Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives


LETCHER, John, a Representative from Virginia; born in Lexington, Rockbridge County, Va., March 29, 1813; attended private rural schools and Randolph-Macon College; was graduated from Washington Academy (now Washington and Lee University), Lexington, Va., in 1833; studied law; was admitted to the bar and commenced practice in Lexington, Va., in 1839; editor of the Valley Star from 1840 to 1850; delegate to the State constitutional convention in 1850; elected as a Democrat to the Thirty-second and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1851-March 3, 1859); was not a candidate for renomination in 1858, having become a candidate for Governor; Governor of Virginia 1860-1864; prominent in the organization of the peace convention that met in Washington, D.C., February 8, 1861, in an effort to devise means to prevent the impending war; discouraged secession, but was active in sustaining the ordinance passed by Virginia April 17, 1861; after the war and the expiration of his term as Governor resumed the practice of law in Lexington; member of the State house of delegates 1875-1877; member of the board of visitors of the Virginia Military Institute 1866-1880 and served as president of the board for ten years; again resumed the practice of law in Lexington, Va., where he died on January 26, 1884; interment in the Presbyterian Cemetery.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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External Research Collections

Duke University Library

Durham, NC
Papers: 23 items in Governors' papers, 1765-1914. 644 items.

Library of Congress
Manuscript Division

Washington, DC
Papers: 1853-1866. 7 items.

University of Virginia Library

Charlottesville, VA
Papers: 1834-ca. 1878. 1 foot in various collections and 1 reel of microfilm. Personal, business, and congressional papers and correspondence and engravings. Microfilm of originals in State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

Virginia State Library and Archives
Archives Branch

Richmond, VA
Papers: 1860-1864. 14 feet. Gubernatorial papers. Finding aid in repository.
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Bibliography / Further Reading

Bean, William G. "John Letcher and the Slavery Issue in Virginia's Gubernatorial Contest of 1858-1859." Journal of Southern History 20 (February 1954): 22-49.

Boney, F. N. John Letcher of Virginia; The Story of Virginia's Civil War Governor. University: University of Alabama Press, 1966.

------. "Turn About and Fair Play: A Connecticut General Befriends a Confederate Governor." Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin 31 (April 1966): 33-39.

Hitchcock, William S. "The Limits of Southern Unionism: Virginia Conservatives and the Gubernatorial Election of 1859." Journal of Southern History 47 (February 1981): 57-72.

Letcher, John. Address on the re-inauguration of the bronze statue of George Washington. [Richmond: Whig Print, 1866].

------. Speech of Hon. J. Letcher, of Virginia, on the public expenditures. Delivered in the House of Representatives, June 12, 1858. [Washington: Printed by L. Towers, 1858].

------. Speech of Hon. John Letcher, of Virginia, in the House of Representatives, February 27, 1855, on territorial policy. [Washington: Printed at the Congressional Globe Office, 1855].

------. Speech of Hon. John Letcher, of Virginia, on the political issues now before the country. Delivered in the House of Representatives, August 2, 1856. Washington: Printed at the Union Office, 1856.

------. Speech of Hon, John Letcher, of Virginia, on the Printing Deficiency Bill; delivered in the House of Representatives, January 29, 1858. Washington: Printed at the office of the Congressional Globe, 1858.

------. Speech of Hon. John Letcher, of Virginia, on the resolution reported by the Committee of Elections in the contested-election case from Kansas Territory. Washington: Printed at the Congressional Globe Office, 1856.

------. Treasury notes. [N.p., 1857].

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