The bitter political rivalry between Henry Stuart Foote and Jefferson Davis was never more apparent than on Christmas Day in 1847. The senators from Mississippi were lodging in the same boardinghouse in Washington, D.C., and a discussion about popular sovereignty grew heated. Although the exchange between the senators is unrecorded, Davis eventually struck Foote after he used language that Davis found offensive.
Others in the room separated the two men, but tempers flared again after Foote pronounced that Davis had "struck first." Davis denounced Foote as a liar and threatened to beat him to death if he repeated the claim. Foote instead punched Davis, who returned the blow. Davis suggested that the two of them go to a locked room where he kept his pistols, a less than subtle challenge to a duel. The bystanders in the boardinghouse finally succeeded in calming the men, suggesting that it was all a case of "Christmas frolic" and that it should be kept private.
However, the issue resurfaced a couple of years later. Davis heard that Foote had been boasting that he had struck Davis with impunity. Davis wrote to Foote to ask the rumor was true, and Foote denied it in a lengthy reply. Davis was not wholly satisfied, but his friends convinced him that it was good enough. They also pointed out that a duel between the two would be seen as unfair; Davis had military experience in both the Black Hawk War and the Mexican War, while Foote was a poor enough shot that he had been wounded in three of the four duels he had participated in.
While the rivalry between Foote and Davis never again rose to violence, they remained bitter rivals even as Davis became president of the Confederacy and Foote reluctantly joined the Confederate Congress. Foote would always have a reputation as a hot-tempered politician who was quick to fight, but also proved to be one of the strongest voices against secession. Yet he would also have the dubious honor of being accused of disloyalty in both the North and the South.
Foote was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, on February 28, 1804. He graduated from Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) in 1819. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1823, and moved to Alabama two years later to begin a practice in Tuscumbia. He also began editing a weekly newspaper.
In his youth, Foote became known for his propensity to fight duels. He was a participant in four contests of honor between 1828 and 1837, challenging an opponent twice and getting challenged on the remaining two occasions. He was shot in the shoulder in the first incident, after which he moved to Mississippi and began practicing law in Jackson, Natchez, Raymond, and Vicksburg. A dispute with fellow lawyer Sergeant S. Prentiss occurred between 1832 and 1833, after Foote threw an inkstand at Prentiss; this action led to a duel where he was again wounded in the shoulder. The rivalry was later rekindled, with Foote receiving "an exceedingly dangerous wound" in the right leg. In his last duel, Foote managed to shoot a rival in the hip during an exchange of five shots.
Not surprisingly, Foote was known for having a short fuse and his quick temper didn't endear him to many people. One Alabama newspaper would compare him to "a high pressure steamboat on fire." He was also well-known for his short stature and bald head. One tongue-in-cheek account described Foote as a "great humbug, perfect gentleman, entire horse, and part alligator."
Foote briefly left Mississippi in 1839 to journey to the Republic of Texas, which had won independence from Mexico three years earlier. Although the republic's leaders wanted it to be annexed to the United States, concerns over incorporating a new slave state into the nation had kept Texas an independent nation. It would remain so until 1845. Foote would write a book on his experience, Texas and the Texans, and publish it in 1841.
In 1839, Foote won his first political race when he was elected to the Mississippi house of representatives. He was later elected as a Democrat to the U.S. Senate, beginning his term on March 4, 1847. He became chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, an assignment he held throughout his Senate career.
Foote found few friends among his fellow senators, who dreaded his long-winded speeches. If they became particularly impatient with his rhetoric, some senators would start to hiss or groan to try to get him to finish up. "I know my rights," he shot back at one point, "and will maintain them too, in spite of all the groans that may come from any quarter."
The tensions of the antebellum era, coupled with Foote's pugnacious streak and unpopularity, all but guaranteed that his Senate career would come with a few bruises. In addition to the fight with Davis, he got into a brawl with Simon Cameron of Pennslyvania on the last night of the 1848 session. The men came to blows after Foote cut Cameron off as he was speaking, saying Cameron had no right to speak in the Senate since his term had ended. In March 1850, he fought with Senator Solon Borland of Arkansas on a street corner after describing Borland as a "servile follower" of John C. Calhoun, a South Carolina senator and former vice president who was strongly in favor of states' rights and the preservation of slavery.
