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Hugh Swinton Legare

LEGARE, Hugh Swinton (leh-gree), statesman, born in Charleston, South Carolina, 2 January, 1789; died in Boston, Massachusetts, 2 June, 1843. He was of French Huguenot stock on the paternal, and Scottish on the maternal side. A physical infirmity that debarred him from manly sports gave him a taste for reading, and to become an orator was the chief object of his ambition. He was graduated at the College of South Carolina in 1814, studied law for three years, and spent the next two in study and travel abroad. On his return to Charleston he engaged in planting cotton on John's island. In 1820-'2 he was in the legislature, and at the latter date he removed to Charleston and began the practice of law, but met with little success. He represented Charleston in the legislature in 1824-'30, was then elected attorney-general, and during the nullification excitement ardently supported the Union in public speeches. At this time Legare became the coadjutor of Stephen Elliott in the publication of the "Southern Review," a quarterly magazine. He wrote the initial article for the first number on "Classical Literature," and continued its principal contributor until the death of Elliott, when he became editor. At the end of the eighth volume the magazine was suspended. Meanwhile he ably filled the office of attorney-general. In 1832 he became charge d'affaires at Brussels. In the autumn of 1836, after an extended tour of the conlineal, he returned home, and was immediately elected to congress as a Union Democrat, taking his seat in the extra session of 1837 that was called to deliberate on the financial embarrassments of the country, he greatly increased his reputation in the debates that followed, but his course in opposition to the sub-treasury project caused his defeat at the next election. He returned to his profession, was soon employed in cases of magnitude that were then pending in the courts of South Carolina, and in the case of "Pell and Wife vs. the Executors of Ball" achieved a triumph that decided his place at the Charleston bar. In the presidential canvass of 1840 he favored the election of General Harrison, and at this time he began a series of brilliant papers in the "New York Review" on "Demosthenes," "Athenian Democracy," and "The Origin, History, and Influence of the Roman Law." In 1841 he was appointed by President Tyler attorney-general of the United States, and after the withdrawal of Daniel Webster on the ratification of the Ashburton treaty, in the composition of which, especially in the part regarding the right of search, Mr. Legare had rendered important service, he discharged for some time the duties of secretary of state. He died suddenly in Boston while attending, with President Tyler, the ceremonies at the unveiling of the Bunker Hill monmnent. Chief-Justice Story said of him: "His argumentation was marked by the closest logic; at the same time he had a presence in speaking I have never seen excelled." A memoir of him, with selections from his writings, including addresses, despatches, and his diary at Brussels, was edited and published by his sister, MARY SWINTON LEGARE BULLEN (Charleston, South Carolina, 1848). She attained some success as a painter, and removed in 1849 to West Point, Lee County, Iowa, where she founded and endowed Legare college for women.

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