North American Scholar

LEGARÉ, Hugh Swinton.

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  • Date of Birth (YYYY-MM-DD): 1797-01-02
  • Born City: Charleston
  • Born State/Country: SC
  • Parents: Solomon, a planter, & Mary Swinton L.
  • Date of Death (YYYY-MM-DD): 1843-06-20
  • Death City: Boston
  • Death State/Country: MA
  • Education:

    A.B. South Carolina College (now U. South Carolina), 1814; study of law, 1814-7; study of Roman law, Edinburgh, 1818-20.

  • Professional Experience:

    Mem. lower house, SC Legislature, 1820-2, 1824-30; ed. & contrib. Southern Review 1828-32; atty. gen. SC, 1830; U.S. chargfe d'affaires, Belgium, 1832-6; mem. U.S. House of Rep., 1837-9; U.S. atty. gen., 1841-3; U.S. Sec. State ad interim, 1843.

  • Publications:

    Writings of Hugh Swinton Legaré, ed. Mary Legaré, 2 vols. (Charleston, 1845-6); "Classical Learning," SR 1 (Feb. 1828) 1-49 = Writings 2:5-51; "Roman Literature," SR 1 (May 1828) 358-410 = Writings 2:52-101; "The Roman Orators," SR 2 (Nov. 1828) 491-540; "Cicero de Republica," SR 4 (Aug. 1829) 136-76 = Writings 2:216-53; "The Public Economy of Athens," SR 8 (Feb. 1832) 265-326 = Writings 2:502-58; "Constitutional History of Greece," New York Review 7 (July 1840) 1-85 = Writings 1:367-442; "Demosthenes, the Man, the Statesman, and the Orator," New York Review 9 (July 1841) 1-70 = Writings 1:1-100.

  • Notes:

    Hugh Swinton Legaré (pronounced "Le-gree"), noted jurist, politician, and diplomat, was also a scholar and classicist, one of the finest the Old South produced. His busy professional life kept him from devoting his full energies to letters, but he was most at home in the study, and his writings on literature, history, and antiquities bear witness to his love of learning and profound knowledge of the classics.As editor of the Southern Review (SR) and essayist, Legaré sought to play a significant role in the cultural life of the Old South. To this end, he addressed himself to questions of perennial interest which he considered to be of critical importance to his readers, for example, the nature of great literature, the intrinsic worth of the classics, and their educational value. Legaré wrote at a time when proponents of the sciences and Utilitarianism were questioning the worth of the classics and their position in Southern schools. For Legaré the classics were "an essential part of a liberal education" (Writings 2:24), and his eloquent and impassioned argument in their defense ("Classical Learning") constitutes essential reading for modern educators and classicists.

  • Sources:

    J. G. de R. Hamilton, DAB 11:144-5; Paul Hamilton Hayne, "Hugh Swinton Legaré," SR 1 (Jan. 1870) 123-58; Edward W. Johnston, "Biographical Notice," in Writings l:v-lxxii; NatCAB 6:5; Michael O'Brien, A Character of Hugh Swinton Legaré (Knoxville, TN, 1985); Burr J. Ramage, "Hugh Swinton Legaré," Sewanee Review 10 (1902) 43-55, 167-80; Linda Rhea, Hugh Swinton Legaré: A Charleston Intellectual (Chapel Hill, 1934); William Gilmore Simms, "Life and Writings of Hugh Swinton Legaré," Southern Literary Messenger 12 (Apr. 1846) 252-4; WhAmHS.

  • Author: Thomas B. Curtis