One senator refused to stoop to violence even in the face of threats from Foote. John P. Hale, a senator from New Hampshire, became known for openly opposing slavery. Though opposed to secession, Foote was a slaveholder and despised abolitionists. At one point, he earned the nickname "Hangman Foote" when he threatened on the floor of the Senate that he would personally help with the lynching of Hale if he ever dared to travel to Mississippi. Hale calmly replied that Foote would receive a kind and warm welcome if he ever wanted to visit New Hampshire.
Compromise of 1850
Even though he was quick to fight with others, Foote did not want to see the nation descend into war. Among the politicians in the South, he was one of the few to take a staunch position against the idea of secession. Along with Senators Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Stephen Douglass of Illinois, he became a principal architect of the Compromise of 1850.
This landmark agreement came about following the Mexican War, when the United States acquired the entire northern half of the Mexican Empire. The issue of whether slavery would be permitted in this territory became more pressing when the gold rush of 1849 led to a rapid increase in the population of California, making it eligible to become a state. With the California delegates unequivocally opposed to slavery, there was a strong possibility that the balance between free and slave states in Congress would be upset - potentially prompting the southern states to secede.
Several ideas were proposed in Congress to remedy the California question, along with other issues facing the nation. Foote himself offered a bill in January 1850 to provide territorial governments for California, New Mexico, "Deseret" in Utah, and a new state carved out of western Texas called Jacinto. Henry Clay, a longstanding Kentucky senator who had earned the nickname "The Great Compromiser" for his role in negotiating the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and Tariff Compromise of 1833, offered eight resolutions related to the former Mexican territory.
Henry Clay delivers a speech on his compromise proposals (Source)
President Zachary Taylor wanted the issue of California's admission as a state to be referred to the Senate Committee on Territories. Foote suggested that it go before a special 13-man committee, along with the other proposals suggested by Clay, so they could be brought before Congress in a single bill. Clay, who had intended to have his proposals considered separately, gave Foote's suggestion what would be a lasting nickname: an "omnibus bill," after the horse-drawn conveyance that was becoming popular for urban transportation. Clay worried that his proposals would be shot down if they were bundled together, declaring that Foote's proposal put into an omnibus "all sorts of things and every kind of passenger, and myself among them."
Foote, in turn, charged that Clay was "throwing into the hands of his adversaries all the trump cards in the deck." In other words, he considered that Clay's proposals benefited the North while offering little in return to the South. "My allegiance is to this Union and to my state," Clay rebutted, "but if gentlemen suppose they can exact from me an acknowledgement of allegiance to any ideal or future contemplated confederacy of the South, I here declare that I owe no allegiance to it; nor will I, for one, come under any such allegiance if I can avoid it."
The issues on the table were so weighty that many senators wondered whether the Union could be preserved. Senators like Foote felt that California's admission into the Union would provoke the South into secession, but that it would be possible to preserve the nation if the northern states made a number of concessions in exchange for California statehood. However, many of his constituents in Mississippi and elsewhere in the South were actively calling for secession. Then on March 4, Senator John C. Calhoun expressed his thoughts on the issues facing the nation.
Calhoun was a much respected member of the Senate. During his long political career, he had served four terms in the House of Representatives, acted as Secretary of War in President James Monroe's Cabinet, and been elected Vice President to President John Quincy Adams. He had served in the Senate since 1832, with a brief hiatus to join President John Tyler's cabinet as Secretary of State.
By the time the 1850 measures appeared before the Senate, Calhoun was 67 years old suffering from severe illness. He was so weak that he could not deliver his own address (it was read by Senator James M. Mason of Virginia) but there was no mistaking that his words were a rallying cry for southern sectionalism. Calhoun declared that the equilibrium between the North and South had broken down, with the northern states having "exclusive power of controlling the government, which leaves the [South] without any adequate means of protecting itself against its encroachment and oppression."
Calhoun suggested that the North had excluded the South from newly acquired territories and placed an undue tax burden on the region, appropriating most of the proceeds to northern manufacturing interests. This industry, he argued, made the North a more popular destination for immigrants and consequently increased these states' power in national elections. He said relations between the North and South had been further strained by abolitionists' fervent denunciations of slavery. If the state of affairs continued, he suggested, the South would have no choice but to secede.
