Edward R. Chambers

Edward R. Chambers (1795–1872)

Edward R. Chambers served in the Convention of 1850–1851 and parts of the Convention of 1861. Chambers settled in Mecklenburg County, where he established his law practice. He won election to the Convention of 1850–1851, which created a new constitution that established universal white-male suffrage and provided for a popularly elected governor. During the proceedings he called for a committee to look into the removal of all free people of color from Virginia. This ultimately led to Article IV, Section 19 of the constitution, which continued an 1806 law mandating that freed slaves leave the state within twelve months. In 1861 Mecklenburg County voters elected him to fill an unexpired term in the convention that had already passed the Ordinance of Secession leading to the American Civil War (1861–1865), which he signed. Chambers received his postwar pardon in July 1865. Two months later Governor Francis H. Pierpont appointed him a circuit court judge, but he was removed in 1869 in compliance with a congressional resolution ordering the replacement of Virginia's civil officeholders who had supported the Confederacy. He returned to the practice of law, became a commonwealth attorney, and died in his home at Boydton. MORE...

 

Early Years

Chambers was born on May 23, 1795, at Flat Rock, the Lunenburg County estate of his father, Edward Chambers, and his first wife, Martha Cousins Chambers. Among his siblings were a twin sister who died at age ten and an elder brother, Henry H. Chambers, who was a U.S. Senator from Alabama in 1825–1826. Following his mother's death in 1810, Chambers was sent to study at Hampden-Sydney College. He attended the University of North Carolina from the academic year 1813–1814 until 1817 but during the War of 1812 interrupted his studies for thirteen days' service in the summer of 1814 as a private in a cavalry troop. On October 20, 1817, Chambers was admitted to the bar in Mecklenburg County and began building an extensive law library, valued at his death at $400.

On February 11, 1824, Chambers married Lucy Goode Tucker, of Brunswick County. They had at least ten daughters and three sons before her death on May 20, 1854. In 1825 Chambers received from his father the approximately 1,100-acre Flat Rock estate, along with thirty-five slaves, on condition that he pay his father a $1,000 annuity, but two years later financial difficulties and overextension forced Chambers to rescind the transaction. He moved his family to a property owned by his father-in-law near Boydton, in Mecklenburg County. There Chambers practiced law and on May 18, 1835, became commonwealth's attorney. He served as a trustee of Randolph-Macon College beginning in 1842 and as law professor in its newly established law school for the academic year 1842–1843. Chambers fought the college's relocation to Ashland in 1868 and, after refusing to attend board meetings at the new site, was removed as a trustee in 1871.

Political Career

By 1850 he and his wife owned twelve slaves and a modest sixty-six acres of land valued at $693. In August of that year Chambers, campaigning as a reformer, won election to represent Halifax, Mecklenburg, and Pittsylvania counties in a convention called to revise the state constitution. As one of only two Whigs among the six delegates elected from his district, Chambers favored a mixed basis of apportionment based on the white population and the value of taxable property, although he paired with another delegate who would have voted differently and therefore did not vote on a key compromise on legislative apportionment on May 16, 1851. He served on the minor Committee on Compensation of Officers and on the important Committee on the Right of Suffrage and Qualifications of Persons to be Elected, which debated the extension of the right to vote to all free white males over the age of twenty-one regardless of property qualifications.

Chambers seldom spoke on the convention floor but in April 1851 moved to appoint and became chairman of a special committee to consider a constitutional provision requiring the removal of all free persons of color from the state. The committee reported a draft article mandating the deportation from the United States of most free African Virginians or their reenslavement if they chose to remain. An amended version became the basis of Article IV, Section 19 of the new constitution. Though present, Chambers did not vote on the final approval of the constitution on July 31, 1851.

Late in the spring of 1861 Chambers won election as Mecklenburg County's representative to the second and third sessions of the secession convention in place of his son-in-law Thomas Francis Goode, who had resigned in order to raise a cavalry troop for Confederate service. Chambers took his seat on June 14, 1861, and on that same day signed the Ordinance of Secession. He attended regularly, served on a committee of five to adopt an ordinance against persons disloyal to the commonwealth, and chaired a committee to investigate the expediency of completing a railroad under construction from Clarksville to Keysville.

At the close of the Civil War, Chambers, overestimating his net worth, applied for a presidential pardon, granted on July 3, 1865. Soon thereafter, on September 7, 1865, the governor appointed him judge of the Second Judicial Circuit, comprising the counties of Amelia, Brunswick, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Powhatan, and Prince George and the city of Petersburg. He was unanimously elected to the position by the House of Delegates on February 22, 1866.

Later Years

Chambers was removed from the bench in March 1869 in accordance with a congressional resolution ordering the replacement of Virginia's civil officeholders who had supported the Confederacy. He returned to law practice in Boydton with his son-in-law Thomas F. Goode and partner William Baskerville Jr., and in November 1870 was elected to a three-year term as commonwealth's attorney beginning on January 1, 1871. After four months' illness Chambers died at his home in Boydton on March 20, 1872, and was buried in the Boydton Presbyterian Church Cemetery.

