Courtesy of U. of A. Libraries, Special Collections
Augustus Hill Garland was born in Tipton County, Tennessee, on June 11, 1832. One year later, his family moved to Lost Prairie, Arkansas on the Red River. After his father died the same year, his mother moved the family to Spring Hill. When his mother remarried (Thomas Hubbard) in 1836, the family moved again to Washington, Arkansas.
Garland attended St. Mary's College, Lebanon, Kentucky, and graduated from St. Joseph's College, Bardstown, Kentucky, in 1849. He returned to Arkansas where he taught school in the Mine Creek community (Sevier County). During this time, Garland also studied law under Simon P. Sanders, clerk of Hempstead County. He was admitted to the Arkansas Bar and formed a law firm with his stepfather in 1853.
Through his contacts with former Whigs, Garland partnered with Ebenezer Cummins of Little Rock; Cummins was once a law partner of Albert Pike. In 1860, Garland was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. Garland was a presidential elector, on the constitutional Union Party ticket, and a delegate to the 1861 Secession Convention and to the Provisional Congress. He served in the Confederate States' House of Representatives from 1861 to 1864, when he was appointed to the Confederate Senate after the death of Charles B. Mitchell.
As a conservative constitutionalist, Garland worked to establish a supreme court and supported the administration of Jefferson Davis, except for his opposition to the laws suspending the writ of habeas corpus. Under the act of Congress of January 24, 1865, all attorneys who had aided and abetted the Southern Confederacy were prohibited from practicing. Garland lost his law license, but in July of 1865, was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson. He could not practice law, however, because of a congressional act of January 1865, that debarred former members of the Confederate government. This led to Ex parte Garland (1867), a United States Supreme Court case in which Garland successfully pleaded that since the act was an ex post facto law it was unconstitutional.
In 1867 Garland was elected to the U.S. Senate, but was not allowed to take his seat because Arkansas had not been readmitted to the Union. During the Brooks-Baxter War, he served as deputy secretary of state, and actively supported the 1874 Constitutional Convention.
Garland was elected Governor of Arkansas on October 13, 1874, and was sworn into office on November 12, 1874. In the year following his election, a congressional committee investigating political affairs in Arkansas as a result of the Brooks-Baxter War threatened both Garland's election and the new constitution. During his term, he was also faced with the state's financial problems, which he substantially reduced by the time he left office. He implemented legislation that led to the creation of the Branch Normal College, where black teachers were trained. In addition, he advocated financial support for schools for the blind and deaf. Garland, believing that population growth would make Arkansas more prosperous, made several efforts to improve the state's image and encourage immigration. This resulted in the creation of a state bureau of statistics and a bureau of agriculture, mining and manufacturing.
Garland did not run for reelection in 1876, and he left office on January 11, 1877. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1877, and served until March 9, 1885, when he resigned his seat to become attorney general under President Grover Cleveland. While there, Garland urged the President to support legislation to regulate interstate commerce and pressed Congress to establish a federal prison system. He did, however, suffer scandal involving the patent for the telephone. The Attorney General's office was intervening in a lawsuit attempting to break Bell's monopoly of telephone technology, but it had come out that Garland owned stock in one of the companies that stood to benefit. This congressional investigation received public attention for nearly a year, and caused his work as attorney general to suffer.
With the end of his term as attorney general in 1889, Garland remained in Washington, D.C., resuming his law practice, and publishing several books. Augustus H. Garland died on January 26, 1899 while arguing a case before the Supreme Court. He is buried at the Mount Holly Cemetery, Little Rock, Arkansas.
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