The Senate should not be discussing any sort of compromise, Calhoun concluded. Rather, the North needed to concede equal right to the territories acquired in the Mexican War, work to return fugitive slaves to their owners, "cease the agitation of the slave question," and establish a constitutional amendment to restore the South to equal power in the government.
"At all events, the responsibility for saving the Union rests on the North, and not the South," Calhoun declared. "The South cannot save it by any act of hers, and the North may save it without any sacrifice whatever, unless to do justice and to perform her duties under the Constitution should be regarded by her as a sacrifice."
Foote was appalled by the address, believing the course demanded by Calhoun would make secession "almost inevitable." Not only was Calhoun obstructing a compromise, he charged, but he was "heard to denounce the very name of compromise." He also wondered why Calhoun had not consulted with other southern senators before making his speech. "To speak plainly, I almost felt that a noose was put around my neck, while asleep, and without having antecedingly obtained my consent," he complained.
Calhoun showed little regard for Foote's concerns. About 10 days after his address, he said, "Well sir, I never did consult any man upon any speech I ever made. I make speeches for myself."
The fiery speech was one of the last ones Calhoun would make. He died on March 31.
Feud with Benton
By the time of Calhoun's death, Foote had been openly disdainful of Senator Thomas Hart Benton for several months. A Democrat from Missouri, Benton and Foote agreed on many issues. However, Foote despised what he saw as Benton's pompous attitude. "On meeting him face to face my first unfavorable impressions of him were greatly strengthened,and the excessive vanity and egotism constantly displayed by him, both in conversational scenes and in the Senate, inspired me with feelings of disgust and aversion which I have seldom experienced," he wrote in his autobiography.
In December 1849, Foote had essentially accused Benton of stealing his proposal for territorial governments in the new lands taken in the Mexican War. He said the Missouri senator had used language "of the coarsest scurrility and envenomed abuse," and insinuated that Benton had inspired slaves to flee Missouri for freedom in Illinois. Benton, a slaveholder himself, had once been prone to violent outbursts but had cooled down considerably after killing a man in a duel in 1817. He responded to Foote's harangue by simply walking out of the chamber.
It was only the start of a prolonged bullying campaign against Benton. In one particularly fierce rant, Foote accused him of colluding with Senator William Henry Seward, a New York abolitionist who would become President Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State, to undermine the power of the southern states. He also said Benton had conspired with England to sabotage the peace with Mexico and supported California statehood because his son-in-law John C. Fremont would likely become one of the state's senators. Foote even criticized the "imposing nasality" of Benton's Missouri accent. On February 20, 1850, he accused Benton of being motivated by "an intense self-love" and said the senator wouldn't hesitate to sabotage the Union for personal gain.
The relationship between the two men was further frayed by Benton's opposition to the omnibus compromise bill, which he dubbed a "monster." When Benton joined the debate on March 28, Foote ridiculed him as "the Caesar, the Napoleon of the Senate." Benton protested that such personal attacks were in violation of the Senate's rules of decorum, but Foote wouldn't let up. He accused Benton of "parading himself as the peculiar friend and champion of California." Referencing the elopement of Benton's daughter Jessie with Fremont, he suggested that the Missouri senator wanted to "drag California into the Union before her wedding garment has been cast about her person." Foote said that if Benton was truly aggrieved by his insults, he could demand satisfaction through a duel.
"I pronounce it cowardly to give insults where they cannot be chastised. Can I take a cudgel to him here?" Benton responded. "Is a senator to be blackguarded here in the discharge of his duty, and the culprit go unpunished?" Vice President Millard Fillmore, presiding over the Senate session, ignored Foote's attacks and ruled that Benton's remarks were out of order.
Curiously, Fillmore regretted the lack of civility in the Senate during a funeral held in the chamber for Calhoun just six days later. He said the Vice President was once the only person who could declare a senator out of order for their behavior, but that Calhoun had modified the rules while he was Vice President to allow senators to better police their own behavior. However, Fillmore said he didn't think the Senate had been doing enough to foster a friendly environment. "A slight attack, or even an insinuation, of a personal character, often provokes a more severe retort, which brings out a more disorderly reply, each senator feeling a justification in the previous aggression," he said.
