Wyndham Robertson : biography
Wyndham Robertson (January 26, 1803February 11, 1888) was the Acting Governor of the U.S. state of Virginia from 1836 to 1837. He also served twice in the Virginia House of Delegates, the second time during the American Civil War.
Robertson was a Whig, and was an advocate for Union during the secession crisis that precipitated the Civil War. However, after Lincoln’s call for troops, he advocated secession. After the war, he was a member of the Committee of Nine that helped usher Virginia back into the Union. Robertson, a descendant of Pocahontas, published a book near the end of his life in her defense, and tracing her ancestry and descendants.
Early life and family
Robertson was born near Manchester, in Chesterfield County, Virginia, the son of William Robertson and Elizabeth Bolling, a descendant of Pocahontas and John Rolfe.Robertson, Pocahontas and Her Descendants, 40-41 His father was a member of the Virginia Council of State.Smith, 344-345 Robertson attended private schools in Richmond and graduated from The College of William and Mary in 1821.Summers, History of Southwest Virginia, 766 He then married Mary Trigg Smith, daughter of Captain Francis Smith. Robertson’s brothers were Thomas B. Robertson, a Governor of Louisiana, and John Robertson, a U.S. Congressman. Robertson studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1824. In 1827, he made a short trip to Paris and London, and in 1830 he was made Councillor of State.Robertson, Pocahontas and her Descendants, 81
Robertson was re-elected to the Council of State in 1833, and on March 31, 1836, he became the senior member of this body, and therefore Lieutenant-Governor of Virginia. When Governor Littleton Waller Tazewell resigned that same day, Robertson became Governor.Robertson, Pocahontas and her Descendants, 82 Since the Virginia Legislature, which elected the Governor, was Democratic, and he, being a Whig, was not, Robertson was not elected when his term was up in 1837, and he was replaced by David Campbell. Robertson was then elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for the 1838 session.Leonard, The General Assembly of Virginia, 386. He was re-elected for three successive sessions, ending his service in 1841.Leonard, The General Assembly of Virginia, 390, 394, 398.
He moved to his wife’s home south of Abingdon, in southwest Virginia in 1841.Year of moving is in Robertson, Pocahontas and her Descendants, 82 He was made a Justice of Washington County on July 25, 1842,Summers, History of Southwest Virginia, 828 and was appointed a trustee of Abingdon Academy in 1843.Summers, History of Southwest Virginia, 883 In 1850, he leased the King Saltworks for five years.Summers, History of Southwest Virginia, 586 In 1858, he returned to Richmond. In 1859, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates for the 1859-1861 session.Leonard, The General Assembly of Virginia, 471. When Virginia was struggling with the idea of seceding from the United States, Robertson was a staunch Unionist and tried to prevent its secession. He later wrote of himself as a "friend to peace and the Union" and that he had actively opposed South Carolina’s call for a Southern Convention in 1859. In fact, he was present at the Henry Clay banquet in April 1860, at which former President John Tyler was present, and Robertson was called on to give "The Union" toast, which he did, followed by a short speech. He then proposed the following toast:
"The Constitutional Union of the States" – The Union of the States is the harmony of the spheres. While obedient to the laws of their creation, they sing ever as they go ‘glad tidings of great joy’ to all the world. Rebelling against them, light and joy are swallowed up in darkness, and order falls back into primordial chaos.Tyler, The Letters and Times of the Tylers, 464
After South Carolina and several other states started seceding in the winter of 1860-61, he still advocated that Virginia not follow suit. On January 7, 1861, he presented a resolution known as the Anti-Coercion Resolution, which rejected secession, but stated that if the Federal government used coercion against the seceded states, Virginia would fight, which was duly adopted.Robertson, Pocahontas and her Descendants, 82-83 However, when President Abraham Lincoln made his call for troops on April 15, 1861, he was "from that time forth zealously active in all measures for the defence of his State." The call for troops was precisely the scenario detailed in their Anti-Coercion Resolution and Virginia seceded.