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FW: ANB - Bio of the Day: Hilary Abner Herbert

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      From: ANB Biography of the Day [mailto:biod-request@...]
      Sent: Wednesday, April 11, 2001 1:00 AM
      Subject: ANB - Bio of the Day


      American National Biography Online


      Herbert, Hilary Abner (12 Mar. 1834-6 Mar. 1919), Confederate
      soldier, congressman, and secretary of the navy, was born in
      Laurensville, South Carolina, the son of Thomas Edward Herbert
      and Dorothy Teague Young, teachers and slaveholding farmers.
      The Herberts moved to Alabama in 1846, and Hilary matriculated
      as a sophomore at the state university in 1853 only to quit that
      same year, along with most of his class, in protest against harsh
      discipline. He attended the University of Virginia from October
      1854 to February 1856 before a stomach ailment forced his withdrawal.
      Eventually he read law in Alabama, practicing in Greenville until 1861.

      A second lieutenant in the Greenville Guards, Herbert was sent
      to capture Pensacola's naval station. With the opening of the
      Civil War, Herbert was captain of the Guards, then a militia
      unit but later reorganized as part of the Eight Alabama Infantry
      Regiment. Gallantry in the Peninsular campaign earned him the
      oak leaf insignia of a major. After fighting at Manassas, Fredericksburg,
      Antietam, and Gettysburg, Herbert was promoted to lieutenant
      colonel. At the battle of the Wilderness, while commanding the
      regiment, he was severely wounded, losing the use of an arm.
      Promoted to his field rank upon leaving the Confederate army,
      Colonel Herbert resumed his law practice in Greenville. He married
      Ella B. Smith in 1867; they had three children.

      In 1872 the Herberts moved to Montgomery, where the colonel
      practiced law until he won election to the U.S. House of Representatives
      in 1876. A "Bourbon" Democrat, he earnestly supported the redemption
      of the South from Reconstruction policies in force after the
      Civil War, although he despaired of success. He wrote his brother-in-law,
      "This country I cannot believe will prosper in our day. First
      the free negro is a roguish vagabond & therefore an incubus upon
      the country" (Hammett, p. 49). While Herbert campaigned on a
      platform of "home rule," he did not seek majority rule in his
      own district, which had slightly more blacks than whites.

      Although these were notoriously ineffective Congresses, and
      despite his opposition to the locally popular bill providing
      federal support for the construction of the Texas and Pacific
      Railroad, his seat remained solid until the 1890 challenge of
      the Farmers' Alliance, which he overcame. Herbert opposed the
      alliance because it promoted blacks and sought what he considered
      to be special privileges for a class or sector of the economy.
      In that same year, he also gained distinction in Congress for
      his staunch opposition to Henry Cabot Lodge's (1850-1924) "Force"
      Bill, which called for stationing federal observers at southern
      polling stations to prevent fraud and to ensure the doctrine
      of "one man, one vote." To combat this effort, Herbert edited
      and coauthored with several other southern congressmen a volume
      entitled Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and Its Results
      (1890). This propaganda tract detailed the alleged woes inflicted
      upon the South by "black Republican" Reconstruction. Though hastily
      prepared and based on dubious facts, it helped defeat the Force
      Bill and contributed fodder for an emerging group of historians,
      who used such distortions to support the New South's restoration
      of white supremacy.

      Herbert was appointed to the House Naval Affairs Committee in
      1885 and immediately made a name as the leading Democratic navalist--a
      believer that a strong blue water fleet would strengthen the
      nation morally and strategically, a notion more generally held
      by Republicans. He later wrote, "My task with my own party was
      not an easy one, and it soon became apparent that to 'go sure'
      it was necessary to 'go slow' " (Hammett, p. 118). He chaired
      that crucial committee in the Forty-ninth, Fiftieth, and Fifty-second
      Congresses, overseeing and frequently guiding the naval revolution.
      He consistently pushed for more and larger ships. He fought for
      cruisers, then worked for armored cruisers, and finally in 1890
      obtained support for the construction of large battleships.

      Herbert became secretary of the navy in 1893 in Grover Cleveland's
      second administration, serving through four years of naval buildup,
      increased international tensions, and domestic crises (about
      which the president consulted Herbert only infrequently). Though
      Herbert was a relatively minor figure in the administration,
      with his help the authorizations for warships increased by 65,942
      tons, to be capped by the building of the world's largest battleships.

      Cleveland and Herbert had inherited the Hawaiian annexation
      crisis after sailors and marines from the Boston had assisted
      in haole, the white planter minority overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani.
      Much of the administration's earliest efforts concentrated on
      remedying the situation without annexing these islands. While
      he was pronavy, Herbert was no colonialist; he could not see
      non-Caucasian Hawaiians ever participating in the American governing
      process. Herbert longed for the Old South, replete with slavery,
      small government, and a courtly governing class. As the increasingly
      expensive navy brought the nation into contact and eventual control
      over differing peoples, his vision of America was challenged
      by the very institution he had so lovingly nurtured.

      Herbert retired from government service somewhat grudgingly
      in 1897. With his son-in-law Benjamin Micou, he founded a successful
      Washington law firm, in which he practiced until his retirement in 1910.



      Bibliography

      The major collection of works by and about Herbert is at the
      University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill. Hugh B. Hammett,
      Hilary Abner Herbert: A Southerner Returns to the Union (1976),
      is a solid biography covering Herbert's entire life. One might
      also consult Herbert's own writings, including The Abolition
      Crusade and Its Consequences (1912).

      Mark R. Shulman



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      Citation:
      Mark R. Shulman. "Herbert, Hilary Abner";
      http://www.anb.org/articles/05/05-00338.html;
      American National Biography Online Feb. 2000.
      Access Date:
      Copyright (c) 2000 American Council of Learned Societies. Published
      by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.





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