The remark foresaw the inevitable clash between Benton and Foote. This incident was likely spurred by remarks over the recently departed Calhoun; indeed, Benton had declared that the former Vice President "died with treason in his heart and on his lips," firing up secessionists across the South before passing away. On April 17, the two men got into a heated argument in the Senate, with Foote bringing up the insinuation that Benton had been taking bribes.
After months of insults, Benton had finally reached a breaking point. He angrily rose from his seat and stormed toward Foote, who immediately retreated into the aisle and drew a pistol. Bedlam erupted in the chamber as other senators tried to prevent any violence. Though Benton's words vary from source to source, their meaning remains constant: he was unarmed, Foote intended to kill him, and he was welcome to commit such a cowardly murder. According to one source, Benton threw open his shirt front and declared, "Let him fire! Stand out of the way! I have no pistols. Let the assassin fire!"
Thomas Hart Benton dares Henry S. Foote to shoot him. (Source)
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Foote surrendered the weapon to Senator Daniel Dickinson of New York, who locked it in his desk. Benton continued to shout at Foote, accusing him of making an assassination attempt. Foote denied the charge, saying he had started carrying the pistol for self-defense after being threatened by another senator in a cloakroom a few days earlier.
Preceding the caning of Senator Charles Sumner by Representative Preston Brooks by six years, the incident was a potent illustration of just how fraught the tensions between the North and South were. Some senators demanded that Foote be expelled, and a resolution was quickly introduced to investigate the incident. When no one wanted to serve on it, Fillmore had to name seven members.
In July, the committee concluded that the confrontation between Foote and Benton was like nothing that had ever occurred before in the Senate. Although the senators agreed that Foote had "indulged in personalities toward Mr. Benton of the most offensive character, such as were calculated to rouse the fiercest resentment in the human bosom," they also concluded that Foote had been acting in self-defense when he drew a pistol. The committee recommended no further action, hoping the incident would provide "a sufficient rebuke and warning not unheeded in the future."
Governor of Mississippi
Initially opposed to the omnibus strategy, Clay had announced on April 8 that he would support it. "You may vote against it if you please in toto, because of the bad there is in it, or you may vote for it because you approve of the greater amount of good there is in it," he said.
Foote continued to support the compromise, denouncing an alternate measure offered by Davis as nothing but "a sort of southern Wilmot Proviso." Davis's proposal called for the federal protection of slavery in the territories, but Foote argued that this measure would actually help undermine slavery. Since those in favor of slavery had traditionally argued that the practice was constitutionally protected everywhere except the free states, he said, it was an accepted notion that Congress had no authority to legislate on slavery issues. He said that if Davis's measure was adopted, it could quickly lead to abolition and "utterly exterminate our favorite domestic institution, and plunge the whole South in hopeless and remediless ruin."
The omnibus bill called for the admission of California into the Union as a free state and the abolition of the slave trade in Washington, D.C., in exchange for a stronger fugitive slave law and the possible expansion of slavery into the West through popular sovereignty. When this legislation was voted down, Foote tried unsuccessfully to have California divided into two states, one slave and one free. This proposal was voted down with 33 opposed and 23 in favor.
Despite these failures, the Compromise of 1850 still made it through Congress. Stephen Douglas of Illinois resumed the effort to pass the measures as five separate bills, which covered all of the issues in the omnibus and had Texas surrender its claims on New Mexico territory. Foote frequently visited the House of Representatives after the measures passed the Senate, offering assistance to members there.
Foote was the only man among all of Mississippi's representatives and senators to support the Compromise of 1850. After the close of the congressional session in September, the state legislature commended Davis and the four congressmen for their opposition to the measures. It also censured Foote for his support.
Despite this rebuke, there was a fair amount of support in Mississippi for the preservation of the Union. In 1851, Foote was selected as the gubernatorial candidate for the newly formed Union Party to counter pro-secession Democratic candidate John Quitman. The bitter campaign was chiefly focused on whether or not Mississippi should quit the Union; at one campaign stop in Sledgeville, Foote and Quitman came to blows and had to be separated. Quitman delayed his schedule to stop in towns two days after Foote, and Foote subsequently began accusing Quitman of being afraid to meet him face to face.
