiscences (1874), and compiled The Bench and Bar of the South and Southwest (1876). Appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes as superintendent of the New Orleans Mint, Foote served there from 1878 to 1880. He died in Nashville and was interred in his wife's Mt. Olivet Cemetery plot in an unmarked grave.
- Coleman, James P. "Two Irascible Antebellum Senators: George Poindexter and Henry S. Foote." Journal of Mississippi History 46 (February 1984): 17-27.
- Gonzales, John Edmond. "Henry Stuart Foote: Confederate Congressman and Exile." Civil War History 11 (December 1965): 384-95.
- Evans, Eli N. "Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate." The Free Press 1988. (280-281).
- Henry S. Foote at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Henry S. Foote at Find A Grave
- Henry Stuart Foote Family website
|United States Senate|
|Governor of Mississippi|
January 10, 1852 – January 5, 1854
| Succeeded by|
John J. Pettus
|Confederate States House of Representatives|
|Member of the C.S. House of Representatives|
February 18, 1862 – January 24, 1865
| Succeeded by|