Robert Augustus Toombs (American National Biography)

Michael Chesson, "Toombs, Robert Augustus," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
Ranking with the most important members of the Senate in the 1850s, Toombs contributed little of a positive nature to the South or the Georgia he loved so well in the Confederacy's struggle for nationhood. An army friend, Major Raphael J. Moses, recalled that his "impulses were generous and noble, his faults were bluster and a vivid imagination not always hampered by facts." Howell Cobb thought he had the finest mind of his generation "but lacked balance." According to T. C. De Leon, a government wit claimed that Toombs "disagrees with himself between meals." Fiery, erratic, and impulsive, he professed in the 1850s to love the Union but sometimes spoke like a fire-eater. He had "basically . . . conservative instincts," as befit his social class, but was a man who could "explode in any direction" in a crisis (Thompson, p. 66). This fatal flaw, a "tendency" under stress "to slide into the role of extremist" (Thompson, p. 146), denied him greatness. Toombs was one of the last of a generation of southern mavericks.
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