Solons in Gray: Floridians in the Confederate Congress
As late as the 1960s, the Tallahassee Democrat and other Florida newspapers regularly used the term “Solons” to refer to members of the Florida legislature. There were undoubtedly many times when political reporters probably used the term lightheartedly, however. “Solon,” named for Solon, the ancient Athenian statesman, means a wise and skillful law giver or simply a member of a legislative body.
The term was certainly in use during the 1860s, when the original seven seceding Southern states created the Confederate States of America in February 1861. Largely a replica of the United States government, the Confederate Constitution called for a government of three branches. The Confederate Congress, which until February 1862 was known as the Provisional Congress, was divided into a House and Senate and eventually represented all eleven seceded states plus, even though these areas were hardly under Confederate control, Kentucky, Missouri, and the western Territories.
Florida was one of the founding states of the Confederacy, sending five men to serve in the Provisional Congress and six in the First (1862-1864) and Second (1864-1865) regular congresses. The Provisional Congress was unicameral, but the Confederate Constitution called for the creation of a bicameral legislature, which began with the First Congress in February 1862. Each state had two senators and a number of representatives apportioned according to population. As the least populous state in the Confederacy, Florida only had two representatives.
The following list provides the names, congresses, and selected information for Florida’s Confederate congressmen:
James M. Baker (First and Second Congress)
Augustus E. Maxwell (First and Second Congress; a former Florida Attorney General and U.S. Congressman, he served on the Florida Supreme Court after the Civil War)
James P. Anderson (Provisional Congress, resigned in April 1861 to command Florida troops and eventually became a Major General in the Confederate Army)
George T. Ward (Provisional Congress, elected to fill Anderson’s seat; Ward resigned in February 1862 and took command of the 2nd Florida Regiment; he was killed in the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5, 1862)
John P. Sanderson (Provisional Congress, appointed to fill Ward’s seat)
Jackson Morton (Provisional Congress)
James B. Owens (Provisional Congress)
James B. Dawkins (First Congress, resigned December 8, 1862)
James M. Martin (First Congress, elected to fill Dawkins’ seat; he also served as a colonel in the 9th Florida Regiment)
Robert B. Hilton (First and Second Congress)
Samuel St. George Rogers (Second Congress; before entering the Second Congress he was a colonel and in charge of conscription in Florida)
The best source for information on the Confederate Congress and the Floridians who served in it is Ezra J. Warner and W. Buck Yearns, Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress (Louisiana State University Press, 1975). The register and a copy of the journal of the Confederate Congress are available in the holdings of the State Library and Archives of Florida.
Tags: Civil War