Time Line

  • May 23, 1795 - Edward R. Chambers is born at Flat Rock, the Lunenburg County estate of his father, Edward Chambers, and his first wife, Martha Cousins Chambers.
  • 1810 - Edward R. Chambers is sent to study at Hampden-Sydney College following the death of his mother.
  • 1813–1817 - Edward R. Chambers attends the University of North Carolina.
  • Summer 1814 - Edward R. Chambers interrupts his studies at the University of North Carolina for thirteen days' service as a private in a cavalry troop during the War of 1812.
  • October 20, 1817 - Edward R. Chambers is admitted to the bar in Mecklenburg County and begins building an extensive law library, which at his death will be valued at $400.
  • February 11, 1824 - Edward R. Chambers and Lucy Goode Tucker, of Brunswick County, marry. They will have at least ten daughters and three sons.
  • 1825 - Edward R. Chambers receives from his father the approximately 1,100-acre Flat Rock estate, along with thirty-five slaves, on condition that he will pay his father a $1,000 annuity.
  • 1827 - Financial difficulties and over-extension force Edward R. Chambers to move his family from Flat Rock estate to a property owned by his father-in-law near Boydton, in Mecklenburg County.
  • May 18, 1835 - Edward R. Chambers becomes commonwealth's attorney of Mecklenburg County.
  • 1842 - Edward R. Chambers begins serving as a trustee of Randolph-Macon College.
  • 1842–1843 - Edward R. Chambers serves as a law professor at Randolph-Macon College's newly established law school.
  • By 1850 - Edward R. Chambers owns twelve slaves and sixty-six acres of land, valued at $693.
  • 1850–1851 - Edward R. Chambers, a member of the Whig Party, serves as a delegate to the state constitutional convention representing Halifax, Mecklenburg, and Pittsylvania counties.
  • August 1850 - Edward R. Chambers, campaigning as a reformer, wins election to represent Halifax, Mecklenburg, and Pittsylvania counties in a convention called to revise the state constitution.
  • April 1851 - At the constitutional convention, Edward R. Chambers chairs a special committee to consider a constitutional provision requiring the removal of all free persons of color from the state. An amended version will become the basis of Article IV, Section 19 of the new constitution.
  • May 16, 1851 - Edward R. Chambers does not vote on a key compromise on legislative apportionment at a constitutional convention because he pairs with another delegate who would vote differently.
  • July 31, 1851 - Although present, Edward R. Chambers does not vote on the final approval of the state constitution.
  • May 20, 1854 - Lucy Goode Tucker, wife of Edward R. Chambers, dies.
  • Spring 1861 - Edward R. Chambers wins election as Mecklenburg County's representative to the second and third sessions of the secession convention in place of his son-in-law Thomas Francis Goode, who resigned in order to raise a cavalry troop for Confederate service.
  • June 14, 1861 - Edward R. Chambers takes his seat as Mecklenburg County's representative in the second and third sessions of the secession convention and signs the Ordinance of Secession.
  • July 3, 1865 - Edward R. Chambers is granted a presidential pardon for his service to the Confederate States during the Civil War.
  • September 7, 1865 - Edward R. Chambers is appointed judge of the Second Judicial Circuit, comprising the counties of Amelia, Brunswick, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Powhatan, and Prince George and the city of Petersburg.
  • February 22, 1866 - Edward R. Chambers is unanimously elected by the House of Delegates to the position of judge of the Second Judicial Court, which compromises the counties of Amelia, Brunswick, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Powhatan, and Prince George, and the city of Petersburg.
  • 1868 - Edward R. Chambers fights Randolph-Macon College's relocation to Ashland.
  • March 1869 - Edward R. Chambers is removed as judge of the Second Judicial Court in accordance with a congressional resolution ordering the replacement of Virginia's civil officeholders who supported the Confederacy. He will return to law practice in Boydton.
  • November 1870 - Edward R. Chambers is elected to a three-year term as commonwealth's attorney of Mecklenburg County.
  • 1871 - After serving as a trustee of Randolph-Macon College for twenty-nine years, Edward R. Chambers is removed as a trustee for refusing to attend board meetings at the college's new site in Ashland.
  • January 1, 1871 - Edward R. Chambers begins his three-year term as commonwealth's attorney of Mecklenburg County.
  • March 20, 1872 - After four months' illness, Edward R. Chambers dies at his home in Boydton and will be buried in the Boydton Presbyterian Church Cemetery.

References

Further Reading
Julienne, Marianne E. and Brent Tarter. "The Virginia Ordinance of Secession: A Research Note on Contemporary Copies." Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 119 (2011): 154–181.
Moore, Craig S. "Chambers, Edward R." In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 3, edited by Sara B. Bearss, et al., 150–151. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2006.
Shade, William G. Democratizing the Old Dominion: Virginia and the Second Party System, 1824–1861. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1996.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Moore, C., & the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Edward R. Chambers (1795–1872). (2015, January 26). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Chambers_Edward_R_1795-1872.

  • MLA Citation:

    Moore, Craig and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "Edward R. Chambers (1795–1872)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: January 9, 2015 | Last modified: January 26, 2015