John Quitman, who dropped out of the gubernatorial race against Foote (Source)
Secession was still the main issue of the day, and Foote found little support in the Democratic legislature. These members named a Whig to fill Foote's seat in the Senate and a former Union Democrat to fill the vacancy left by Davis, then postponed the election for a senator who was to start serving in 1854. Foote also tried to get the legislature to formally support the Compromise of 1850, but its members stubbornly refused to do so.
In 1853, Mississippi voters chose secessionist candidate John J. McRae for governor. Frustrated by the mood in his state, Foote resigned five days before the expiration of his term; state senate president John J. Pettus held the office for these last days. One year later, Foote moved to California.
Snubbed in California
Although he renounced any political ambition in his new home, Foote soon became strongly involved with the Know Nothing party. At the 1855 state elections, this nativist movement gained a 3-1 majority in the state assembly and a one-vote advantage in the state senate.
In a June 1855 speech, Foote decried the continuing sectional tensions in the United States as the "most hazardous crisis that had ever risen in our national affairs demanded the serious consideration of the patriot, and every lover of his country." He worried that "fanatics" in both the North and South threatened to tear the country asunder. The best solution, he believed, was to have Whigs and Democrats opposed to Democratic President Franklin Pierce unite in a party dedicated to the good of the entire nation.
Although he claimed that he was no longer interested in being a politician, Foote was one of the top people considered for the Know Nothings' Senate nomination. However, he was soon dealt a black eye when he engaged in an unnecessary quarrel with the Sacremento Union, a Whig newspaper that had backed the Know Nothings in 1855. When the paper denounced the party's Senate candidates as "gaming politicians" and "migratory partisan quacks," Foote took offense and said the publication shouldn't be speaking in generalities. The Union accepted the challenge, publishing an article outlining the reasons why Foote shouldn't be considered for office. These included his inability to work well with others, "impolitic acts" such as the confrontation with Benton, and his brief time in California.
The last reason was particularly galling to state senator Wilson G. Flint, a Know Nothing who hated slaveholders and considered Foote a carpetbagger. While the state assembly voted 57-19 on January 11, 1856, to meet four days later to elect a U.S. senator, Flint joined a 17-15 vote to postpone the joint meeting to January 22. When this day arrived, he threw his support behind a motion to postpone the election of a senator indefinitely. These actions negated the Know Nothings' one-vote majority, and the Senate seat remained vacant until the next year.
Foote remained loyal to the Know Nothings, who supported Filmore for President in the 1856 election. When both the nation and California supported Democratic nominee James Buchanan, the Know Nothing party in California disintegrated. Foote subsequently rejoined the Democrats, but took no active role in the 1857 election.
In July, Foote announced that he would be traveling to Washington, D.C. in September to attend a session of the Supreme Court. Although the implication was that he would only be there for a brief period, he never came back to California. Instead, he returned to Mississippi and settled near Vicksburg. Critics charged that this action confirmed their suspicions that Foote had only been interested in fulfilling his political ambitions in California.
Nevertheless, most of Foote's children remained in the state and several became prominent in the West. Henry S. Foote Jr. became a California superior court judge, while another son, W.W. Foote, was a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to the Senate in 1892. His son-in-law William M. Stewart settled in Nevada, where he was named by the Republicans as one of the first senators from this state.
William M. Stewart, Foote's son-in-law, riding a mule in Nevada (Source)
The "open assailant"
Foote remained in Mississippi only briefly, opting to move when it became clear that the state was going to secede. He settled near Nashville, Tennessee, and was a delegate to the Southern convention in Knoxville. He supported Northern Democratic candidate Stephen Douglas in the contentious 1860 election, agreeing with the Illinois senator's proposal to preserve the Union through popular sovereignty.
Even though he had opposed secession throughout his career, Foote supported the Confederacy after Tennessee left the Union in June 1861. The state was one of four to secede after the Confederacy attacked Fort Sumter in April, kicking off the Civil War. By this point, Foote said, to oppose secession in the South was to be labeled a "coward and submissionist" and possibly exposed to intimidation and violence. Moreover, his family supported the cause, with his sons serving in the Confederate military.
Foote returned to politics, getting elected as a Tennessee representative to the First and Second Confederate Congresses and starting his service in 1862. In his first term, he chaired the Committee on Foreign Affairs as well as a special committee to investigate illegal arrests and losses on the battlefield. In his second term, he chaired another special committee on illegal impressment.
