Served 1843 as Interim Secretary of State
Appointed by President John Tyler
Hugh Swinton Legaré was born on January 2, 1797, in Charleston, South Carolina. His father, Solomon, descended from French Huguenots, whereas his mother, Mary, was descended from Scotch Presbyterians. Hugh was a healthy four-year-old when he had a near fatal reaction to a smallpox inoculation, which stunted the growth of the lower half of his body. Thereafter, he walked with a limp, seldom rode a horse, and suffered from melancholia at times.
He studied at Moses Waddle's Willington Academy and was the valedictorian of his graduating class in 1814. Determined to lead the life of a gentleman scholar, Legaré read widely in law and literature on his own from 1814 to 1817. In 1818, he traveled in Europe and studied law and language at Edinburgh University, where he came to know Washington Irving and Walter Scott.
On his return to the United States, Legaré began a highly successful law practice and was elected to the state legislature and served 1820 to 1822 and again from 1824 to 1830. Although he supported laissez-faire economics and was against federal internal improvements expenditures, Legaré held Northern views on national finance. He extolled credit and the English financial system.
Legaré was closely associated with the Southern Review, which he helped establish. He became the principle contributor, and at times editor, of the Review, helping to make it a journal of national distinction. The Review displayed Legaré's erudition to the fullest. He was a lifelong student of the classics and was at home in French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Greek.
His great passion was the law. He had mixed feelings about the English common law tradition, admiring it for helping to curb the civil law's caesaristic and absolutist tendencies, yet deciding that the civil law was for him more consistent than judge-made common law. At the same time, he believed fervently that law developed over time as a result of man's search for both freedom and justice within society. The law was shaped over generations by judicial decisions, honed over centuries, and aided by the ancillary legal codes. The current generation was the beneficiary of all the