Yancey, William Lowndes

Life Span
Full name
William Lowndes Yancey
Place of Birth
Birth Date Certainty
Death Date Certainty
Sectional choice
Slave State
Other Education
Williams College, MA
Attorney or Judge
Farmer or Planter
Political Parties
Southern Democratic (1860)
Other Affiliations
Fire-Eaters (Secessionists)
Confederate government (1861-65)
US House of Representatives
State legislature

William Lowndes Yancey (American National Biography)

The election of Abraham Lincoln in November convinced Yancey that the time had arrived for immediate secession. He was elected to represent Montgomery County in the secession convention and was appointed chair of the committee that drafted the ordinance of secession. When the Confederacy was organized in February 1861, President Jefferson Davis nominated him together with Pierre A. Rost-Denis and A. Dudley Mann as a delegation to present the South's case to the European powers. Yancey arrived in London on 29 April and spent the next year vainly seeking diplomatic recognition for the new government. In November 1861 the Alabama legislature unanimously elected Yancey to the Confederate Senate. He then resigned his diplomatic mission and managed to return to the Confederacy via Havana and New Orleans. He took his senate seat on 27 March 1862.

Yancey soon became a leading states' rights opponent of the nationalistic Davis administration. He sought extensive exemptions from the Conscription Act and proposed the highly unpopular exemption of an overseer on every plantation with twenty or more slaves whose owner was absent. He fought to restrict the army's impressment of goods, and he strongly opposed allowing the Confederate Supreme Court to hear appeals from state supreme courts. During the debate on the bill to create the Supreme Court, in February 1863, he became involved in a violent encounter with Senator Benjamin Hill of Georgia on the senate floor and suffered injuries that forced him to absent himself for several days.
J. Mills Thornton, "Yancey, William Lowndes," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-01080.html.

William Lowndes Yancey (Congressional Biographical Directory)

YANCEY, William Lowndes,  (uncle of Joseph Haynsworth Earle), a Representative from Alabama; born at the Falls of the Ogeechee, Warren County, Ga., August 10, 1814; attended preparatory school and Williams College, Williamstown, Mass.; studied law in Sparta, Ga., was admitted to the bar in 1834 and commenced practice in Greenville, S.C.; moved to Cahawba, Ala., in 1836; temporarily abandoned the practice of law and became a cotton planter; editor of the Cahawba Democrat and the Cahawba Gazette; moved to Wetumpka, Ala., in 1839 and resumed the practice of law; member of the State house of representatives in 1841; served in the State senate in 1843; elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-eighth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Dixon H. Lewis; reelected to the Twenty-ninth Congress and served from December 2, 1844, to September 1, 1846, when he resigned; moved to Montgomery, Ala., in 1846; delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1848, 1856, and 1860; member of the State constitutional convention which convened in Montgomery January 7, 1861; appointed chairman of the commission sent to Europe in 1861 to present the Confederate cause to the Governments of England and France; elected to the first Confederate States Senate February 21, 1862; died at his plantation home, near Mongtomery, Ala., July 26, 1863; interment in Oakwood Cemetery.
“Yancey, William Lowndes,” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=Y000003.
Date Title
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “The Seceders at Charleston,” May 3, 1860
New York Times, “Disunion Plots,” May 10, 1860
Raleigh (NC) Register, “The President on the Stump,” July 18, 1860
New York Herald, “The Election in North Carolina,” August 4, 1860
Lowell (MA) Citizen & News, "Who Are For Disunion?," August 8, 1860
Charlestown (VA) Free Press, "Precipitate A Revolution," August 9, 1860
New York Times, "Politics at the South," August 10, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “Three Southern Frights,” August 13, 1860
New York Times, “Mr. Yancey's Speech,” August 21, 1860
Memphis (TN) Appeal, "Yancey on Douglas," September 6, 1860
New York Times, “Speech of Mr. Breckinridge,” September 10, 1860
Chicago (IL) Press and Tribune, “Information Wanted,” October 10, 1860
Charlestown (VA) Free Press, “A Trap For Douglas,” October 11, 1860
New York Herald, “What are the Southern States Going to Do?,” October 12, 1860
New York Herald, “The Disunion Question,” November 19, 1860
New York Times, “A Secession Breakwater,” November 20, 1860
August Belmont to Herschel Johnson, November 22, 1860
Fayetteville (NC) Observer, “‘Coercion’ in Alabama,” January 28, 1861
New York Herald, “Our Fashionable Summer Resorts,” June 2, 1861
Chicago Style Entry Link
Venable, Austin L. "The Conflict Between the Douglas and Yancey Forces in the Charleston Convention." Journal of Southern History 8, no. 2 (1942): 226-241. view record
Walther, Eric H. The Fire-Eaters. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1992. view record
Walther, Eric H. William Lowndes Yancey: The Coming of the Civil War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. view record
How to Cite This Page: "Yancey, William Lowndes," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, https://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/index.php/node/6926.