The relationship between Foote and Davis, now President of the Confederacy, had not improved. Foote became known for his harsh criticism of Davis's administration and his handling of the war. He constantly demanded information on military movements and battles, advocated an offensive rather than defensive war against the Union, and ordered some 30 inquiries into suspected ineptitude and corruption. Foote was particularly suspicious of quartermasters, whom he suspected of reaping private profits through the supply of the Confederate military.
In addition to his disdain for Davis, Foote held little regard for the members of his administration. He managed to oust Judah Benjamin as Secretary of War after introducing a vote of no confidence against him in 1862. While this action followed the loss of Roanoke Island in North Carolina as well as losses in the western states of the Confederacy, it was also influenced at least in part by anti-Semitism. At one point, Foote ranted that Jews had "deluged" the Confederacy and taken over important trades; he said that if this alleged shadowy influence continued, they would "probably find nearly all the property of the Confederacy in the hands of Jewish shylocks." He later declared that he would not support the creation of a Confederate Supreme Court as long as Benjamin "shall continue to pollute the ears of majesty Davis with his insidious counsels."
Benjamin wasn't Foote's only target. He claimed that his critiques of Confederate Secretary of the Treasury Christopher Memminger and Secretary of War James Seddon, along with his call for them to be removed from office, had influenced the men's resignations. He called Commissary General Lucius B. Northrop "a curse to the country" after learning that Northern prisoners of war were not getting enough food. At one point, Foote introduced an amendment to limit Davis's presidential powers but it failed with 45 against and 14 in favor.
Foote's opposition to Davis became so protracted that the Confederate president described him as his "only open assailant in Congress." Foote was against secret sessions of the Confederate Congress, conscription efforts and, the suspension of habeas corpus (unless the enemy was within sight of Richmond). He opposed the continuation of the war after Lincoln offered peace terms in 1863 and 1864, and tried unsuccessfully to introduce his own measures to stop the conflict.
Not surprisingly, Foote was as unpopular in the Confederate Congress as he had been in the U.S. Senate. One newspaper commented that he was a "verbose talker, a loose and inaccurate thinker" who "talks about every thing; and to little purpose." In one incident, Representative Edmund S. Dargan of Alabama attacked him with a Bowie knife during a debate after Foote called him a "damned rascal." When others stopped Dargan and took the knife away, Foote, perhaps recalling Benton's words, proclaimed, "I defy the steel of the assassin!"
Foote also got into a scuffle with Northrop and Representative Thomas B. Hanly of Missouri after laughing at Hanly's testimony during a committee hearing. John Mitchell, an Irish patriot and exile who had joined the staff of the Richmond Examiner, was so incensed by Foote's disrespect that he sent William G. Swan of Tennessee to deliver a duel challenge. When Foote responded that he would not accept the challenge because Swan was no gentleman, Swan responded by striking him with an umbrella, leaving a gash on Foote's head.
On Christmas Eve, 1864, Foote wrote to the Speaker of the House to say that he intended to resign at the end of the year. Shortly thereafter, he departed for the United States with his wife Rachel. He was reportedly heading for Washington, D.C., on an unauthorized trip to present a peace plan to Lincoln. Foote never completed the journey; he was arrested on January 10, 1865, although Rachel was allowed to proceed since her passport was in order.
Some of Foote's fellow representatives, perhaps tired of Foote's antics in the Confederate Congress, urged Davis to allow him to leave the South. Instead, a special committee was set up and decided by one vote to return Foote to Richmond. He spoke in his own defense on January 19, arguing that the arrest had violated his rights.
The Committee on Elections took up the issue, and recommended that Foote be thrown out of the Confederate Congress. Its report stated that he had tried to go to the U.S. capital without permission, intended to resign but withdrew his letter after his failed mission, and was "guilty of conduct incompatible with his duty and station as a member of the Congress of the Confederate States." The committee's minority report suggested that he had an honest motive, but that his actions were still "highly reprehensible" and deserving of censure.
The vote taken on January 24 was 51-25 in favor of Foote's expulsion. While this was more than two-thirds of the congressmen present, there were 33 members who were absent. Since the Confederate Constitution held that a congressman could only be expelled by a two-thirds vote of the entire membership, the motion failed. Instead, the Confederate Congress voted 64-6 to adopt the minority report and censure Foote.
