- NAME: Alexander Stephens
- OCCUPATION: U.S. Representative, U.S. Governor, Government Official
- BIRTH DATE: February 11, 1812
- DEATH DATE: March 04, 1883
- EDUCATION: Franklin College (now the University of Georgia)
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Georgia
- PLACE OF DEATH: Atlanta, Georgia
- Full Name: Alexander Hamilton Stephens
- AKA: Alexander H. Stephens
Best Known For
Alexander Stephens was the Confederate vice president during the American Civil War.
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Alexander Stephens was an American politician born near Crawfordville, Georgia, on February 11, 1812. During his childhood, he fell ill easily and also suffered the loss of both parents. After studying law, he served in the Georgia legislature and then as the state's governor. Stephens is most known as the Confederate vice president during the American Civil War. After the war, Stephens was imprisoned. Upon his release, he worked as a U.S. congressman. He died on March 4, 1883, in Atlanta, Georgia.
"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition."
Alexander Hamilton Stephens was born on February 11, 1812, to Andrew Baskins Stephens and Margaret Grier, in a log cabin on a farm near Crawfordville, Georgia. His mother died a few months after his birth, and his father then remarried. In 1824, his father passed away from pneumonia, as did his stepmother a week later. Stephens and one brother moved in with an uncle in Warren County while other siblings were disbursed among other relatives.
Alexander Stephens was a sickly boy, but had a bright mind and performed well in private and public schools. He then entered Franklin College (later called the University of Georgia), where he graduated in 1832 with high honors. He taught school for 18 months before studying law and passing the bar in 1834. He practiced law over the next couple of years, and, during this time, gained an interest in politics.
Stephens's political career started in 1836, when Georgia voters elected him to the state legislature as a member of the States Rights Party (later changed to the Whig Party). His tenure lasted until 1841, and the following year, he began a one-year term in the Georgia Senate.
Stephens's next role was as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, a position he filled from 1843 to 1859. Like most members of his party, he supported states' rights to allow slavery. He also backed the annexation of Texas and drafted the Compromise of 1850 (regarding the status of territories obtained during the Mexican-American War). The Compromise passed, thus defusing a four-year conflict between Southern and Northern states. Stephens's self-proclaimed biggest political victory was the passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which created new territories and allowed settlers to determine whether they would allow slavery.
Stephens climbed to higher political prominence in 1861, with his election as vice president of the Confederacy. Around this time, he delivered his famous "Cornerstone Speech," which defended slavery and discussed the differing viewpoints of how to govern between the North and the South.
With Confederate President Jefferson Davis, over the next couple years, the Confederate government held its stance as long as possible during the Civil War. However, the South took many grave losses, including those at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in 1863. Stephens attempted to negotiate a prisoner exchange around this time, but President Abraham Lincoln and his staff refused to compromise.
Stephens pushed to negotiate the end of the Civil War, and in February 1865, Davis appointed him to represent the Southern delegation in a meeting in Hampton Roads, Virginia, with President Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward.
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