Just one week later, Foote was arrested again. This time, he had made it to the United States and sheltered with his son-in-law William M. Stewart, the senator from Nevada. U.S. authorities gave Foote the option of returning to the South or going abroad. He chose the latter, leaving for England in February 1865. While there, he issued a manifesto calling on the Tennessee delegation to secede from the Confederacy and rejoin the Union.
Foote's actions earned him the nickname "Vallandingham of the South," a reference to the deportation of Clement Vallandigham, a Democratic congressman from Ohio, to the Confederacy after his vocal opposition to the Civil War. On February 27, the Confederate Congress again took up the question of whether to expel Foote. Declaring that his actions had indicated a disavowal of the Confederacy and a renunciation of his duties as a congressmen, the vote was 73-0 in favor.
After just six weeks in London, Foote returned to the United States. He was again taken into custody and held in New York City. On May 1, Foote wrote to President Andrew Johnson and asked that he be allowed to go to the Pacific coast, to be with his family and "spend the evening of his days in quietude and repose." Johnson was unsympathetic; he ordered Foote to leave the United States within 48 hours or be charged with treason.
Foote went abroad once more, this time to Montreal. But on May 15, he said he was willing to come back to the United States and face whatever jury trial Johnson deemed fit. He reminded Johnson of how they have served together in Congress and noted his longstanding opposition to secession before the Civil War. "It has been my fate to be grossly misjudged and misrepresented by men of extreme views, both in the North and in the South," he complained.
On June 30, Foote asked for a presidential pardon. Johnson was not amenable to this request, but on August 26 he allowed Foote to return to the U.S. Rather than face criminal charges, he would simply have to take an oath and give his parole of honor. Foote arrived in New York City in December.
After settling in Nashville, Foote moved to Washington, D.C. and began practicing law. He also started writing for a newspaper and completed more books, including Bar of the South and the Southwest and an autobiography entitled Casket of Reminiscences.
While praising President Ulysses S. Grant's inaugural address in 1869, Foote supported his opponent Horace Greeley (the candidate of the Democrats and Liberal Republicans) in 1872. Foote transitioned to the Republicans in 1876, supporting candidate Rutherford B. Hayes.
Foote was subject to political restrictions under the Fourteenth Amendment, which barred those who had served in the U.S. government and then joined the Confederacy from seeking office. However, his privileges were restored in 1869. After Hayes became President, he appointed Foote as superintendent of the U.S. Mint at New Orleans. Foote held this post from 1878 until his death on May 20, 1880.
Sources: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, National Governors Association, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, "Clay's Last Compromise" on Senate.gov, "Bitter Feelings in the Senate Chamber" on Senate.gov, "Henry S. Foote's Duels" in the Chicago Tribune on Aug. 31 1873, The Overland Monthly, Foote Family and Genealogy by Abram W. Foote, Biographical Register of the Confederate Congress, Confederate Incognito: The Civil War Reports of "Long Grabs" a.k.a. Murdoch John McSween 26th and 35th North Carolina Infantry edited by E.B. Munson, At the Edge of Precipice: Henry Clay and the Compromise that Saved the Union by Robert V. Remini, America's Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union by Fergus M. Bordewich, Jefferson Davis, American by William J. Cooper Jr., On the Brink of Civil War: The Compromise of 1850 and How It Changed the Course of American History by John C. Waugh, The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War by Leonard L. Richards, The American Senate: An Insider's History by Neil MacNeil and Richard A. Baker, Dixie Betrayed: How the South Really Lost the Civil War by David J. Eicher, Leaders of the American Civil War: A Biographical and Historiographical Dictionary edited by Charles F. Ritter and Jon L. Wakelyn, Scalawags: Southern Dissenters in the Civil War and Reconstruction by James Alex Baggett, The Confederate States of America 1861-1865: A History of the South by E. Merton Coulter, The Confederate Congress by Wildred Buck Yearns, Encyclopedia of Mississippi by Nancy Capace, The Journal of Southern History Vol. 9, Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America Vol. VII, The Papers of Andrew Johnson, The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Letters of Warren Akin: Confederate Congressman, Arkansas: A Narrative History by Jeannie M. Wayne, Casket of Reminiscences by Henry S. Foote